handling fear, pixabay, maggie mcreynolds blog

Just the Facts, Ma’am

I’ve got a terrible story stuck in my head. A story so awful, I don’t even want to write this sentence:

I am afraid my son might get sick, come to harm, or die.

Oh! I can’t even express how much I recoil at just seeing this in typeface. Because I am also afraid that by even giving voice to this fear, I will have somehow made it more likely to come true. I find myself itching to hit the delete key. Cancel, cancel! This fear is too horrible, too powerful, too evil to have out there in the world.

But when I can get a deep breath—actually doing so, here—I can remember that this fear, like most fears, is just a thought with the gloves off. By that, I mean a bully of a thought, a thought that will just beat me up if I let it.

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Making Friends with Fear

I am four, and I am being chased by a giant mask. It looks like the mask of tragedy, with a huge downturned mouth and sad eyes, but it’s the size of an adult, with arms and legs. I am terrified of it, and I run, shrieking, through our house, trying to elude it. Finally I find a space behind the dryer and hide there, but no sooner am I tucked away when the mask runs behind the dryer and hides with me. Horrified, I realize something even scarier is chasing it.

tragedy mask, maggie mcreynolds blogThis is one of the first nightmares I can remember, but it was far from the only thing scaring me at the time. I was an easily frightened child, spooked by things both benign (dogs, dragonflies, my bedroom closet) and theoretically, if indirectly, dangerous (raised voices, gunfire on TV, the dark). I had vague nameless fears, and fears that were just plain weird (at one point, I was afraid of the elderly, the infirm, and anyone using crutches, a wheelchair, or any kind of assistive device). Because I spent most of my time with adults, there was a period when I was even afraid of other kids.

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