It’s a powerful thing, fear that is. With this passing season of death and the coming season of slumber we have all taken some time to look into the eyes of the monsters that haunt us. For me though, fear does not come in the form of monsters and boogey men. Fear is a much more complex thing for me. I don’t fear the tangible as I once did in my youth.
Youth, funny thing looking back at the formidable years of my making, I was once very afraid of heights. But, in 1976, while on the cusp of turning eight, I faced that fear by going to the top of the Washington monument with my mother and sisters. All the way up that long elevator I was nervous, scared and afraid the entire building would collapse or somehow I would fall out the window or someone would push me. Those feelings were laid to waste when my mother sensed my reluctance and leaned down to me and said “Skipper, do you really think they would allow us up here if it wasn’t safe?”
I couldn’t argue with her, after all there were two park rangers in the elevator with us and two more at the top of the monument when we stepped out of the elevator and onto the observation deck. Soon I was looking out all four sides of the monument with amazement and joy at the city below us. I didn’t want to leave and we stayed for as long as we could, my families patience was worn thin while I discovered my new found appreciation of heights.
Years later, my mother’s comment gave me the bravery to ride roller coasters, jump dirt bikes, launch myself in an uncaring manner off of cliffs around the world and be seen by my peers as an almost reckless individual. Now, to be fair to my mother, there were other factors going on inside of me that made me do some pretty dumb shit during my teen years and even into my twenties, so much so that I almost died a couple times. Fear it seemed had been crushed beneath the words and successful experiences of my youth.
Nowadays, when I’m in soulful conversations with friends and the subject of fear comes up, I usually say I’m not afraid of anything. I scoff at heights, fast speeds, quick drops and even spiders. To me fear has become a practice of control. This truth in me and how I live has given me an insight to myself I did not expect. You see, in all my excursions and adventures I knew there was control. Someone was at the control of the roller coaster, the construction of a building, or I was in control of my own body as I pushed it to its limits in the air, land or water. Even now, when I ride my Harley faster than the posted speed limits, I am in control. I know my machine and my machine knows me. And through all those times, control has been the wall that has kept the fear out.
Losing that control is what I fear now. Everything in my life has been built with a sense of control. I don’t feel as if I’m losing my grip on it either, but I know one day it is bound to happen. Life is that way, the older you get the less your faculties are readily bent to your will and into your control. This is where the fear comes in. For some reason I feel as if I have less days ahead of me than I have behind me and the thought of losing my control over that which I’ve carved out has become a tangible monster in my life. And if I’m totally honest with myself and you my dear reader, there I times where I don’t even care about it anymore.
I seem to be taking more pleasure from clouds that look like jelly fish, leaves that look as if they are on fire and the wind that stings my face and chills my legs as I race down the roads of my adopted city. Two of those things are beyond my control, one is. But the nature aspect of life has always been something that has brought joy to me, crunchy sounds beneath my boots in the fall as the hair from the skeletons that line the roads and country sides of our nation always bring a smile to my face. The crisp air and the surreal formations of frozen water and dust particles in the sky fascinate me and stoke the fires of my inner child. Sweeping winds making God’s music in the brief interludes of quiet send waves of tranquility to the core of my soul. I know I’m not in control and my fear sends waves of cracks into the walls of my life.
We are all a dash in the history of mankind and what we have done in that dash is our legacy. The people we interact with and their perceptions of us are the epilogues of our journey. Lately those words have come to weigh upon me, words like surly, grumpy, obnoxious and rude. But there are also words like kind, generous and insightful. I don’t know what people will say about me when I succumb to my greatest fear or even if I become so feeble that I can’t even control my own bodily functions, but the only words that will matter to me are the words from the people I care about, the people I’ve been close to and with whom I’ve shared my secrets with.
The outsiders in my life, well, I know they have plenty of things they can say about me, but you know, one of those outsiders said to me the other day “You take care of things, and that makes you better than most.” I thanked her and went about my day only to be haunted by them later. It was not an insight I was ready to receive but it was a truth I needed to hear.
What happens when my fear comes to fruition? Will the bill collectors knock down my door? Will the trains stop running? Will the lessons I’ve tried to instill in my offspring slip down the stream of life like a piece of drift wood?
I don’t know. I don’t want to know. For now, I have a firm hand on my fear but there are days when I feel as if it is slipping slowly away. As if all that I’ve been doing is wrong and there will be a day of reckoning in the future that will only leave me full of despair and loss. But then again I am fast approaching middle age and the warmth of the summer is gone now and so is the joy it brings.
There is hope though, our season of celebration is soon to begin and the warmth of family events, good food and nights filled with laughter are on the cusp of the horizon. Moments that we will enjoy forever and memories that will be conveyed at times when darkness is upon us. So, I bolster myself, grab ahold of what I need to do next, lower my head and concentrate on the job in front of me. I tell myself “Fear be damned, I will do what is necessary to get this task done.” And my control is back.