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Posts Tagged ‘fear’

  1. Sunday After the Shootings

    January 27, 2014 by Diane

    white church

    On Sunday after the shootings, a small Midwestern community gathered in their local church, stunned by the news reports. They murmured in groups as they filed in, the children tethered to their mother’s hands. From the pulpit Father O’Hare gazed out at his congregation, at their tight faces, the men with their blazing eyes, the children squirming in their mother’s embrace. He knew the evil that had consumed that young shooter; he knew the evil because it brushed against him now—that out of control anger—and he sensed it in his parish, felt it wafting through, clinging to the men with their tense jaws and the women clutching their children with fierceness.

    Father O’Hare asked them all to rise, to sing Nearer, My God, to Thee. Even Joe Peterson, who never sang, held the hymnal and bellowed the words. After the last note Mrs. Smith at the organ dabbed her eyes and folded her hands in her lap, and the choir in their blue robes sank down.

    “It is with heavy hearts that we are gathered here today,” Father O’Hare began. “And our prayers are with the families of the wee victims. I don’t have to tell you that there is a question we are all asking, one question: why? Why would a young lad commit such a horrible crime, a child of God no less—”

    Mr. Peterson reared up. “That boy was the Devil!”

    “He was screwy in the head!” Mabel Fricks hollered from the back of the church. “He should have been locked up.”

    And others chimed in.

    “Where does a boy that age get his hands on an assault rifle? Can you tell me that?”

    “It’s the government’s fault!”

    “It’s the NRA! They’re nothing but a bunch of bullies!”

    “Amen!” someone shouted from the choir.

    Father O’Hare came out from behind the pulpit and held up his hands until everyone had quieted down. He didn’t have a passage to point to, nothing in the Bible about twenty innocent children being gunned down in the middle of the day. All he knew is that the evil that overtook that boy’s soul was beckoning to others, a curl of smoke that made others follow blindly, luring the nation with its deceptive tune. He had to stop that evil energy from permeating his flock, from spreading further into the world. He had to tell them that the only way to defeat the dark was to turn toward the light and remember the good. To remind others. And to never forget, even after this day was long forgotten.

    “We’re trying to find something to blame,” he began, “instead of looking for something to cherish.” His eyes swept the angry faces and settled on Mr. Peterson’s. “Joe. Your beloved wife sits next to you, the mother of your children. When was the last time you held her hand? And Sam,” he turned to the choir director slumped in his chair, “this fine morning when you walked to church, did you give thanks for your sturdy legs?” Father O’Hare spread his arms to the congregation. “Did any of you notice the morning sky?  Did you marvel at the gold and the orange and the pink all swirled together, and let it settle in your soul?”

    Everyone was still.

    “Now then, here is the question we ought to be asking ourselves: Why do we let our anger blind us to what is good in the world? It’s not our job to find blame. It’s our job to find love. Take the hand of your grieving neighbor and lead them to the window and show them the sunrise, remind them of the good that survives.”

    Joe Peterson grunted, and folded his arms. His grandson was six. He would be hard pressed to find something good in the world if it had happened to little Joey.

    “Let us pray.”

    Joe refused to bow his head. When the choir rose he refused to stand, refused to pick up the hymnal again, refused to sing. But Joe’s wife did, her voice thin and trembling and off key. The skirt of her pale yellow dress brushed his knee as she swayed with each note, the lightest touch, a butterfly’s wing. Mr. Peterson closed his eyes and let the touch settle, let it take up residence in his aching heart.


  2. This Ride Called Life

    January 20, 2014 by Diane

    Editable vector silhouette of a steep rollercoaster ride

    On this ride called Life, we find ourselves in the first car, or the second, or the third. Someone straps us in, maybe gives us a quick smack on the backside because there’s that first human contact–the doctor’s slap, right? But it’s less of a slap and more of a hearty wake up, kid, it’s about to get exciting. We hang onto the bar and glide from darkness into sunlight. We feel the pull of the track on the steady uphill and there at the top we see something magnificent–the whole world laid out before us. But it’s just a flash, a glimpse, before we swoop downwards, feeling the rush of wind and the force of momentum. Then we’re chugging uphill again before the bottom drops out with a whoosh. And on it goes, until eventually we release our grip on the bar and lift our arms and holler with joy. After a lifetime of ups and downs and leaning into our seatmate as we’re whipped around the curves, we end the ride through a long dark tunnel, slowing down, feeling the exhilaration of having lived every moment to its minutest. And there on the other side, waiting: a loved one, beaming at us, waving, cheering us on, welcoming us home.

    That’s life in a nutshell. An amusement park ride to enjoy.

    If you’re amused by roller coasters.

    I rode one roller coaster in my life. Once. The track was old and wooden and rickety. On this ride I was strapped in, but the strap was loose. I seized the bar, feeling the mounting dread with every clackety-clack on the uphill, knowing what was coming. And sure enough the car peaked and then plunged and I dug my heels in to operate the brake, hollering stop the ride!–squeezing my eyes shut, too afraid to scream. And it was a relief, that dark tunnel. I was shaking, wrung out, feeling…what? A twinge of regret that I hadn’t enjoyed the ride more. It wasn’t so bad from that final perspective. After all, I’d survived.  But no one was waiting. It was just me and my seatmate who had been laughing the whole time, secretly wishing that I had dared to open my eyes and enjoy the scenery.

    That was the trajectory of my life in a nutshell.

    But at some point I asked myself: why not enjoy the ride? Why not open my eyes and have a blast? Loosen your grip on the bar, Holcomb, trust that the strap will hold you. Lean into the curves, accept the ups and downs, find something good to focus on instead of always expecting danger.

    So I did.

    Not all at once, but gradually.

    And one day I realized that the rush I was feeling was excitement, not anxiety. Exhilaration, not panic.

    It was all a matter of interpretation.


  3. You’re Good to Go

    November 17, 2013 by Diane

    dentist chair

    When I sit in the dentist’s chair, that Naugahyde faux recliner that slowly motors backwards until my head is lower than my feet, when I grip the armrests to hold on so I don’t slide into the dentist’s lap, the last thing I want is to realize that the man behind the mask is more anxious than I am.

    I don’t want him to peer into my mouth, pause, and say…Uh-oh.

    Or…Oh my.

    Or…Why are your teeth

    I don’t want him to start prodding my gums with his shiny clawed implements while muttering…Why is this happening?

    My instinct at such times is to hoist myself from the chair and make a quick exit past the potted fichus, snatching a couple of free toothbrushes from the basket on the counter on the way out the door.

    But instead I cling to the armrests, under that bright light, sweating.

    I try to smile encouragingly, but my lips stick to my teeth.

    I shrink as he leans in, sweating behind those giant plastic goggles. And just what are those goggles protecting him from? I don’t want to know.

    This is where visualization comes in handy. I close my eyes. I visualize myself running down the beach in slow motion, twirling in circles with arms outstretched to the heavens, drinking in the sunlight like gentle rain. I try to transport myself to a place other than the upside-down chair and pray that when I come back, when the dentist is done with his prodding and worrying and his running dialogue about the tooth that has twisted ninety degrees—or whatever other paranormal phenomenon he’s discovered in my mouth—I pray that he’ll motor me upright and lower his mask, and with that relieved look on his face, the look that hostages get when they’re released, he’ll say…you’re good to go!

    Good to go.

    Does any dentist say that, ever?

    It’s not that I’m afraid of dentists.

    I’m afraid of what they’ll find.

    I’m afraid of being imprisoned upside-down in that motorized chair and bleeding profusely. Not that it’s ever happened. But that’s the irrational fear I harbor.

    I don’t even mind the needle. I squeeze my eyes shut and focus on my toes.

    I just don’t like the murmuring that goes on behind the dentist’s mask. All that murmuring! What’s he saying? Is something wrong?

    Diane, we need to

    Always “we.” As if I have any part in the situation other than holding my mouth in an unnatural position for forty-five minutes, resisting the urge to chomp through his meaty fingers.

    We need to saw through this area here, and drill down to the jaw bone and extract some

    Okay, I’ve never heard that phrase. But I fear it.

    Like most people on the planet, I don’t enjoy going to the dentist.

    Well…except for the free toothbrush. I take my time choosing. The green? The blue? The pink? The yellow? And then there are all those miniature tubes of toothpaste. Should I take the one for sensitive teeth? The one that whitens? The gel? The cream? And what about the miniature bottles of mouth wash? Should I take the one that promises minty breath for twenty-four hours, or the one that removes plaque?

    I’ve learned that if I hover over the basket of freebies long enough the dentist will give them all to me. As much as I can carry. So I stuff my purse, my pockets, and take two fistfuls and he needs to open the door for me, follow me to my car. Then there’s the matter of the key. The key is at the bottom of my purse. He rummages around in my purse to unearth it and…well, here’s the best part about going to the dentist. He pulls out a tampon. Maybe accidentally sets off the pepper spray in his face.

    Okay, none of that actually happens.

    But I dream about it, imprisoned in that chair under the bright light, my jaw permanently locked in an open position.  And nine times out of ten, because I brush after every meal and floss every night, all I suffer is a little scraping and a good motorized polish with a gritty substance that tastes like warm Orange Julius.

    Not bad.

    Not bad at all.