Switching off the phone, I pushed open the car door — looking, not out of the car where I was headed, but into the car to retrieve whatever. When I turned to get out, a woman and a dog had appeared, as if out of no where. It was a big dog, inches from the leg I had thrust before me.
I jerked and gasped a bit in my surprise. The woman looked at me, quizzical as to what I could be afraid of. I saw it in her face – asking me, “What the heck, lady?”
I said hello to her dog and then, to the woman by way explanation, “I startled myself.” She smiled. As I walked away, I said over my shoulder jauntily, “I guess that’s what usually happens!”
That got me thinking about fear. About how it really is a fiction of the mind. A story our thoughts tell us that we believe and then, BAMMO, we get to feel our skin prick, our stomach pit, our feet go cold, our muscles tighten, ready to…do whatever it is we do in response to fear.
You know the story of the snake that turns out to be a garden hose? Or how about that other snake that really was knowledge? Or the shoes that chased after their owner, scaring him out of his wits until he turned to see it was only them. Or the monsters under the bed, or the thousands of other things we care to name scary.
But if I start with the idea that I create my fear — that I startle myself, that I see things that are not and miss things that are, and that things I used to fear I don’t anymore, then it really is all just me. I take comfort in that.
I can laugh at myself, too, like the little man being chased by his own shoes. And, instead of hiding my fears in the dark where they are sure to scare me, I befriend them, asking them to tell me their story.