I’ve screamed like a little girl ever since I’ve been a little girl at anything and everything that happens to startle me. This trait has been passed down to me through generations of jumpy women and I must admit—it’s not flattering on me. This is no “oh dear me” scream, but more a “there is a giant man in a clown suit holding me at gunpoint” scream. I noticed it again last night when Baer said “It’s behind you! It’s going to bite your foot!” He was referring to a rabbit. I screamed. Ran. There was no rabbit. The morale of the story is that I’m too quick to fear and too jumpy to monitor exactly what noise is expelled from my mouth, thus being one of my least attractive qualities.
Before I became an old married lady a few weeks ago, I lived alone for a few glorious months in my very own apartment with all my very own space without having to share with a boy (not that I’m complaining). The only downside to this luxury were the minutes (or hours) before I fell asleep. It’s not like I’m afraid of the dark (lie), but I live in a very old house with many other tenants and you can’t help but notice all sorts of noises at night. I tried earplugs, I tried fans, I tried Sleepy Time Tea, but ended up lying awake just the same, imagining a large, lumbering predator creeping around my bedroom door at any second. Even after I fell asleep, I’d wake up eventually due to a very small bladder and a very large thirst. It was not uncommon for me shout into the darkness “You don’t scare me!” on the way to the lav. It was also not uncommon for me to shriek at the shadows cast by trees, birthday balloons, or my own dense self.
I don’t know where this alarm comes from. I was breastfed, nurtured, never allowed to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and forced to go to Vacation Bible School. I never watch horror movies and I always make sure to close my eyes during any sort of other movie scene that might haunt me later. I realize there are some advantages to this sensitivity; however, most of the time I feel quite childish after screaming over my shadow or a harmless little rabbit. The problem is not paranoia; even after my car was broken into yesterday in broad daylight, I still do not fear walking around city. I am not one of those girls who carries pepper spray or rape whistles (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and I’m not worried about the Swine Flu. I suppose it’s the suddenness that bothers me, the unexpected.
Though I sleep well now, I am still tormented by the jitters every now and again which is not only an inconvenience but puts a strain on my ego. Weakness is not attractive, and while I’m not in the market to impress too many people, I feel I’m letting myself down by screaming like five-year old when someone unexpectedly comes around a corner. The feeling of fear and associated anxiety is included with our birth; it guides us to safety and is our survival mechanism, even our friend. But we were not made to live in that state continuously.
There are hundreds of pills that are available to quiet our inner voices, though most of us could be calmed by simply changing the channel. We are obsessed with death in this country, the fear of our own demise and the fascination of other people’s suffering consumes television and movies. I don’t own a TV, but I have seen enough movies and watched enough TV to have those images imprinted on my brain. Yet even without fictionalized horror, there is enough real life violence happening every second to make anyone paranoid. The news reeks of it, the world aches because of it. Americans like to ignore it, and I understand why. But like I’ve said before, ignorance is bliss but also socially irresponsible. Ignoring injustice creates the very wars that caused it in the first place. I am great at ignoring things, but I try not to ignore the fact that there is unjust suffering all around us. I just don’t know what to do about it or how to stop it from keeping me up at night.
It is believed by many that our thoughts create our reality; if we focus on disease and fear of disease, we are creating disease, if we focus on arguing, we create more arguing, if we focus war and crime, we create more war and crime. Of course it works in both directions, if we focus on peace, we create peace, if we focus on compassion and love, we create more compassion and love and if we focus on health and healing, we bring health into reality. I don’t know if this is true but I doubt that if I buy a yoga mat and sit and think about love and peace and rainbows I will be any less jumpy or satisfy any starving babies. But I’m a skeptic.
I suppose some positive thinking could do everyone some good, and I know that many would suggest a healthy dose of Jesus. I am also aware that fear is notably tied to our personalities, and my often inopportune vivid imagination combined with a certain sensitivity plays a large role in how I perceive the world. It is changing those perceptions that becomes the question; how? I don’t know the answer. I do know that it helps to shut your eyes and plug your ears and think about Christmas morning and waffles, but that is just a temporary solution to a much deeper problem. One that I’m assuming only divine intervention can ever really solve. Until then, stop jumping out from behind corners (it is not as funny as you think it is) and I will try to stop screaming in your face.