life

Fear Itself

Hail and well met! ‘Tis I, Nikken. How have you all been this summer?

Today I am here to talk about something that affects all of our lives. You may have forgotten it ever existed, or maybe you still remember it with a faint shudder. But I assure you, it was once a tangible, inescapable menace that clutched your mind and heart with a fierce grip. Perhaps in the deepest, darkest corners of your mind, it still has a foothold, ready to rise with vengeance at the least provocation.

I am talking about—

Childhood Fears.

Admit it. We all had them.

These are the fears that plagued you at night as you lay in bed, trying to sleep. Every sound would morph into footsteps of varying magnitude, every shadow turned into a dreadful harbinger of your fear’s arrival.

Some of them are on the improbable side, such as flaming monsters. Others are more reasonable (though not any less frightful) such the house burning up. Some were even ridiculous, now that you look back on them.

For interest, my biggest fear when I was little was… rabbits.

Don’t laugh.

I had horrible recurring nightmare of evil rabid bunnies breaking into my Uncle’s manor and swarming me, an unstoppable wave of rabbity evil.

Something rather like this, in fact, except in hordes.

killer rabbit

I would weak up screaming and crying every night.

(Stop laughing, Your Highness. It doesn’t befit your dignity.)

My author had two childhood fears–burglars and snakes. Or to be more precise, venemous or constricting snakes coming into her bedroom. She wasn’t afraid of snakes normally, though she doesn’t like the ones that can kill you. She used to spend hours catching and handling snakes.

But she was terrified that a dangerous snake would somehow come into her room, wind itself up into her loft bed and either bite her (if they were venemous) or squeeze her to death (if they were constrictors). She would lie awake at night, peering at the suspicious lump at the end of her bed and hope it was a fold of her blanket and not a snake head. But she was too afraid to sit up and look in case it was actually a snake and she attracted its attention, causing her imminent death. In the morning, she would tell herself it was silly (she lived in a town), but knowing it was silly never did much when the lights went out and the lump at the end of the bed appeared.

She blames the Jungle Book and Rikki Tikki Tavi.

But she grew out of the fear (as we all do, in time) as she got older, and not long ago, she moved to the country. And it just so happens that her new bedroom has a small hole in the corner directly across from her loft bed, and beneath this hole is a small piece of drop ceiling. About a month ago, she woke up and saw a snake draped on that small piece of drop ceiling directly across the room, looking at her.

There are very few things more terrifying, my friends, is to wake up one morning to find your childhood nightmare is a reality.

She tamped down her first response (screaming) and went to find her dad. She managed to keep her cool until the family entered her room and the snake appeared to be missing, which was when she screamed and indulged in a brief moment of panic, convinced the snake was hiding in her room. She managed to calm herself down quickly, though, and it was discovered that the snake was still on the ceiling piece but was retreating into the attic. Her father and two younger brothers then proceeded to catch the snake, take it outside, and release it.

My author is not afraid of snakes. She even volunteered to help hold the snake (and big fat black ratsnake that was more than four feet long) while her family took pictures. But finding one in her room (especially one that looked brown in the current lighting, therefore making her fear it a rattlesnake or some other venomous kind) was… difficult, shall we say.

Now to the point of the story.

Everyone has childhood fears. We outgrow them eventually, but they still lurk in your minds, forgotten but not gone. And while many of us will never wake up to find their fear an actual reality under the light of day, for many of us, in those dark hours between lights out and the land of dreams, those fears are tangible. Inescapable. Real. And they will remain so unless we take steps to defeat them.

My author volunteered to hold the snake for two reasons.

Number One: She wasn’t afraid of snakes. Rather likes them, in fact.

Number Two: She didn’t want that to change.

Above many things, my author hates debilitating fear. She understood if she didn’t reach out and hold the thing that brought her nightmare to life, the nightmare might grow. The fear that poisoned her nights may end up poisoning her days, making her flee in fear from something she once enjoyed. Paralyzing her in moments when action is needed. So she held the snake.

As I said before, I was afraid of rabbits. When my Mammami discovered what my nightmares were about, she devised a plan. My Mammami is a wise lady, so she knew that the best way to defeat your fears are to confront them, hold them in your hands, and throw them away. Far, far away where their ability to hurt you is small and faint. So my Mammami had me do two things–she gave us all rabbit stew to eat for an entire week, and she gave me a baby bunny, as a pet. The rabbit stew taught me that despite the overwhelming evil of the rabbits, they could be defeated.

The baby bunny was a tiny thing, so small I could nearly hold it one hand. It taught me that the rabbits didn’t have an overwhelming evil, after all.

I named that bunny “Nyacaon”. In the tongue of my cousin’s people, that means “No Fear”.

My author tells me that someone once said “The only thing we have to fear is Fear Itself”. It’s not whatever you are facing that paralyzes you, it’s your fear. Defeat your fear, and half the battle is already over.

So, when you are all grown up and your children come to you (or even now, with your younger siblings, if you have them), frightened and sniffling, don’t tell them there’s nothing to be afraid of. Have them hold their fear in their hands and show them there’s nothing to be afraid of. Hearing someone tell you something is knowing, having someone show it to you is believing.

And in the rare case this might not work, there’s one last, best thing to do. Remind them that even when they lie awake at night, all alone, staring at the lump at the end of the bed, they aren’t truly alone. There will always be Someone there with them, ready to face and fend off their fears and, when they fall asleep, to fill their dreams with light.

Farewell for now! May we all never wake up to find our childhood fears have come true. Especially me. Because being swarmed by a colony of evil rabbits is something no one should have to experience.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go put some mulberries in a laughing High Prince’s bed.

~Nikken

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