Thursday, March 13, 2014

In Which We Bring Our Monsters Out From Under Our Beds

Now that the original meme questions are dispensed with, Discussion Questions are needed for the next seventeen days. Thankfully, I received a thoughtful Reader's question via email, so we are set for the present. For those of you who have been enjoying this series of Daily Postings, please do likewise. Simply click the email link in my Sidebar or post your queries in Comments.

Thank you.

In about 1970 when my sister Susan was six years old, a big story was in our local newspaper about a guy who almost died from a bite from a brown recluse spider. Her best friend Curt told her all about it in a very matter-of-fact but gory and detailed accounting. Susan, already unhappy about sharing the planet with spiders anyway, became terrified that every single spider was a brown recluse. Unfortunately, she became terrified that every single dust bunny, tangle of hair, piece of dryer lint, and piece of potting soil was a brown recluse as well. It was awful. Because Helpful Curt had given her an exhaustive lecture on the habits of the brown recluse, she knew it liked to be...well, reclusive. She would not even put her feet on the floor in the morning until we told her we had looked for a brown recluse under the bed. This continued for each shoe and sock, each piece of clothing, and every single thing with which she came into contact. It was bad enough for the family; I can't imagine what it must have been like for her. I can still remember the look on her face in the morning, her legs pulled up tightly, crying and shaking her head, refusing to get down. She was genuinely afraid.

I don't remember now how it all became resolved, but I do remember wanting to beat the hell out of Curt. And I was only eleven. It never occurred to me to be afraid of the spider. I wonder why. Maybe because I had my own heebie jeebies to think about, which leads me to today's question:

Do you have any irrational fears?

Ah, the killer there is the word "irrational." That makes this a little more thinky. Would Susan's fear of the brown recluse count? Not sure. What do you think? Her reactions might be irrational, but her fear? Hmm.

I would say I have two irrational fears. The first is my fear of snakes. On its face, it appears rational. Some snakes are quite dangerous. How would you know if the snake were poisonous or not? Best to leave them all alone. But my fear is so instantaneous, so much a phobia, that I can't stand to look even at a picture of a snake without an immediate reaction of my stomach lurching, my eyes tearing up, and my muscles jerking. I won't touch a photograph of a snake. I had a real-life encounter with a snake twice. The first time, I was within six inches of it. I saw it, dropped everything, screamed, ran, stopped, then screamed again. I stood there, about thirty yards from it, and every once in a while, I would shudder and scream again. I could not scream it out of my memory. The second time, a colleague brought in his albino python to show science classes. He was walking in the halls with it. As he neared me, I got the clenched stomach, teary eyes, but instead of running away, I was rooted to the spot. I must have been pale, too, because he saw me, apologized profusely, and turned around. Have I ever had, in my childhood or early life, a pivotal encounter with a snake? Nope.

The second may not even truly be a fear. Honestly, I'm not so sure what it is, but nearly every time I'm at the top of a set of stairs, I get a flash, a millisecond of an image of myself lying at the bottom. It happens every time I'm going to go down a new, different set of stairs, say at someone's home or at a museum or winery. It happens only once in a while at my home. Certainly I don't want to fall downstairs anyplace. I'm especially afraid of falling and knocking my teeth out or messing up my leg with the titanium screw already in it. Isn't that the strangest, goofiest thing?

I cannot wait to hear your Irrational Fears in comments. Be Brave and Tell All! Remember, Emerson said, "Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world."


  1. My beloved pooch, Genevieve, used to RACE down the stairs after us, pushing us out of the way in her rush to get to the outside (toilet) or her food dish. She was SO excited. I was convinced that she was going to take me out one day, and Ted and Maya would come home to find my broken, lifeless body at the bottom of the stairs. I do not consider this to be irrational, however. And of course, I walked firmly on the RIGHT side, leaving her PLENTY of room on the left, and I also held tightly to the railing. No accidents, though in her last few months she almost wiped out a few times. She was a smart old girl, though, and decided to stop coming upstairs. Which made me sad, but I respected her wisdom in the matter.

  2. I don't think I have any irrational fears - or if I do I must think they're rational - ha! I used to enjoy being very afraid of needles, but then I got tired of all the drama. Now I just look away & think of England :)

    I have always been afraid of being left behind - by a loved one, or a bus, or missing a plane. But even that has mellowed in recent years. As long as I am able to entertain myself I'll be just fine.

    Now, what's this about a titanium screw? Did I know this story?

  3. My biggest issue is a great big whopping case of acrophobia, which bleeds over a little to a fear of flying and what my daughter calls "edge-o-phobia". I can't get near the edge of any roof without a ridiculously stupid desire to just fall off and get it over with. Those windy mountain roads with a huge (or not even terribly huge) drop off the edge next to where you're driving is almost panic-inducing. Just thinking about it makes my hands sweat, my stomach churn, and my knees ache. I'm usually pretty much of a lead-foot when it comes to driving, but switchback curves make me so nervous that I drive like I'm a hundred years old.

    I love airplanes and jets of all kinds, and I know exactly, in the technical sense, how flying works, but I still have to steel myself just a little bit to get on a plane and not run down the aisle screaming obscenities. It's not really calming to the other passengers. Fortunately I don't have to fly very often, so I don't think I'm on any TSA watch list. ;-)

  4. Your poor sister! If I had been your mom, I'd have marched right over to Curt's house and given that horrid child a good sound thrashing, lol.

    So here's my rational/irrational fear: being suddenly made aware of someone's presence in the room/house when I don't expect it. The rational part of it is that I had a couple of experiences which scared the crap out of me many years ago: (

    1) A car slowly approaching me from behind and someone grabbing me by my coat collar and dragging me several yards down a little side street before finally getting hold of my purse, which was their only intention. I, however, assumed that, for whatever reason, they were trying to kill me.

    (2) Standing in a bank vestibule (in broad daylight) and having someone come up behind me and poke a knife in my ribs while whispering in my ear, "If you scream, I will stab you." He then proceeded to tell me nothing would happen if I would just withdraw my maximum allowance from the ATM ($500) and quietly hand it over to him. He got the money, as you can imagine, and after he left I slumped to the floor and burst into tears.

    Ever since those incidents, I am very easy to "spook." Mr. O. was shocked the first time he opened the door to the bedroom one day when I had not heard him arrive home (and hence thought I was alone in the house.) I looked up startled and screamed like a banshee. Even though I could see it was him!! And that's where the irrational part comes in. Even when I know he is home, if he comes up behind me when I am all engrossed in something and don't know he's there until he taps me on the shoulder or I suddenly hear his voice without seeing him, I scream. Very loudly. I can't seem to cure myself of this, so I just warn people not to ever sneak up behind me without warning or, heaven forbid, actually do that with the intention of scaring me. Because the people who will get scared out of their wits will be them when they see my reaction, lol.

  5. Ortizzle--Oh my goodness! You poor thing! I don't blame you. How terrible to have had those experiences. Not trying to be funny, but I bet you don't ever want a surprise party.

    LaFF--Have you ever gone to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls? Standing by the edge of the river before it goes over the falls is hypnotic. On second thought, don't go there.

    I am with you on the switchback curves. Any steep curves, really, as on the PA turnpike. I get extremely panicky driving that.

    Bug--No story, just some bone surgery aeons ago. I could make one up for you, though.

    Rick and I decided that for our 20th anniversary, we would take wing-walking classes. We had gotten to the part where you are belted into that little cage-like stand on the plane's wing, and I decided to do sort of a ballerina move and did an arabesque, bending at the waist with my one arm forward and one leg sort of kicked out in the back. Well, the wind grabbed me, and spun me like a propeller. My standing leg got caught and twisted in the bar of the cage, so I had to have surgery. The titanium screw is there to keep my kneecap straight on the bone since my whole leg shifted.


    J@jj--That's plenty rational. Poor Gen. She was such a good dog.

    ***What a brave bunch all of my Dear Readers are!! I feel like a big sissy.***


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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