Fear in a Handful of Raindrops

Let’s talk about fear.

I’m not talking about the realistic life fears that all adults face–losing children, losing job security, struggling with bills, and so on. Those are fears that make sense and that, I assume, we can all relate to.

I mean the fears that are burned into our own unique psyches, many of which have been with us since childhood.

I had three biggies as a child–snakes, thunderstorms, and airplanes.

Of those, I’ve mostly conquered two (I think snakes will always impact me on a visceral level; it’s a physical reaction that I don’t suspect I will ever overcome).

As a child, I hated flying in airplanes so much that, after a bad flight from Orlando to Boston where I screamed the entire time (at eight years old), my parents decided that it was easier to drive from New Hampshire to Florida with three kids that only got along sporadically than to put me on an airplane.

When I was in my mid-thirties, my sister was living in Baltimore. She needed me. I got on an airplane (with a lot of Valium), flew to Baltimore, and flew home afterwards. I realized I would probably never *enjoy* flying, but it no longer terrified me. A year or so later, I had to go to California for work. They were deicing the plane as we prepared to take off, there were three layovers (and a lot of Valium), and the trip home was a non-stop red eye from San Diego to Pennsylvania. I’m fine with flying now.

Similarly, when you are an adult, you cannot really escape thunderstorms. You can’t cry and hide in the basement every time there is the smallest rumble of thunder or flash of lightning if your child needs to be picked up at gymnastics or you need to go to work. You learn that your fear has to take a backseat to responsibility.

I’ve gotten to the point where I will drive fairly comfortably in a thunderstorm. I’ll sit on a screened in porch and watch one. I even sat through a fairly bad thunderstorm on a sailboat. I figured that particular fear was essentially conquered.

And then yesterday happened …

There was a fairly bad thunderstorm that was winding down. As the rain was ending, we decided that pizza would be a good idea for dinner. Since we’re working on saving money and the delivery charge and tip was worth making the drive to keep from spending it, I volunteered to go get the pizza.

All severe weather warnings had expired, and the rain had stopped, so I figured I was all set. It started pouring when I’d been on the road for about three minutes; in retrospect the smart thing to do would have been to go home then and there.

But, largely because I take pride in no longer letting thunderstorms run my life, I kept going. Suddenly, lightning was flashing non-stop and I could hear the deafening booms of thunder over my car radio. Water rushed over the streets, and it was in white-capped sheets.

I made it to the pizza place, where I sat in the car contemplating life for a few minutes. I finally decided to make a run for it, and the water in the parking lot was swirling around my ankles. Back in the car with a damp pizza box, I was relieved to see that the rain appeared to be slackening.

Although the rain was slowing, the roads were a mess. There was a tree down that caused motorists to make sudden swerves to avoid it. The road I needed to turn on was clearly flooding, so I turned on an earlier street. There was a downed wire sparking in the midst of a growing pond of water, so I turned around and went down the flooded road I’d been hoping to avoid, somehow making it through.

Eventually, I got stymied and ended up in a parking lot. There seemed to be no way out as I drive a low-to-the-ground sedan and tall pick ups and Jeep Wranglers were trapped in the flooded streets. I called home and got suggestions for how to approach getting back considering the roads on either side of the parking lot were both flooded with emergency personnel helping people out of cars, pedestrians were literally screaming in the streets, and so on.

I was prepared to wait, but while on the phone with the husband, the lightning and thunder resumed along with further torrential downpours.

The old fear rose up in me; I was shaking, nauseous, absolutely petrified. I decided to start driving and seek the safest roads possible. I made it home safely.

It got me thinking a lot, though, about the nature of fear. There are those that we know will always be with us no matter what (I’m looking at you, Voldemort) and the ones we think we have conquered.

There comes a point, though, where we find if we are pushed far enough that the fears are still with us and always will be.

Human nature is a fascinating thing, and our own individual fears are a fascinating part of what makes us our own unique self.


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