Don’t go changing

I’m not afraid of a lot of things.   (Except for those things I fear:  spiders, snakes, running into someone I know at the grocery store, and automated car washes.)  I’m okay with heights, public speaking and upside-down roller coasters.

When I was 18, I boxed up my belongings, mailed the boxes to a college in Missouri and rode a Greyhound bus for three days and nights to start my college career.  I had never seen the college before.  I didn’t know anyone there but one woman who worked in the administration office.

No big deal.

Back then, if you gave me a giant, life-altering decision, I didn’t really flinch.  I considered myself a rather timid person–I really hated to ride the city bus because inevitably some scary looking person would want to befriend me–but I was braver than I knew.

I think this is the bravery that accompanies limited life experience, when you can touch the edges of your life without leaving your bedroom.  Everything is so contained, so controllable.  You hardly even need a telescope to see the border between you and the unknowable future.

You don’t know what you ought to fear.  You haven’t shaken hands with the sorrow life will hand you, the losses you’ll endure, the battles you’ll fight, the impossible situations you’ll navigate.  You just don’t know.

You have so little to lose when you’re young.  You think your problems are compelling and worthy of the notebooks you fill with the angst you cannot contain.  Your life is a miniature; it only feels enormous to you.

When I was very young, I remember riding through the automated car wash with my dad.  I may have dramatized the actual events in my memory, but I recall sitting on the floor of the car, terrified that the water would swoosh through the windows, that those flapping strips would somehow slap water into the car.

I still hate the car wash. I avoid it, even though I’m grown and I know that the car will emerge all shiny and clean.  I wince at the very idea of steering my car into those metal grooves at the car wash entrance.  I’m afraid of it.

Fear is sometimes irrational.  Logic informs you that you’re out of my mind to be afraid.  But what difference does that make?  You can’t slow your racing pulse.

Rational fear is worse.  You know exactly how things can go wrong.  You know what each person might lose.  You can pinpoint where disaster will occur.  You know.

At the same time, the older I get, the less I fear.  I planned my wedding.  I was even so foolhardy that I sewed my own wedding dress.  I watched cancer kill my father.  I planned his funeral.  I moved across the country with my husband more than once.  I gave birth twice at home with the assistance of midwives.  I sat in the waiting room while my husband had surgery to remove cancer from his larynx.

And through each situation, I discovered a strength I didn’t know I had.  I survived. My partnership with my husband thrived.  I felt the arms of God surround me as I cried.  I found out I can handle even the weirdest situation.

Not that I want to.  I don’t want to fling myself into crazy circumstances.  I don’t want the earth to shift beneath me, for the foundation to crack and the windows to shatter.  I don’t want things to change.  I am afraid of change.

But does anything ever stay the same?  My kids insist on growing older, day by day.  The seasons refuse to stay and linger.  People die.  Babies are born.  Nothing ever stays the same.

That scares me in a way that a 2,000 mile bus journey never did.  I’m older.  I’m wiser.  I’m terrified by my age and wisdom and by the unknown.

I’m not sure that I would ever do again what I did when I was 18.

If it were up to me, I’d stop the clock.

It’s not up to me.

But don’t expect me to kill a spider or get the car washed.  That’s where I draw the line.

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Don’t go changing

7 thoughts on “Don’t go changing

  1. I have been feeling much the same way the last year or so. Stop! Slow down! I am brought to tears when I think about my babies growing up, mope, feel miserable, cry in my husband’s arms. And yet I think of the alternative, that they not grow up at all (like my second child) and that is far worse. They are doing what they are supposed to do, what I brought them into the world to do, and why is it so hard? I have done much harder things; I am stronger than I know.

    But some days, no, I’m not so strong.

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  2. I remember one summer when I was 26, standing outside watering the lawn, and wondering why the heck I hadn’t done anything with my life.

    The next year I was married, moved two states away, and starting on the most tumultuous, heart-wrenching journey of my life.

    While I wouldn’t want to re-do things such that I don’t have my two daughters from that failed marriage, I can surely see now that the choice I made so many years ago was born of ignorance and lack of rational fear. I didn’t know what lay ahead, so there was no reason for me to fear it.

    And I’m not sure there is any way to really communicate the depth of that understanding to anyone who’s in their ignorant youth, facing a decision that will certainly change their life.

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  3. Ouida Gabriel says:

    The other day I told myself (and God) that I am done being afraid. I walk around being afraid of everything. I am afraid of so many things that I closed off people from myself, even those that love me. I stopped being daring and trying new things. I became afraid of being out of control but yet I am not in control of myself becuase I am so afraid. So I told myself STOP IT. It is time to move on and allow myself to do the things I want from life. I refuse to hide in this home, to hide behind the weight gain, and the thoughts that like to bring me down. For the last few days anytime I think that I can not do something I stop myself and say “with Gods help, you can”. I also realized that I tell myself I can’t do something because I am afraid of failing. It was a amazing realization of myself. It won’t come quickly but I want to be stronger in the future than I ever have. I plan on getting better with age which means stop being afraid!

    Ouida Gabriel

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  4. Wow, I loved reading this. I once told my husband “I’m pretty much afraid of everything.” We laugh about that quote, but it’s pretty true. I need to work on that.

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  5. You summarized so much of how I feel so very eloquently. I just found your blog, thanks to my sister, and I find it very enjoyable. I look forward to reading through previous posts and new ones to come!

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  6. My husband could get our kids to do ANYTHING by threat of the ‘car wash’. They HATED it. I couldn’t use that threat because I couldn’t go through with it and they knew it – I could never line the car up on those stupid narrow rails.

    I’m afraid of almost everything. My biggest fear? The dentist. Next biggest? Toothlessness.

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  7. Ha! I thought I was the only one afraid of the car wash! I actually went through one, and had to call my husband immediately to brag. That was 2 years ago, and I haven’t done it since. Weird.

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