If you look up the word “pheer” (because if you’re me you think misspelling things is the height of hilarity this soon in the day)… it leads you to the word “fere” which is defined as:
fere [fɪə (Scot) fiːr]
1. a companion
2. Also fier a husband or wife
[Old English gefēra, from fēran to travel; see fare]
Considering the day I had Saturday, this makes me laugh. But I’ll get to that later.
fear (fîr) n.
1. a. A feeling of agitation and anxiety caused by the presence or imminence of danger.
In the novel Dune, the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear says “Fear is the mind killer.” Yeah, tell me about it.
I’ve been on my own for a few years now. Not dating. Not looking to date. Placidly and safely finishing raising my teenage daughter. Okay, so not so placidly, but still. Not adding to the insanity with romantic drama on top of it. But some months back, completely unlooked for, I met someone. You know that thing that happens when you see someone across a room and it’s like a lightning bolt hits you in the skull? Yeah, it was kind of like that. But, of course, being me… I held perfectly still so no one would notice. Least of all him.
Fast forward several months. My daughter is off to college. This man and I have been spending time together. You know, “just hanging out” as I tell people. I don’t tell anyone about the paralyzing terror that grips me periodically out of nowhere. I say I’m dealing with the grief of losing my father one year ago. I say I’m dealing with the change of my daughter leaving the nest. I say my dog has cancer. These things are all true. But they are not the whole truth.
Mostly, I’m terrified of how much I like this man. And how, out of nowhere, every once in a while, I become certain that he’s preparing to disappear from my life completely. Any. Second. Now.
I never wanted to be one of those people who was afraid to love. And yet, recently, it has really begun to dawn on me that I have been. All my adult life. How is it that I missed this fact?
I have always ascribed my lack of success in relationships to my character defects. To my ability to find the biggest alcoholic in any room and be drawn to him like a magnet to a metal gangster. To having been raised by wolves. What I never really got was what moved beneath these half-truths. Jesus God. I’m terrified. Likely if you polled the people who have known me best over the years they would say, “Well duh.” I’m always the last to know. Wiley Coyote, Super Genius.
There is an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer titled “Fear Itself”. In it, the characters are trapped in a haunted house on Halloween. All their worst fears begin to manifest in 3D in the house around them as they feel each one. They don’t know what is happening at first. They just think it’s demons. Turns out, they are right. It’s the Fear demon. A tiny little angry creature that had been summoned in a magick circle up in the attic accidentally by stupid college frat boys. Classic.
That pretty much describes my day Saturday. It didn’t take much. A last minute change in plans. Long periods of silence over the course of the day. My brain. Next thing I know, I’m locked in the silent spiral of badness where I am absolutely certain that he is planning his escape, and this is just the first shot over the bow. Warning, warning, red alert! Impending iceberg! All hands on deck!! I won’t bother with the details of the story my mind spun. Suffice to say, it wasn’t good. It’s never good.
Thing is, I couldn’t blame it on anything else at the end of the day. I had to face facts. I am a giant freak.
What is the use of fear? What practical purpose does it serve? I’m sure my mind believes it’s doing me some kind of favor. “It’s for your own good,” I can hear it say to me. I remember this incident with my mom when I was a young woman. We’d had some people over to the house, one of which was this woman who had just returned from Africa, where she had bought beads and seen wild animals. She told us the story of her flight home, and how they bumped her up to first class out of nowhere. The little hot hand towels they gave her. The actual food. The champagne. I said to my mother when she had left, “Someday that’s what I want my life to be like.” “Don’t count on it,” my mother said. It felt like a slap in the face. Years later, when I asked her why she had said that to me she said, “I just didn’t want you to be disappointed, dear.”
There it is. The hall monitor of my sub conscious. Trying to keep me from running with scissors. Thing is, the hall monitor is broken. The hall monitor seems to think all running is bad. Or walking. Or using scissors of any kind. Even the ones with the rounded ends. I think it’s time to fire the hall monitor. I’ll just have to take my chances that I might get my lunch money stolen one of these days.
Canadian author Merle Shain said “Loving can cost a lot but not loving always costs more, and those who fear to love often find that want of love is an emptiness that robs the joy from life.” Word up, Merle. I hear you knocking. My new motto is: Fuck you, fear. You’re a tiny little small minded demon in a polyester suit. I have a pocket full of bandaids and I’m running down the hallways of my life. Neener neener. You can’t stop me.