“What are fears but voices airy?
Whispering harm where harm is not.
And deluding the unwary
Till the fatal bolt is shot!” Wordsworth
Inside my head there is a voice – a voice I imagine belongs to a neurotic little troll with wild hair that stand on end and is the color of rainbows. He runs through my mind in nary a stitch, scared of his own shadow and whispering of the gloom and doom that will surely rain down upon my head should I do anything involving a plane, boat or a bear.
“In everything one thing is impossible: rationality.” Friedrich Nietzsche
Phobia is a funny little word – [foh-bee-uh]. It’s weird how it just rolls around your mouth. Say it. I bet you make some strange faces as you run through the syllables (okay, you can stop now because you look like an idiot and I can’t have idiots reading my blog). Hearing the term phobia always makes me think of those people you read about who haven’t left their houses in two decades or that movie about those spiders that scared me so badly, I slept with the lights on for a month after I saw it back in 1990 (I’m getting the heebee-jeebees just thinking about those disgusting little hairy things). The word embodies the very definition of incapacitating fear, but a phobia is nothing more than the irrational fear of something. Everyone has phobias. Some are indeed as significant as the name implies, others not so much – but all are very real to those who suffer from them. I fear three things: flying, boats, and bears. Odd combination of things, you say? Not really. I think they all fit together quite nicely. They all involve nasty, painful deaths – MY nasty, painful death.
I fly. I don’t like it but, as I often do, I accept it as one of life’s little necessities. I suck it up. I am an adapter, after all. I will book the flight and file it away under “to worry about later” in the card catalog that resides next to the troll in my mind. I always organize my stressors in this fashion otherwise, I’d be a big pile of goo on the bathroom floor. Dealing with them one at a time, in the order of importance, keeps the chaos down to a dull roar and allows me to function as a productive member of society.
About the time I need to start thinking about packing for my little plane ride, the calamity in my head begins. It seems my panic-stricken troll has discovered our impending trip. Into a frenzy he goes. It will begin as a nagging whisper, gradually increasing in intensity until my troll has convinced me that this trip will be my last and thus, I must prepare for my imminent demise. Out comes the Will and the life insurance policies. Next, I will begin to obsess about that family trust I’ve never set up and wonder if there is time before the fast approaching departure date to meet with an attorney or an extra grand in the budget to pay for said attorney and documents. In lieu of spending the grand on the trust, I will seek out the counsel of my boss to have the same conversation I’ve had with her a million times. For the millionth time, she will roll her eyes at me and tell me the same thing she always does, sending me on my way with a loud sigh and a pat on the head. I’m beginning to think she’s grown tired of having this conversation with me. I’m sure she will be thrilled come July. That is when my next trip is planned.
Boats are another thing that sends my beloved troll into hysterics. Or perhaps it isn’t necessarily the craft itself that is bothersome. A boat, after all, is nothing more than a harmless vessel. Put it in a body of water – any body of water – and it becomes a death trap. So, I suppose it would be more accurate to say that my troll and I aren’t fans of water. I don’t believe I can honestly lay this one solely at my troll’s feet, however. My father, bless his heart, bears some measure of responsiblity in instilling this fear in me. He meant well. How could he have possibly known that sticking an overimaginative 5-year-old in a twelve-foot Jon boat and then paddling to the middle of a dark, alligator and snake infested bayou to fish would do irrevocable damage? Impossible to predict, I’m sure, but plausible nonetheless. If there is one phobia that I find almost debilitating, this would be it. I do not swim, not even the doggy paddle. I do not float. I think life jackets are nothing more than pieces of brightly colored false hope. If you are stupid enough to get on a boat, you’re going in; and if you go in, you will drown. If, by some miracle, your lungs aren’t crushed under the weight of the water and you do manage to surface for air, you will be picked off by massive Megalodons that have been awaken by your thrashing. Either way, you’re toast – or in this case, fish food. There is simply no other possible outcome.
Bears. Some of my friends are giggling right now. I can hear them. Shut up. All of you. In my mind, bears are everywhere. It matters not that black bears and grizzly bears and brown bears are not indigenous to every state. I believe that if there is a campground and a hiking trail then there is a bear in the vicinity – and it is bent on eating me. This is, yet again, the result of an overimaginative child exposed to things that are beyond the ability of such a young mind to comprehend. My grandmother, bless her heart, could have no idea that simply watching a news story could do as much damage to me as my father’s fishing trips. However, that tragic story about the young couple eaten by a pack of bears in their tent, in the dead of night was scarring. It didn’t matter that it happened several hundred miles away, my little ears heard only the words camping, tent, bears, dead. That was enough for me to know that camping was not something I ever wanted to do because I didn’t want to be bear food anymore than I wanted to be fish food.
I know what you’re thinking. I’m being irrational. After all, the probability of being thrown overboard and eaten by a Megalodon is quite low – as is being eaten by bears on a camping trip. I hear what you’re saying. I do. But the troll inside my head does not. For him and thus, for me these phobias are all too real and no matter how much you argue their absurdity, they aren’t going to go away. So, let’s just agree to disagree. If you will promise not to come crying to me when you get yourself eaten by a Megalodon, I will promise not to gloat and say, “I told you so.” Deal?