I was a timid child. I was afraid of the dark, an angry sky, the boogie man. I longed for a feeling of safety and of being loved, but I expected rejection. I learned early on that my fears were an intrusion on other people’s lives. I couldn’t depend on those closest to me to save me from imagined harm; it was up to me. And I didn’t feel up to the task. But in order to avoid irritation, or ridicule, I kept my feelings to myself.
One of my earliest memories of being afraid was when I was staying with my maternal grandmother. I was about three years old. I don’t know why I was there, alone, or why the rest of the family was absent.
I slept with grandmother’s stepdaughter, Nancy, in the front bedroom. This particular night, Nancy was out on a date. It was a hot, sultry evening and the window was wide open. The bed was next to the window. It was very dark outside and I could see only the silhouette of a large tree. Grandmother was sitting in a wooden chair across the room. She said she’d stay there but I knew she was impatient to leave. I closed my eyes and tried very hard to go to sleep. Grandmother, thinking I WAS asleep tried to slip out of the room. I cried, so she came back in and parked herself in the chair again. I closed my eyes and we went through the same routine several times, until she finally lost her temper and spanked me. My Great Grandfather, who happened to be sleeping on a cot in the dining room, called to her to bring me to him. He held me in his arms and told me stories, one about a stork who flew through the sky with me until he found a momey and daddy who wanted me very much, so he left me with them. I fell asleep in the middle of the story.
I think I knew that my Great Grandfather was an exception. Back home, with a busy and impatient mother and a distant father, I learned to live with my fears.
As an adult, I still feel incapable of dealing with them, so I have adopted the solution of avoiding what I’m afraid of. Which, of course, is no solution at all.
What am I afraid of?