Some people get really energized when encountered with fear. It’s like there’s some sort of switch in their head that goes from “HOLYCRAP!” to “All right. Let’s do this.” I believe that’s called choosing Fight instead of Flight in that whole fight or flight response thing. These people probably enjoy horror films and the adrenaline rush fear provides.
I am totally not one of those people.
I’m going to tell you an embarrassing story now. When I was 9 years-old, I saw Hocus Pocus for the first time. I have no idea why, but Billy the zombie freaked me out like nobody’s business. Combine that with the fact that we’d just put a sunroom up that Summer and its roof crests just under my window. I had no window treatments and was unable to sleep for four nights out of fear that Billy would climb up the sun room and attack me in my room. I also imagined singing, mocking faces in the pine tree I could see from my window. I will have you know that I recently watched the movie in its entirety for the first time in years and found myself confused by my childhood fears, but that’s just the way it goes.
I’m still not very good at watching horror movies. Hell, I can’t even watch some episodes of “Supernatural” at night by myself. I also can’t play Bioshock by myself in the dark (the same is true about Amnesia: The Dark Descent, but that’s totally justifiable). While my mom was trying to figure out what she felt like watching next, there was a crappy horror movie on the SyFy channel. Some low-budget thing about crazy cannibals in an asylum. Thinking about the brief bit I’d seen still gives me the shivers. The only exception to this rule is Cabin in the Woods because it’s awesome and so over the top.
All of that stuff is the really easy to pinpoint nightmare fuel that I can identify and avoid. The other fears? They take some digging and self-awareness. While I have a lot of the justifiable fears about my future and family’s well-being and all of that stuff, there’s that one deeply rooted fear that I can’t seem to shake and manages to manifest itself in the most counter-productive manner.
My biggest fear (outside of being eaten alive because, heck, no one wants that. . .unless you do and now I’m officially worried about you, hypothetical person) is of being forgotten. I’m always worried about becoming the person that people only think of as an afterthought (if they think of me at all). I worry that I’ll somehow drift further and further away from people until all I end up doing is looking at the lives of people I used to know through the impersonal Facebook window.
Years back, when I was more insecure than I am now, I used to conduct a fairly unscientific experiment. See, I had always been the one to reach out and message people online before they messaged me. I was always the one to make contact. So, I’d just stop and see who, if anyone, decided to message me first. This, of course, resulted in hours of internet silence followed by wondering, bleakly, if this was to be my future.
Okay. I’d be lying if I still didn’t do that from time to time now. In fact, there are only a few people I actually message any more. Most of my buddy list on Trillian is filled with people I don’t talk to at all. I keep meaning to do a cull but seeing all of the names makes me feel less alone on my darker days, even if I don’t even remember or speak to the people attached to those names.
That’s what I’m talking about when I say that my big fear manifests itself in really counterproductive ways. In my fear of being forgotten, I create situations in which I will be forgotten. I find myself withdrawing in what is either some sort of act of self-preservation or a bizarre way of seeing who’ll notice if I’m not there. You can imagine that this goes about as well as can be expected. As some would say, I cut my nose off to spite my face and subsequently find myself isolated and bummed about my self-imposed isolation.
I’m glad I’ve gotten self-aware enough to realize why I do a lot of the things I do. It’s hard to sit back and take a good look at yourself to figure out where you are, where you’d like to be, and how you’re sabotaging yourself. It’s harder still to try and plan some sort of way out of your current patterns. I’m trying. It’s not easy and every day has some sort of new challenge with regards to my fears of living in a universe where I’ve turned into Samantha in Sixteen Candles and am subsequently doomed to be shelved for all of time. As with most attempts at self-improvement, this is going to be a gradual battle and I refuse to give into my fear. See, one of the things I’ve learned about fears is that they’re a lot like self-fulfilling prophecies. If you focus on them enough and worry more still, they seem to eventually come to pass.
Scary movies, though. Yeah. I don’t think those are ever things I will willingly subject myself to unless it looks really neat. I do like sleeping at night and not jumping at shadows out of the corner of my eye.
*I want to thank Frank Herbert whose words I borrowed for this post’s title.