Friday, February 20, 2009

“I would die of fright!”

In this post I want to expand upon my theme of ‘Do it anyway’. In a prior post I talked about my philosophy of ‘do it anyway’ and a little about how it developed. I talked about having a yardstick by which I measure the risk, the danger, the threat of a situation. A measure that helps me to decide if I will ‘do it anyway’. In this post I want to expand on a particular instance in that development.

When I was somewhere in the 5-to-8-years-old time frame, my bedroom that summer was in what was called ‘the sunroom’. This was a room upstairs, in the southwest corner of the house. It had a series of tall windows that filled the two outer walls. They were hung with plastic curtains (Are any of you old enough to remember those cheap plastic curtains?). In many ways this could have been a pleasant room – but it wasn’t. It had one large defect. It was infested with wasps.

When I say ‘infested’ I mean that literally. Large wasp nests hung in each corner of the room and many smaller ones hung in the folds of the plastic curtains. During the day, when the sun poured heavy and golden against the windows, the wasps buzzed lazily in the warmth. After the sun went down and the room cooled, however, the wasps had greater difficulty in moving around and often fell from where they crawled on top of their nests.

My little bed was under the windows on the west side of the room. I have a
snapshot memory of a wasp falling down onto the bed covers near my feet. My mother, who was sitting beside the bed reading poetry aloud, reached over and, using the spine of the book, crushed the wasp to death against the covers.

So I know that, for at least a while, my bed was in that room. And my small cardboard box of toys was under the windows on the south side of that room. I have a slighter longer
‘film clip’ memory of begging the adults downstairs to get my toys for me from that box. They refused. They told me if I wanted my toys I had to get them myself. My next memory is of sitting on the first of the two steps up into that room, watching the wasps as they slowly flew through the air, those long hind legs trailing behind them as they flew. They were flying barely higher than my head as I sat on the step. I remember being horribly, terribly afraid.

I had often had encounters with and been stung by wasps around this house. I remember swinging on the swingset outside and somehow accidentally kicking a wasp as it flew by. I still have a freckle on the top of my foot where the stinger had to be removed – and wasps don’t usually lose their stingers when they sting, so it must have been especially deep. I remember seeing a wasp caught in the fuzzy material of my knee socks as I ran around outside. They also seemed to be magically drawn to getting caught in my long blonde hair. And goodness knows how many times I might have been stung lying in my own bed – thankfully I don’t remember if that happened. I also remember the pain of stepping on honeybees crawling in the dandelions as I ran barefoot through the yard. So I was very familiar with the agony that flying insects with stingers could inflict. And I was staring into a room literally buzzing with them.

But I wanted my toys. So I started crawling on my belly across the linoleum-covered floor as the wasps flew low over my head. I remember, about halfway across, looking back over the smooth shine of the floor to the doorway, so dark in contrast that I couldn’t see into the hallway beyond. I remember reaching the box, then being even more terrified to raise myself up from lying flat on the floor. I remember finally raising up high enough to peer over into the box. I remember exactly how my toys looked as they lay there.

That is the end of my memory. I have no clue what happened next. Did I reach in and retrieve the toy I was after? Was a wasp waiting in there to sting my hand? Did I manage to get out of the room with a toy at all?

No clue. But I do know that, at that young age, I looked absolute blinding terror in the face, and I did it anyway. And it didn’t kill me. So now I never, ever, let fear alone be the deciding factor in any decision I make. If fear is the only reason I have for not doing something - I do it anyway.


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