A few weeks ago I was driving around town with my husband. We decided to go to the movie theater to see what was playing and then he wanted to show me this area behind the movie theater where they starting a housing development. We parked the car for a moment up on a hill to look at the empty lots where new houses would be in the future. “Does that guy have a machine gun?!?” said my husband. I was seeing the same thing and indeed, had the same thought. There was a young adult male standing at the back of his SUV pointing what looked to be a machine gun at something, as if he were about to do target practice with it. Next to him watching and laughing was a younger looking male (I swear he had to be a pre-teen) holding what looked to be a shotgun. I could see the face of the younger kid with the shotgun more clearly because he was facing us (they were both at a distance though – thank god) and he looked like he was laughing in a fun way.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Was I really seeing what I was seeing? Was I really seeing two young adults playing with a machine gun in such an nonchalant way, right next to a busy shopping area? As we both stared in disbelief the guy with the machine gun turned his head and looked at us. I felt fear go through my veins and I wanted to be out of there right now. We drove away a few moments later. We talked about maybe calling the police, and maybe we should have, but I don’t think what they were doing was even illegal.
My mind keeps flashing on this weird, terrifying moment. I still can’t believe it was real.
“Once there was a young warrior. Her teacher told her that she had to do battle with fear. She didn’t want to do that. It seemed too aggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly. But the teacher said she had to do it and gave her the instructions for the battle. The day arrived. The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on the other. The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big and wrathful. They both had their weapons. The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, “May I have permission to go into battle with you?” Fear said, “Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission.” Then the young warrior said, “How can I defeat you?” Fear replied, “My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power.” In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear. ”
― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
This day 6 years ago I faced the scariest, most heart-breaking thing I have ever experienced in my life. I sat at the bedside of my step-father as he died. It was frightening to watch him leave us forever. It was frightening to be face to face with death in such a way. But on the other hand, it was also the most profound and life changing moment of my life, too. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.
While the time between grief stretches out a bit longer these days, it still hurts when I think about it.
I don’t ever want it to ever stop hurting.
My hands are trembling as I type this. I was out for my lunchtime walk and almost was hit by a car. I was crossing the street and the driver was turning left and wasn’t paying attention because he didn’t make any attempt to stop until I screamed and ran out of the way.
I made it to the corner and he stopped and I turned to him with a look of horror and yelled, “You almost hit me!! I was crossing the street! Jesus Fucking Christ!!” and he looked mortified but blew me off by waving his hands in a kind of “I’m Sorry gesture” and he drove away.
I kept on walking, very shaken, and then I had to stop on the sidewalk and cry because I don’t know what else to do with these feelings that bubble up to the surface when I am in this situation.
I have been hit by a car in the past and so am very sensitive about this and I am very unforgiving when I find myself in this situation. The last time this happened I decided the person needed to understand my feelings and I made it very clear to them, by yelling hysterically, that they could have killed me. Afterward I felt bad about doing that, along with feeling like an idiot for completely losing my cool.
This time I just walked away and cried. I am not sure I feel any better right now.
Rage and anger boil up to the surface regardless.
How can people be so completely oblivious?
How dare they?!?
I don’t know what to do with this anger that goes hand in hand with the terrifying fear I am also feeling.
So last week I told you about my fear of the local Mountain Lion and how I was able to overcome my fear. Either that or the mountain lion moved on and I didn’t have a reason to fear anymore. Well, there is a little more to the story.
Friday evening I was running on the trail and actually thinking about how relieved I am that the mountain lion is no longer there and I can run on my favorite trail again without worry. Not 10 minutes later after having that thought I actually saw it. Yep. I saw it.
I was about to enter a segment of the trail and up ahead of me was what, at first, I thought was a dog. I have a habit of always stopping when I see a dog that is off leash, since I have no idea what they will do, so I stopped. The animal stopped too and we both stared into each other’s eyes for several moments. As I stared at it I was trying to figure out what it was. I immediately figured out that it wasn’t a dog, though it was about the size of one. Incredibly, the first thought in my head was, “Is that a fox?!?” I have no idea why I thought I was seeing a fox. I pretty quickly deduced it wasn’t a fox. I then realized that it was moving and acting like a cat, was it just a big cat? It was staring at me in that very intense way cats to and it was twitching it’s tail. But this was way bigger than any cat I had ever seen. It was as big as a mid-sized to large dog. Then It hit me, and I thought, “Oh shit. This is that cougar.” So I backed away and decided to run on the road for the rest of my run.
The funny thing about it was I was not afraid during this encounter at all. I didn’t feel threatened by it at all. In fact, I felt kind of lucky to have had “a moment” with this very elusive creature. It’s rare to see a cougar in the wild and I feel very lucky to have seen one. That overwhelming fear that gripped me before is now gone, and it is a relief. I am not sure I am going to run on the trail for awhile, but it isn’t out of fear. Well, maybe a little out of fear. More out of respect. The cougar has decided that it likes living near my running trail and that is fine. I can be inconvenienced for awhile until it figures out this isn’t the best place to live.
I’ve been working with fear for the past couple months.
At the end of August I saw a Facebook post in my neighboorhood watch group that a mountain lion cub was spotted sleeping in the middle of the path of a popular trail that winds through town. The cub was seen at around noon on a Friday. Well. We all know what it means when a baby is spotted. It means a mom isn’t far away. I recalled how that very morning I did my usual Friday Morning 4 mile run along that very trail, right around day break (when they are most active). I probably ran right past it.
I am very afraid of mountain lions. And I have reason to fear. They actually attack humans. I recall at least two news stories when I lived in California where a runner and a bike rider were killed by mountain lions. So yeah. It’s a rational fear.
Yet It was bugging me because, while it is something could could possibly happen I was really letting it get to me. I wondered if it went from being rational to irrational. Yes, there have been attacks on humans, but what, really, were my chances of getting attacked?
I tried running on parts of the trail, but the fear of getting attacked was so great that I ruined the relaxing nature of the run. I had to finish it on the street. Each time I would go out I would try to talk myself into running on the trail, but when I got to the trail head and saw the sign I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Finally, one Friday,about three weeks later, I woke up and I wasn’t afraid anymore. I didn’t wake up with that dread of fear. I decided that this was the day I would run on the trail again. So I did. And it felt good. Oddly, all of the signs were taken down, so apparently the threat moved on.
It makes me wonder if that fear I was feeling was my gut telling me to avoid the trail. Maybe primal instinct was keeping me off the trail while the mountain lions (it turns out it was a mother and 2 cubs) made their home there. And then when they left, so did my fear.