Fear… Inspired by washing dishes.

I was peacefully washing the dishes, rocking out to She & Him when I saw the invader.  Circling a Tupperware container it glared at me menacingly.  I leapt away sending a spray of soapy water and shrieking my war (terror?) cry.  After an animated dance (kind of like someone who just stepped on hot coals), I gathered my thoughts.  Adrenaline pumping, my heart rate double baseline, I tried to decide what to do with the intruder.  This earwig (yes, earwig… not mouse or giant spider) was in my space.  MY space.  And definitely ruining the cleaning buzz I was getting on.

What I did next is a feat of bravery (in my humble opinion).  I got enough paper to clean up a nuclear spill and after effectively mummifying my hand and then getting a bit more to pick up the little bugger (pun intended) I collected him or her and threw him outside.  The -22 wind chill will kill it.  I can’t.

I have an irrational fear of earwigs.  I’m pretty cool with spiders, mice, snakes and such, but earwigs and silverfish kill me.  We live in a basement apartment in a very cold and damp climate.  The two things I fear most are the two things we deal with the most.  That and this one cockroach this one time (Patrick saw it and didn’t tell me until we were at the airport on the way home for Christmas two weeks later).  It’s the shell.  And the antennae.  They give me the heebie-jeebies.  I can kill other intruders or embrace them, but those… Nope nope nope.  I had only seen one earwig at summer camp prior to moving here and never silverfish.  Now they are something we contend with every once and awhile.  The first time I saw silverfish, there were a few and I freaked out like I saw a dead body.  I can’t kill them… They have exoskeletons.  I can’t stand the crunch they make.  I can’t stand to look at them.  But I can, with some girlish panic dispose of them in my own way.  I wash them down the drain or collect them and throw them outside.  Or get Patrick.  Patrick is my preferred disposal method.  Bonus is that it makes him feel manly.

By the time my heart rate had settled to baseline and I stopped jumping every time I saw a food chunk in the sink, I was done the dishes.  It got me thinking about fears.  Irrational and rational.

Fear is something we have programmed into ourselves.  It is a safety net to protect us from things that would otherwise off us.  Being scared of bears that potentially eat us is a useful skill.  Being scared of bugs with exoskeletons… Not useful.   Actually, a pain in the neck when you live in a damp basement.   Some of our fears are learned (parents teach kids that running out in traffic is bad), some are innate (babies have a reflex response to falling from birth) and others are well, weird.

I am scared of killing people.  This sounds a bit crazy, but hear me out… I am a medical student.  I help in the care of people who are very ill.  One day, I will be responsible for their care.  I will make choices that can impact outcomes.  I will have people to be accountable to, God will be on my side, I will have more experience, but nonetheless, I can make mistakes and bad judgment calls.  People can make other choices.  Something might happen that is partly under my responsibility and the person we care for will die.  Odds are they are dying anyway, but that doesn’t change that I might have prevented it or changed the outcome.  Next year, I will be an intern and I will be running codes and answering night call and all that good stuff.  I will answer to senior residents and attendings.  Still the choices I make will have an impact.  And that scares me.  Especially if the impact is harming the person I am trying to help.  I know the key is to now my stuff, ask for help, be accountable and trust God.  Nonetheless, like the exoskeletons, it is something that makes me shudder.

One of my biggest and most irrational fears is the fear of “dummiels.”  You probably don’t know (and why would you), but “dummiel” is what I call crash test dummies… You know, from the car commercials and public safety announcements and drivers training videos.  I have been scared of them for as long as I can remember.  I literally have an anxiety attack when they show up in a commercial (for instance, there is a Kit Kat commercial that pretty much makes me convulse).  I have recurring nightmares about them.  In my nightmares, they live in the closet in the computer room at my parents’ house.  Ants (I am not scared of ants, however) come out before the dummiels come out.  They clean up car accidents with kitchen utensils and they leave skull and crossbones as a sign of their presence.  That is how detailed and repetitive the dreams are… Since I was about 2 or 3 years old.  I am a nervous driver and fear car accidents (more related to my fear of killing people or making mistakes).   They don’t affect my every day life at all.  Until a commercial comes on.  Or I have one of those nightmares.  How weird is that?

I am not a death fearing person.  Not that I want to die, but when I die, I know where I am going, so there is no sense to stress.  I know everyone I know and love will die too, so although I don’t look forward to it especially joyfully, I don’t worry about it.  I worry more about the state of their relationship with Jesus and how I can talk to them about that and such (something I am not especially good at).  My biggest death-related fear is the death of my husband.  I can’t imagine being without him in this world.   We are such partners and supports to each other.  I know it would be okay, but nonetheless, when I worry about death, that is what worry about most… Being alone after Patrick dies.  Though, really, I am never alone.  I am sure when I have kids, I will feel similarly and more strongly about losing them.

With interviews creeping up, I realize that many of my fears are coming to light.  Not the earwigs and dummiels, but the fears of failure, incompetency, inadequacy and so forth.  Fears of missed flights and finances.  It frightens me how much impact interviews will have on my future placement and how many such interviews I have to do in so little time.  So far, I would say I have a healthy fear.  An “I know I need to prepare for this” kind of fear.   I worry that it will get bigger than that (funny how I have a fear of fearing).  When I was applying to medical school, I was ridiculously stressed out.  Right from the MCATs to the applications to interviews, I would go through periods of not eating, being difficult to live with and neglecting some of my other responsibilities.  Not to the point of hindering my relationships or duties, but I did make myself rather unwell by the time interviews came around.  I was well grounded, I was strong in my faith during that time, but nonetheless, fear took over.  I feel much more well this time around.  I have fewer other stressors.  I have grown in my relationship with God.  I need to remind myself that He is in control, that people love me no matter what and that I have many great supports.  I need to remember what I know and where I have been.

Fear can’t eat us.  God is bigger than it… And the boogie man.  For that I am grateful.

Now for some related musical mentions from the post…

1. She & Him – Don’t Look Back.  Wonderful music.  Some would say it is hipster and I don’t care.  This was what I was singing and dancing to prior to the attack of the earwig.

2. The Veggie Tales – God is Bigger Than the Boogie Man.  A childhood classic for some.  A new discovery for me.  This always cracks me up, but I like the message despite the goofiness.

3. The Casting Crowns – The Voice of Truth.  This song was on a CD Patrick gave me just prior to the MCATs.  This song proved to be the theme song to help motivate me and encourage me through the MCATs and  some other difficult times. 

What sorts of things get you through difficult times and fears?


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