“The ads all call me fearless, but that’s just publicity. Anyone who thinks I’m not scared out of my mind whenever I do one of my stunts is crazier than I am.” (Jackie Chan)
I was always afraid of the dark. Even as a little girl, I made the frightful journey to my parents’ bedroom in the wee hours, every night, for protection. I hadn’t overcome that fear by the time I became a mother, so when my former husband traveled for business (ok, now I know that wasn’t the truth, but that is what I thought was taking place back then!) each night I invited my children to sleep in my room under the guise of a “slumber party.” After they fell asleep, I’d shut and lock my master bedroom door and move a piece of furniture in front of it for protection before I crawled into my bed, to lie there with my heart pounding most of the night, unable to sleep.
Crazy behavior, but true. Just ask my friend and former neighbor, Geoff, who got a frantic call from me at 2 a.m. one night in 2001. I will love him forever for not only coming to my home in the middle of a freezing winter night to ensure every room and closet on every floor of my home was intruder free, but for humoring my fear by bringing a baseball bat with him as he searched, as well as for having the good grace to EVER speak to me again after that!
Then my unexpected life began. I was thrust into terrifying darkness that extended beyond the night. I was scared out of my mind. I didn’t just fear the future or the nighttime (by then, sleep was impossible), I even began to fear the doorbell. Because that meant I’d have to open my front door.
I know fear isn’t always rational, and mine was no exception. I began to fear not just who would ring my doorbell—we had lived through more than our fair share of hostile and angry clients/victims who had appeared at our front door to vent their hostility and rage about what my former husband had done toward me and my children—but what would happen should I dare answer the door? Would someone yell at me, would someone serve me with papers for a frivilous, groundless lawsuit simply because I had unknowingly been married to a criminal or even worse, would someone “snap” emotionally because of their loss…and shoot me? Like I said, my fear was not rational. However, I had been thrust into a life that had been inconceivable to me, so at that point, I felt anything, including anything scary, was possible. (Violence and threat of violence was also something government officials and attorneys had warned me about. In fact, they checked with me periodically to make sure I hadn’t been threatened and that I felt “safe.” And now this blog proves I wasn’t completely truthful. Oops! No one threatened me, but obviously, I didn’t feel safe! I was just too embarrassed to say it. I felt there had been enough drama.)
One day, the doorbell rang. As I approached, through the frosted glass I could see the blurry figure of a large man wearing a dark jacket and sunglasses. I could see some type of metal, electronic device, possibly a gun, in his hand. I suddenly got VERY afraid. I can’t describe the terror I felt. In seconds I waged an epic battle within myself: answer or not answer the door.
“And so it begins,” I thought. My fears had become my reality.
I realized I couldn’t not answer the door the rest of my life. And I certainly couldn’t live in fear the rest of my life. So I decided to open the door and face whatever consequence that decision brought me. Even if it meant death.
I grasped the knob and slowly opened the door. I cautiously peered out, prepared to meet my fate, and faced the man. He was tall, muscular, dressed in a nondescript navy jacket (just like I imagine assassins wear), and who knew what manner of evil design was hidden behind his reflective eye wear? I can’t imagine the expression on my face, or what the man saw when I opened the door, because he immediately jumped back, put his hands in the air, and said, “Ma’am! It’s ok! I’m not here to hurt you! I’m just the Schwann man! I’m here to sell you some ice cream!”
I’m sure he had no idea whose bell he had rung, what infamous front porch he was standing on. Although my home had been splashed across televisions nationwide, I guess he was too busy selling Schwann products to have seen it.
Sometimes you just have to shake your head and laugh. At yourself. And the crazy things you fear. Like the ice cream man. Really.
In the unexpected life we face scary things every day. Yet confronting the hard stuff, for me, was the secret to rising above it. In fact, it’s the only way to overcome it: open the door (it can be quite a stunt), look your fear in the eye and if you’re lucky, like me, you’ll find ice cream!
“He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Just ask the Schwann man.