Monday, May 20, 2013

Fear




Fear.  The most troublesome four letter f-word in my vocabulary.

I'm a bit of a scardy cat.  I think about safety issues frequently and about how best to protect my home, my family and even myself when I'm out and about.  When it comes to guns I'm rather middle-of-the-road--I believe in the second amendment but I also support gun control.  Yes both, but please this isn't about politics.  In the end I just don't know that I would feel comfortable having a handgun in my home, around my children.  At the same time, I can certainly understand why many families do opt for that route.   I guess I'm a fan of preventive measures--alarm systems and dogs for example.  Then there are safety issues for when you're away from home...women being out alone at night are always a target.  I have to say being a woman and a mother I find it's hard not to feel a little fearful living in such a crazy world.  With the courageous rescue of the 3 women in Cleveland a couple weeks ago I found myself once again riveted to the news.  Even though I didn't know their stories beforehand, it was absolutely amazing that these women were found after all this time.  But over the coming days, I was reading more and more stories along the same lines--some of them with happy endings and many not with happy endings.  I eventually made a pact not to read the news for a few days and just let my mind rest and reprogram from all the overwhelming facts.




Although I sometimes find it difficult to do I really believe in and love the idea of not living in fear.  One of the best books I've ever read is called The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker.  While it may sound like it's all about fear! the basic premise of the book is that fear is an intuition that will come on naturally when the situation arises and it can actually help you figure your way out of a bad situation.  If you live in fear on a constant basis then you won't have access to the warning signals that fear can send your when you really need it.  He also teaches you to really listen to that gut instinct.  If you're someone who is concerned with safety, I highly recommend that book.  Also, I think these guys have some good thoughts about fear.  

So, a few months back I decided to purchase some pepper spray--not lethal, but at least something that could give me a little protection if the need arises.  I haven't been super consistent with it, but I decided that I would take it with me when Lamp and I walked to school to pick up PSP in the afternoon--my main concern being stray dogs, not unstable people.  Like I said, I wasn't super consistent but have started to walk out the door many a day only to turn around and grab it 'just in case.'  Last week was one of those days where I grabbed my pepper spray last minute and well, I actually ended up needing it.

Yes, I used it on a dog.  In my mind a dog sounds less scary that a menacing person, but as we all know a stray dog can be just as dangerous.  I saw the two roaming dogs as down our street and crossed to the other side while pushing Lamp in her stroller.  We passed them without any incident, but once we turned the corner one of them turned around and came our way.  As he started to approach us I turned around and tried to shoo him away.  He immediately started barking, growling and showing his teeth.  My pepper spray was already in my hand ready to disperse and I quickly sprayed in his direction.  Thankfully he promptly turned around and retreated.  (Although he didn't seem to be hurt too much by the spray...so I was a little concerned.  Maybe it didn't actually get him in the eyes?)  Anyway, we walked on without any further problems, but I was surprised how shaken I was after the incident.  Who knows if the dog would have actually done anything... I don't.  But I was so grateful to have been prepared that day so I didn't have to find out.  Especially with my 2 year old in tow.




I love the idea of being carefree and not being overly concerned with safety issues, but the dichotomy is if I hadn't been thinking so much about safety I wouldn't have purchased the pepper spray and I would not have had it on hand when I actually needed it.  Additionally, the reason I read so many articles about crime and violence is to be aware, for prevention, I tell myself.  If I know how other people have been hurt, I can avoid it.  At least that's my thinking.  But I also know fear causes me a lot more mental energy than it should.  And while there are facts that surround real-life stories, if I pay too much attention to the news I start to have a distorted view of the world and my surroundings.

What role does fear play in your life?  Have you struck a balance between acknowledging the realities of life while not letting it affect your day-to-day?  Have you actually been in a life or death situation where you felt adequately prepared or conversely, underprepared?  Is it possible to completely block fear out of your life?  Do tell... but please, lets not get into politics.  :)  

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18 comments:

  1. I've grown up in the country and now live in the suburbs. The country always freaked me out a bit-- the isolation of it and that if someone was around, they'd probably be a creep. I felt assured knowing there were guns in my house if I needed the protection while my parents were away. Now living in our quiet little town, I am grateful that I have that slight apprehension from the way I was raised opposed to my neighbors who are blissfully unaware. Becoming a mother has only heightened this for me. I would do anything to protect my family, but how effective would I be all by myself or caught off guard? I feel comforted by knowing my options, locking my doors when I leave, having a gun in my purse, being aware of my surroundings. In no way do I live in fear, but I created a false sense of security and breaking through that is making me a better mother to my children and actually helping me to be less fearful of potential outcomes. And good for you! Dogs can be super scary!

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    1. BMarie--Yes I do think it's good to be aware and not blissfully unaware. I think that is a good line to draw...and then try really hard after that not to over think/overworry. Thanks!

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  2. What an interesting topic... I've been thinking about it since I read it earlier this morning and even brought it up with my husband.

    I think there are different kinds of fear, and it's important to identify of the source and purpose of each. I'm not sure if the kind that serves us is actually called "fear"... it's more like awareness or caution or preparation or something. I see "fear" as being something that robs us of joy and confidence and I try my best not to let it into my life.

    My mom is currently in Saudi Arabia and for the last 9 months she has faced everything from a killer sandstorm to a tsunami to arson attacks at the university she works at to terrifying driving conditions on a daily basis (think, 10 year olds speeding down the freeway... not joking). I love her approach to life- she tells me, "I am not afraid. If something bad happens to me, it will either be because Heavenly Father wants me to have a trial that I can learn from, or it's my time to leave the earth and I've finished my mission here." And she fills each day up with purposeful activity and focuses on the good. I have really learned from her example and it's helped me, living in NYC where it would be easy to let anxiety take over, especially raising young kids here. There are so many things beyong our control and that's just the way it is. I think if we are living our lives fully, and exercising reasonable caution and good old common sense, we can go about our lives without the burden of worry.

    I'm reading an interesting book called "Daring Greatly" by Brene Brown and studies have shown that preparing mentally for the worst or worrying about what might happen does not actually help at all when tragedy strikes. The only thing the studies show is that people regretted not enjoying the good moments more fully. Bottom line, I guess I'm not a worrier and do not feel fear very often.

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    1. Erin--you always have great thoughts. I really want to strive to embrace life and all the things I COULD worry about the way your mom does. Basically, by not worrying about it. It is not natural for me as I've been this way since I was a kid (yes, even living in small town Nebraska--which was very safe), but I think the only thing it's done is rob me of peace now. And I'm glad you told me about that book--the fact that trying to prepare mentally for the worst doesn't actually help. Good to know! And like you, I too think that when we're in the midst of danger, we can be given strength and intuition beyond our normal capacity...thanks for your great comments. :)

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  3. I loved that quote at the beginning of your post by the way... it reminds me of the scripture in 3 Nephi 13:34... "Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient is the day unto the evil thereof."

    Living in the present is a skill that I really believe in and am working on. I know from personal experience that when bad things happen, when we do find ourselves in dangerous or terrible situations, we will be given the strength, intuition, and ability to face it right at that moment. We are already enough. I think everyone should make whatever choices make them feel the most comfortable and prepared, and then I hope that we can all go out of our way to make this world beautiful and safe and nurturing.

    Sorry for the novel! Like I said, I found this really interesting...

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  4. I agree, I try to live each day for today. I *try* to not worry about the what-ifs in life and I try not to dwell on the past. I also try to not watch the news. I do not necessarily feel I am fearful about things happening to me or my family, although it's hard for those thoughts not to cross my mind at times (news!). Like you, I try to be prepapre, and mostly be aware of what is going on around me. I use common sense and try not to put myself in a risky situation. I grew up in a rural area... guns were a common thing in our home, but I never thought of them as protection. My dad and brother used them for sport. Now I live in a metropolitan area and like you, I can see a need for protection, and gun control. I do have several canisters of pepper spray in varying degrees. I can tell you of two instances where I wish I would have had them in hand, but didn't. One was in my own back yard, which I can't really chastise myself for this since I was in my owe fenced yard. Our neighbor's dog apparently did not like that I was sweeping the sidewalk and jumped the fence and latched onto my arm. I don't think pepper spray would have helped in this instance, I think I would have been too shocked to use it. My other incident also involved a dog. I was walking my dog and two dogs escaped from a yard (through an open gate) and attacked my dog. My poor dog is so sweet and docile, she just stood there and took it. And I helplessly stood in the middle of the street screaming for help. Pepper spray would have been really good in this instance! So now it goes with me everywhere!! Great topic!!!

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    1. Man...so glad for pepper spray. I forgot to mention that I was actually bitten on the face by a dog when I was in 5th grade--9 stitches. It hasn't made me fearful of dogs (go figure) but it was one of those dogs that the owners said had never bit anyone before and was normally a really docile dog...so I know even with non-aggressive dogs these things can happen.

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  5. My other favorite book on safety is "Protecting the Gift" by Gavin De Becker about childhood safety...it is fabulous.

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    1. Cheryl--Yes! I have been wanting to read that one as well...glad you gave it a thumbs up. Now I think I'll reserve it at the library. Thanks.

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  6. This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately, too. Some nights, the thought of home intruders gets into my head and I end up not being able to get to sleep because that fear is just so consuming.

    We live in a relatively safe neighborhood, but we have had incidents where cars have been broken into. Also, I live only a few blocks from where Richard Ramirez (aka the Night Stalker) committed one of his many murders. Of course, after reading about that I didn't sleep well for weeks.

    I'm also not comfortable with guns in the house (thought, like you, I support the 2nd amendment) so I'm always looking for ways to protect our home. I've installed magnetic chime alarms on every window and door in the house, and I make sure they're on before I go to bed at night. We also have motion sensor lights around the outside of our home, and we let our dog sleep at the foot of our stairs (the only way to get to our bedrooms is past him).

    I live in Southern California, and there was a recent incident on the news, where a woman who was out jogging was attacked and killed by a neighbor's pitbulls. It truly got me thinking about what options I have if I'm out with my kids and an aggressive dog comes our way. I've started carrying a knife my dad gave me awhile ago, but pepper spray sounds like it might be a better option.

    On a sidenote: as a child I once found my mom's pepper spray and, not knowing what it was, I accidentally sprayed my hands with it, then rubbed my eyes. OUCH! Make sure you keep it well out of curious little hands!

    Good post Miggy :)

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    1. Andrea--Oh, you didn't even need to tell me who that guy was. I think another reason I am rather paranoid is that I grew up watching all these made-for-TV movies about serial killers...I remember the Night Stalker well. So scary. I like what you've done as far as preparation--window alarms and motion sensors and a dog. I think if you take some good precautions then all you can do is let go...easier said than done, but worth it in the long run. And yes, get some pepper spray! And yes my girls know not to touch mommy's pretty pink tube of spray. :) (Although again, if they were to get into it, at least I know it's not lethal.)

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  7. Well, you've definitely convinced me I need some pepper spray! There are too many stray dogs roaming around where we live... and sadly, many of them are of the un-fixed, large and strong variety. And I have three small children.
    While we don't own any firearms at this time, I hate that I think about it. I'm like you, not opposed to the second amendment, but well, you know. My husband and I play out panic scenarios all the time as we live in a fairly safe area, but home invasions are the most common form of crime around here and I hear about hold ups at nearby shops and neighborhoods nearby on a too regular basis. I hate feeling like a possible victim.
    I hear you on the fear - I used to think it was me "preparing" for worst case scenarios, but I do feel like it robs me of a lot. I know worry is not worth it, but how do you clear it all out? Sandy Hook. Boston. Cleveland. Oklahoma?! Not to mention car accidents (a family from my son's old preschool who I only marginally know ALL died in a horrific car accident here in town. Utterly tragic.) and health issues. I get overwhelmed sometimes. I'm going to look into your book recommendation. Maybe I need to clear all this out again! Thanks Miggy! xo

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  8. I've thought a lot about this recently, particularly since the horrible, awful tragedy in Connecticut. I've thought about the fear vs. faith dichotomy, you know, the whole "God has not given us the Spirit of fear" business. For me, I decided it is much like light vs. darkness. There is no "no fear/no faith" middle ground for me to live in. It is always, always one or the other. Fear is always there. It's like the default sort of darkness unless I very actively and consciously choose faith-- turn on the light, so to speak.

    I don't mean for that to sound terribly negative. I'm not a pessimistic person generally, and I think that's the point. We choose happiness. We choose preparation,and ultimately, we choose faith. Over and over again, especially with our children, we choose faith.

    I hesitate to make comparisons, but just because I have adored reading your blog since right after Lamp's birth I'll make a series of wild assumptions to clarify what I am thinking about. Please forgive me if I'm off base! I would imagine that when you found out about Lamp's limb differences, (and really every day since then) you didn't have the option to have no response to it. It's always one or the other. Happy or depressed. Upward and onward, or downward in the spiral. You actively choose to face this, make the best of this, find joy in this, or you're left with the very opposite waiting for you.

    Choosing faith is work. But waiting for the fear is worse.

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  9. I have a fair amount of anxiety which leads to fear sometimes. I am always afraid when i get home and its dark out, i run to the door and cant get in fast enough. I jump at every little sound when I am alone in the house. I don't carry a weapon or pepper spray (although the spray has crossed my mind) I often turn to prayer when I am scared it usually calms me down :)

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  10. I don't have time to comment on the whole entry, but I am glad you used your pepper spray on the dog. As a dog owner, if my dog got loose and scared someone, I think they have every right to spray him. Hopefully it will teach him a lesson.

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  11. Anonymous11:24 PM

    I'm glad you bought and carry the pepper spray with you. I'm sorry you had to use it--that must have been scary! There have been a lot of tragic stories with strays and children in San Antonio over the last few years. It's something I should consider too.

    I'm a worrier. One thing that I try to remember is FEAR= False Evidence Appearing Real. Some times thinking through my worries helps, but other times, distraction is best. It's something I work on a lot.

    Laura

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  12. I agree about the Book the Gift of Fear. It's wonderful. I think everyone should read it and learn how powerful instinct is in dangerous situations.

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  13. I think fear is an interesting thing. I am a non-fearful, non-worrying sort. I don't try to be oblivious, I just figure there's no sense in being afraid of What If's. I can't change it anyway, right?

    A harsh, but liberating lesson I learned in life about fear was when my older brother drowned. Before then I would try to think of dangerous, scary situations where I would act heroically, or maybe someone would be seriously hurt or even killed, and I'd stand in that moment, knowing it was A Moment. ... And then, when something dangerous and scary actually happened, I realized the truth: Not only is it impossible to prepare for such things, I was trying to prepare for the wrong things! The actual scary part wasn't that moment, it was my entire life falling apart afterwards. Then and there, I gave up fear for good. I stopped constructing What Ifs and started saying, "screw it!" And choosing to live for now.

    As it turns out, the thing to be most afraid of: Looking back with regret- is totally within my control. ... Nothing like heart-wrenching tragedy to teach you what fear really is. :)

    ... Did that sound too preachy or self-righteous? Sorry if it did.

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