I am afraid of many things. I don’t mean the kind of paralyzing fear that mental health professionals label “phobias,” but neither do I mean the common everyday fears that those same experts might label “normal.”
I guess one might call me anxious. Although I reject that term since it brings to mind Woody Allen and well, this guy:
Furthermore, no matter how much improv I do, I am still afraid.
Sure, I can fly without drinking heavily or taking drugs. I can walk the streets of a city at night, if I need to do so. A bat can fly by my head and I (probably) won’t scream. No, my fears are strange and amorphous, at least to me.
True Story: The other day I was sitting by the water, looking across Puget Sound at the Seattle skyline with my wife. Doesn’t that look cool, she said, indicating the buildings. Mind you, even thought I do not currently live in Seattle proper, I used to, for 8 years. Seattle is one of the friendliest, most livable cities in the U.S. But sitting there, looking at it across the water, the emotion I felt was fear. Those dark shadows between the buildings? Scary. The way the structures seem to huddle together below the Cascade Mountains? Freaks me out.
Lately I have found myself afraid of camping. Most city dwellers do not find this surprising – so let me explain.
1. I grew up in Maine. Where there are no cities. Not really.
2. I was literally raised at summer camp. This one:
My mom was one of the camp directors.
3. When I turned 8, I went to this camp for seven weeks, every summer until I was 15:
I loved it!
4. I used to lead 28 day wilderness trips for this camp:
And yet, last time I was in a tent on a four-day backpack trip. I had a panic attack and had to be subdued with a cocktail of whiskey and lorazepam.
I am a teacher, for God’s sake! and yet the dominant feeling I have about the beginning of the school year each fall is fear. (Ok, bad example, I have been told that all teachers feel this way.)
Here what I think has happened:
Somewhere along the line, my Fear-o-nator got mixed up with my Excite-a-tron. Some how in my brain, these two emotions have become confused. That feeling in the pit of my stomach, the sweaty palms…that is actually what other people recognize as excitement. For some reason however, my neurons got mixed up and instead of my brain saying “Whoopie,” it started saying “Holy SH*T!”
I would like it to switch back now.
Today’s Improvmantra: I will do what scares me, just because it does.