#5: Face my fears
This one sounds like more of a lifelong “to do” item than something to be accomplished one day in your late twenties and checked off your list for good. If we can all agree that facing one’s fears is more of a process than a task, more like a mantra than a checkbox, why don’t we also agree that the following two items from my day at least count as steps towards the greater goal?
First, the giant squid. Years ago I was watching Discovery or Animal Planet (I can’t remember which now) and caught a show about the mysteries of squid. I don’t recall if the program was about all types of squid or a specific type. What I do remember is footage of fisherman-come-researchers pulling up massive fleshy squid bodies being attacked on all sides by fellow squid. It was scary, gruesome, and well, I couldn’t look away.
Just a few weeks ago I came across an article on the science buzz blog addressing the oft-wondered question, “Is the giant squid a cannibal?” The jury is out on a definitive answer but some scientists are leaning towards the theory that they engage in inadvertent cannibalism during reproduction (inadvertent, apparently, because of their puny brains and the proximity of certain organs to female beaks). The article concludes, somewhat flippantly, with the note that “other members of the squid family, like the jumbo squid, Moroteuthis ingens, have been known to eat members of their own species.” Oh, right. That’s the jumbo squid I was thinking of . . . we wouldn’t want to mix up the giant squid with those ruffians. But I digress.
Obviously I find squid and their mysterious behaviors fascinating. I also find them unswervingly creepy and I never in my life intended to meet one face to face. Well, I met one today, thanks to the new Sant Ocean Hall at the National Museum of Natural History. This puppy is huge and the long, metal tank and eerie lighting surrounding it don’t make it seem any less frightening. Except, of course, for the fact that the poor thing is dead. Regardless, I count my meeting with the lifeless sea creature as confronting my fears, up-close and personal.
Not impressed? Well, you might not be bowled over by my confrontation with fear #2 either but here goes. I am deeply opposed to keeping firearms under my roof. Just ask my husband who recently came home with a family heirloom I couldn’t make him send back: his aging grandfather’s antique shotgun. He found a loophole for bringing “protection” into the house and I admitted defeat. My surrender, however, didn’t come with any practical advice on allaying my fears. How could I live with a powerful and deadly weapon in such close proximity to my frightened self? I knew deep down that the only way to begin coming to terms with my situation was to acquaint myself with my tormentor. Perhaps if I knew more about how it worked and how to handle it responsibly I might be more able to coexist with the uninvited guest.
And so it was that my husband gleefully suggested that I take the gun out skeet shooting this weekend as one of my 30 new things to tackle. (Note to self: don’t drum up excitement about “30 things before 30” amongst those who may suggest unsavory things just to test your will.) As preparation, he brought the weapon out for inspection this evening and began to show me how hold it, how to check to see if the safety is on, how to make sure the chamber is empty and, conversely, how to load the thing.
You’ll see from the photo that my coping mechanism when confronted with such a terrifying lesson was to keep one eye on the gun-use teacher and the other safely transfixed upon the newest episode of Project Runway.
Lessons learned: Scary things are easier to confront when (a) separated from said scary (and, preferably, dead) thing by heavy glass and metal tank or (b) in the safety of one’s own living room complete with favorite puff television as distraction. Or maybe the real lesson is that knowledge doesn’t often make us feel less scared but it can make us feel more prepared.