Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What Are You Afraid Of?

I'm reading Stephen King's book It.  The movie is coming out later this year and I wanted to read the book before I saw the movie. For those of you not familiar with it, it's a story about a group of kids and their experience with an evil presence (that normally takes the form of a clown) in their home town.  The story spans a few decades covering their childhood and subsequent reunion when they are adults. 

It's pretty creepy. There aren't many books that have made me uncomfortable while I'm reading them. There have been a few that have given me strange dreams: The Golden Compass by  Philip Pullman and The Windup Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami are two that I can think of off the top of my head. But they didn't trigger a fear response.

It is definitely creeping me out.

In general, I enjoy being a little creeped out. I enjoy horror movies. I like that little rush of adrenaline and suspense. And most of the time, as soon as the movie ends, I'm not afraid anymore. But I do have my limits. And for some reason, It is pushing them. I have a couple of times chosen not to read the book late at night, and there have been a couple of times I've thought twice about running to the bathroom when the house was dark. 

As soon as I realize this is happening, I am able to shake it off and remind myself I'm being silly, but it has definitely made me think about what I'm afraid of—not afraid in a phobic way the way people are afraid of spiders. I'm talking about things that I don't like to think about if I'm sitting in a dark room. Here are a few:

Ghosts. I'm not afraid of running into something covered in a white sheet in my garage. I just don't want confirmation of the existence of a supernatural presence. I don't understand the people who like to stay in hotels that are haunted because they want to see things flying around a room. I am pretty happy believing that those things don't exist. Same thing with aliens. I'm not saying that I don't think aliens and ghosts are possible—I actually do think they are possible. But I prefer to be ignorant of their existence for as long as possible.

Dolls. I've never really liked dolls. I'm not sure why. I just find them creepy. When my daughter was young, I was really hoping she wouldn't want dolls because I have such a hard time with them but, of course, she was obsessed with American Girl Dolls. She would have them strewn about her room, so late at night when I would check on her, it looked like there were little dead bodies scattered all over. Macabre I know, but this is why I don't like dolls. Something about their lifeless eyes that stare at me. In a similar way that I prefer to believe ghosts don't exist, I was always afraid I would see a doll move and that I wouldn't be able to ever unsee it again. 

Clowns. I could have lumped clowns in with dolls, because they're creepy to me for the same reason. But where dolls are pretend in a physical way, clowns are pretend in an emotional way. I have a hard time laughing at them. Perhaps it's because we're supposed to laugh at their misfortune. We're entertained by the fact they fall and stumble. Or maybe it's because their makeup is meant to deceive. It's exaggerated happiness painted over sad faces. I don't know. But I find clowns super creepy. And clown dolls are the worst. The clown scene in Poltergeist definitely gave me nightmares. 

Toni here. Mara and I recognize that most of us have fears in relation to the safety and well-being of our loved ones, so we don't address that. This is intended to be a more lighthearted piece. And so, here are a few things I'm afraid of:

My car not starting. There's a simple reason why I'm afraid of my car not starting. For many years after I started driving, that's exactly what happened sometimes—and not just to me. Once in a while, everyone's car simply wouldn't start...and not because of a dead battery. Today's cars are much more reliable. Still, whenever I turn the key in the ignition, I think, "I hope it starts."

Pit Bulls. I know that a lot of people have pit bulls who are great pets. I simply had an incident that happened to me and I've been afraid of them ever since. I was with my dog, Rusty, at a small park. I had a "chuck-it" and was throwing a tennis ball for him to retrieve. Two pit bulls approached and then separated from each other, taking up a position with one slightly to one side of us and other slightly to the other side. Then they started slowly walking toward us. There was no way for us to walk past them and there was a fence behind us. All I had was Rusty, a tennis ball, and that chuck-it. Not knowing what else to do, I held the chuck-it up as it it were a weapon. I held it up, facing one of the dogs and then the other, and went back and forth. They stared at me and then, after about a minute, they turned and walked out of the park. Maybe one day, I'll meet a friendly pit bull and won't be afraid of them anymore.

Being pecked by birds! Ever since I saw Hitchcock's movie The Birds, I've been afraid that a bird will swoop down on me and peck at my head. This fear wasn't helped by my husband coming home from a jog many years ago and telling me that he'd been attacked by a bird. (They evidently will aim for your hair when they're building a nest.) Whatever their reason is...they scare me.

Mara and I would love to know what you're afraid of!


  1. I'm afraid that someone in my family or my close friend will be hurt, physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

  2. Hi Gram. Thanks so much for your comment. Mara and I are afraid of those things too. I assume everyone is, which is why we didn't include those in this piece, which has a more lighthearted tone. I've been helped a lot by a passage from a book called "Healing Lazarus." I wrote about it in a piece from several years ago. I'll include the link in case it will be helpful to you (the passage is in #1 in the piece):

  3. Water bugs.

    Trees falling on my house. Cabinets coming off the wall as I re-shelf heavy dishes.

    1. I get freaked out by trees too! We have a huge Magnolia tree in our backyard and every time it storms I worry--especially because it's right next to our daughter's room... And I worry about the cabinets when I think about earthquakes. I have always made sure there were shoes next to the bed in case we have to run through broken glass to get out of the house! Clearly I could have made it a longer blog post haha! --M