Thursday, July 26, 2012

Blood-Curdling Fear

I was thinking about something the other night, something intriguing and terrifying all at the same time. This is kind of a two parter. One is deepest fears. The things that you, as a person, are absolutely terrified of. I'm not talking about jumping when you see a grass snake slither across the yard or avoiding horror movies because they kinda freak you out. I'm talking bone-deep, lung-constricting, literally shoots terror through your soul kind of fear. The second part was, oddly enough, death. I shall attempt to explain how these two are intertwined. And how they have nothing to do at all with that picture.

One of my deepest fears, and it is a recent one, is that I will die through some act of stupidity on my part, and in the seconds before I die horribly, I will know it is my fault and it could have been avoided. As I'm pitching off a cliff or a building because I wore unwise and unstable shoes, or leaned over too far to look. As I'm about to rear-end a semi and see God up close and personal because I took my eyes off the road for a second to skip a song on my CD. I have loads of these, the probable, the unlikely, the downright unfathomable, all things that end in my immediate demise or fatal injuring, things that could have been prevented.

I don't know why this scares me so much. I really don't. But it does. Just having that one crystal clear moment of "hindsight is a b*tch" before my life ends and I'm standing on the other side, unprepared and in an absolute panic about what just happened.

I have a theory as to why this terrifies me like it does. I have been the lucky winner of two near-death experiences, and a whole host of other experiences that shaved right close to near-death, but those are closer to the accident category and not the near-death one.

When I was 10, I nearly drowned trying to cross a river with my friend. This culminated with me, unconscious, hanging onto a log by no means that logic, reason, or science can explain, floating like a windsock in the water while hypothermia nearly set in. After a terrifying ride in an ambulance and night in the hospital, I was sent home, but it was a near miss. While I was in that water, when I was still conscious and flailing, trying to get my head above water long enough to suck in a breath of air and yell, I had one of those "life flashing before your eyes" kind of things. I pictured my family and, oddly enough, our pet. The whole time, from when my feet first started slipping on the slick rocks to when I finally fell unconscious, all I could think about was, "Why did we do this? Why did we try to cross the river? Why didn't we just go around?"

My second near-death experience isn't near as dramatic, but it easily could have been. When I was 14, I climbed a tree in my grandparent's yard, and 25 or so feet up, put my weight on a dead branch. It broke. I remember that I managed to grab ahold of a branch above me, and this is where I'm not sure what happened. I don't know if I slipped or if I just let go. Maybe part of my brain overrode the other part, and somehow knew that I wouldn't be able to hold on anyway. I honestly don't know.

Anyway, I fell, and escaped the incident with a broken bone in my foot and scratches on my hands and stomach from sliding down the trunk. I barely missed bashing my head open on several large branches on the way down, and although I wore a boot for the next three months for my foot and had one slightly panic-driven trip to the ER, it wasn't that big a deal.

I do remember thinking, on that split-second trip to the ground, "Why did I climb this tree? Why did I climb so high?" What was I thinking?" To find myself on the ground, alive, and certainly shaken up a second later was a relief. But I've had an intensified fear of heights ever since.

Other than these, I've been in several (at least 6) car accidents, been very near a lightning strike, had an emergency c-section with my daughter, and most recently ended up in the hospital with a very badly failed miscarriage that people tell me would have killed me if my sister-in-law hadn't taken me to the ER when she did. You might say I've led a very adventurous life.

I think it is from these experiences that I find myself in a panic when considering all the ways natural human folly and stupidity could lead to my death, and that undetermined amount of time at the end to look back and know exactly where I went wrong and pulled something stupid. It must mean that I am unprepared for death, and I know that in most ways, I am. I am not morally or spiritually ready for death in any way. Death itself does not scare me. The actual separation of spirit from body is not something I fear. It is the pain beforehand, and the judgement afterward that have me scared spitless.

I have other things like this that terrify me. Pain is one of them. I can handle normal pain, although I DO NOT like it. Headaches, hangnails, cramps, that sort of thing. I've even come through two surgeries and the pain both before and after. But I don't do extreme pain. Of the few times in my life that I have experienced this kind of pain, I know for sure that torture isn't for me. They wouldn't even have to get out the thumbscrews before I'd be spilling everything.

The other is the concept of eternity. I'm a Mormon, so eternity is something that is real and definite for me, but it sure scares me. I mean . . . eternity. Time without end. So after the end of the world as we know it and all that goes about, after all the things happen that I've learned about my whole life . . . then what? I'll tell you this, I have some theories about what happens next, and I don't like the one that seems most likely. Terrifying idea, that. But even if, after this life, we will live in a state of eternal bliss . . . what if I get bored? Seriously, ETERNITY. I can't even comprehend that, it's too much, it's too big.

I know that I will be able to keep myself busy for awhile. I want to learn everything. I want to learn every language of this world and be able to speak it fluently. I want to go back to the beginning of the world and watch it all. I want to know all the mysteries, all the stories, all the histories, I want to be able to see it all. I want to see the rise and fall of Rome, the life of Cleopatra, what happened with the dinosaurs, how mankind spread across the globe, what kind of a personality Alexander the Great had, what it would have been like to have lived in Turn of the Century America. What really happened with all the scandals that rocked the world. What happened to Amelia Earhart. What's the deal with aliens? I want to learn everything. And I want to learn how to do everything do. Every instrument. How to fix cars. How to program a computer. The exact process that would go into making a whole world.

But eventually there will be an end to the things that I could learn and learn to do. And I worry that someday, in the far off reaches of eternity, and I will maybe just want to peacefully cease to exist.

This is deep stuff, huh? I know. I get way up in my head sometimes. That's probably why I don't act so serious the rest of the time, because my forays into the deep stuff always send me sprinting away post haste as soon as I've adequately frightened myself. Sometimes I like to contemplate the universe, the sheer size and composition of it, and I'm usually a brain-fried puddle after those little exercises.

Deepest fears. The real ones. Do share with me, dear reader, your deepest fears. I am intrigued. The things that terrify me might seem silly to you, so tell me something about yourself. What leaves you awake at night, alone in your bed, too afraid to close your eyes because your mind is too much for your matter?

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