Fear is a dreadful topic. Even for an author who occasionally dips her pen in the inky genre pool of Horror and Suspense. And yet it seems almost kismet that I should delve headfirst into the theme like a high-diver plummeting to a barrel of bubble bath, make that bubble-gum bath, for it is a gooey matter most personal.
I am seeking to craft a life raft of words that will assist those like myself who have grappled with some fear or another in the past, at present, or who may in the future need solace from a ticklish moment of trepidation; a surprise party of paralysis; a whole bucketload of tremblish toe-tangling Terror with a capital T.
Are ya still with me, or ducking below a convenient piece of furniture? In the closet? Behind a tree? This isn't a game of Hide-And-Seek. Come out, come out, wherever you are!
Some of us were born anxious, but that doesn't mean we can't overcome our fears. And who isn't slightly paranoid these days? You'd have to be nuts not to be!
Whether we admit it or not, we are all afraid now and again to whatever degree. Else there must be some particle amiss — some particular molecular hair gone astray. We are not being honest. Or we lack common sense. Perhaps our Fear Factor gear fell off . . . our Fight-Or-Flight mechanism flew the coop . . . our Panic Button short-circuited.
Perhaps, I hypothesize, our Peril Para-Meter was removed by mistake during surgery like an errant extra ingrown elbow! (Feel free to stop me at any time.)
Perhaps the thing we fear most is so abjectly frightening that we simply can't confront our fears. Except in a funhouse mirror. And then we tend to shriek and scurry through a maze that isn't much fun after all. We run away. Or we freeze where we stand like an icicle from the ground up.
What I'm trying to say, as ridiculously as possible, is that we react to our fears the way we've been programmed and conditioned to — with stretched-thin piano-wire nerves, a bass-drum-beaten heart — experiencing what we expect to experience.
No, no, that isn't what I was trying to say. Where did that come from?
What I'm really endeavoring to say (ignore the above), is that Fear is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, it's usually very silly so we should laugh at it. Ha ha ha! In falsetto for effect. We are often afraid for no logical reason — of a mere shadow, a needless worry, an imagined embarrassment. Sure, there are genuine things in the universe to inspire true dread. But not to live in fear of, because then we do not really live, we just die minute by minute like a half-empty glass. Or a half-full hourglass trickling with inevitable gravity toward the downside.
Yes, that sounds about right.
Not that I know what I'm talking about or anything. You'd think I would, being anxious most of my life, but I don't. Not a bit.
Of course, that doesn't prevent me from writing poems on the subject! Oh no, I write poems without any license whatsoever. With as little authority and consciousness as I can cram into each verse. That's my style and I'm stickin' to it! After all, it hasn't worked for me quite well this far. And I am, if nothing else, a creature of habit. As are most of us fraidy-cat scaredy-kins! Or so I've heard. I could be wrong. I could be barking, or rather meowing, up the wrong tree. I like to do that sometimes. Especially when there's a full moon. I can't explain it. But I digress. I'd better get busy writing poems before I forget what I was talking about in the first place . . .
What say you in such daunted pose
With an apprehensive flare of nose?
Where has your courage fled this day?
What horrid gust blew it all away?
Do you dare to tell or must you quiver
In the silent lull between each shiver
Where the whispered woes fall on deafened ears
And we fail to speak of our worst fears?
What can you say when your tongue is knotted
Your skin so jaundiced and whitely spotted
Your lily livered, your heart pit-pattered
The sheen of sweat on your brow ill-spattered
And you wish to screech in wordless affright
Of that which keeps you up at night?
When will you utter the mutters unspoken
That would slay the demons with a game-board token?
Have you nothing to say of your secret dread?
Will you never share the inside of your head?
Why won't you answer my earnest pleas
Though you clutch my hand and quake your knees?
I am tired of questions, of this clueless riddle
Either tell me now, at least spill a little
I cannot defend from a threat unknown
Speak your truth or else you may stand alone . . .
I'm still here, don't distress, I was only teasin'
But tell me quick your frothy reason
Let me understand what makes you afraid
Is it so beyond every rope end frayed
That you cannot think of the words to describe
This terrible essence, the ice-veined vibe
That claims your breath and robs your valor
And leaves you in such clammy pallor?
I shall find the longest shovel around
To dig and dig until I have found
The bottom of this rigid reaction
The plumbest depth of terrifaction
From there I shall yank and tug and wrench
The dirty cause up from that trench
To rid you of your taut constriction
You'll thank me with the clearest diction
The root of all fear is nothing to fret
It runs abstruse, subliminal, yet
Like battling a monster I shall haul it out
From each fiber of being I'll rip and rout
In the end you will see how exorbitantly foolish
You've been to be so timid and droolish
Worrying too much is a damaging curse
So cheer up now, things could always be worse!
We hold at bay our deepest fears
Grown like mushrooms in the moist dark
Of attics and cellars where once we
Dwelt alone inside
We know full well ancient memes and foibles
Have no power upon us, still
We know this to the bottoms of our souls
But cannot convince the heart
A ling'rous crescendo of risen panic
Accompanies its strings as they are strummed
Tightened too far until they snap
With a reverbent whine of sorrow
Who's afraid of the big, the bad?
Whether snarling beast or grinning lamb
There are cosmic ripples that would us guide
If we only could anticipate
New torments acquired
The strifes and strickens of a harried life
Are no less troubling, no easier to brush
Off like a shrugged regret
Yet the brittle leaves of long-gone seasons
Scrape the pavement of the steadfast mind
We can't seem to clear the cobwebs from
The rafters, the crevices, or the past
Such thoughts are best to disregard
And let the wounds close up a spell
I'm not afraid of the big bad wolf
I'd just like to forget him awhile
Dreads combined or one by one
Are just as poignant, keenly felt
Some things won't settle or ebb like the sea
All we can do is stay afloat.
Goodness gracious, I've simply come unglued
Smile crooked, thoughts coagulated, my lips bright-blued
Where has this panic risen from?
What phobic aerobic fiend beats the drum?
These doldrums encase me like silk-woven fears
I'm worm-sewn and spiderwebbed, soggy with tears
How can I escape from my own devices?
I've laid the trap, now I'm caught in a crisis
A cycle of terror, a loop of despair
That makes me tremor and pull my hair
I'm sweating and skittish, deliriously fraught
Uncertain of escaping from where I've been caught
It's not even real yet it's hard to break free
The net is Anxiety, the captor is me
There's no greater enemy than the inner elf
Whose misgivings force you to doubt yourself
Don't listen, don't heed, pay that imp no mind
You're stronger than you know, I am sure you will find
As for me, I am struggling to listen as well
To the voice of Reassurance and emerge from this cell
I'm aware of my weakness, I can see the light
As I crawl from the darkness of timorous blight
Anxiety-shmiety, I'm better than you!
Trepidation be gone, my alarm is through!
I won't cower in a corner, won't cringe at my health
I won't let my worry sneak up with such stealth
I know in my heart that it's crazy to shrink
In fear of a fear that is only a think.
We are born too frail and needy
In the end we die as greedy
In the middle, with luck, we gain some sense
And a measure of confidence
Should you lack bravado, the nerve to dare
It's never too late to claim your share
Chin up, stand tall, think positive
Take that step you've been dreading and live
Seize the day or the bull but avoid his horns
Cast aside your doubts and drab forlorns
Every day is a new chance to spread your wings
And emerge from the glum, give your cares the flings
All around you lies Hope in the glimmer of Dawn
It is yours for the taking, don't shirk it or pawn
The gifts you are given, the good from the bad
It is your choice to be either happy or sad
Whether broken or whole, you can face what you must
With confident strides and a backpack of trust
On your odyssey have courage that each step is true
And one day you will see that it came from in you.
While I am as flexible as the next
There are some vital tenets to obey
If you bear them in mind at least most of the time
Then you should be okay
Don't stand in front of a moving bus
Don't give your heart too easily
Don't taunt a stampeding rhino
Or open the door unless you see
Who it might be
A friend or foe
Or somebody strange
But then again, you never know
Do not steal a berry from a bear
Don't mug or make faces at a cop
Don't fly unless you're a bird or bug
When the light turns red, don't forget to stop!
Never cross the street without three peeks
Never act high-wire without a net
Never slurp your tea or soup in public
Never moan or groan or gripe or fret
Neither share your curds nor whey with a spider
Never trust a clown, turn your back to a snake
Never stop believing in yourself
Never cuss or fuss, for goodness sake!
Once done reciting your "Don'ts And Nevers"
Be sure to add a few more rules
We can never have enough not to do
Or we might end up as fools.
Any one may lurk
In the shade of the day
Or the shadow of night
Any thing could creep or crawl
Forth from the nether
That swallows the light
It is here that we separate
Fact from flimflam
Truth from Fiction
Here in ourselves we trust
To shudder yet forge on amidst
The tingled etch of suspicion
In these shadows that purvey
The sheer will to survive
Resilience by grim encounter
We are never far astray
From the meek and mild
Who shriek or flounder
Yet venture forth we do
Else be lost within our hearts
And lose our grip on pride
Here is where we choose
Whether it is wisdom
To conquer fear or hide
We are nothing without nerve
To face unknowns
Stay our ground
It is up to us to cope
And unfalt'rously resist
These shadows that abound.
I've been the victim of Insidiousness
That wriggles from nowhere when you least expect
With startle-eyed speed, it feasts from within
Munching on fortitude, backbone and grit
I can feel the gap-toothed gape-jawed bite
Of my inner-ear dizzying monstrous fright
When it's here I can't do much else but languish
Obsess in excess, embracing my anguish
Transfixed and immured by its torturous thrall
Gripped in its clutches, wrapped in its pall
Entranced, mesmerized, unable to blink
It slyly possesses in the space of a wink
So quick to pounce with clever snatch
But the perfidious Insidious has met its match
For I've learned new tricks and am wiser by far
I've stopped keeping my courage in a cookie jar
I won't let it win, I won't let it prevail
I've developed the patience of a tenacious snail
I'll outdistance that slitherent menace soon
And stay far away from the nasty goon
My days ahead will brighter be
Once I'm rid of insidious Anxiety.
Some days my downs seem up
My ups turn upside down
My smiles will droop and sag
When I'm merry I may frown
I can ache from laughter
Take cheer from sobs
I might step on my toe
Yet my finger throbs
Nothing goes right
And it makes me mad
But sometimes my mettle
It's those days that brace me
For the opposite kind
They remind me that worry
Is a state of mind
That it's up to us
How to think and feel
And not every threat
Is something real
When we go around
Like a washing machine
Through the stages and cycles
Of the same routine
Those off-days I strive
To change my view
The ups and downs
Are nothing new
But I can be different
Can agitate less
For staying calm
Will vanquish the stress.