I have a long list of irrational fears.
The list is actually shorter than when I was a child. I was formerly afraid of monsters under my bed, aliens, and spontaneous combustion.
I am still afraid of ghosts, although I don’t believe in them.
I am no longer afraid of escalators. I conquered that fear after living in Hungary for ten months. I’m convinced that the Budapest metro stations have the steepest, fastest moving escalators in the world. I went up and down many times without incident, so I guess there’s nothing to fear any more.
But I’m still afraid of the dark. I mean serious, inky darkness not penetrated by even the faintest ray of light. The ultimate darkness, where you can’t even sense your nose in front of your own face. And you’re no longer sure which way is up or down. The kind of dark you experience on a cave tour when the guide presses a red button and plunges everyone into total blackness for a few excruciating seconds. I don’t even scream. I freeze and break into a cold sweat and wait for the terror to pass.
I’m afraid of failure.
Getting pulled over by a cop. (I’ve had my driver’s license for seven years and I’ve never been stopped.)
A bug flying into my ear.
Getting chased by a kidnapper and/or bear and/or dinosaur. (I have recurring nightmares.)
Loved ones dying.
Usually I comfort myself by trying to recognize the irrationality. I have an overactive imagination fueled by Hollywood blockbusters such as Jurassic Park and The Wizard of Oz. I say to myself, “Come on, Scarlett, what are the chances of a tornado actually picking up your house, depositing you in Oz, and killing the Wicked Witch of the East? Kinda slim, don’t you think?”
Then one Wednesday morning, one of my irrational fears came true.
I was happily jogging on a path through a wooded area when catastrophe struck.
No, thankfully, a kidnapper did not leap out of the trees and start to chase me.
I heard a “pfft” sound and felt a small object hit my ear. I tossed my head back and forth, thinking some deranged bug had gotten temporarily off course. Then I felt the bug beating its wings inside my ear. And it wasn’t coming out.
So I did the sensible thing: I started shrieking and flailing my arms while trying to shake loose the insect. In the middle of the path.
I can only imagine what a freak I looked like.
At that moment, another jogger approached me.
“What’s wrong?” she called, probably resisting the urge to turn around and run in the opposite direction.
I pulled myself together and stopped twitching in order to explain that I had a bug in my ear. She kindly inspected my ear but couldn’t see anything. The damn bug was pretty deep inside, and it kept tickling me with its little wings. I thanked her for stopping and said I would call my husband.
Well, I called him over a dozen times as I began to walk the mile back to the house. He was finally looking at all his missed calls when I crashed through the door and burst into tears. Between sobs I explained the situation and demanded that he take me to the emergency room. He grabbed his keys and we were out the door before he realized that he didn’t know how to get to the nearest hospital. I sat on a patio chair, tears trickling down my face, while he did a quick Google search.
The dog was looking at me with soulful concern.
Over the next ninety minutes, I explained to various nurses, “I have a bug in my ear.” Which just seemed absurd. The other people in the emergency room had blankets pulled around their shoulders and were shivering, were clutching their shoulders or elbows in pain, or pressing a bandage to a wounded eye. I was sitting in a chair squirming, twitching, and squealing.
Finally, a doctor took a look at me . . . and didn’t see anything. Unperturbed, she told me she would get a nurse to irrigate my ear. I talked to her for about thirty seconds total, and I am curious how much that thirty seconds is going to cost me—we won’t have health insurance until mid August.
At last, I overheard a nurse in the hallway say, “I’m getting ready to do an ear.” And I knew that had to be me. I was probably the only patient with a foreign object in her ear of the day, and probably the only patient with a bug in her ear that they’d ever dealt with.
As the nurse prepared to start squirting water in my head, she quipped, “I hope the bug doesn’t go into your brain!” Which was not the least bit reassuring.
I think she was beginning to doubt that anything was actually in there when the bug finally popped out. I was immensely relieved.
As we left the emergency room, Jesse and I speculated about what we would have done if we’d been in Hungary when this happened. I don’t know the word for either bug or ear, so I probably would have had to play charades with a nurse and hope they didn’t carry me off to the psych ward.
I can now say that one of my worst fears came true and . . . it wasn’t that bad. Incredibly gross, yes. But I only experienced two hours of mild discomfort and then continued the rest of my day as normal. (Unfortunately, the day didn’t get much better from there, but that’s another story.)
And really, isn’t that true for life in general? I spend hours worrying about things, sometimes lying awake at night with my stomach twisted in knots. But should these nebulous things ever come to pass, although they might cause me mild or even severe discomfort, in the end I will be okay.
I am afraid of failure, but if I choose to write my own definition of success, then there is no such thing as failure. I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Whatever flies at me, I can handle. And I will be stronger for it.
I am afraid of making mistakes, but I am coming to believe that mistakes are good things. If I am brave enough to try, then I can learn from whatever happens.
So really my greatest fear is letting all my irrational fears hold me back. And I am determined to conquer this fear as well.
Question(s) of the Day: What are your irrational fears? Have you ever gone to the emergency room for a bizarre reason?