1) Have been thinking a lot about fright lately–mostly mine. It seems in the past five years I’ve acquired stage fright. I never had it before–was always comfortable, even excited, to be up on stage in front of people. I’m a shy person, but I’m also a bit of a clown and love nothing more than to make people laugh.

I knew that the stage fright came on shortly after my mother’s death but I couldn’t quite figure out why until BINGO! it hit me: the last time I was able to stand up in front of people without feeling like I was going to implode was when I read the eulogy at my mother’s memorial service.

Ever since then, when I’m on stage I’ve had the sweating palms, the shaky voice, the trembling heart, the feeling like I will stop breathing right then and there.

It bothers me terribly but now that I know when the break down point occurred, I wonder if I can overcome it? If not, I’ve heard that Xanax or beta blockers can help (is Xanax a beta blocker? I can’t find this out anywhere).

2) Never a happy flier before, it took an awful lot to get me on a plane after 9/11. The first trip I took was to go visit my sister and her family and if I didn’t love them so much, I’m not sure I’d have gotten on that plane.

Unfortunately, I have to travel quite often and while I believed I’d gotten over the worst of my fright, there were some lingering tendrils. Still, I thought I was okay.

Last Friday when I was coming home from Colorado, however, I was not so okay. On my first flight I was sitting next to a woman and her daughter. I was in the window seat.

I hate the window seat. I don’t want to look out. I don’t want to think about being up in the air. I want to pretend I’m on a train.

They were happy with their aisle seat and so I was trapped (People, don’t you realize that I have to go pee about one million times when I’m flying? It’s in your best interest to give me that aisle seat, damnit!). I should note that I was on the verge of exhaustion at this point as well and had a long travel day ahead of me (indeed, I’d already traveled two hours to the airport and had to hang around there for several hours before my flight).

Anyway, before the plane even began to taxi, I could feel the hysteria coming on. It was not unlike the stage fright. It was anxiety and what my old therapist taught me to say to myself is that anxiety is fear. What are you afraid of?

I don’t really need to answer that.

I tried every trick I could think of to calm myself but nothing worked, by the time the plane was taking off, I was wiping tears away and checking out the woman next to me in my peripheral vision (I always look for someone’s hand to hold). She was patting her daugther’s leg to calm her. I so wanted her to do the same for me because in that moment of abysmal dread, there is nothing I crave more than human touch.

I opened my mouth several times but words would not come out. What I wanted to do was ask her if we were going to be okay. I felt she would know. I felt she would tell me the truth.

The plane lurched a few times and I had that feeling of shin shiveriness you get when you have a near miss in the car. I stifled the urge to scream.

Then finally we levelled off and were flying. That is when the comfort of a book is most appreciated. By the time I was on my connecting flight, I was okay.

Hearing the news today about the foiled terror plot has left me shaken and wondering if I will be able to get on a plane again. But then I realize this is partly how I am supposed to feel. This is when terrorism is at its most effective: when people live in fear.

So, yeah, I’ll get on a plane again for sure, but you had better believe I’ll be sitting in the aisle and holding the hand of whoever sits near me.

3) In May I had my annual mammogram. I was called back the next day to get more screens because something was suspicious. This struck fear in my heart because I am nearing the age my mother was when she had breast cancer. I got a call from them later on saying everything was okay. They even followed up with a letter. End of story, right?

While I was on vacation and out of cellphone range, I got a call from my doctor’s office saying I need to go back and get more screens. I had a slight tinge of fear but thought that it was a clerical error.

When I got home, I sent them an email and called them–asking about the mammogram. Someone got back to me quickly and said, yes, I was right. Clerical error. End of story, right?

Yesterday, I got a call from the woman who first called me saying she was following up on those screens and did I get them.

Dread. Sinking. Plane falling out of the sky.

If you know anyone who has had any sort of cancer (and I’m sure you do. Who doesn’t?), what you know is that time is of the essence–even days, weeks. Early detection is key. If there’s even a hint that there might be something wrong, you move on it. You don’t sit around and wait. The people who wait are the ones who die quickly without a chance. That’s pretty much what you know.

Anyway, I went through the whole thing with her and she said, “I guess we’re all set then.”

And I said, “Are we? I want to make sure we are. Let’s go through the paperwork you have on this because you are making me scared and I don’t want to end up with an untreated tumor because of this.”

And so I made her spend the extra five minutes going through it all with me and, yeah, it was her own fucking clerical error.

What bullshit.

Listen, you do NOT strike fear into people’s hearts regarding their breasts and cancer and then act lackidasical about it.

I know you’re a medical professional and over the whole human being aspect of your profession but fuck you if you think you’re going to terrify me and then just blow it off with an “we’re all set.”

I am NOT part of your to do list. I’m a human being.

I sweat. I shake. I cry. I fear.

And that’s part of being alive. Fright of flight. Fight or flight. Keep moving or stand still.

It’s mostly about choice, but it’s those moments out of our control we fear the most. At least I do.

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