Fear and I are close friends. Well, not friends. But we’re close.
For instance: I’m leaving very early in the morning for Washington, D.C. When I say very early, I mean the airport is an hour away and my flight leaves at 6:40. This is what I call “the puking hour.” You know what I’m talkin’. It’s so early in the morning that you feel nauseous when you get up.
I am scared of flying. I’m not ashamed of being scared of flying, because I don’t let it stop me from flying. I don’t fly very often, but I have two major reasons for that: 1. It’s expensive, and 2. the TSA.
Because the TSA treats me like a heroin dealer for the crime of attempting to fly on an airplane, I pack very lightly when I fly. I don’t want to have to answer a bunch of questions about tweezers and lotion. It’s degrading and stupid. The week I’m in D.C., don’t expect me to be very well-groomed.
So, I let the TSA and the insane prices keep me from flying as much as I’d like. But not the fear. I refuse to make decisions based on fear.
You see, I know that planes are safer than cars. My brain has been given that information, but my brain is a jerk and refuses to internalize that nugget of truth. Instead it sees the airplane and reverts to primitive ape-man levels of thought: “That big building. Building no fly!”
I have a layover going both ways, so I have to endure four take-offs and landings. Strangely, although those are statistically the most dangerous parts of flights, they’re the parts I mind the least. My brain doesn’t work properly.
I have analyzed why I fear flying so much, and I think, besides the claustrophobia, it’s the lack of control that bothers me most. When I drive, I’m in charge, and I have some confidence in my ability to avoid steering into trees and other cars. But I don’t know the pilot. What if his wife left him last night? What if he took ecstasy this morning?
Meanwhile, I am a claustrophobe trapped in a metal tube – which, to my primitive monkey brain, is incapable of flight – several miles up in the air with a bunch of snoring strangers who, like me, have been stripped of their tweezers and dignity. It’s a bad situation. And I admit it: sitting there in the tube, I am afraid. I imagine all sorts of horrifying scenarios, most of them involving birds flying into the engines, and all of them involving plummeting out of the sky in a flaming-comet death tube.
Thomas Harris, the guy who wrote Silence of the Lambs and the other Hannibal Lecter novels, said this in one of his books, and it stopped me in my tracks: “Fear is the price you pay for imagination.”
I have an intensely vivid imagination, and I am an extremely empathic person. This is a combo pack designed for fear.
I was recently inspired – like maybe in a life-changing way – by a trailer for a Will Smith movie. I know. You can laugh. But I was sitting there waiting for The Hobbit to start, and this trailer comes on. Will Smith and his kid are in a spaceship, and it crashes into a big scary planet uninhabited by humans. And as the kid runs from saber-toothed tigers and angry monkeys, Will Smith in voice-over is giving his kid a pep talk about surviving and being awesome and stuff. And he says something like this: “Danger is real. But fear is a choice.”
And I went, “Ohhhhhhh.” Not out loud, though. That would have been rude. But inside I had one of those moments where my inner being said: “YES.”
Fear is a choice.
We talk a lot in the abortion debate about choice and what it means. The other side says they’re pro-choice, but then act like all women get pregnant on “accident.” They talk about “unintended” pregnancy. They say we advocate “forced birth.” They fight informed consent laws and parental notification. They seem to deny that a pregnant woman had any choice in getting pregnant, even though their own Guttmacher Institute tells us that less than one percent of abortions are the result of rape.
The only choice abortion advocates acknowledge is whether or not to abort, but there are a lot of choices at play when we talk about abortion. There is the choice to have sex or not. There is the choice to have your child killed by abortion. There is the choice to release your child for adoption. There is the choice to parent your child.
How many of those choices are made out of fear?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people, when talking about abortion, express concern for the level of fear felt by abortion-minded women: “These girls are so scared.” I hear it all the time, how scared these women and girls are.
This is most likely true. But like imaginary Will Smith space guy said: fear is not real. The danger is real. But fear is a choice. And, I would add, a poor reason for doing just about anything, especially killing your child.
I know what you’re thinking: “Well, what do you know? You’ve never been young and pregnant and alone before!”
True, but like I told you: I’m intimately involved with fear. Fear and I, we know each other.
Stick around for tomorrow’s column and I’ll give you the scoop.