I often feel like I’m not being brave when I do something scary or difficult. I’m shaking, wanting to give up, sometimes even crying or having a panic attack. But what I’ve come to realize is that being brave doesn’t always require having resilient emotional strength and unwavering confidence the whole time. Sometimes you’re being brave just by doing it at all.
It was a storm cloud like I’d never seen before, so monstrous and black I wasn’t convinced that it wasn’t hell itself that had come up from under the earth and was looming over us now.
What must have occurred in only a second felt like it took five. My eye caught the corner of the napkin holder pushing over Mom’s water glass, and I was sure it was too late until I felt my hand catch inside the rim of the glass. I stayed frozen in that position for a couple seconds, as if moving would reveal I hadn’t succeeded after all. When I finally pushed my muscles back into motion, they were slow, lifting the glass out of harm’s way.
She didn’t have many friends . . . but she had the best ones.
(Warning: this one’s a bit longer than usual, so hang in there.)
I thought I heard the door open, but the fan was too loud to tell. Was that a cabinet slamming? That darned fan again. No, no one could be there. But what about an animal? I thought I felt ants crawling on my exposed feet and kicked wildly. Footsteps? No, no, no . . . .
The lights were off already, so I fumbled for the flashlight on my phone. Even though I’d used it dozens of times, an uncertainty that had nothing to do with my skill level seized me, making me unsure if I knew how to work it. My chest was being squeezed so tight I couldn’t breathe, my heart beating so fast I felt my throat ache.
The light in the dark cabin made me squint, but I swung the beam over the edge of the loft anyway. Hoping I wouldn’t drop my phone, I whipped the light back and forth. Nothing. But the cone of light was still penetrating the area below long after I’d determined that. I wanted to believe nothing was there, but I was afraid to. Could I even afford to? I thought I felt a bite on my leg and rushed to whack it off. Nothing was there, either. Was I going insane?
I stumbled back to the bed, overwhelmed by fear and paranoia. I sat but wouldn’t lie down. What if . . . ? There were too many what ifs. And they were terrifying.
The nightlight at the bottom of the stairs flickered, and my head jerked to it. My whole body froze, trying to hone my vision, but I couldn’t see anything. I considered leaning over to get a better view, but after I’d moved a couple inches, I leaned back. If there really was something there, I didn’t want to try falling asleep with the image of it haunting me.
Instead, I dug under the covers, grinding my toes against each other, my legs stiff. But while the blankets felt like some sort of physical protection, it couldn’t provide the emotional protection that I needed even more. I couldn’t close my eyes or let them wander from that stairway. If anything was there . . .
The minutes passed and nothing happened. I started to relax, feeling like maybe I could go to sleep now. It must’ve been just the cabin making strange noises again.
I saw it this time. Not a flicker but a shadow passing over the light, almost in a circular pattern. I couldn’t breathe. There really was someone down there. My whole body was so cold, it felt like twenty degrees even though I was actually boiling under the covers. It took seconds of staring, frozen, before I could unclench my aching jaw enough to swallow.
The shadow came again. Too small to be a human or even an animal. A bug? A moth. Yes, fluttering around and landing on the light. Just a moth. It wouldn’t come up here, wouldn’t hurt me. There was nothing down there to worry about, just a moth at the nightlight.
Finally able to relax, I sank with a relieved shudder to the pillow. But as I finally drifted off, one thought penetrated my peace:
That doesn’t explain the noises.
Panic had taken the wheel, and the speedometer on my heart was dangerously high.
I wasn’t really known for my artwork. Well, I could’ve been, but it would’ve been for how terrible it was.
Shivering in the winter air as I drove down the freeway, I watched the exhaust cloud from the car in front of me. The ball of fog, tumbling on the frozen road, looked like a terrified ghost had been tied to the bumper and was now dragging behind.
In the wake of the harsh comment, she blinked rapidly before quickly leaning down to scratch her cheek, but it looked more like she was trying to hide her face than satisfy its needs.
I started avoiding thinking about my condition, as if as long as I wasn’t aware of how it was developing, it wouldn’t develop at all. But over time, I came to terms with the fact that my cognitive state didn’t matter. Just like all the political drama continuing to unfold, my issue wasn’t going to stop being a problem simply due to my persistent ignorance.