Monday, January 29, 2007
The Cowardly Lion
I was in second grade. The Wizard of Oz came on, late at night. It was dark outside. My mother, likely thankful the six of us were occupied, slipped out of the house and went next door to visit a neighbor. When Dorothy landed in Munchkinland, with all the Lollipop people, bright colors, Good Witch Glenda - I was mesmerized. When the Wicked Witch rode by the window of the flying house - on her bicycle with Toto inside the basket - I was terrified. Staying inside the house with my siblings wasn't an option. I needed my mom. Leaving the house to go next door and be with her - I'd have to go outside, in the dark. I was too afraid to stay where I was, so I ventured outside.

Somewhere between our door and the neighbor's, I wet my pants. I don't remember finding my mom. I don't remember anything more about that evening. Just how afraid I was. My siblings laughed at my wet pants when I came in the door with mom. "How silly, Bev's afraid."

I am, seriously, afraid of more things than not. Some of them are probably the result of growing up surrounded by four brothers. Dragonflies in my hair, lizards down my shirt, frogs in my face, being tricked into climbing on this or that and ending up at the top of the tree, or swinging across a line of rope in the air. Any bug. Anything that moves unpredictably. Maybe just moves.

I'm not brave. Heights, the ocean, chickens, hamsters, knives, scary movies. Being on city streets late at night, crickets, big moths, anyone else's dog, going downhill on a bicycle (I ride the breaks), going fast, getting separated in malls, watching daredevil acts. The only two things I can really say don't scare me, that might bother others, are flying and being alone at home. Flying is a fast way to get there, and I love having my space.

I learned to drive in Denver. We moved to North Dakota for four years. Ten years in Illinois, then one in Virginia. We've been in Pennsylvania for almost 11. I have never driven anywhere it doesn't snow. Sleet is common. IT HAS NEVER BOTHERED ME A BIT. About four years ago, as winter was approaching I realized I was very anxious about driving in bad weather. Even the hint of it. As in snow flurries for pete's sake. When I started asking friends to pick me up, started arranging my schedule around the weather, I knew something had changed. I wouldn't commit to activities - I'd have to wait and see what the weather was. While this might be normal for someone who'd recently moved here from Arizona, it wasn't for me.

Lucky for me I was working at a counseling center at the time! They told me it was likely due to dealing with extended periods of stress, as in years. I don't know - and it doesn't really matter. I still lived in snowy Pennsylvania, on a hill, at the bottom of a steep driveway. That was the reality. Knowing 'why' wasn't going to fix it.

The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It's for you I created the universe. I love you. There's only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you'll reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.
Frederick Buechner

I've come to realize it's not that I wasn't brave as a little girl. I'm still not. I likely never will be. I'm strong, because I've had to be. Just not brave. I've come to understand the difference.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Always do what you are afraid to do." He speaks in present tense. We're in that time of year when the effects of being not too south of Lake Erie deliver a skiff of snow almost daily. It looks a little like a Christmas card when you're inside. It's more like a roller coaster ride when you're out there, in your car. That's not going to change.

As I drove home a few days ago, it was nasty outside. The main roads were relatively clear. As I approached our hill, it got dicey. I put the car in 4 wheel drive, and 2nd gear. Our driveway was snow covered as I came down it, very slowly. As I pulled into the garage, came into the house and began to peel off layers, I greeted my husband, my dog, soaked in the cozy feeling of being home safe.

Over the past few years I've learned I can't enjoy "safe" if I'm never out there, sliding around a bit. That may not just be roads. It may be relationships, health, finances, jobs, all the stuff that makes up my day. My life.

I love what Frederick said - "The grace of God is your life. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you."

Even on snowy roads, in the dark, going downhill on my bicycle, holding a chicken, touching a cricket, while someone's dog is making eye contact with me. Even then. He's with me. The icy hills are still, and maybe always will be, a little scary. That's okay - He's with me.

The Wizard of Oz has become one of my favorite movies. I laugh when I see The Wicked Witch ride by, with Toto stuffed inside the basket. Because of course it's silly it ever scared me. Maybe someday I'll look forward to those rides down my street, when we're getting a little of the Lake Erie effect. I know it's "part of the party". Being able to reach out and take it is a gift. I'm all about gifts, and I don't want to miss this one.

  posted at 8:16 AM

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    Girl Raised in the South

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