The F Word
Marblehead Patch columnist Brenda Kelley Kim talks about fear, friends and flying away.
“Fears are nothing but a state of mind.” - Napoleon Hill
Yes, fear is a state of mind. But sometimes, depending on what we are afraid of, it can be like Rhode Island, or it can be like Texas. Someone told me once that usually, the fear and anticipation of something, is worse than the actual situation we fear. Oh no it’s not. What about people who have that scary dream where they show up to class for a final exam and they are naked? If that actually happened to me, I guarantee you it would be worse than all the worry about a test could have been.
Fear is also individual; every person experiences it differently. A good friend of mine doesn’t like to fly. She was with me on the trip to New Orleans and she was constantly apologizing for freaking out about noises and bumps on the plane. Honestly, I thought she did great. It’s not like she assumed the crash position, clutched her Rosary beads and tried to make peace with her Creator. She just babbled a little. No problem.
For me, it’s going to the dentist. I know it’s a common thing to fear the dentist. But I’m pretty sure I take it to a whole new level. I can take my children to the dentist, no problem. However, when they call me back to the treatment room to talk about cavities or floss, I cling to the doorway, and stare at the ceiling instead of the weapons…I mean instruments on the table. In one dentist’s office there was a television in the waiting room with a continuous loop of what I guess is supposed to be an educational video showing broken teeth, pointy instruments and gum scraping. I’m amazed I didn’t pass out.
Recently, my daughter had a messy situation with a loose tooth. Not for nothing, it was hanging out of her mouth like bait on a hook. I am a complete failure as a parent in this area, there is just no way I can do loose teeth. Naturally I never want my children to get hurt, but I think I could handle almost any injury or illness easier than a loose tooth. I bet I could set a broken bone in an emergency and not blink. But a loose tooth? I call in reinforcements for that. My friend the hesitant flyer is a whiz with teeth.
I took Devin over to her house and while I waited in the kitchen, barely resisting the urge to curl up in the fetal position under the table, she had my daughter in the upstairs bathroom. I sent one of her kids to the bottom of the stairs to listen and bring me updates. Bad idea. Molly came back and said, “Mommy said the word ‘blood’ and she told Devin to hang on to something.” In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have even been in the building.
While I always see to the dental care of my children, I had not been to a dentist myself in way too long. Finally, it had to be done. I would be lying if I said it was easy, it wasn’t, not for me. I know people who can nap in the dentist’s chair. I think I could too, if there was a big hammer someone could hit me with first. Or a Xanax the size of a pick up truck. I considered two shooters of vodka, but decided against that since I did have to drive there and back.
You know what worked? Having the dentist look at me and say “It’s OK, I get it” And she did, completely. I was lucky enough to find a dentist that knew exactly how I felt, knew what to do about it and didn’t act like I was a complete whack job. That is how fear is managed. Well, mostly, a prescription was involved too, but trust me, it was for the best. A fear, even an irrational one, is always lessened when there is someone else around who takes the time to understand.
While I did not admit it at the time, I laughed pretty hard when a smart aleck friend sent me an email telling me I’d be just fine and how much better dentistry is today than hundreds of years ago. He was pretty sure medieval torture instruments were actually dental tools and suggested that members of the Spanish Inquisition were probably dentists, asking me “Is any of this helping?”
Yes it did. Whenever someone takes the time to comfort a friend, on an airplane, at the dentist or just on a bad day, it helps. Fear is no match for a good friend.