I am man, hear me…scream. At one of nature’s most fragile elements: a dead, brittle leaf.
Ok. Gotta set the stage. I live in the Seattle area and my girlfriend and I had gone up to Green Lake to walk the loop. But we didn’t make it there until after dark. Now, Green Lake is a gorgeous place where a 3-mile track circles a lovely lake, and during the day you see hundreds of people skating, paddleboarding, volleyballing (shut up), and just enjoying the day and scenery. At night? There are oddly no lights in the whole park, so it’s quite dark.
But people were still out-and-about, mostly joggers and bikers with headlights, and even a couple wearing light-up rollerblades. So we start strolling and we notice most people are actually not wearing lights, so it’s kinda hard to see them until they’re running right by you. Fun. Plus we start getting a weird vibe where everyone passing us is almost running right into us–even though the path is quite wide–and looking at us weirdly as they’re moving by.
Fine. Whatever. Keep going a bit and are about to head back when, in the distance, we see a diminutive, barely visible figure on the path. All black except for a pale face and hands. Couldn’t be taller than 4 feet. And weaving as they’re running so they keep looking like they’re gonna ram us. They have a very strange gait, almost a fast shuffle, and I start hearing wheezing breaths. We stand totally still as they get nearer and still can’t make out who this person is, but they’re looking awfully a lot like they’re aiming straight for us. And there’s something in one of their hands.
At this point, my brain kicks into overgear and my skin prickles. I’m practically certain it’s some kid celebrating Hallowing early, in a costume, scaring people around the park at night. That, or we’re about to be attacked by an actual cannibalistic goblin. I’m tensing up to fight or run.
At the last second, the person veers past, and we see this incredibly small woman, face in a rictus of concentration, wearing all black as she pants along on a run. Holding her phone. After she goes by, we look at each other and agree we are mutually creeped out. So we head for the car. After ten paces, there’s silence all around and we’re alone on the track.
Then something skitters on the ground immediately behind me. And I know for sure the strange jogger has returned to attack us from behind.
My hair tried to escape my skull as I spun, holding my girlfriend’s hand, and leaped about ten feet in the air with a very manly scream, which she echoed.
And there’s a dead leaf scraping along the pavement in a breeze.
Still breathing hard, we hoof it to the street where there are actual lightposts and make it to the car alive.
So what’s the point of all this, aside to let you laugh at me a bit? Well, in my last Hold on to the Light post, I talked a bit about my anxiety and how my fears can really knock me down hard at times. How it’s okay to ask for help. But this time I’m focusing on the fear element.
Fears are powerful. As a writer, I’ve actually trained my mind to easily imagine worst-case scenarios, because that’s what makes a story more compelling. But fear can also hold us back. It can keep us from accepting good things in life or pursuing good experiences. Fear can sabotage our hopes and dreams and cause us to believe that a certain endeavor or relationship or job or whatever isn’t worth the risk. That eventually all the bad things will happen no matter how hard we fight.
So why even bother trying? Why not give up now and accept the fear that we don’t deserve it? Or that we’ll just be hurt in the end?
I don’t want to be controlled by my fears, however real they may feel in the moment. It’s a process, though, overcoming fear, and I’ll be working on it for the rest of my life. Because I know that when I do succeed, even if it’s a day by day thing, that when fear looms large and makes me want to give up…
If I turn and face it, I will most likely not be facing a murderous, pint-sized jogger.
It will flutter away like a harmless leaf.