People are always telling me how brave I am.
“Wow, Stephanie,” they say after I tell them about how I don’t believe in ghosts, or about the time there was an intruder in my home, or about the recurring nightmares I have about turning into a tree. “You’re sooo brave.” Sometimes they use a weird sarcastic tone, but I can tell they’re very impressed. I’m going to let you in on a little secret, though.
I’m not brave.
I am scared of every. single. thing.
Things that Scare Me
- Natural disasters
- Unnatural disasters
- Movies with ghosts or slashers in them
- Movies with beloved pets in them
- The future
- Sticks that look kind of like snakes
- Paper cuts
- The telephone
- Most fungi
- Making decisions
- Missing opportunities
- Lists with only 18 things on them
I had to stop there because I could go on and on forever. I’m so afraid of so many things that it’s a wonder I get out of bed most mornings. But then I remember that Johnny Depp was eaten by his bed in “Nightmare on Elm Street” and that gets me moving pretty quickly.
Lately I’ve been trapped in a really fun Cycle-o-Fear called “Completely Freak Out About Things That Aren’t Even Happening Right Now and Probably Won’t Happen Ever!” It’s pretty great. Would you like to try it?
Rules of Play:
- Have a thought. For example: “I wonder where my kitten, Ike, is.”
- Think of a bad thing. “I bet Ike’s trapped in the basement!”
- Think of another bad thing. “He probably got hungry down there and tried to eat a black widow and it bit him!”
- Think of another bad thing. “Ike is dead and I’ll find his tiny body!”
- Think of another bad thing. “He’s going to haunt me and Winston because we didn’t save him!”
- Think of another bad thing. “Winston and I will have to move!”
- Think of another bad thing. “But it’s really hard to find an apartment that allows pets and I’ll have to give Winston up!”
- Think of another bad thing. “And I’ll have to fix up the haunted house so I can rent it out and keep paying the mortgage AND my rent!”
- Think of another bad thing. “But this is a terrible time of year to find a tenant — it will never work!”
- Think of another bad thing. “I’ll have to sell it and disclose the kitten hauntings and no one will want it! It will stand empty — a monument to my poor pet ownership and real estate abilities!”
- Think of another bad thing. “Eventually it will drive me mad and I will be institutionalized!”
- Think of another bad thing. “I’ll die brokenhearted in a mental hospital without ever achieving any of my goals or even learning how to crochet. And I’ll meet Ike in the afterlife and he won’t forgive me for all eternity! And that black widow will be there too and will probably also be grumpy! WHY DID YOU GO INTO THE BASEMENT, IKE? WHY?!”
- Barely notice when the initial thing you were worried about doesn’t happen. “Meow?” Ike says, walking out from under your dresser. “Not now, Ike,” you say.
- Have another almost-normal thought.
- Repeat the entire cycle.
This can’t keep happening, so I’ve been developing some techniques to help me be a little bit braver.
How to Be Brave
- Congratulate yourself on small steps in bravery. Last week I was nearly overcharged by $11 at McDonald’s. Past me might have been too shy to say anything. New, brave Stephanie said, “Um. Excuse me? Sorry. I think I only ordered a hamburger, but I probably mumbled and got everyone all confused.” Then I patted myself on the back for being so assertive.
- Do one thing every day that scares you. On Sunday I took my brother to a scary movie. I have been having horrible, sweaty nightmares for the four nights since then, but I feel good about trying something new.
- Remember to seize the day. I got an extreme haircut a few weeks ago because I wanted to live a little! And I only spent part of the day crying about it!
- Think about the things you will regret not having done when you’re lying on your deathbed.
- Think about death.
- Think about death.
- Think about death.
- Give yourself a motivating pep talk. “Stop thinking about death, you monster! GET IT TOGETHER.”
- Build your own inspirational Pinterest board.
These strategies are helping. I feel like a new woman. I look fear dead in the eye now. I’m carpe-ing the crap out of the diem even when it makes me feel weepy and small. Because the only thing I want to regret on my deathbed is not working harder. At continuing to be alive.