I met her at the end of a long winding road. It had not been an easy trip. Thoughts ran through my mind as I traveled down the path. There was anger, sadness and regret. Dozens of things I wanted to say. Questions, accusations…I wanted to yell at her. To ask her why. Why she always made things so difficult. Why she couldn’t leave me in peace. Ever. Today would be a day of reckoning. This was the day I would reclaim my life.
I arrived in the dusty clearing, just in time to see the setting sun as it filtered through the trees. I saw her, sitting on a tree stump, staring at me. And then just like that, everything I’d planned to say dissolved in my head. I stared back at her, and my mouth seemed to seal. She looked so old, so frail. She was very thin, her hair long and grey. Around her shoulders she wore a dark wrap, clutching it shut in her gnarled fingers. She was nothing like what I had imagined. Where was the monster I had prepared myself to fight? I looked at her, suddenly deflated. My anger melted from me and I could only stare, defeated. I had come all of this way to vanquish her. But now…
She laughed. “You can come closer, or you can stay there. Either way makes little difference to me.” Her voice sounded tired, even her laugh sounded weary. I edged slightly closer, my eyes never leaving her. I stopped and stared at her again. “I’m not what you expected, am I?” She chuckled. “You thought I was the boogey man. Or at least someone fierce and agile, capable of putting up a good fight. But I’m not like that am I?” I shook my head. “But now tell me.” She said. “Tell me what you came here to say. You asked me to meet you. You came all this way. You don’t want your trip to be wasted.” She grinned. “Speak, little wanderer. ”
I took a deep breath. I found my voice again, my anger slowly returning. “I’m here to tell you that there’s a new year coming up. And this year is going to be different. You’ve tortured me this year, you’ve ruined my life. You’ve stolen opportunities from me, you’ve stolen my time, you’ve affected my health, you’ve hurt people I care about. And I’m not going to allow it this year. I’m making a clean start.” I watched her as I spoke, gauged her face for a reaction. There was none. “I don’t know how, but I’m going to get rid of you. You’re going to give me my life back. Right now.”
She chuckled. “You can have it, silly girl.” She shook her head. “Look at me. I’m sick. And exhausted. My health is failing me. I don’t have the energy anymore.”
“Just like that?” I frowned at her. “You’re not going to put up any resistance?”
“Resistance?” She laughed loudly. “My goodness little girl, surely not! Let me explain something to you.” She leaned forward slightly as she spoke. “I am not a predator. I am not intrinsically evil. I am, in fact, vital to your survival. But what I’ve become…” She motioned about herself, at the gloomy clearing. “Is unhealthy. You’ve forced me into a role I was never supposed to fill. You’ve stretched me so thin, I have nothing left. Do you understand?” She tilted her head, examining me.
“No.” I answered back. “I don’t.”
“My name.” She said with a grin. “As you very well know, is fear. When I see space, I take it. It isn’t personal. But your fears, they’ve taken over everything. This is not what I’m supposed to be. I’m not supposed to run your life.”
“Then what are you supposed to be?” I asked.
“Healthy.” She answered. “We’re supposed to be partners, you and I. I’m supposed to be help keep you safe from reasonable dangers.” She cackled. “And you’re supposed to let me get some rest. Unfortunately we’re both doing our job a bit badly right now, aren’t we?”
I nodded reluctantly. “I guess.”
She smiled widely. “Go back where you came from. If you don’t seek it, you’ll have no more trouble from me. You can make a change. You just have to tell me when to slow down. Tell me when to stop. Trust me, I’m more than happy to get a break.” She laughed, and her laugh was the last thing I heard before she slowly faded from the clearing. I stared at the spot where she had just been for a while before heading home.
As I made my way back, I knew that I was ready to make a change. Fear is important. It’s critical to survival. But the over-sized role I’ve allowed it to play for so long, is not. This new year, I’m going to try to allow fear to assume the role it’s supposed to play. An integral part of a larger picture, not the only thing dominating my entire existence. That night, as I finally sat down to write, I pushed fear back in its place. It wouldn’t have a place here, for now. At least not for tonight. Somewhere in the background I thought I heard her laughter, encouraging me. I guess she was happy for her break.
Here’s to a new year…