Fear and Loathing in the Hot Days of Summer

ocean courageI took an extended weekend on the beach with a handful of friends. We’ve known each other a long time and they pretty much know everything there is to know about me. Including my near irrational fear of getting added to a shark’s sampler pack as I dabble my toes in the water.

“If you get eaten by a shark, I’ll be sure to take everything I’ve ever said back at your funeral,” one would say before diving head first into the breakers. Because equal parts support and ridicule are just what friends are for. I watched enviously from the shore as they floated on their backs, looking oh, so, carefree. I’d forgotten to pack my shark repellent. Shame on me.

A battle launched in my brain. My logic side shouted – Just go. My creative side rolled its imaginary eyes.  Don’t you know what can happen out there? One accidental nibble and it will be open season on us.

The chance of that happening is next to nil and you know it.

But not zero.

Not zero, but still. . . Go on. What’s the worst that could happen?

I get bitten. Duh.

Is that really so bad? Think about it. Most attacks this close to shore are survivable. Sure, you might not be all in one piece, but you’d have a story to tell. You could get on the news or even the talk show circuit. Imagine the improved visibility. That shark bite could be just what you need to launch your writing career into the stratosphere.

Yeah. Um. I think I’ll stick to my existing plan.

Bah. Well, then we have a problem to solve then because it is only getting hotter out here.

“A man who fears suffering is already suffering from what he fears.” – Michel de Montaigne

Pressured by my body’s aversion to excessive heat, my brain got to work. I tried to look at the problem differently. What was it that usually sent me running back to the shore while my friends passed beyond the breakers. My friends aren’t dummies. They are fully aware of what calls the ocean its home. What did they do differently? They don’t look down, I realized. They look at the top of the next wave or just out ahead.

I always looked into the waves, looking for a shadow to appear, and once spotted, my imagination filled in all the terrible things that could be that shadows cause (other than a cloud). My imagination, that thing that works so well for me most other times, was holding me back. So, stop looking down, I told myself.

“Never fear shadows. They simply mean there’s a light shining somewhere nearby.” -Ruth E. Renkel

I focused on the horizon and not at the waves around me, a trick my dad had taught me years ago to combat seasickness and took a step. Then another. The water hit my knees. Then my waist. Then my shoulders. I lifted my above me and dove into that blue-green water and swam.

I only managed to stay out there a few minutes, but it was longer than I had the day before.

But apparently, not everyone’s weekend was as relaxing as mine. While I was away, there had been an incident at the shopping mall near my work. My neighbors, a family of four, were lunching in the food court when they heard a “thunderous sound.” Crowds of people began rushing to the exits in a panic. A man reported seeing a gun. Others reported shots fired, but no casings were found, nor victims of a shooting. However, that doesn’t mean that no one was hurt. At least eight people were transported out of the mall with injuries, likely caused by falls and or the press of terrified people as they tried to make their escape. In this case, fear was the more destructive weapon.

My neighbors were not among the injured, but instead now have to explain to their sons, one of whom is only as old as mine, why any of this could happen. Why things like this (and worse) keep happening.

Fear. That’s what it comes down to.

Fear is what kept me from enjoying my time with friends fully. Fear is what causes me to see danger in each unexpected shadow. Fear drove ordinary people to push their neighbors. Fear is a root cause as well as an end result in a seemingly never ending cycle. Seemingly. It doesn’t have to stay that way.

“F-E-A-R has two meanings: ‘Forget Everything And Run’ or ‘Face Everything And Rise.’ The choice is yours.” – Zig Ziglar

I am so tired of being made to feel afraid. So while I am aware of my surroundings and recognize the things their shadows may hide, I will try to keep my eyes on the horizon, of what can be, and not look down. And maybe, just maybe, if you join me, we might just get through these breakers, one step at a time.

quotes attributed to http://www.tinybuddha.com. photography is my own.

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45 thoughts on “Fear and Loathing in the Hot Days of Summer

  1. I can relate, Allie. After watching Jaws as a teenager, I didn’t go in the ocean for 15 years! Honestly! Then at the age of 31, I took scuba diving lessons and went on two shark dives. I swam with and touched sharks. I learned that for the most part, sharks are shy creatures that would rather swim away from people than toward them. (We had to chum the water to keep them around.) So that goes back to your statements about fear. Often the feeling of fear surmounts the actual danger, and in facing our fears, we might find that there was little there to be afraid of in the first place. Great post. 🙂

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  2. Oh boy, sorry to hear about the stampede. I have a tendency to panic easily. I love swimming in the ocean – the key is to swim in choppy water. Sharks don’t like choppy water. Supposedly!

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    • I have heard nothing but praise about the people who were in charge of containing / diffusing the situation, so I suppose you can say some good came out of it.

      I will have to keep the tip about choppy water in mind as I really do want to be able to swim with my friends as well as my children when they are older and I hate that I am stuck on the beach over something that may well be only in my head.

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  3. Such a lovely and profound post, Allie. Like you, I’m tired of feeling afraid as well, much of it stirred by media reporting rather than anything actually happening. Fear is a wonderful way to control others and I do wonder at this culture of fear and suspicion we are creating – who benefits in the end? On a more personal level, I’ve been struggling for a while with a fear of flying – quite problematic in light of my love of travelling, so am working to resolve it. Perhaps, like you, I just need to look at the bigger picture and focus on the journey’s end. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I read a piece awhile back about how the networks used to be required to allocate so much air time to the news as part of their broadcasting license and that this time was somehow exempt from ratings. It would be so very nice to go back to then when you could tell a story and not be expected to sensationalize it in order to keep your job. I like to think that most real reporters are as sick of the trend in shock-me news as the rest of us.

      I have issues with flying as well, which is why I am so very interested in things like the hyperloop. Now if only they could figure out how to make a transcontinental hyperloop…

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      • Or one of those transporter things, like on Star Trek…
        Have you ever read the Ringworld books? They had something where you could step on a disc, and immediately be transported to wherever you wanted to be in the world. I read them years ago and can remember even then thinking how much nicer that would be 🙂

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      • That would be even better. I hate time lost due to transit. I am a firm supporter of wormhole development. I read a series called the Halfblood Chronicles by Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey (great series by the way) in which people were given keys to house portals. Provided you had the proper key all you had to do is open a door and presto you’ve reached your destination. I remember thinking I want that so bad.

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    • My neighbors grabbed their kids and ran. Others hid until they heard an all-clear. I selfishly am glad I wasn’t there, but the mall opened the next day and was back to business as usual.

      Some theories suggest that it could have simply been kids with fireworks playing a prank, which actually is an idea that troubles me too for different reasons. I have a hard time understanding why anyone would think causing a panic like that would be funny.

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  4. Boy, you really nailed it, Allie. I am exactly like you when it comes to taking a dip in the ocean. Each time I go, I wet less and less of my body. The last visit (five years ago), I barely got my toes wet. Heading to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, in a month. I think I’ll try for my knees . . .
    Thanks for the encouraging words. 🙂

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  5. Really poignant post here, Allie, it’s amazing how much FEAR can play a part in our everyday life. From something as simple as your weekend away with your friends, to the happenings of a much more global scale. Fear is worth overcoming; I’ve never regretted overcoming a fear. Doesn’t mean I don’t still have them, a few of which still paralyse me, but still! Got to keep pressing on 🙂

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  6. I prefer lakes and swimming pools, anyway (though ocean waves can be fun).

    Baby steps: swim at a crowded beach and make sure there are other people in the distance for sharks to busy themselves with. A surfer-shield, if you will.

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