I was always a fearful child, caught up in the things I couldn't control- tornadoes, throwing up, angering the people around me, making mistakes, drowning, the toilet overflowing onto my shoes, spilled milk, embarrassment, disappointment. I was always afraid of something, and so I constructed clever safety nets to neatly tuck the world around me and if at all possible, to prevent my little heart from spiraling out of control in pain. I covered my mouth with both of my hands when I talked so that nobody would hear me if I said something wrong. I washed my hands up to the elbows like a surgeon until teachers at school began commenting on the raw skin on my knuckles. I played games with God and looked for His protection in a full moon, believing that if I glanced up through the skylight and realized His one great eye was sending a pale glow across my bedroom floor, that I wouldn't wake up in the middle of the night and find myself under the possession of the Puke Demon.
The Puke Demon gripped me a lot. I'd wake up in the dark, sit up in bed, and fully believe that if I went outside I wouldn't throw up. I thought I could trick the Puke Demon into thinking that I was healthy if I crossed my front door, went down the porch steps and wandered around my yard in the middle of the night. On more than a dozen occasions my mom would find me walking in circles on the driveway in my bare feet mumbling to Jesus. Then again I was too afraid to fully open my mouth, so she probably got the shock of her life at the sight of her ghostly daughter in a white nightgown circling the driveway and uttering what sounded like strange monotone pleas for God to "make me not throw up." It's humorous to me now that I was more afraid of throwing up than being attacked by a coyote, a "bad man," or the many shadows rustling in the dark woods.
I had forgotten all about this. It's so strange the things that disappear as we are whisked into adulthood. Those fears were such a profound part of my life that now I almost feel sacrilegious, as if I am disrespecting my child-self by laughing about it. Sometimes I believe that she still lives inside of me, and so I take great pains not to mock her, or dub her peculiar because of the irrational terror that gripped her small body so often. I understand now that there wasn’t one flaw in her, in fact fearing throwing up was perfectly rational, although not every single night, and not enough to wander through the trees in search of Jesus. Or maybe it was.
Recently, a friend dubbed me FEARLESS. She says I’m not afraid of anything. And when I heard this I almost laughed at her mistake. But I caught myself, and the child inside of me held up her hands and grinned. It would be easy to guess that I will always be what I’ve always been, but it would also be a tragedy, because I was born to wake up in the middle of the night and walk outside in my nightgown as if this were perfectly acceptable behavior. Truth is, I’ve been fearless all along, and not one soul could make me know it for sure. Not one soul, except for me.