My childhood was plagued by a
n irrational fear of dying.
I remember running to my father at bedtime when I was just six years old as the nightly dread of the grave overcame my consciousness.
me: “Daddy, I don’t want to die!!!!”
Daddy: “Asha, we all have to die. Death is a part of life.”
me: “But I have a perfectly good body, it seems like a waste of a body if I have to die. Why do I have to die and be buried and let worms eat my body??!!!!” (damn…I was precocious 0_o)
Yes, yes, yes…I had been fed the rigmarole (which I believed and still do) that we go to heaven and all that jazz. But, coupled with fear of death was a fear of eternity. What am I going to do for all that time? I had/have a linear concept of time so what was eternity anyway? Just thinking about it, trying to wrap my mortal mind around the concept of forever made me feel nauseous and filled me with anxiety.
This dread colored my outlook. There were moments when it seemed that I was free of it and in exchange, filled with peace, but those moments were never granted any permanence in my psyche.
Let me tell you of a time when my morbid paradigm (or commonsense…you be the judge) stopped me from ‘seizing the day’.
I was about 10 years old, when my family, along with a few friends and I, hiked up to Fort George in Trinidad. It was a lovely day I think…my memory of the whole escapade fails me but there is one incident that is seared in my ‘hard-drive’.
It happened just before we were about to leave. The path we were taking went along a steep grassy incline. On the incline was a tree, and its branches stretched temptingly over the path. I wanted nothing more than to jump up and catch hold of the lowest branch, but…I was scared. I knew that if I missed the branch, I would go tumbling down the path (although there was a fence along the bottom to stop me, I would still get a bit shaken up if I fell).
I stood there…procrastinating (yowza, I’ve been procrastinating my whole life?! #JesusTakeTheWheel)
Anyway, my friend Seka, who was (and still is) considerably shorter than I am, casually walked across next to me, jumped, caught hold of the coveted branch, swung herself back and forth a few times and then let go of the branch with enough momentum to land back onto the path. #likeabawse!
*I wanted to insert an illustration here but y’all have some active imaginations so far be it from me to deny you the pleasure of using them*
The rational part of my brain worked out that since I was taller than Seka, reaching the branch would be no problem for me. But, I was crippled by fear and self-doubt. I dilly-dallied there on the path, giving myself pep talks , trying to work up the nerve to jump. ‘you only live once Asha, you only live once. ‘ Then…
“Asha! Time to go!”
I didn’t jump :(.
The regret of that moment -of surrendering to fear- haunted me for such a long time. It is certainly true that: “You often regret the things you do not do more than than the things that you have done”
My father always told my sister and I that if we detest a characteristic in someone to CHECK OURSELVES because most likely, we exhibit the very trait that we so abhor.
I cannot stand cowardice. 0_o
What about you? What are your regrets? Where there is life, there’s hope…there will be other obstacles to overcome to build my courage! 🙂