Steve Woods

How to Face Your Fears – A Ghost Story

In What Day is it? on October 13, 2009 at 4:01 pm

“And therefore as a stranger give it welcome. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”  Hamlet, Act 1

Sometimes we are forced to face our fears...

Sometimes we are forced to face our fears...

Her eyes are what I will always remember – empty, deep, sad sockets, through which I could see the small onyx wall panels, perhaps one with her own name etched on it, hazed out in the dim lights of the mausoleum garden.  It was only a fleeting glance, skidding my bicycle to a halt and leaving a long, dark scar on the shiny stone floor, a sharp squeak proclaiming my entrance.

Her movement was fluid, as she turned towards the gardens just to my left, her neck and face vacuously moving in a slow semi-circle, glowing grey gown lifting and floating as though a light breeze was blowing all around and under her.  Her hair was incredible, a dull white, long and straight, the ends lifting with and supported by the same invisible currents of air, each strand alive unto itself, rising and falling in slow suspension.  I could not see her feet, but her long slender arms hung limply, pushed forward in front of her but weighted down, as though she were chained to the floor.  Her hands looked incredible, delicate as porcelain, fading in and out of sight.

I remember moving my bike, pressing down with my right foot on the floor and sliding the back wheel to the left in as fluid a motion as I could, my eyes never leaving the scene at the end of the hallway.  I couldn’t feel a thing, as though I had settled into a cold, quiet vacuum, every noise in the neighboring world dulled by the deafening realization of what I was seeing.  I remember hearing my breath being slowly indrawn, a silence I have only heard when alone, outside, after a new snow….

I never rode my bike so fast...

I never rode my bike so fast...

As I began to move the front wheel to the right to prepare for my rapid departure, the aimless flow of her neck stopped, her empty gaze now on me.  The depth of emotion in that hollow stare will always haunt my memories.  To this day, I swear that I saw her hair begin to flow up and back, as the apparition gathered itself for something, perhaps a rapid movement in my direction….

I remember riding that bicycle the fastest I have ever moved upon it, making a hard left and right, leaving more marks to follow (and fully mindful of it as I did,) shooting through the wrought-iron door, (still open from when I had snuck in) and tearing off into the darkness of the neighborhood toward my home…

As an adult, I have a number of fears, just like you do.  I loathe snakes, wishing that large glass encasements would fall from the sky, surrounding all of them, everywhere.  Only then might I feel a measure of comfort while walking in the forest.  I don’t mind heights, but my stomach has an ongoing disagreement to that effect.  I never want to be poor, destitute poor, cardboard placard poor, my children by my side as cars drive by.  And above all, I do not want to die alone…

The Reason for Today

Today is a day set aside to remind us to take a bit of time and remember that we have a variety of fears in our lives, and that there are techniques with which to work on overcoming those that affect our lives in adverse ways.  It’s a day to discover what walls to personal progress we have either built up personally, or have ignored when found.  And to figure out methods to remember their presence and work on removing them, brick by brick.

Top 10 Shared Fears

The top 10 general fears shared among Americans today, as stated by Ask.com are:

  1. A worsening economy
  2. Losing our job
  3. Dwindling or worsening condition of our personal finances
  4. Failing in an important relationship
  5. Our health deteriorating
  6. Something terrible happening to our children
  7. A terrorist attack occurring in our lives or country
  8. Having to go through a divorce
  9. Dying or losing a loved one
  10. Being insignificant in life

Methods to Overcome Your Fears

Burn your fears in effigy...

Burn your fears in effigy...

Some of you have already faced a number of these, and perhaps the extent to which you fear them making a repeat occurrence in your life has been dulled a bit.  But if you have a measure of anxiety about something happening or coming into your life, here are a few tried-and-true methods of working through the fear (and perhaps eventually overcoming it.)

Destroy Your Fear

Take a pad and pencil, and write your fear down.  Big letters, center of the paper.  Write down any feelings you may have when you are worried about the event or thing.  Write down who you think about, locations involved, and the worst thing that can happen should it come to pass.  Then cut up the paper with a big pair of sharp scissors, take the pieces to a fire-proof bowl, and stick a match to them, completely burning them up.  Make sure to be present to see the fire burn down to ashes, both as a safety measure and as a method of emotional closure.

Eat Up Your Fear

Take a bunch of sweet and small candies, like M&Ms, Skittles, or the like.  Write out the word(s) for your fear neatly, taking your time.  With each placed piece, think about the fear much in the same way as if you were writing it down, going over locations, people, possible occurrences, etc.  Then one by one, eat the candies, while imagining your fear subsiding bit by bit.

Turn your fears into a sweet treat!

Turn your fears into a sweet treat!

Talk Away Your Fear

Call or find someone you trust and talk about your fear with them.  Let them know fully what the worry is about, as you would in the first two methods.  Make sure you choose a good listener! Then ask that person to help you overcome the fear.

Plan Away Your Fear

Taking a notebook, develop a step-by-step plan to get over your fear. Each step must be a baby step.  If you talk to a friend about your fear, have them help you both with the plan and with its accomplishment, by emailing or calling you periodically to see how your progress has gone.

Pray Away Your Fear

If you feel prayer is important in your life, then absolutely take some time throughout your day to pray for the strength and inner serenity needed to overcome your fears.  Often the belief in a higher power can provide the comfort that no matter what, you will be protected and provided for…

My Return Visit

Less than a week later, I finally gathered up the courage to go back to the mausoleum, in the daytime and on a Sunday.  I chose this time because there were a number of families visiting where their loved ones were, and walking through the gardens.  I figured that the light and company would keep me protected from another visit, although I was not completely sure of it.

I parked my bicycled outside the gate, and turned to the left, then right, following my still-dark bike tracks and feeling sheepish for having left them for someone to scrub off.  As I approached the final corner, my heart began to race, memories flooding me.  I was near tears when I rounded the corner, and stopped in my tracks.

Things are so different when examined in the light of day...

Things are so different when examined in the light of day...

At the end of the hall, where I had seen my apparition, was a white, marble statue of a woman, her face turned down the hall, her arms raised high at her sides, her hair flowing back, looking to the skies over the garden.  I was in shock, the blood running from my face, my mouth open, unable to move.  Was this what I had seen? How could my imagination have gotten so far ahead of me?

I’ll never know if I truly saw what my mind remembers in such vivid detail.  It felt real, and I can still feel the cold around me if I try hard enough.  If it was all the fruitful imaginings of a 13-year-old boy, then I at least got the gift of an interesting story to tell…  What I am truly happy for, what stays with me even more than anything else from the event, is that I physically persuaded myself to return, to face my fear in the light of day, and allow myself the possibility of reconciling the two memories, of what I may’ve seen, and what I did see…  I do believe there are more things in heaven and earth than I know, and can believe I did see a ghost in the mausoleum, perhaps chained to the same spot until she works through a fear of her own…

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  1. There are some days I never leave my bed. There are weeks I never leave my home. My anxieties are deep rooted going back from childhood abuse, loss, trauma the effects of which followed me through puberty, being bullied and teased from elementary school through college. Then adult hood when everything I did from now on was my responsibility. I fully expected I would find someone to take care of me-to love me. After all isn’t that what every creature deserves? I never knew I had the right to love myself, I guess in some ways I even thought it was a sin.
    There are times I challenge myself-I down right dare myself to do or try something I may want to but more often need to do-sometimes I fail-The harsh words from the critics of my youth amplify my own self doubt. But then, there are the good days when everything goes as it should-so great are those days that I become invisible, fly into the sky, feel the warmth of love that the universe has to offer. As I descend back to Earth, but before I return back to my reality, I find the child I once was and try and reassure her that someday, everything will be OK.

  2. Sometimes, it is the child within us that holds our hand and says, ever so softly, “try it….”

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