False Expectations Appearing Real
The monster first appeared about 13 years ago in the dark of the night while I slept alone, going through my divorce, in my home in Asheville. After its first appearance, it began to show up so consistently that I was often reluctant to fall asleep.
On his horrifying visits in the shadowy night, he would stomp up the creaky stairs with heavy footsteps, pause at the double-locked bedroom door, giving my a touch of hope that he would go away, while I sat up in bed wide awake, grabbing the sheets and praying that he would leave, and he then penetrate the locked door as easily as if he were cutting through grape Jell-O with a chainsaw.
I watched him there at the foot of the bed looking like a huge, overgrown ape. Dark, sinister and shadowy he was. He glared soundlessly and stood ominously beside the nightlight at the foot of my bed and appeared every bit as big as an overgrown ape. In time he would simply sit down on the corner of the bed like a great Samurai while I crouched in terror on the opposite side of the bed, literally – literally – gasping for air.
He never did anything but sit. I realized he was completely unafraid of me that he knew me in every way, and although he was separate from me, somehow he was me.
After He was finally gone from my bedroom, I steeled my nerves, picked up the flashlight from the nightstand and bravely checked every single room, under every single bed, behind each shower curtain, throwing open and shedding light in each closet and even venturing as far as checking out the storage closet in the basement. I wanted him gone…but yet, what I really needed was for him to visit periodically to ensure that I persisted, that I lived my life – with as much courage as possible.
Throughout the years, I have come to recognize what I knew all along. That this monster was real. He was composed of the frightful thoughts and my own personal fear. I manifested the thunderous thumping of my heart in my chest, the cold icy chill that ran down my backbone and permeated my soul with anxiety and worry. I have realized that no worldly thing can scare us as badly as we scare ourselves.
That barred door was never a barrier to his entry. My own vulnerability brought him in. That is what fear can do because it is our own dreadful thoughts, our own lack of control of what might come, our own version of a fairytale gone dreadfully wrong with no possibility in our minds of a happy ending and it is terrifying.
There is only one person that can stop that kind of fear and it is we ourselves. Your faith, your family, your counselor and your friends can help. But we must ultimately regain the power to become triumphant over it. And to recognize it simply as FEAR – False Expectations Appearing Real, as my counselor used to say.
One day I realized that I could stop the monster at the door. That slight pause was my opportunity.
But is was not easy. I had to find my own peace and my own points of light in the dark time of my life. The hardest part was realizing that I was the monster. It has been years since he has shown up again, but still I know, I could allow fearful thoughts of daily life to whirl together and I could bring him back to life again but I don’t want that monster to show up ever again. I want a life filled with hope and love and joy. And a little scared will always be mixed in. Because that is life you know. That is life.
But fear does not have to rule. We have a choice.