A Lesson in Fear

I still laugh out loud when I think about some of the antics we used to pull as kids. If our parents knew that we wandered so far away, they'd shoot us today. My cousin John lived right next door, and he and I …how shall I say it… got into more trouble than anyone knows about.

We lived out in the country, in "the boondocks," so there wasn't much to do. We'd wander the woods, scare the cows in the pasture across the road, and wander. Once we got 10-speeds, our radius widened substantially. Still, we were always looking for shortcuts. There's one shortcut in particular I'll never forget...

John and I had ridden our bikes across the river and quite a ways up Court St. to see if we could find anyone to hang out with on the east side of town. To get across the river and the train tracks was a long haul of a road built with huge horseshoe bends on each end and two bridges in the middle. It added miles to our trip. Or, that's the way it felt. Desolate, long stretch of road.

Running late on our return (my parents insisted I be back at 4:30 for supper every day), we decided to follow the train tracks, cross the trestle, and cut some miles off our adventurous trip. For most of the time, there was a decent path to ride our bikes beside the tracks, until we came to the trestle. Amazingly, on the trestle the cross ties ran parallel to the tracks, and it was possible, if we were careful, to ride our bikes across - as long as we kept our wheels out of the 3" gap between the boards.

John went first and off we went. I was about half way across the trestle when I heard a train whistle behind me. John heard it too, turned his head about to look and pedaled like crazy. I heard his manic laugh and knew that I'd have to do the same, and I did. Only I wasn't that good about pedaling fast and keeping my tires on that board. My front tire went between the two boards down to the axle, and I fell forward. Both of my thighs were hung up in the U of the handlebars, and the rest of the bike was up in the air against my back. I started screaming and John was laughing so hard he could barely stand. The more he laughed, the more I screamed and the more he laughed. And then I got mad.

Somehow, I wiggled my way out of the tangle with my bike, yanked the front tire up and ran with it to the other side of the trestle where we both fell into the grass to catch our breath. It took awhile, but I was soon laughing with John; though I managed to get in a few solid punches first. I don’t' think the train ever did pass us, and of course that made John laugh even more.

I know I was so terrified I about peed my pants. But, I didn't. That would've made John laugh even more, if that was possible. The only thing that broke my paralysis was anger, and boy was I ever angry at John. He didn't come help me! Even then, I knew he was too afraid to try to help me, and I don't blame him. Not one bit. I have no way of knowing if I'd have reacted differently in that situation myself.

When I think back on this little adventure, I realize that, through the years, it has always been anger that breaks me out of paralyzing fear. Only anger. And, fear can take so many forms. It can be generalized and constant so that it shows as depression, or it can get a little more intense and become a sort of panic. But then anger kicks in and I then become active instead of reactive.

"There's nothing to fear but fear itself," as the saying goes. And fear is so debilitating. The lesson I learned out of this adventure was that everyone deals with fear (actually, all extreme emotions) differently.


  1. Oh gosh! Poor "little you." I have never thought of this before; Anger breaking me out of fear.

    Right now I cannot think of a similar circumstance but it seems that it would make sense for me to react the same way.

    [...an INFP trait perhaps?]

    I don't know. I remember very familiarly with how I was scared of mostly everything as a kid/teen. But then I remember the finality of getting angry...Like with bullying.

    For weeks or months I'd feel fear and "ignore it" like my Mom taught. But finally...anger becoming larger than fear I'd FINALLY wage battle.

    So there is another good use for anger then! :)

  2. Oh gosh yes, I was terrified as a kid! I wouldn't utter a peep, extremely shy, well into my 20s. And that's the funny thing. Because I never said a thing, no one could tell if I was afraid or angry.

    What I try to do nowadays is not get angry, but instead, get determined. Anger is another form of fear, but I do think it taught me that it was possible to work past that fear.

  3. Boy Oh Boy! I found myself laughing reading this story. (Only because I knew the entire time that you survived.)
    Fear, Anger, then pain - right?
    I have noticed a lot lately that when I get anger my whole body changes - almost like adrenaline but different. I never heard before that anger can mask depression. I always thought of anger as a coping mechanism. Once I figure out the worst thing that could hapen in any given situation, I accept it, the anger and fear seem to leave at once. One other thought: Faith or Fear - beleiving something is going to happen in the future - it is up to us to make the choice to choose which way we would like to look life.

  4. Hmmm, I think it was more fear, pain and then anger. I slapped my hands pretty hard coming down, and the bike seat didn't feel so good going into my tailbone either.

    Yes, a general anger, or anger as the most likely reaction is a mask, or an expression of depression. Sometimes, people will become angry but what they are really feeling is fear. My cousin laughed almost hysterically as his way of expressing fear.

    It was funny! The whole thing was unbelievable from beginning to end. That's the way it felt back then, and it still feels that way now. I miss John. We just sort of drifted apart as the years went on.

  5. Yikes. That's not funny at all. Shame on John for laughing. Have a great day. :)

  6. Ah, but John's laugh was so infectious! You just couldn't help laughing when he laughed.

  7. Looking back, I believe that you had learnt to laugh at the experience. Fear is something which stop many from achieving what they want in life; be it for the fear that they are not good enough or for the fear of what they will become when they achieve what they want in life. For myself, I find that fear keeps me in check sometimes and gives me unique opportunities to grow. There was once in my life when I was afraid of public speaking, I still get knees shaking but I have also learnt to co-exist with it; To look fear in the face, to acknowledge its present and then work with it to move through challenges. Fear can be our good friends.

  8. One of our presidents said "there is nothing to fear but fear itself." But, feeling fear is also the thing that makes us stop and reconsider what is around us that might be more than a little dangerous. I turned my fear into anger, or it did it on its own, and that unlocked me from a frozen state and got me moving! After that, I was a bit more cautious, and took the time to learn the role that fear plays. I found that, for me, it is as energy-draining and self-defeating as jealousy and envy.

    LOL. I wasn't exactly fearful of public speaking, but would go into that frozen state. Then, I learned that what I had to do was really, thoroughly know my topic, and then I could teach! And that's what I did.

  9. Thank you, Samsara, Sandee, Anonymous, Karen and BK, for stopping by and commenting! It's such fun getting into a good discussion!