Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Big Bad.

Sorry, it's not really the cuddliest title is it, but then again, this is not really a warm n' fuzzy type of post. I guess I mean that as a bit of a warning.

When I talk about The Big Bad, I'm talking about something you find utterly terrifying. Your greatest fear. (Or at least one that lurks in your top five.)

I was thinking about fear recently... about Big Bads and how paralysing they are. I was working with a Chinese student this week; helping him with his communication skills. During an exercise I asked him to name all sorts of things that represent the best and worst things about Earth. I won't bore you with the finer details, but one of the categories was 'emotion'. He had to name an emotion that he thinks represents the best of our world, and one that represents the worst.

For the best, he chose happiness. A beautiful emotion. There is nothing quite as optimistic as happiness, for even love bears it's sadness, doesn't it. Happiness doesn't. It's just... happy. Wow, someone give that girl a degree. She's brilliant.

For the worst, he chose sadness. Happiness's nemesis. (I realise there are way too many 's' letters in that sentence. Rest assured: I'm working on it.)

His answer wasn't wrong; it was his, and it made perfect sense. Sadness isn't exactly a day at the beach and humans will do whatever they can to to steer clear of it; always have. Just ask the guy who invented cocaine.

But, as I read through his answers, I couldn't help but silently consider what my own might be. And I decided, for me, fear is worse than sadness. I find fear to be perhaps the most appalling and debilitating emotion of them all.

I know what fear is, and I know I'm not the only person who can say that. Too many of us can. I've lived in fear since I was seven years old. I think I was seven anyway, I pretty much try and block out the day week month year of my life when fear tattooed itself to me. I won't go into detail, and it's all really kind of private, but let's just say someone tried to get me. And he did - for a short time. And a lot changed in that short time. I changed completely. Sometimes I wonder if it was all meant to happen, however horrible... that if it hadn't, I just wouldn't be me.

After the event, it took years before I could walk down a street without an adult family member by my side. It took years before I could sleep over at a friend's house without waking up crying in the middle of the night. It took years before I would let my mum leave me in the car alone while she paid for petrol without me checking ten times over if all the doors were locked. I still can't walk down a street without looking over my shoulder. I know I never will, and sometimes I'm glad for it: it keeps me safe.

But these are the obvious disfigurements of fear. The more complicated ones live inside. And they manifest in far more obscure ways... being unable to make otherwise innocuous decisions because of anxiety, constantly performing microsurgery on your own choices looking for mistakes, wondering when the perfect sphere you spent years sculpting might turn pear-shaped, considering if the man who popped over to fix the plumbing might be a serial killer. This is what living in fear is.

I do want to include a disclaimer here... I'm not an unhappy person, I'm not a frazzled ball of worry, and I do live my life with joy. Most days are more than fine. And sometimes I feel glad for fear: maybe it's endurance has pushed me further in life than chase innocence would have. For fear challenges me every day to become brave braver.

So.. what's your Big Bad? Or am I the only one looking over my shoulder?


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  2. This is such a good post... I'd have to say that while fear IS such a "good" big bad.. mine would most likely have to be regret. I can handle fear, and even sadness.. but regret is something I just can't get over and I'm constantly afraid that I will end up regretting every decision I make. So I guess that has a little bit of fear in there as well :)


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