“Are You Sure You Should Do This?”

To Dare or not to Dare? That is the Question

You’ll see I’ve installed a new header; I was already weary of the snowy winter scene. We’re getting a full dose of it outside and that’s enough.

I like this art gallery! I confess: for years now I’ve dreamed of picking up a brush myself and painting a picture. I’ve done some painting on rocks and liked that; now I have this urge to try working on a real canvas — if only just to swirl out a few funky fun flowers. (I even went so far as to buy the canvas.) But I’m afraid. What if I make a mess of it?

Which brings me to today’s Word Press prompt. I know if I share my dream with a stranger— especially if I pick one who’s standing in the checkout line at Michael’s — she’ll be totally encouraging. If I ask my family and friends, they right away factor in my tendency to start things and never finish them. They know about my blogs, my writing ‘works in progress’, my sewing projects… They’d say, “Do you really need another hobby?”

I read once that people who go for counseling — to marriage counselors especially — prefer to go to strangers. Then the counselor they explain their situation to won’t be biased by what they already know about this person’s behavior. I can follow that!

Friends or Strangers

Back to the prompt. I’d never ever try bungee jumping, but I’ll picture myself standing at the top of a ski slope contemplating doing a daring descent. I look around for support. “Can I really do this?”

Strangers would likely cheer me on. “Sure. Give it a try!” (And if I’m holding up the line they may even give me a good push!) If I land up at the bottom in a heap of broken bones, they’ll say, “Well, maybe she shouldn’t have.” They may encourage, but they’re not offering to come and sit with me or do the cleaning for me while I recuperate.

My friends’ support will be tempered by what they know of me. If they know my sense of balance is iffy at the best of times, or that when things get out of control I tend to freeze or panic and start screaming, they’ll probably say, “Well… Maybe you should rethink this.”

My family’s opinion may be even more dampened if they know I’m a grouchy, demanding patient and my house is in need of a lot of cleaning at the moment.

Conversely, if those who know me well say, “Go for it. You can do this,” their encouragement will carry a lot more weight than the cheers of a bunch of strangers. If I want honesty, I go to those who know me best. Wouldn’t you?

Some years back my husband and I were contemplating going to a conference of our Church. I trembled to think of being in a sea of strangers — like seven or eight thousand. I was definitely ready to stay home, but DH said, “Once you get there you’ll meet someone you know and start visiting. You’ll do just fine.”

So I went along on his encouragement and it was just as he said. He knows me well. 🙂

“Fear Hath Torment” Don’t I Know It!

Today’s prompt asks us to relate a time when we felt unsafe.  There have been a zillion times when I felt unsafe. Then one glorious night fear lost its terror for me. I’ve written this incident as part of my memoirs; now I’ll share it here, too. Since it’s a long account I’ll post it as a two-part story, with the conclusion tomorrow.

We were living in Montreal at the time, and the season was late Autumn, so the darkness descended around 5pm. I never have like to be out after dark, but this evening I decided to take a short walk before supper.

While I was passing the residences I was okay, but then I got to an area where a small park broke up the row of houses. I didn’t go through the park, but simply passed it on the sidewalk. However, as I walked past the park, which seemed very dark that evening, and the bushes very spooky, my imagination and fears combined to produce the sense that like someone could easily be lurking behind one, ready to leap out and grab me. Before I got halfway past I was terrified and ran. I jogged the two blocks all the way home before I could breathe easily again.

I’d always been afraid in the dark and I believe this got worse with time. When we lived in Ontario I remember having to go out and get in the car at 11pm at night to go pick my husband up after his evening shift. I’d glance around the yard uneasily. Then I was scared to open the car door; there might be someone in the back seat with a long wicked knife or something.

Sometimes I’d drop him off at 3pm, then go somewhere for the evening — and come home to a dark house. There were times when Michelle was gone and I’d come home from taking him to work at 11pm and have to walk into the empty house. I was afraid someone would be lurking in our empty house. As soon as I stepped inside they’d jump out at me and attack me.

The fear I felt at times like that was almost a heart-stopping terror. I can’t begin to count hhow many times I embodied that old cliché “petrified with fear.”

I reasoned the matter out. After all, how much TV hadn’t I watched as a kid? How many horror shows and police thrillers? How many times had I read some book or article about a person — usually a woman — being kidnapped and murdered?

To top it off, when I was a kid in Saskatoon, nine or ten years old, I was coming home after dark, maybe from a friend’s house or from the store. This was late autumn, about 8pm; except for the streetlights it was very dark and I was all alone on the street. Or not quite. It took a bit to register, but I could hear footsteps behind me.

I never looked back, but started to hurry — and the following footsteps quickened, too. I could tell the unknown person was closer to me now and I was beginning to panic. When I about six houses from my home I started to run. The person behind me did, too.

I knew I’d never make it right home because our yard had a fence with a gate I’d have to stop to undo, so when I reached the neighbor’s house, where there was nothing to hinder me, I turned in. Right when I took the first few steps onto the neighbor’s sidewalk the predator following me made a grab for me. As I felt his arms go round me, I instinctively sank to the ground. I probably yelled.

I’d hoped to fool him into thinking I lived here at this house and my ruse probably worked. At any rate, he let me go and hurried off.

So of course I would be afraid of the dark after an episode like that. Who wouldn’t be?

That night in Montreal all these thoughts were churning in my mind, going over this recurring, terrifying fear of “someone” being there. Grabbing me. Harming me. And that evening, for the first time I stopped reasoning and faced the fact. This terror was NOT normal.

After supper, while I was washing the dishes, I even prayed these words: “God, this is not normal. Why am I this way?”

I never expected the answer to be so immediate.

I lifted my eyes and stared out the window. I looked at the street lights gleaming in the darkness. And just like that a picture flashed into my mind. Another dark night, another set of street lights. Me sitting in someone’s car. A scene I was facing when I was ten years old.

I started to recall what happened back then. Then a voice spoke these words very clearly in my mind. “That’s why you’re afraid.”

To be continued tomorrow…

Icicles and Snow Days

What child in the temperate zones of the world hasn’t tried to eat an icicle? You crunched it with your teeth and loved the sensation of eating frozen glass. Who among us hasn’t broken off a particularly long one to wave around like a spear, feeling its slippery smoothness? Tossed it like a javelin and listened to the splintering sound as it hit its target.

Perhaps you were wearing woolly mitts when you cracked the metre-long icicle off from the overhanging roof on a sunny day, then had your mittens freeze to the ice. When you finally were able to drop it, you found fuzzy fibers stuck to the thing and your mitt had a thinner spot.

I suppose there are places in the world where icicles never form, let alone get to be six feet long. One can’t imagine them hanging down from trees in the Amazon Rainforest, or in caves along the Nile. What deprivation!

Likewise, what northern climate child hasn’t tried to catch a snowflake on his tongue? Or you open your mouth to the falling flakes and try to catch a dozen, feeling the tickle of cold as they land on your face, powdering your nose and hair.

What child doesn’t love being out in a fresh thick blanket of snow. You swish through the whiteness, plowing it aside with your feet; you look around and see yourself all alone in this whitening world, leaving your own trail. Your own personal mark in time and place.

Then you look back, watching the snow slowly filling in your footprints, making the world white again. Wiping out all your missteps and stumbles. Snow renews our hope that such things are possible, that we can have our missteps in this world erased by a merciful heavenly hand.

Snow is created for the senses; it’s created for the bliss of an exploring child. And it signifies the hope of forgiveness.

(I’ve been reading what others have written about the new WP editor, so decided to try it with a second reply to today’s prompt about the sense of touch. I usually go to Admin & use the old-style posting system. I like it that I can access my tags better with this newest editor.)

Inside and Out Like a Light

I’m doing the daily prompt backwards today because I want to tell you about my rude awakening early this morning. I hope the WP Powers that Be will be tolerant.

Thanks Be! I’m Inside

It was raining around midnight last night when I let the cat out, then in. As I looked out toward our yard light mounted on a pole by the garage, I could see the silver rain falling like it meant business. The ground didn’t appear that wet yet — but a pole light always does make rain look serious.

Rain in the middle of November in the middle of Saskatchewan is never good news. As I peered into the dark night I was very thankful to be on the inside looking out, rather than on the outside looking in. The weather prediction was for snow and seriously high winds.

Often on nights like this, or frigid mornings, I look out and think of the poor street people who have no place to go — or maybe no place where they feel safe enough that they stay — in out of the cold. My heart aches for them. I also say a quiet prayer of thanks because I have a safe, warm place; I am blessed far more than I deserve.

Anyway, I let the cat in one last time, then exited, stage right, to the bedroom. And off to dreamland.

Enter: Pookie, about 6:15 am. I was far enough from unconscious to feel his arrival. With a light leap, followed by light steps across the bed (which is how I knew it was Pookie) he made his way over to where he could pester me to get up. Some place where he could prod at my arm until I roused. I was dimly conscious of a steady noise, such as a howling wind would make.

I rolled over and reached for the “Touch tone” lamp sitting on my night-stand not far from my head. I tapped it once, then again. Bulb must be burnt out. Or maybe the thing got unplugged somehow. I looked for the alarm clock to see what time it was, but that must have been facing another direction. Black, black, my world was black.

Seems I mustn’t really be awake yet, because when I stood up I saw absolutely nothing. But I knew Pookie wanted to go out, so I felt my way to the foot of the bed, then across — tripping over the footstool set at the bottom of our bed in case Panda (who’s thirteen, arthritic, and weighs in at over twenty pounds) should want to pester us or cuddle up to Bob when I’m reading into the wee hours. (I really shouldn’t be confessing all this online, but this is life at our house.)

Next I bumped my hip on a sewing desk that shouldn’t be in our bedroom. It was set there “temporarily” until we’d get it to an antique dealer — who didn’t want it. Now it waits to go to any second-hand store that will take it. Maybe you don’t know how things that are temporarily set there tend to grow roots and stay, but this one did. Now my little bump in the night has prodded me to renew my request for its removal.

I made it past the dresser vaguely wondering what’s wrong with my brain? Why can’t I wake up and see something? I could hear. I could very clearly hear what seemed like a howling blizzard outside. Our first snow and it has to come as a blizzard.

I touched the door and crept out into the hallway — I thought. But why is it so dark? I bumped a door frame and hung onto it. I felt stairs beside my foot and couldn’t figure out why they were there. This was crazy: I was actually lost in my own house! But I went up the three steps and got my bearing when I realized I was now in the trailer’s main hall.

I reached out my hand toward a bookcase and felt a flashlight. Flicked the switch. Dead battery. Hmph! But I wasn’t far from the hall linen closet where I keep both candles and matches, so I groped my way over and felt —ah! A box of matches! By now I was awake enough to realize the power was out, which explained the blackness. Normally our hallway is flooded with light both from the yard light and from the ‘on-all-night’ light at our side door.

Sometimes I’ve wondered how I’d make out if I was blind. Now I know: not well at all. I did find my way to the bathroom — thankfully there are some things we can do in the dark — then remembered that at our house, if the power is out, the water pump is off and water will not flow anywhere in the place. Which boils down to: no power, no flush.

I felt around in the linen closet until I put my hand on a candle, and wandered to the kitchen, where I set the candle on the counter and lit it. Whoever wrote the words, “It’s better to light just one little candle than to stumble in the dark…” was a wise person indeed. Though its flame be tiny, it’s incredible what one little candle can do. For one thing, I could use it to locate a few more.

I glanced at the battery-operated clock in the dining room. It read 6:25 am. At least another hour before dawn would lightened the eastern edge of our world.

With a candle burning in the bedroom, one on the dining room table, one in the hallway and a couple in the bathroom, life felt infinitely brighter. But with the light inside I couldn’t look outside; all I saw at the window was blackness. At one point Bob brought a flashlight and shone it outside so we could verify that winter has indeed arrived.

Pookie still wanted to go out, so I opened the side door. Now we both could look out and see the snow that had fallen in the night — and he could feel the icy wind whipping around the trailer door. He decided to stay in after all. Right then we were both extremely thankful to be on the inside looking out, rather than vise versa.

New Island Discovered

This morning’s Daily prompt asks us what guilty pleasures we still indulge in. Well…

Looking back, it seems I have spent most of my life feeling guilty about almost everything I’ve done…or haven’t done… so I could fill pages. But one specific guilty pleasure comes to mind now. Actually this starts with a left-over waft of inspiration from yesterday’s prompt, which I feel guilty for not having had the energy to respond to yesterday.

I feel embarrassed most of the time — and really guilty sometimes — about my silly sense of humor. And yet I indulge it every now and then by writing something absolutely foolish. And yesterday’s prompt about using 11-08-15* seems so willing to lend itself to silliness.

(*Or 08-11-15 depending on your nationality and I never can keep it straight which system we’re supposed to be following. We Canadians are inundated with US data, like 9/11 instead of 11/9 and all this rubbing shoulders with the Yanks confuses me.)

Anyway, I’ve thought of a tale which includes the number 110,815. You can read it here.

Tricks: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

The Daily Prompt asks what tricks someone could play on me that would truly scare me. There are a lot. I’m a timid sort, easily frightened. For example, if I smelled smoke and thought of our house going up in flames, that would definitely scare me.

But what’s the point? What pleasure would it give someone to know I’d been terrified? I’d call that weird.

On the subject of tricks, my mind goes back to something Cousin Bob Goodenough said. (This being the Bob G who’s fifth cousin three times removed to my Bob G. Hurray for Family Reunions!)

Anyway, he told his teenage son one day, “If you’re going to pull a prank, don’t do something stupid that you’re going to be embarrassed about later. Do something you’ll be proud of. Something unique or spectacular.”

He said when he was in his teens a group of guys had gotten together one night and dismantled some piece of equipment — or was it an old car? — and carried it piece by piece up to the top of a building. There they’d reassembled it so that in the morning folks passing by saw the complete piece of equipment sitting on the roof.

Now that was a novelty!

My Bob remembers that when he was a boy an old wagon appeared, through similar circumstances, on top to the town hall in Craik one Nov 1st. It gave folks a chuckle, but no one was terrified or injured.

Though I’m not a fan of tricks, I believe Cousin Bob had a point. So many young folks think it’s fun to destroy things. Why? It seems the anger in their own hearts seeks an outlet in nastiness to others. They find some way to wreak havoc and grief on their fellow man. Often they choose the most helpless as their victims; they don’t want to risk someone bigger and stronger catching up with them and punishing them for their misdeeds.

I remember a story from years ago about some boys who got together one night to play a prank. They walked to the shack of some Oscar-the-Grouch neighbour, thinking it would be fun to play a trick on him. So they scattered his woodpile all over the yard. “Boy, will this be a joke when Old man Smith gets up in the morning and sees this mess. Ha ha!”

But one boy, when he got home again, felt cheap and rather antsy about the prank. His father noticed and finally got it out of him. He reproved the lad. “Yes, Mr Smith does seem cranky, but you boys don’t know what he’s been through in life and what he’s suffering now with his health issues. It’s going to be a painful ordeal for him to put that woodpile back together. So let’s us play a good joke.”

The father rounded up his several sons and they went back to Old man Smith’s place. Working in the light of the moon for several hours, they not only put his woodpile back together, but stacked all the wood much closer to the house so he wouldn’t have so far to go to fetch his firewood come winter.

Then he said, “Now, boys, isn’t this a much better joke? When Mr. Smith gets up in the morning and looks out, instead of seeing a mess, he’ll see his woodpile has moved twenty yards closer to his door.”

We people tend to think of playing pranks the same way we think of playing chess. “If I do this then he will do this.” So the boys who screech and hold up a scary face in front of the living room window when a chum is home alone will say, “When he sees this he’s going to turn white and start shaking. That’ll be so funny!”

But people don’t always react as planned. The pranksters don’t anticipate that the victim may, in shock or terror, grab something and throw it at the face in the window. Cra-a-a-ck! The joke ends up involving a lot more damage than any of them expected. Someone may even be injured.

I heard the following story about one bridal couple. At their reception the groom, no doubt in high spirits, decided to play a little joke on his bride. He sweetly pulled her chair out for her, but as she was sitting down, he pulled it back and she fell on the floor. Unfortunately the way she fell damaged her spine. He pushed her around in a wheelchair from that day on.

When I was in Grade Seven we had a teacher everyone in the class liked. “April Fool’s Day” rolled around and some of the kids asked him if they could play a joke on him. Mr Secuur shook his head sadly. “My sister died as a result of an April Fool joke, and I just don’t want any part of pranks.” This comment sobered us all up.

However, that morning we were doing some special test, Social Studies or Science. As was the custom at our school, Mr Secuur tacked a note outside on our door which read, “Testing — Do not disturb,” just in case anyone should come along and interrupt this serious business.

And someone did come along. Mr. Pope, one of the other teachers happened by, perhaps to leave some teacher-type message, and saw that note. He pulled out his felt marker, crossed out the word “Testing.” When we opened the door for recess the joke was on us; the note now read “Sleeping — Do not disturb.”

We all laughed. 🙂