The times I have been most afraid have been when I have been deprived of control. I wouldn't say I'm a control freak, but I would say that I don't like flying or sitting in the back seat of a car driving along a cliff, for instance, because I am not in control of my situation. Same with a tram up a mountain. Or an elevator up a skyscraper. And I don't think I'm scared of dying as much as falling.
But as much as I profess to be scared of many things, and actively avoid things like skydiving and bungee jumping, I know that my fear has gradations.
The most terrified I have ever been was in September 2010, when I was driving down the Grand Central Parkway and the sky turned yellow, and the cars stopped, and suddenly I couldn't see, as water pounded my car and flashing lights appeared all around me. I felt a dread descend from my head into my stomach and below, down to my thighs. I found myself speaking to my frozen feet to move. I drove forward, almost blind, but following a red dot, the only remnant of the car in front of me I was able to discern. I was so close to home and yet I was sure I would never make it. But I had to. I was picking up my son.
And then the sky cleared and I found myself on Queens Boulevard. Entire traffic light poles were strewn. Every store window was smashed. Trees and branches littered every street. Cars were crushed. When I arrived to my oldest son's daycare, the playground fence was flattened. But everyone was safe.
A few years later, we went to the indoor water park Great Wolf Lodge. My oldest son, so brave, wanted to go on the big boy tube slide. He needed a parent with him. We climbed the stairs to just under the roof, many stories up. I found myself taking deep breaths and only looking up, not wanting to see how high we were. My legs were jelly. We finally got to the tunnel and I was still shaking while he was beaming. And then we pushed off and headed down...
And then there was a steep drop. I was watching him the whole time. I saw his smile turn to abject fear. And my grip on him slipped for just a moment. He was terrified. And his inclination was to let himself get pulled deeper into the inner tube, which did NOT have a bottom. And it was at that point something happened that was so much more powerful than even my will to drive through a tornado.
My fear disappeared. I gripped him with all my might and I was so focused on making him believe that everything would be okay that I forgot to be afraid. To this day, I have come to believe that love is greater than fear. But I'm not going back on that slide again.