I’m a bit despondent because my middle son is leaving early Friday morning to drive very far away to his new college. Then both my sons will be too far away for their mama’s heart. I’m growing through this, but it feels much more like tearing.
So I was feeling uninspired all day until I took Max out for his afternoon walk. Another dog about Max’s size barked at him with his loud, booming bark. I looked up at him and thought, “Oh, yeah, mister? You’re not so scary.” And then I remembered when he was.
The length of Max’s walks depends on how my body’s feeling. One route is around the large grassy area in the center of the apartments. I really dreaded having to walk by a certain building across the park from us. On one apartment’s balcony, a 4’ x 8’ piece of plywood had been leaned against the railing, not blocking the view in from people outside, but from their dog looking out. The hard part, even though the attack-noises came from the third story, was that whenever we walked by, the frightening sounds of the dog hitting against the plywood and rattling the railing, and his growling and barking made me think this mad dog was going to one day knock the plywood over the railing onto our heads. In my mind, the dog was Cujo, Stephen King’s formerly friendly St. Bernard who contracted rabies and went on a killing spree. That’s imagination for you.
I’ve never been a fan of bloody horror movies, but I have to admit I like the psychological thrillers, and sometimes would feel like I was going to jump out of my skin—until a friend told me to mute the TV. She was right. When I turn the sound off, the movies are way less scarier; in fact, without the screams and escalating music they’re just moving pictures of people. And the dog I couldn’t see and thought to be a monster, like the wizard in Wizard of Oz, wasn’t scary at all once I saw him. He was just a dog, same as the authoritarian wizard was just a man.
Though I love having a vivid imagination, this is a good reminder that what we fear is happening may not really be what is happening. Sometimes when we’re scared it’s good to sort out the facts, calling on our courage and using all five senses. Fear loves having us in its grip but we don’t need more things to be afraid of, especially the ones created in our imaginations.