Thursday, October 22, 2015

Things That Go Bump

It's almost Halloween, the season for spooky things, and so, in honor of the upcoming holiday, I made the completely misguided decision to read The Shining.  Which has now become the decision to read The Shining only during daylight hours.

Because I really hate scary things.  I always have.  I don't watch scary movies.  I don't watch American Horror Story.  I don't do haunted houses.  I don't like creepy stories about hauntings or possessions or anything.  I don't like being scared.

As a child, I had recurring slasher-esque nightmares of being chased by horrifying creatures and monsters, in spite of the fact that I never watched anything remotely scary.  I didn't read Goosebumps or watch Are You Afraid of the Dark? because I was afraid of the dark, and of the dreams I had.  I would wake up, almost paralyzed by fear and by the certainty that there was Something under my bed, ready to grab my ankles if I dared to put my feet on the ground.  If I did work up the nerve to get out of bed, it was only through leaping several feet into the room and away from whatever was lurking.  I went through a phase where I would have to check the entire house for burglars or killers before I could feel safe.

I was also convinced that I was going to be kidnapped.  It was the early 90s, when stories of kidnapped kids were everywhere on the news, and I just knew I was going to be one of them.  My face was going to be on a milk carton one day.  Those fears also found their way into my dreams.

Now, I'm allegedly an adult.  I'm thirty years old.  I no longer think I'm going to be kidnapped and I (usually) no longer need to check the bathroom for murderers.  

That doesn't mean I'm not still scared of things.  It just means the fears have changed.  The monsters have changed, and some of them are all too real.

I also still have nightmares, but they've changed too.  Now my recurring nightmares are of my ex-husband coming back, of running into him unexpectedly, of him telling me that he's bugged my house and knows everything I do.  I wake up from those just as panicked as from the nightmares of my childhood, and the thing that makes it worse is that these nightmares are based at least somewhat in reality.  No, I don't think that my house is under surveillance, but the possibility that he could be anywhere near me brings on a panic that I never before understood.  It brings back the memory of the months I spent being afraid to be alone with him, of secretly moving in with a different friend so he wouldn't know where I was.

There are other things I'm afraid of.  Failure.  Judgement.  Of not being good enough.  Spiders.   You know, the usual.

And I'm scared of making the same mistakes I did before, scared that the person I love and trust will somehow stop being the person he has proven, time and again, to be.  I'm scared that I will become someone unloveable.  

These fears really have no more validity than the things that chased me in my childhood dreams.  (Except spiders.  Spiders are the worst.)  They are, like all fears and nightmares, things that come out at night when you're alone, or feel alone.  They prey on vulnerability and make you second guess every decision, every word.

It's little wonder that Stephen King is capable of terrifying so many.  He doesn't just use monsters and crazed dogs and things that go bump in the night.  He taps into other, more real terrors: losing family, having those we love and trust turn on us, the inability to stop the inevitable, and the inability to overpower our own personal demons.  These are the things that are truly frightening, the things that can happen to any of us.

Luckily, life is not a Stephen King novel.  And I'm very rarely laying in bed, paralyzed by fear.  Anymore, things that go bump in the night are usually just my dog and my upstairs neighbors.  And, for the most part, the scariest thing that happens to me is my kitchen sink being clogged and my roof being replaced all in one day. 

And, in spite of being a giant scaredy-cat, I do like Halloween.  Of course I like Halloween.  I love dressing up.  I love costumes.  I love themed parties (so long as I can avoid any and all slasher movies on the TV), and Halloween is the ultimate combination of dressing up, costumes, and themes.  

Girls in a graveyard is always a good theme.
Honestly?  The biggest fear I have right now is finishing my costume in time.  

Stephen King's got nothing on that.

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