Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fear Zone

Today I'm writing to you about a personal topic.  

I'm feeling very vulnerable lately, and it's an uncomfortable feeling.  If there is one thing about vulnerability I have learned from years of being an actor, studying characters and their relationships, and watching human interaction, it is that every person is vulnerable in some way.  Usually, other people's vulnerability makes us uncomfortable, because, for some reason, most people learn from an early age those types of emotions are meant to be kept silent or hidden.  However, vulnerability is also the key that make each of us unique and interesting in our own right.  It is the emotion that makes us more complex and more than one dimensional.  And by vulnerability I don't just mean tears.  We can be vulnerable in our anger and joy, as well as our grief.  I say all that in explanation of why I feel I need to share this.

I grew up feeling safe.  I'm from a relatively small, welcoming town.  I can readily admit now that I was mostly sheltered, but in a healthy sense.  In my childhood, danger was possible rattlesnake bites or falling off the trampoline.  Danger was crossing a busy street without looking both ways first.  Danger was making poor grades.  Danger was eating too much sugar.  Danger was doing something we knew we weren't supposed to do and hearing "We'll just wait until your father gets home."  That always made us want to shit our pants.  Thanks, Mom.

I rarely, very rarely, feared for my personal safety from another human being.  I can't remember feeling physically threatened by another person, and if I did, I think I swept it under my "I'm tough" rug.  I left my car unlocked all through college.  I've never had anything stolen from me, except my purse which I set down in Target and walked away from.  Dumb.  I laughed when my dad wanted to give me pepper spray when we moved to D.C.  It never occurred to me that I would have any reason to use it.

On the first day of the new year, three women about my age were assaulted in Austin. One was attacked on the street, before the man fled.  One awoke to being choked in her own bed, but survived.  One was murdered in her own home.  

All these crimes were committed in our neighborhood, mere blocks away, within the same time frame, and likely by the same person.  Since then there have been hundreds of crime tippers and anonymous calls into the APD.  They have no definite leads.  Several other women have called in reports of seeing a man (fitting the loose description of the attacker) peering into their homes through a window.

I have lived in several different states, all over the country.  I lived near rednecks, country bumpkins, gangs, drug dealers, and politicians alike.  I lived in a city with an extremely high crime rate, where I often walked places by myself, sometimes at night.  I have never been afraid like I am afraid right now.

Of all places, Austin, Texas, with one of the country's lowest crime rates in the country, would be the place I find fear.

Now, this isn't a debilitating fear.  I haven't shut myself in my home and refused to leave, but that's probably because I don't feel entirely safe in my own home.  Clearly, this man knows about breaking and entering.  I haven't missed a day of work.  I haven't really changed my routine.  I AM taking extra precautions.  Hubby doesn't leave me alone at home at night, if it's at all avoidable.  We agreed that Mr. Dog gets to bark, at what or whomever he wants and anytime someone comes near our house.  We no longer scold him.  I never walk around after dark by myself, in fact, I don't even take out the trash.  I lock the door every time I go in or out.  I keep my (now seemingly reasonable) supply of pepper spray in the same spots so I know exactly where to reach for it.  I keep my phone in my pocket.  I look around me as I leave work and walk to my car.  I am more "aware" and "alert."

But I've been having trouble sleeping.  I have had many violent dreams.  I feel unsettled.  Vulnerable.  And these faces are the reason why:

I can't put my finger on why this crime has affected me, more than any other.  Likely reasons are also the most obvious: the close proximity, victims sharing personal similarities, the killer is still at large.  However, I think I'm also old enough to recognize how valuable life is, and how particularly I feel like I have so much more left to do.  I bet this woman, Esme Barrera, felt the same way and would have answered as much, had she been asked.  

I think situations like this also cause us to ask ourselves questions we wouldn't normally: are you a fighter?  If someone attacked you, would you defend yourself?

I used to know the answer to this question, but now I'm not sure what my reaction would be.  I have to admit, some of the "Laurel Fierce" has been shaved away, and it's time I grew it back.  I might live in a neighborhood that is full of fear right now, but I also live next door to really great people, who I know look out for one another.  I have a husband who I know would do anything possible to protect me, and doesn't laugh at me for feeling insecure.  And Lord knows, I have the best little shrill alarm system for our house . . . and it's free because we feed it! 

So I won't be conquered by this fear.  But I do need to be honest about it, because as a really smart person once said:

The only thing we have to fear is fear it'self - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified, terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. (President FDR)

I don't think my fear is unjustified or unreasonable, but I did think it was time for me to stop letting it dominate my thoughts.  I have now given my fear a name.  And once something has been named, it can be defeated.

Courage is not the lack of fear but the ability to face it. (Lt. John B. Putnam, Jr.)

Note: I write this post with the full knowledge that unavoidably both my Mom and MIL will read it: so Mom(s), don't freak out.  We're fine.  You'll worry about us until this sick bastard is caught, but just hope and pray he is vulnerable in some way, and that happens more quickly than expected.

1 comment:

  1. I am afraid when i'm home alone at night. I hear noises. When the dogs bark I get scared. Something about being dark outside and a big house with lots of hiding places. But, we have an alarm system. And it makes me feel much more safe. seriously. You should get one!