I’m afraid of everything

Thunderstorms. They’re loud and wet and can cause unruly weather-related harm on whatever they pass over. They are a precursor to floods and tornados and hail. They ruin picnics and kayak trips and weddings.

Who cares. It doesn’t matter. I haven’t been afraid of thunderstorms since I was three.

That is, until this past week.

Now, every rumble scares me. A severe weather forecast makes me nauseous. The mere mention of rain causes my bowels to churn, my forehead to sweat, my entire disposition to revert into panic.

We’ve spent the last ten days dealing with a too-high water table and a constant threat of leaking water. A once-in-a-lifetime weather event, one we’re fortunate enough to receive only a portion of, has left us scared. We’ve finally torn out floorboards and sheet rock. We’ve fretted over the future. We even cancelled Sierra’s 3rd birthday party.

Don’t even ask me about that one. It’s enough to bring me to tears.

But it’s not the rain we’re worried about. We’ve got that covered through a system of wet-vac hoses and split second deployment processes that would qualify us for medals and special compensation from most major U.S. military branches. And it’s not the flooding, either – we’ve got everything torn out, so we certainly won’t be ruining anything new. It’s not the repairs. It’s not the money. It’s nothing material.

It’s that we don’t know when this will end.

We go through life with a series of end dates, our plans developing natural conclusions, our dreams the only items worth putting off indefinitely. We know when things will end and we feel safe in saying, “Well, this won’t last much longer,” even though sometimes it does last a lot longer and even though sometimes things never really end. We have that date. We live by that date. We understand the date, what it is that we’re working toward, what it is that will save us from the unspeakable fate of falling into confusion and uncertainty and utter shame.

Right now, we don’t have that. We don’t know what the weather will do. We understand that a sudden inch of rain will throw us back into the frantic wet-vac switching monsters we have become over the past week.

We as humans use knowledge as a crutch, assuming we’re in full control of our situation as long as we’re totally comfortable with the facts. If we know the outcome, we can plan for the outcome, and we can learn to live with the outcome, and we can move forward, the outcome a major part of our life but still there’s an outcome to understand so we’re richer and more lively human beings because of it.

Without that knowledge, however, we melt. We become useless. We snap at our kids and break down into tears and feel so utterly helpless that nothing else matters.

I know. I’ve been working through it, living with this stupid fear of rain, of waking up knee deep in the water that’s been haunting me even in my dreams, forcing me to misinterpret our dog’s curled up torso as a water leak in the middle of the night, causing me to reach for the floor to feel if it’s dry.

I know that someday I won’t be afraid of thunderstorms. Instead, I might be afraid of the future of my industry. Or of what my kids are doing when I’m not around. Or of the march of time and its effects on my personality and health. Or of dying. Certainly, I’ll be afraid of dying.

Ultimately, it’s just the fear of the unknown. And as much as we all may try to deny it, we all suffer from it.

If anyone has any cure, let me know.

This was lovingly handwritten on August 8th, 2010