An Advice Column I Write to Myself, Letter Six — Q: Dear Kelly, I Don’t Feel Safe. Like, Ever. How do I stop being scared all of the time?
A long time ago, I was something like fearless. It’s weird to think of now, but I honestly wasn’t scared of most anything. Not of people, places, or things. Now? Now I am scared of almost every single man I see, I am scared of both the indoors and outdoors, I’m scared of food and medicine and cars and planes. I’m literally scared of everything.
I’ve been trying to figure out how I got here. I know some of the reasons. It was like I had some injuries buried way deep in my body, and they had gone dormant. And then they woke up. They woke up because of something I did, or somewhere I went, or someone I spoke to. And I guess it doesn’t really matter how they woke up — because they are AWAKE NOW AND THEY WON’T GO BACK TO SLEEP.
We moved into a new city and a new apartment almost six months ago. Since we arrived, I have slept in my bedroom with Nic just a handful of times. Most nights, I stand/sit/sleep in the living room, where I’m near the front door — just in case someone tries to come in. I’m on the front line. I am living my life on the front line of a battle that most nights, doesn’t even exist.
Every now and then, I will start out in the bedroom, but I can’t make it through the night. I get up to greet 1am, then I hang out with 2am, and then spend some more time with the magic hour of 3am — all while I check windows, and walk around to see if I can hear anyone outside of the house who wants to come in and take anything away from me. (And by anything, I am not talking about a t.v.)
Will I sleep again? In a bedroom all night? Will my fears go to sleep again? I want to sleep again. I went my fears to go the fuck to sleep again.
I am so tired.
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
Hey. I’m tired, too. I’m you — remember? I’m tired. And I wish you’d let up on this shit so that we could get some sleep. And so that we could sleep near Nic, the ever-peaceful slumberer, who doesn’t ever think that a bad thing in the entire world is going to happen to him. You know how you totally ‘hate’ that about him? You could also use some of that. Just a light peppering of his insane non-fear into your fear-filled psychosis could actually do a great amount of good. Maybe ask him why he feels so damn safe? Maybe — when you do ask — listen to him for once?
Or don’t. Sorry. I’m putting my job on someone else. You asked ME what to do. So I’m gonna tell you!
How about you rely on your memory?
Do you remember that there have been three times you almost landed in some serious trouble?
What happened, each time, that something outside of you (or inside your body) almost did you in?
Some larger force guided you on what to do. Each time.
Let’s go back and revisit one of them.
You were asleep on the couch twelve years ago, in that house you shared with your sister — while her new baby slept in the crib — when, all of the sudden, your dead-asleep body woke you up with three words booming in your ears. CHECK THE DOOR. And what did you do, after these words literally woke you up with a call to action? You closed your eyes again, sleepily telling yourself the door should be locked and fine, and that life is safe and fine, and you allowed yourself to just drift off on that couch again.
AND THEN. Minutes later? Your body WOKE YOU UP AGAIN. You heard the same words, booming. CHECK THE DOOR. You were annoyed as shit. Shuffled your feet around, still in a reclined position. Rubbed your eyes a little. Touched your hair. Thought about the baby sleeping. Thought about how tired you were. Thought about how the door should be fucking locked because you had asked the last person leaving to fucking lock it so you should not have to get off of the couch and check the fucking door right now, no matter what a little voice in your head is telling you. And then you stood up. And shuffled your feet towards the door. And walked through the tiny entryway. And reached your right hand for the doorknob. And watched, while it began to turn, at the exact moment that your hand was held there, over it. It started to turn clockwise. Ohmygod. Someone was turning it FROM THE OUTSIDE.
Your breath caught itself on the way back into your body. It tripped over your vocal cords and created a sort of terrified gurgle, and your hand — while it should have had the balls to continue to find its place on the doorknob and FUCKING LOCK IT — it retreated, instead! It flew back, towards your body, and found itself resting on your chest, while your heart beat a million miles a minute. And then you heard another sound. With the window open, you could hear the person, the person-who-was-almost-an-intruder — retreat. They scuttled past the bushes, and the bushes shook, and you heard their body run off into the night.
The next day, you were watching the news and heard that every single house that sat on the same side of the street you were on had been hit. Every single house. The intruder (who wasn’t technically an intruder at all, at least for you — because he didn’t get in) — hit a huge number of houses. And he almost made it into yours.
But he didn’t.
I mean, I don’t totally know the answer to that. But I know that some force was working with you to protect you that night. That voice that woke you up until you got your ass up and obeyed it.
I don’t know if that voice came from inside of you or outside of you — and frankly, I don’t care. A warning from somewhere fell upon you. You weren’t alone. You aren’t ever alone. Cliche? Yes. True? Certainly appears to be.
I know you’re working on the issues surrounding the nature of the fears and the patterns of the fears and how to deal with the fears. I hope you beat the shit out of them. That they retreat, or at least that they go back to sleep.
But for now, just put yourself to sleep. See what happens when you remind yourself that you have been wildly protected by something like a combination of premonition and grace. Turn the porch light on, and lock the three locks on the door. Kiss your dog and your baby on the head. And then walk the short distance to your bedroom, lie down next to your husband, and go to sleep.