Monday, June 11, 2012

Does it make me a coward if I close my eyes?

There had been a major snow storm February 12, 2008 in New York City. I happen to be in town and my son happened to be out of town, so I carefully made my way to his upper west side apartment where I planned to hole up until the roads were cleared and I could safely make my way back to the North Fork of Long Island.

The apartment was nice and warm. Let me take that back the apartment was not nice and warm, it was a friggin furnace. Anyone who lives in a pre-war building in Manhattan knows that you cannot control the amount of steam heat that bellows out from the floor radiators and the exposed pipes. If you try to turn the knob on the side of the radiator to shut it off, the pressure builds up and the constant clanging in the pipes will keep everyone in the apartments on the floors above and below up all night. You do not win neighbor of the year award by doing this.

I opened the bedroom window, hoping that the frigid air would cool thing off a bit and make the apartment more comfortable. I sat at the small desk in the bedroom, my back to the window and continued working on my novel The Seeds Of A Daisy. It was one of those magical nights where the stars are aligned and the writing flows freely. It feels less like writing and more like taking dictation from a higher source. I had no concept of time or space, I was living the story and it was playing out in my head as if I was watching a movie.

During the evening I felt something softly brush against my leg and being that I was in that perfect zone, I didn't pay it any mind. It was after midnight when I finally  crawled into bed, exhausted but happy.  About an hour later I was awakened by a noise coming from the small metal garbage can by the side of the desk. It sounded like whatever was in there was desperately racing around the inside of the can looking for an escape route.

I was paralyzed with fear. I know what you're thinking, whatever is small enough to fit into a trash can could not be of any threat to a grown ass woman. WRONG!  I have always been terrified of rodents and cockroaches, I was positive it had to be one or the other.  If  someone was there with me, I would certainly have pulled the covers over my head and demanded that they eliminate the creature post-haste.

I got out of bed slowly, with the hairs on the back of my neck standing straight up, I tip-toed over to the can. No matter how much I wanted to, I  could not force myself to look inside  So here I was in the middle of the bedroom, quietly circling the outside of the garbage can, while the creature was loudly circling the inside of the can. We were caught in a symbiotic dance of fear and entrapment.

I looked in all the kitchen cabinets to find a large garbage bag to cover the can. I couldn’t find one anywhere.  I grabbed a cutting board and with my eyes closed, put it on top and strategically planned my next move.  Even though it was 3AM, in the middle of a snow storm and not in the best NYC neighborhood, I chose to brave the weather and dangerous elements, find the nearest 24 hour drugstore to buy garbage bags.  I did just that.  It took me over one hour to find a store that was opened, make my purchase, walk through the highest snow drifts I have ever seen in my life and get back to the apartment. With tears rolling down my face,  I covered the metal can with the large black leaf bag and with my foot, pushed it out of the apartment, into the elevator and then finally to the basement.

To this day, even though I have braved and overcome huge obstacles in life, I feel a bit ashamed that I didn't have the courage to look into the beady eyes of whatever it was running around inside that garbage can. Then it got me thinking:  In life:

Do we always have to face our fears with eyes wide open?

In The Wizard of Oz The Cowardly Lion  believes that his FEAR makes him inadequate.  Dorothy's furry pal did not understand that courage means ACTING in the face of fear, which he does frequently.  Acting in the face of fear, regardless if your eyes are wide open or tightly closed is always an act of courage.

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Alison is the award-winning author of The Lily Lockwood Series: The Seeds of a Daisy and soon to be published The Silver Cord.

The Seeds of a Daisy is available paperback and digital download: Amazon, and iTunes

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