I sat gazing downward at the small yellow square tiles of the bathroom floor, their coolness pressing beneath my bear feet, listening to the sound of blood pumping within my ears as my heart raced. Elbows resting just above my knees, with my fingers interlocked, rocking back and forth in a vein attempt to comfort myself, as I faced the now increasing level of fear building within me.
Wait! What was that sound? Was it coming from mom and dad’s room? But I’m the only one here – right? Shhhh…What was that? Could it be? (I thought to myself) Is someone in my house? What can I do? I’m in this room and there is no where I can go – I’m trapped!
With each thought that crept into my mind, it seemed to actually duplicate and triplicate its self into newer and more terrifying possibilities.
You see I was located in the bathroom, which was dead center, (just to the right), in the long hallway of our home. To the left of the bath, up the hall, was the living room and to the right down the hall was my room on the left, my sister’s room at the end and my parent’s room to the right. Through my parent’s room was another smaller bath and just past that, the laundry area and back door. Continuing through was the kitchen, followed by the dining room and then on through to the living room and the front door.
It was 1977 in Homewood, Alabama in our 3 bedroom / 2 bath house on Knoll Crest Drive and I was all of 11 years old. Finally at an age that I could be left alone at home, and very proud of this, I had not foreseen the predicament I was now in. Long before residential alarm systems for the average family or cell phones, (which I would likely have had with me), there was only one warning system to count on…the bells my mom had hanging on the back door. I’d not heard anything, but I thought, “Could I have just not heard it?”
Slowly I moved towards the door and every step seemed like an utter eternity, as I desperately wanted to avoid any sound that might give away my location. I gently pressed my ear against it in an attempt to hear the intruder that I had now convinced myself was prowling within our home. Did he have a gun? Would he kidnap me? Pushed to the point of absolute terror I decided that live or die…I couldn’t take it anymore…I had to face it now!
Ever so carefully, (hands now trembling uncontrollably from the adrenaline rushing through my body), I began to turn the knob of the bathroom door, gently opening it inward towards myself, certain that I would find the intruder standing before me. Unable to breathe, looking forward as the door opened and thankful to find that no one was there. Ever so cautiously I eased my head out, slowly turning it to look towards the living room, my eyes scanning its interior and seeing nothing. Now swallowing deeply, my heart racing with the thought that perhaps the intruder was going to be at the other end of the hall watching me, I slowly eased my head towards the right, and just before my eyes came around to fully look up, (out of my peripheral vision), I saw a tall man in a suit with a hat at the end of the hall. Letting out a guttural scream, in one fluid motion, (moving like an NFL receiver), my legs and body juking back to run the other way… suddenly and without warning it happened ~ B A M!!!! I ran straight into the door frame to my left, (because I’d forgotten that my body was still in the bathroom), and knocked myself out cold.
When I came to, I found myself lying on my back, with one leg remaining inside the bathroom door, (my body pointed in the direction of the living room), staring up at the ceiling and feeling the carpet beneath me with a shooting pain in my face. It was then that I remembered the man in the suit and fear again flooded my mind as I slowly tilted my eyes to look backwards from my position on the floor, and there he stood; (now appearing upside down). It was also then I realized that in fact it was not a man, but my sister’s door length poster of Clark Gable that I’d forgotten all about. Ever so slowly my heart rate began to decrease and I made my way back to my feet – thankful that no one but me witnessed all that had occurred.
Fear and a vivid imagination are a powerful combination. How many times do we allow the mere thought of something that we are afraid of to creep into our minds? Then, rather than doing something to resist or rid ourselves of this fear, we instead dwell on it and ponder its possibilities until we find ourselves overcome, causing our actions to then be dictated by our fears rather than our intellect, resulting in any number of painful and/or awkward situations.
An example of this is: Fearing that an employer might terminate your job. A fear that originated because you noticed your supervisor watching you more than normal and you heard that your employer was talking about you to someone on the phone…and they were NOT observed to be smiling. Allowing the idea of being terminated to be dwelled upon; sleep is lost, irritability away from work occurs, joy is gone and then it happens…You are called into the bosses office, and with each step fear turns to anger. Just before you explode in a verbal fear driven tirade, your boss begins to tell you that you’re being promoted and you begin to realize what could have happened if you’d have spoken out of that fear.
I would dare not say that I never struggle with allowing fear to take the driver’s seat, especially in situations that are foreign to me – but thankfully it doesn’t remain in that seat for long. Healthy fear protects, unhealthy fear creates harm and the solution is found in the actions that we take, contrary to our fear. In order to face those fears, I’ve found that asking God for courage enables them to be dealt with by talking to someone and gathering accurate information and/or direction, allowing for healthy action and positive results to be attained.
© 2013-2014 Rebecca Balko