Friday, November 13, 2009

The Shackles of Fear

It was a perfectly balmy summer night in July, half a lifetime ago, as I sat in a Canadian Tire parking lot in Etobicoke, waiting for my husband to finish work. I had the tunes blaring, the windows rolled down, and I was flipping through a Viceroy catalogue of house designs. In my rearview mirror, I saw two men approaching from the O'Toole's bar.

"Great" I thought. "A pick up." The men asked me for directions and then wandered over to another car where they spoke with the occupant for a while. The lights went out in the store, signalling its closure and the men reapproached my car. This time, as I pointed out my window to show them where they needed to go, one of the men somehow hauled me out of my car. I was a weightless object, flung onto the asphalt.

"Rape" was my thought. But no, they were climbing into my car. Too drunk to realize my keys were turned down in the ignition, the driver could not start the car immediately. I yanked on the door, senselessly thinking "James needs the car for work tomorrow!"

I was jumping up and down by the car, wanting my husband to see me from the store. He saw, but was fumbling with the store keys to unlock the door from the inside. By the time he made it out, I was somehow once again on the ground and the car was speeding away.

The car was recovered the following night, after two drive-by purse snatchings. The red hubcaps made the car easy to spot. The female policewoman who apprehended the men called me in, late at night, to identify them in an album of polaroid shots. They were younger than I was.

Weeks later, I received a victim impact statement but never filled it out. I didn't think I had been impacted. But now I know, as I lock my car doors, even now, 19 years later, in any parking lot, as I always look over my shoulder and as I never ever speak to a stranger through my car window.

That is one fear I carry. The other is that I will dislocate my knee yet again and feel the worst pain - the kind of pain that makes you vomit or pass out. I've done both, many times since I was 12. It got the point where I would angle my leg slightly the wrong way, and out would go my knee - eventually not wanting to go back in place. I finally had surgery fours years ago, but four years later I still lie in bed, flinching as I relive the moments of white lights and dizziness. Four years later I am too afraid to even run and gingerly watch each step I take, especially down stairs. Stairs don't like me.

I feel shackled by my fears. My experiences taught me to tread more carefully, figuratively and literally, but they also made me fear LIFE and LIVING. It affects my personal life and my professional life. Too many what-ifs. Too many reasons to just play it safe and hide.

I read "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway" - a great book without even cracking the spine - and I ask myself "what is the worst thing that can happen?" I need to also ask myself "what is the BEST thing that can happen?" And unlock the shackles. And live.

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