I Want To See You Be Brave
I didn’t think of Voldemort,” said Harry honestly. “I – I remembered those dementors.”Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban
“I see,” said Lupin thoughtfully. “Well, well… I’m impressed.” He smiled slightly at the look of surprise on Harry’s face. “That suggests that what you fear most of all is — fear. Very wise, Harry.”
I remember the first time I read that scene in Harry Potter, roughly around the age of 13 years old or so, when Harry was asked what his bogart was. I remember wondering what my own biggest fear was. Not just what I was afraid of but what my biggest fear was. For instance, I didn’t like spiders like Ron but I wouldn’t go so far to say that spiders were what I was most afraid of. I wanted to know what my bogart would be. Here’s what I knew.
Up until this point, I was very afraid of the dark. I was afraid of horror movies, specifically ghosts and the supernatural. Not so much vampires or zombies but other type of demons and other monsters. (Leslie Nielsen in Dead & Loving it sort of ruined being afraid of vampires for me.) But I remember being too afraid to let my leg dangle off the bed lest it be grabbed and pulled under by whatever monster lurked underneath. I suppose that is fairly common but I remember feeling singled out and alone. No one I knew was also afraid of the dark the way I was, including any of my friends from school. My fear was so strong that even though my grandparents and my mother lived next door to each other, my grandfather installed motion detector lights between our houses. Otherwise I would never leave unescorted and clung to his side.
When I was ten I decided one day that I didn’t want to be afraid anymore, or at the very least, I wanted to try. It wasn’t something anyone told me to do or had even called me names. No one called me a scaredy cat or to get over it. People had told me the monsters weren’t real and I had wanted to believe them. I wanted to move past my fear. I had just… wanted to be brave. Later I would realize, I acted very much like the way Harry would practice with the bogart dementor over and over again.
So I begged my mom to take me to Blockbuster and rent a horror film. The movie I chose was about a haunted mansion and the guests had to survive the night in order to win a lot of money. I don’t remember the title of the film other than looking back it was very much a slap stick horror but telling my 10 year old self that you wouldn’t have believed it. She rented the movie and I took it back to my grandparents. It’s probably why she rented it, I don’t think it was above a PG 13 rating. It was the middle of a bright and sunny California afternoon but I had holed myself up into my grandpa’s room making it as dark as I could while he was in the other grading history papers. I remember not only needing to pause the movie several times as I squealed and ran out of the room and into the sunlight, much to my grandfather’s amusement. I would take several deep breaths, drink a glass a water from the kitchen and remind myself that I could do this. There wasn’t anything to be afraid of. It wasn’t real. With that, four hours into a 90 minute movie later, I had gotten through it.
It had and it hadn’t been as bad as I had feared. I was mostly glad that it was over. It wasn’t like watching one barely horror film got me over the fear of the dark or the supernatural but it was the pivotal moment where I remember starting my journey. I still remember as a seventeen year old teenager, screaming into my high school boyfriend arms and hiding my face into his chest just before each suspense scene, even worse when he would purposely pinch my sides. But I had started to get enjoyment of being scared. Scary was starting to be less scary.
Fast forward a couple decade later to a thirty-four woman writing this. I’ve come to enjoy the darkness, not for what I can’t see hiding within it but knowing I am strong enough to face whatever monster that could come out of it, including the nightmares I would have. From teeth falling out to straight up dying in a dream, I learned to know what it meant and how to handle it. For example, when my teeth would fall out I learned through dream studies that this meant I was having the fear of losing control. Many times in my nightmares I would have tried to shove the teeth back in my mouth only to have them fall out moments later. So I practiced over and over again how to let go, how to lose that control. When my teeth fell out, I let my mouth turn into the bogart of a gummy grandma. “So what?” I would tell my subconscious as I licked my toothless gums. “This doesn’t scare me anymore.” I laughed at it and just learned to be what is. When I dreamed of dying, I let myself die. “Go ahead“, I told my dream. “Die.” The sensation of darkness would cloud my eyes and I would just be there in my dream of nothingness and I learned to say, “is that all?” I literally have not had either of these nightmares in years because of this. I am not afraid nor let the fear of these dreams control me.
This would also include an experience back in 2019 when I had my first sleep paralysis moment. I swore I saw a ghost standing inside the doorway to my room staring at me but not entering. I was terrified and couldn’t move. My body felt paralyzed. Once I was awake I had to take lots of slow deep breaths as I sat up in my bed afterwards. I went online to research what it meant. It was the scariest experience I had ever had to date and I went to talk about it with others. Once I realized what it meant, I was still scared but I said ok. I waited for it to happen again but it hasn’t. I’m not saying I want to see a sleep paralysis demon again only that I had gotten a deep sense of peace of what exactly I was looking at.
I am fascinated with ghosts and the paranormal but I admire it from a respectful distance. The Conjuring series and The Skeleton Key are probably to this date the horror films that have freaked me out the most as an adult. I’m still not a fan the grim reaper and I also no longer fear hearing the dreadful cry of a banshee siren as I lay my head down to sleep. The point is while apart of me is over my fear, there will always be a small part of me that truly isn’t.
I say all of this today because as brave as I sound with all of these things, I am still very much a scaredy cat and run away from many different experiences. I know I am a Gryffindor but I still cower in fear many a times. A lot of the time my anxiety gets so bad that when my fight or flight sensors kick in, I run. And it’s one of the many things I dislike about myself. I want to be brave. And I want to see myself be brave.
Courage is and has always been the biggest value I place in life. Courage to do what’s right. Courage to tell the truth. Courage to standup in difficult times, even if it means being alone. Courage when you are afraid, especially when you are afraid. So when I can’t be brave, which is a lot, I get upset with myself. That being said I rarely get upset with others for also being afraid simply because I empathize with how they are feeling. For instance I empathized when Lee ran away and had just hoped if I had given him space, eventually he would be brave. Except he couldn’t and I lost too much respect for him as a person. It’s one thing to be afraid it’s another to refuse to overcome your fear, especially when it comes to being honest.
I started writing this blog entry on August 26th when I was out at the beach with my friend with benefits, The New Yorker because it was the first time I wasn’t fearless around him.
The first time we ever went to the beach together was back in July on the Island of Palms. I was very excited about this because it was the second beach I have ever been to here in Charleston. I went last year with a man named Fishsticks but it had been at night and during the middle of winter and not what I qualify as an experience since there was well.. nothing to see! The New Yorker and I went and had lunch first before heading to the beach. We laid our towels down and then ran together towards the ocean. I was excited to wade through the water and play but the New Yorker kept on going.
“Wait for me!” I called after him but he didn’t hear me nor did he stop. He just kept on going further and further in.
I’m not a strong swimmer and I never have been, but the fear of being left behind and not wanting The New Yorker to see me so afraid kept me pushing forward. Wave after wave splashed me in the face and I flinched, scared. The New Yorker finally turned around to look for me and he started laughing. Albeit not in a cruel way, my discomfort often amuses him and he often tells me he finds my behavior well… cute. He told me to go under the waves and I shook my head no. The idea of having my head underwater was definitely a no go for me. So he said to put my back to the waves and I did. I don’t remember if he told me to jump as the wave came or if I did it instinctively. My chest bounced like a cartoon character and I was self conscious of the people at the beach watching but I had to admit that, that was fun.
I kept wading little by little closer to The New Yorker and the waves slowly stopped breaking so heavily and then I was past them. I was treading water as my feet could not touch the bottom of the ocean floor but I was having so much fun. The New Yorker was floating on his back and his arms spread out as if he were completely at ease with the world. I couldn’t let myself be that calm but I was so proud of myself for making it this far. I had wanted to do this for years and was finally doing it. The New Yorker did tease me a couple more times that afternoon. Especially when a jellyfish brushed up against his swim trunks and then that same jelly fish started following me. I shrieked and kept trying to swim away but the jellyfish kept following me. The New Yorker was howling with laughter.
“If I get stung you are so peeing on me just so you know!” I yelled at him. This only fueled his laughter.
“There isn’t anything to worry about!” He reminded me and I stared at him disbelievingly. He had me feel the slick oozy slime on his swim trunks and I immediately pulled my hand away, grossed out. He laughed some more.
Our main beach of choice thus far between The New Yorker and I has definitely been Folly. This is mostly due to the proximity of where we live and we like the retail businesses in the area. What prompted this journal entry like I said in the beginning of the blot post was what happened on August 26th. That was the day I had heard from Lee for the first time in several months. I hadn’t been able to reply to his email yet and I was spending all afternoon out with The New Yorker how I wanted to reply back. But it was more than that.
The New Yorker and I did our usual thing. We ate a late lunch/early dinner at Rita’s and then went to the beach. We laid our towels down but instead of running to the beach like we normally do, I sat down and scanned the horizon, looking but also lost in thought. The first thing I noticed was that the waves were really strong. There were a lot and they were good if you wanted to surf. I wasn’t a surfer. So instantly I was hesitant. The New Yorker sat down by me and asked if everything was okay.
“Yup!” I replied and started putting on sunblock. I asked him to put some on my back and he asked me if I wanted to go into the water. “Sure,” I said not confidently. I walked slower as he ran. He dove into the waves my feet were just touching the water. He swam and swam while I stopped when the water reached just past my hips. I stopped like a horse and no amount of pulling or tugging would pull them further. You could lead me to water but you could not make me drink. The waves reach what felt like fifty feet high and I imagined myself being crushed under them, pushing all the oxygen from my lungs till my last breath was gone. I imagined twisting and twirling helplessly underneath the sea panicking, never knowing if I would reach the surface again. I couldn’t make myself move further.
“No,” I thought to myself. “I don’t want to do this.” I turned around and head back for the beach. As I sat down I saw The New Yorker following me, looking completely confused. He sat down and asked, “Is everything alright?”
I shook my head and told him that the waves were just too strong for me. I reminded him that I was just not a strong swimmer. I apologized but said I was just too scared. I told him he should go back in and have some fun, that I was okay. But, he didn’t go, he stayed. “Sure,” he said. “In a minute,” and with that he laid on his back being the sloth man I knew. I smiled because it was sweet. I pulled my towel closer to his and laid my head on his chest. He pulled me closer, kissed my forehead and rubbed my back. When I sat up again I was covered in sand but I didn’t care.
“Ready to try again?” he asked around twenty minutes later.
“Sure,” I told him, more confidently this time. I didn’t know if I was, the waves still looked the same but I wanted to try.
The New Yorker walked beside me this time and didn’t rush in. I made it to the same spot as before. When the water touched just higher than my hips, I froze again.
“Try going under the waves,” he told me, floating nonchalantly as a fish.
“No,” I said back.
“Are you scared?”
“Yes,” I said nodding.
“I don’t know…” I said honestly. I wanted to be brave for him so badly, but I just couldn’t. I was upset with myself and I wanted to cry. Why couldn’t I be brave? Why couldn’t I do this? I didn’t know. “It’s okay,” I told him. “I’m just going to hang out here for awhile, go on in if you want. I promise.”
“You sure?” he asked.
“Yep!” I said encouragingly. I could tell he really wanted to and waved him on. I stood there for about ten minutes, watching him swim. He looked like a dolphin the way he put his arms together and dove. He looked like he was having the time of his life. After awhile I waved and signaled to him that I was going back and he gave me a thumbs up. I sat watching the waves from the beach, letting my mind drift. On top of being upset over my fear and the worry on how I was going to reply back to Lee, I kept feeling guilty for not being emotionally present here for The New Yorker. This wasn’t fair to him. About fifteen minutes later The New Yorker came out of the water and flopped back down next to me with a big tired sigh.
“Ahhh,” he said. “You were right not to go out there, the waves are really, really strong.” I nodded in agreement. “Are you sure if everything’s okay?”
I apologized and told him about Lee and then I apologized for not being good company and not being emotionally present. It was making The New Yorker uncomfortable because we have an unspoken rule about having intimate conversations to maintain our just friends with benefits relationship, so I told him as quickly as I could. Again I apologized.
“I’m okay,” I said reassuringly. “I just need time to sort things out and how I am going to reply back.”
Not too much later we ended up packing everything up and going home.
I don’t know what the point of today’s blog is other than I am trying really hard to not be so afraid. Everyday I am trying to be fearless. My confidence has sky rocketed since June and I already notice a different in just the way I walk. I walk with my head taller and my posture straighter. I no longer try to make myself smaller everywhere I go, I embrace my size and I even make direct eye contact with everyone. But I still have such a long way to go.
I still get afraid every single day. I am still trying to push myself into not being so afraid to vlog, knowing that it would help me but also that there would be others happy to see what I put out. I’ve received several compliments on my blog, a blog I didn’t think anyone would care about and each and every one of those comments has touched my heart.
I can’t always promise to be brave, but I can always promise that I will try and do my best. And I hope you can too.