I am intensely affected by movies. When I saw Paranormal Activity, the low budget horror film about a couple living together when a dark presence eventually possesses the girl to the point of no return, it took nearly a month for me to recover.
The first night I lay awake in bed with the covers clutched under my chin, wide-eyed, staring at the ceiling. Every bump in the night spooked me. When my eyes finally became heavy the clock struck 3:00 a.m. (which is when all of the horribly scary things happen in the movie) and my laptop, which I had been listening to Pandora on earlier, started sputtering and skipping the most eerie song by Balmorhea. TERRIFIED I clambered out of bed and whacked the computer like it had come to life.
I googled like a mad woman the next morning “true life stories similar to Paranormal Activity” for at least an hour. I found the tale about Steven Spielberg’s experience after watching the film. When he tried to go to the bathroom right after finishing the movie, the door to the bathroom was locked… from the opposite side where no one was!!! That convinced him to produce the made-at-home flick the very next day (or so the story goes).
So, the next night, as my ex and I were preparing for bed. I was blabbering on and on about the previous night’s spookiness, how Steven Spielberg and I were meant to be besties, and my nervousness to turn the lights out in the coming hours.
“Oh stop making something out of nothing. You’re fiiine.” he poked, distracted by brushing his teeth. That night, around 3:00 a.m., the bathroom door (which we always kept open) slammed shut… on its own!
“What the!” he blared as he awoke from his peaceful slumber. I lay there, never having fallen asleep, paralyzed, positive I was about to be ripped from bed by some terrible force I now knew had followed us home from the movie theater, “See, SEE! Oh my Gooood, you invited it in here with your making fun of me while you were brushing your teeth!” I whisper screamed barely audible, hoping whatever was terrorizing our house would go after the louder of the two of us giving me a chance to formulate an escape plan.
The following night we both stayed up a little later than usual watching HBO with nearly every light turned on in the house. Neither of us told the other what was keeping us from going to bed. We finally switched the lights off and fell asleep. Around 3:00 a.m., something hair-raising happened again! The lights and ceiling fan began flickering and spinning wildly! I dove down deeper inside of my blanket fortress (a defense blockade I had carefully constructed earlier that evening intended for my protection. Because everyone knows a murderer or malevolent spirit can’t nab you under the covers) like a jack rabbit intent on escaping a pack of hounds.
“AAAAGGHHH!!!” I screamed wildly, whipping my head back and forth with my eyes squeezed tightly shut, ready to blindly Kung Fu fight whatever was obviously out to get us. “What the - WHAT THE?!” my ex yelled as he clumsily fumbled with the bedside lamp.
We slept with the lights on for three days after that night.
It’s been 10 years since seeing that movie on Halloween opening night, and almost just as long since knowing that ex. But still to this day when I start to become fearful I recollect that experience. There was a woman I used to go to for advice back then. She didn’t bat an eye when I regaled her with my detailed recounting of that week’s haunting incident. As I breathlessly finished my story she gave a thoughtful pause before sharing with me some of her many words of wisdom, “Ali, what we choose to believe is our reality. All we have are our thoughts. Don’t let your thoughts happen to you, you need to happen to your thoughts. Make your reality what you want it to be one thought at a time.”
This goes for everything we perceive in our lives. What we think in every moment shapes the reality we live in. For years after being diagnosed with diabetes I lived in fear of the future. What would I do if I lost my health insurance? How would I survive if I couldn’t work anymore due to complications? What if I didn’t have the use of my legs anymore because of amputation? How would I drive myself to dialysis if I suffer from retinopathy (diabetic blindness) if my kidneys were to fail? What if I have to move back home with my parents because I develop handicaps due to diabetes? What if my partner leaves me because they can’t cope with the responsibilities of dating a person with diabetes? Well, most of these fears have come true in my life, and it is in all of my fears coming true that I finally have been able to begin living a fearless life.
I’d like to add something more to what my mentor shared with me, “Fears are only thoughts. Just as we are always thinking new thoughts, there will always be new fears. Instead of refusing them at the door, invite them into your house and get to know them. When you face your fears in full view, there is no way for them to sneak around the back of your home and break in, stealing your happiness.”
Before, my reality limited me to a space as small and stifling as that blanket fortress I built to protect me, hiding away from my fear That is what fear does. It keeps us from stepping out and living the infinite possibilities of realities out there. Fear forces its own false truth upon you. It leaves you with a reality that is not your own to live in. So today, if you’re buried within your blanket fortress, take a little peek beyond the covers. Invite those demons knocking at your door to come in and sit with you. Let your fears take a load off, they will thank you by putting their feet up and giving it a rest. Because your fears are tired of trying to get you to come outside and play. They are just like the rest of us. All they want is a place to call home, someone to assure them everything will be okay, and a safe space to let go and relax in. When anything feels safe, it stops fighting to survive. Treat others as you would like to be treated, most of all yourself. Your fears are a part of you, be kind and understanding towards them, for they are your own thoughts. In turn, they will be kind to you.