“Help! Somebody, please, help me!”
The remnant of what must have been a nightmare rung in my ears. At least I’m awake now, I thought, rolling over in my sleeping bag.
“Can anybody hear me?!”
I opened my eyes to the inside of my pitch-black tent. Ha-ha, very funny brain, I sassed my subconscious. I had fallen asleep 652 pages deep in Stephen King’s IT, and I was not in the mood for games.
“Somebody help me please!” The cry was louder this time, or maybe I was just more awake.
“Somebody! Please!” My mind started racing. The voice was real. No, no. No. Nonononono. There was no way in Hell I’d be getting out of my tent. The most logical conclusion my sleep-deprived brain could come to that there was surely a killer clown out there who had already taken their first victim and was using them as bait. Leah, I thought suddenly. What if it’s Leah? Leah, our family friend who was supposed to be sleeping in the tent about twenty feet away from mine. My dad was asleep in the RV, and his sleep is not easily disturbed.
I braced myself. I had to get out of the tent.
“Somebody please help me!” A woman’s voice, definitely. She sounded in pain. I felt around everywhere in the dark for my cell phone, but the stupid rectangle eluded me. With shallow breaths I unzipped my sleeping bag, searching for my slippers. Nothing.
“Can anybody help me?!”
“Shit,” I cursed under my breath, shoeless and without a light, and began unzipping my tent. This is how it ends for me, isn’t it? On the freaking annual family camping trip, I thought bitterly.
“Somebody please help!”
The gravel crunched under my bare feet. “Leah?” It came out a whisper. Tears began to form in my eyes. Squinting in the dark, I looked at the woodpile ahead of me. Dad had left the axe next to it, and I thought I should at least go down swinging. I stifled the gravel between my toes as best a could and whispered louder, “Leah!”
I prayed killer clowns didn’t have a great sense of hearing.
My eyes kept scanning the woodpile. The axe was gone. Tears began to roll down my cheeks. A killer clown with an axe? You’ve got to be kidding me. At this point, my sarcastic personality was my best defense. I can’t say I was completely sure what would scare off a killer clown, but I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be a crying fourteen-year-old, wandering around in the dark in her sweats without shoes or a light.
“Somebody help me please!” I crept closer to the sound, and I could see a body laying on the ground across the road. It didn’t seem to be moving.
“LEAH?!” I whisper-screamed through my choked throat.
“I’M OVER HERE!” She gasped at me. I ran to her, tripping on the curb. She was still motionless on the ground.
“What happened?” I asked her, heart beating out of my chest.
“I was jogging back from the bathroom, because it’s, well you know, creepy, and suddenly I heard a huge snap. I think I broke my leg.”
Glancing toward her leg, I could see something large jutting out of her thigh. It took everything in me not to pass out. Part of it was my complete intolerance of the human body and part of it my relief that there wasn’t a killer clown. I ran to the RV to wake up my dad, and the ambulance arrived shortly after. Leah ended up with a titanium rod to support her femur, and I ended up not falling back asleep until daylight.
To this day, that is one of the scariest nights of my life. I will never forget the sound of Leah’s voice as she called for help, but I’m so thankful that she was able to wake me up. When daylight finally came the next morning, I found my shoes and phone were in the tent, completely within reach. When I went outside I noticed there was a giant floodlamp behind my tent that I forgot existed at 2 AM, and Dad had moved the axe closer to the fire pit from when he made kindling after I went to bed. All of these factors were present the night before, but I couldn’t see or find them. I felt like an idiot.
I had everything I needed around me, and I totally failed to utilize any of it. Fear does that to a person sometimes.
Two weeks ago, when I felt God at my elbow, urging me to speak, I was afraid. I am afraid. So I took a step back to gather myself in my close relationships, asking for rebuke and criticism. What I did not expect to receive was encouragement. I’m walking into this new challenge feeling loved and supported, and with some much-needed courage.
While a few of the friends I reached out to processed their thoughts and talked with me, there were a good amount who were honest in a different way. Some people felt they weren’t around enough in my life to speak to that, which is fair. Some told me they honestly couldn’t think of anything, which made me raise an eyebrow, but is also fair. An undercurrent of “I don’t know” came through most of my conversations, and it made me wonder if I’m even giving people the chance to know. Am I actually being vulnerable and taking risks? Not as much as I should be.
As a person, I’m extremely fear driven. This developed largely from my upbringing, and I carried it with me into adulthood. I prefer to watch other people go out on a limb and fail a few times so I can go out on a limb and be more successful. I’ve noticed I would rather reshape parts of my life than take risks, especially when it comes to relationships or family. There are some things that I am so afraid of that I will deny wanting them. So here I am to speak to a few of them. Here’s what this “hard to read” girl is afraid of.
- Marriage. I reflect on the marriage I watched growing up and learned a lot more about what not to do than what you should do. I’m afraid I will sacrifice more than I should and find myself trapped. I’m afraid of turning into what I know.
- Losing friends. My relationships are everything to me, and I’ve learned not everyone values friendships to the same extent that I do, and that’s okay. I have a hard time understanding why anyone would stick around, so I sometimes push people away thinking they are already on their way out. It’s a self-destructive self-defense mechanism.
- Going crazy, or people thinking I’m crazy. This seems almost like sarcasm, but it’s absolutely true. I have trauma from my past that makes me doubt my entire sense of self and my own judgment, which makes me rely heavily on my friends. I hold on to people to keep myself from spiraling.
- Pregnancy/babies. The miracle of life really freaks me out. Beyond the human body, I know I would carry complete responsibility for what I bring in to this world. Anything going wrong I know I’d blame myself for. Anything I pass on, I’d blame myself for. I’m terrified of having a child that’s like me.
- Losing touch with reality. This goes back to the crazy thing. I’m afraid if I become too sure about my reality, it won’t be reality at all.
- Having a family. Similar to marriage, I don’t want to become what I know.
The list goes on, but these are some of the big ones. Many people in my life have heard me say that I don’t want kids, and maybe don’t even want to get married. Recently, I’m not sure that’s as true as I thought. It’s easier for me to address fear with apathy than with vulnerability. So as I’m rewatching Friends and crying during Chandler and Monica’s proposal, I say it’s been a rough week. When I also cry after Emma is born, I tell myself I have got to slow down and stop bingeing Netflix. Whatever the little joke or sarcastic jab may be, the reality is I’m scared, and I’d prefer to stay that way than take risks. Scared and in denial is less painful than loss or failure without denial.
But it’s not rewarding. It’s not life-giving. It’s self-destructive and can be toxic.
As I stumble through the desires of my heart, I find myself barefoot in the dark without a light, terrified of what I’ll find. I always think killer clown. I expect rebuke in its harshest forms, though my friends have shown me grace, love, and encouragement in abundance more times than I can remember. I expect rejection, loss, and denial instead of the support and helping hands that are nearby. While I often find pain and heartbreak as I dive into my fears, I’m met with the grace of God every time.
And I am so, so thankful He isn’t a clown.