“Life isn’t as serious as the mind makes it out to be.” – Eckhart Tolle
Some pretty scary things have happened to me in life. Knee surgery. Meetings. Air Supply. That kind of thing.
This time of year undoubtedly taps into our fears, (not to mention sugar cravings). Between spooky movie marathons, lawns turned into cemeteries and videos about weight-lifting ghosts, Halloween heightens our awareness for all things scary.
My scariest moment? Had nothing to do with goblins or fake fangs. Instead, my family was put in jeopardy at the hands of an intruder – a true story that I remember vividly.
I was in the third grade. At that age, my mind ebbed and flowed between slumber parties and cabbage patch kids, school trips and selling Thin Mints. The world was good.
I sat in my living room doing homework when suddenly the ear-piercing sound of glass shattered my thoughts. The noise came from the backyard window, where razor-sharp bits flew through the air and into our breakfast nook. Slivers penetrated carpet as they ricocheted off the table. At the window was a masked man, his leg now halfway through.
Infused with terror, I sprinted up the stairs three steps at a time, shouting frantically for my mom. She was in her bedroom, getting dressed and ready to meet my father for a parent-teacher conference.
I double locked the bedroom door (because clearly, an eye-hook latch in addition to the usual handle lock will stop any burglar in his tracks) and called the police. Time was of the essence. My mom’s hands trembled as she lifted the window and crawled to safety on the partial roof. I joined her, the howls of sirens already echoing in the distance.
Surely, the intruder was on the other side of the door at this point, foot raised, about to kick the door. My mind played out knives at throats scenarios, where nightstands fly through the air and rattle plants loose from their terra cotta homes.
If we had to jump to safety, we would. I was ready.
Within minutes, unmarked police cars tore down the street. Not just two or three, but quantities of CSI Miami proportions. Guns were drawn, German Shepards exited vehicles. The house was surrounded.
One officer stayed near us, some 15 feet below.
“Stay up there. . . just stay there. . .”
With reluctance, neighbors started coming out of their homes. Gladys, the old lady next door who loved cheese sandwiches and talking about the Young & the Restless, was wide-eyed, looking up at us from her porch. Others watched, more cautiously, through the blinds.
Inside these two minutes, it occurred to me that this might be the proverbial “it.”
At any given moment, I might be floating towards the white light as the Young & Restless theme song accompanied my journey, the scent of my Mom’s White Linen perfume attaching itself to flickering visions of dirty gutters and cheese sandwiches. I was weak with worry, mad with fear.
Frame of Mind
Another officer addressed my mom. His face showed relief as he turned down the squelch of his scanner.
“Everything’s going to be just fine.” He smiled slightly adding, “We didn’t even go inside.”
What? I started to hear the soap opera’s violins. Victor Newman. Michael Damian.
My mom asked, “but did you find him? Where’s the . . .”
Again, the smile. “We looked in one of your windows and noticed that a large picture frame had fallen off the wall, in the same area you heard the burglar breaking and entering.”
Pure happiness surged upon hearing his words. Thin Mints. Cabbage Patch Kids. White Linen. Life was good. . . again.
Yet just as I felt safe, I felt completely foolish; the brave fleeing of a scary, scary madman, the heroics of triple stair climbing and calm police dialing . . . vanished. My Mom on the roof, the feeling of wasting the NYPD’s time . . . downright embarrassing. I had been tricked by a sound that caused me – and my imagination – to quite literally leap before looking.
Suddenly, life was so . . . ordinary.
Or was it?
Back inside, the frame was still in tact, its oak arms still tightly embracing an image that, for years, sat quiet and still. Void of its now-shattered protective shell, its image was seen in a new light, perhaps for the first time. It made some noise, caused a bit of a scene and broke away from its normal ways. Sure, it was slightly marred from the incident, but nothing that carefully picking up the pieces and moving on couldn’t fix.
Fear, it turns out, can be a bit of a good thing.