The Fear of Retreat

What scared you this year more than anything else?  Did you learn anything new about yourself?

When I was a small girl sitting in the backseat of my mother’s Toyota Corolla (avocado green, that is) that smelled distinctly of plastic-y vinyl is vintage 70s, I remember feeling terrified on the freeway.  This wasn’t the typical fear that encapsulates driving on the California freeways.  This came from another source.  While I was sitting there, in traffic obviously, we were surrounded by semi-trucks.  Anyone who has been in a similar situation will know what I am about to describe.  A strange illusion occurs when in this scenario.  When in a smaller vehicle and others around you are larger, and your vehicle remains at a standstill while the others begin to move slowly, it will give you the sensation of rolling backward.  The same sensation can be felt in The Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland when the jeep is “rolling” backward when threatened with the boulder.  The jeep is, in fact, not moving.  The walls are doing the moving.

It scared me, being tiny and not understanding the Physical Laws of Motion on the 405 Freeway.  I thought we were going backward and would crash.  When I suggested it to my mom, of course I was scolded and made to feel silly.  While we didn’t crash, I didn’t totally understand why we didn’t.

I thought of this memory when I saw the prompt this morning.  What terrified me most in 2011 was the idea of sliding backward by simply doing nothing but staying still.  When I would consider how much I had accomplished in the moment of thinking about it, I would sometimes freeze up, panic a little, and worry that perhaps I had filled my quota of accomplishing for the year and it was only February.  And then what?  I would do nothing else but sit still and crash by rolling backward.

My fear was real.  It was tangible and I could feel breathing beside me.  The movement it swirled around me was overwhelming at times.  What if I did move backwards?  What if I crashed?  Worse?  What if for all my hard work in forming a new life for me and my family was all for nothing because it would all be destroyed once again?  

What if… What if… What if… 

I wish I could say that I picked myself up and moved right along.  I wish I could say that I did the whole “kicked fear in the shins” and conquered it.  But I can’t.  What I can say, however, is that I can now understand that this phenomenon around me is what it is: an illusion.  I only appear to be moving backward.  I may be standing still; I may not be moving forward.  I may just be taking a moment to take a breath — but I won’t fall back to where I was before.

I won’t crash.  It’s an illusion.

And all illusions, once studied and understood, are no longer something to be afraid of.  The smoke is removed from the mirrors and all that is left, once again, is reflection.  I can handle that.

C. Streetlights
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Published by C. Streetlights

I wrote and illustrated my first bestseller, "The Lovely Unicorn" in the second grade and I've been terrified of success ever since. Published by ShadowTeamsNYC and represented by Lisa Hagen Books

8 thoughts on “The Fear of Retreat”

  1. I love this, beautifully put!

  2. mark says:

    You are my hero.

  3. Tracy says:

    Love this because the what if is always the most frightening thing of all, I think.

  4. smoke, mirrors. moving, still. illusion, reality. this is a nicely-told story of fear, sugar. specially love the ending.

  5. yes, you are fire! wait, well, you know what i mean… love this story, love those last lines….illusions becoming nothing but reflections. perfect.

  6. Jason says:

    I agree with Michael, great story telling here. Starting with the fear you felt as a little girl and moving on to reveal the relevance of this within the prompt, great!

  7. Michael says:

    I'm always talking about illusions and perceptions, but couldn't explain it. You made it work; I have that feeling in my jeep when I'm next to a semi; it reals so real, that illusion. Another memorable post; you are a wonderful storyteller.

  8. we are on the same page today – moving/not moving. what is real, what isn't. figuring it out. smoke & mirrors, indeed.

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