Fear: Live with it or die by it

Published by rudy Date posted on March 6, 2009

A wannabe-philosopher friend once asked me what would happen if a cockroach fell into a bathtub filled with soapy water. Would the cockroach become clean, or would the water become dirty?

My answer was simple. “Who cares?!” If a bathtub is filled with water, I would probably be in it. Should a cockroach ever fall into a tub with me, I couldn’t care less if the water would become dirty, and lesser still if the cockroach would become clean. It’s a stupid question, anyway, and I would probably be too busy screaming and running witless — and naked — out of the bathroom.

I have a deathly fear of cockroaches; call it a phobia if you will. According to my father, cockroaches are more scared of me than I am of them. I seriously doubt that. Dead, tiptoeing on those skinny hairy legs of theirs, or worst of all, flying in that noisy, erratic manner, I hate those smelly little brown creatures from hell.

Despite my loathing for the disgusting bugs, I have never actually killed one. I can’t risk letting them crawl, jump or fly too close to me if I disturb their space, so I just freeze and motion for someone nearby to perform the execution for me.

A few times, I have had the misfortune of having a close encounter with a cockroach. The worse incident was when I was lying in bed running my fingers through my hair when I suddenly touched a fat, crunchy cockroach. My screams were probably heard in China as I raced out of the room to look for someone to exterminate my unwanted roommate.

Most recently, a cockroach flew over my head as I was having supper with my family. I nearly had a heart attack, as nearly did everyone within earshot, when I dropped my silverware and started screaming.

That’s fear for you. Many people I know are scared of normal things — death, loss of loved ones, and being alone and vulnerable. I guess during these difficult times, there are plenty out there who are afraid of losing their jobs. But me? Well, I’m scared of those things, too, but if you ask me what I fear the most, I would still most certainly say, “Ipis!”

A lot of other girls out there would corroborate my answer. Of course, some of them aren’t scared of little things that they can squash with their slippers. However, when a tiny white mouse pokes his head out of a hole in a wall, they’re the ones standing on chairs screaming.

Other creepy crawlies join the list of things that people irrationally fear. Worms, maggots, grasshoppers, bees, spiders and ants are some of the most common. These creatures won’t normally attack people unless provoked, but we fear them nonetheless.

Fear is an unusual thing. Why do we fear the things that we do? Why do some people fear dust bunnies, mucus and clumps of hair clogging the drain? I actually know people who have these fears — I’m not making them up. They’re not just grossed out by these things; they are truly terrified.

I’ve never heard of anyone dying of heart attack at the sight of wet clumps of hair (though I would rather endure a flooded bathroom than touch the stuff — which would probably be mostly mine, anyway). Nor do I know anyone who was actually traumatized by seeing — or worse, touching — worms. The violent reaction of some people to such seemingly ordinary and common things border on the irrational.

Some situations may cause panic attacks. Meeting a girlfriend’s parents for the first time; or finding out you don’t have enough money to pay for stuff you have already consumed. Public speaking is an entirely different fear. It makes hands clammy, hearts beat faster, and bladders reach breaking point. You feel a need to breathe deeply but all you can do is take short gasps, making speaking even harder.

Many people find speaking in front of an audience to be extremely terrifying and traumatizing. Everyone experiences stage fright, of course. Some folks just take it to the extreme. I’ve heard of a man who fainted onstage, unable to say even a word of a memorized speech before collapsing.

I am fortunate that I have not had such a problem. Ever since I was a little girl, I could chatter on and on about anything in front of anyone. Admittedly, I don’t always make sense, but I think that’s better than fainting at the sight of 30 or more people waiting for you to speak.

There are, of course, fears that have a basis. My mother, for example, is terrified of snakes. As we all know, snakes can and sometimes do bite. But, no, Mom’s not afraid of being bitten. She’s scared by the way they move, and the way their forked tongues flick in and out of their grisly mouths. Personally, I’m more scared of their fangs than their slithery, scaly bodies.

Elevators are potentially dangerous as well. A friend of mine refuses to enter elevators because she’s scared she might get stuck in there alone or that the cables supporting the cab will snap and she’ll fall to her death. This fear overwhelms her, so even when she has to climb more than 10 flights of stairs to get to her destination, she’ll always choose to climb up. One good thing has come out of this — she’s extremely fit and has the body to show for it. Perhaps, I ought to develop a fear of elevators, too.

No matter what we say our phobias are, it almost always boils down to a fear of getting harmed, getting into trouble, or dying. Why on earth should someone fear mucus? Because you may catch something by coming into contact with it. How can someone faint from the fear of public speaking? He is probably under a lot of pressure to impress or to avoid making any embarrassing mistake.

Dying alone, dying accidentally, dying from disease, and getting murdered are on practically everyone’s list of fears. Ironically, death is the one thing none of us can avoid. As most priests would say, since death is inevitable, it is best that we prepare our souls for it, instead of being consumed by an irrational fear of it or an equally irrational desire to prolong life no matter what.

What are the chances that an elevator carrying my friend will snap a cable or two and plunge to the ground from the top floor? Probably the same as the odds of me dying from a cockroach bite.

Compare that with the numbers that say that you will meet your maker in the near or far future. The answer, of course, is 100 percent. No one lives forever. Besides, why would you want to, if you only live in fear of croaking? Even if you successfully clone yourself, that wouldn’t be you, but your clone.

Fear is a part of life, but we shouldn’t let it prevent us from doing what we need and want to do. Instead, fear keeps us on our toes and teaches us to be always careful. It should not inhibit us from living our lives to the fullest. After all, if death is a certainty, then we shouldn’t live in uncertainty. Just dive in and conquer your fears!

Someone should try telling me this the next time a cockroach decides to land on my head.- Maria Jorica B. Pamintuan, Philippine Star

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