Somebody noticed months ago that Halloween night is a full moon this year, three days before what was sure to be a raucous election and in the middle of the ruckus caused by the reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What could possibly go wrong?” the somebody asked sarcastically.
People like to be scared for fun, but fear is not fun in its raw form. We like horror stories and scary monsters because they are safe — someone else is experiencing the actual fear, and they’re not real anyway; moreover, we can close the book or turn off the TV or (if our masters allowed us in) walk out of the theater.
But we have to walk through fear when it’s real — we are the ones who experience it. And then it’s not so entertaining.
Most things we worry about never happen anyway, but when they do happen, most of the time we live our way through it. “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” right? Thus, most of us ought to make it through 2020 stronger, I suppose.
I wrote a book a long time ago called Refuse to be Afraid that was not about throwing a switch and becoming fearless. Of course we get afraid. Sometimes we get terrified. Terrorists — and there are terrorists all around us who are empowered when we live in fear — love us when we’re terrified. It makes us more pliable. They can make us buy a product, elect a savior, or otherwise give our power to them.
The book was about keeping the power over your own life. I write about that a lot, because there are folks who think they know better than you about what you need and how you should live your own life.
All I think we need is an agreement that I don’t have a right to force my will on you as long as you don’t try to force anything on me and we respect each other’s person and property. I accept responsibility for my life and accept you have responsibility for yours, giving each other a helping hand when needed and/or asked. I’d call it a social contract, but that phrase has been co-opted by some people who really mean to say, “Do as I say or the kid gets it.”
Sometimes we really should be afraid, so there’s no refusing the feeling. What the book was always about was walking through the scariness, keeping the fear and anxiety from spilling over into mindless paralyzing terror, and emerging on the other side to find either that you were afraid of something that wasn’t so bad, that you were afraid of something that didn’t exist, or that you were afraid of something that made you stronger.
Halloween is about laughing in the dark at things that go bump or jump out and say “Boo!” and arriving at November the First glad to be alive.