I am afraid. Very afraid.
Afraid of many, many things. Some which make sense (spiders, various supernatural entities which may or may not exist, losing someone I love) and some which do not (Lasik, making pie crust from scratch, driving a stick shift.)
I've always been timid, but it's getting worse as I get older. I was never the kind of kid who was brave enough to do cherry drops from the parallel bars on the playground, but I would at least ride any carnival ride, tackle any roller coaster, watch any scary movie, and jump off the high diving board.
Nowadays, I can't even watch my daughter ride the "pepper shakers" at the church festival (the carnie in charge of the ride this year had red eyes and a case of the munchies), and it takes everything I've got to muster up enough courage to jump off the 1-meter springboard at our neighborhood pool.
But the thing that really gets me, the thing that makes my heart beat dangerously fast and makes me shake in my boots are not these things that I can name. See, the thing is, I startle really, really easily.
Everyone gets startled from time to time; I suppose there's some basic survival instinct there that served a purpose when we were hunters and gatherers, a physiological response that made us pump obscene amounts of adrenaline when a lion would come up to us and tap us on the shoulder while we were lost in thought, listening to our iPods.
For me it's an extreme reaction. Or over-reaction. I swear, I've shaved 5 years off my life from all the times my heart has stopped because my husband has the audacity to walk back to our bedroom while I am drifting off to sleep.
"AAAAUUUUGGGHHHH!" I'll scream. And then Jason's heart skips a beat, too, because there's nothing like walking back to your bed in the darkness and hearing your wife's soul being ripped out past her vocal chords.
"What did you think I was?" he'll ask. And I never have an answer; I never have time to think, my body just goes into fight or flight.
Even Ainsley is used to this. A few years ago, I was cleaning the sink in my bathroom when Ainsley decided to do something "cute" to get my attention. She took one of her stuffed animals and had it peep around the corner. My brain had a moment to think this was precious; unfortunately, my heart had already gotten word that a set of beady eyes had just appeared over my shoulder and it tried to jump out of my chest.
It's funny; young children have their own reactions to their mommies unexpectedly screaming like banshees. Not screaming, so much. Just a lot of tears.
At 8, she sadly is used to it. The weekend we celebrated her birthday, I bought her a big, shiny balloon that I tied onto the railing of our entryway stairs. When I tied it, it made the balloon about the height of a tall-ish man as it swayed in the constant breeze created by the closest air vent. I went to get something from the bedroom, headed back down our hallway, and caught sight of the balloon. You guessed it; I screamed.
I worried that I had freaked my kid out. But she just rolled her eyes.
"Momma, it's just a balloon," she said. And right back to watching Phineas and Ferb; this is just a part of her life.
A couple that we're good friends with know me very well but have never heard my barbaric yawp, which Jason says sounds like someone has reached down into my stomach and tried to pull something out. Until this weekend, that is, when we decided it was time to watch The Descent. They'd never seen it; Jason and I had been talking to them about it since we all went to see Paranormal Activity and were all kind of underwhelmed. I say The Descent is one of the best horror films of the previous decade; there are several "Gotcha!" moments in it that are great for an easy startler like me, and one in particular that I think might be the most genius of all "Gotcha!" moments in any horror film ever.
So, I knew this scene was coming. I didn't want to give anything away so I was playing it all cool, not wanting to ruin it for them. The thing is, though, I'd forgotten exactly where this moment was; I somehow was taken off guard yet again. I couldn't help myself.
You know what's worse than being scared by a horror movie? Being scared by someone else being scared of a horror movie. I like to think that I truly enhanced their movie-going experience. Brought a little verite to the whole proceeding, you know? If they didn't jump from what they were seeing on screen, I know they jumped after I screamed bloody murder out of nowhere in our darkened living room. We all had to stop the movie, laugh at me for a while, and step out of the room for a while to calm our nerves. I'm confident that by the time they left a couple of hours later, everyone's heart rates were approaching normal.
"How did Ainsley not wake up during that?" one of them asked.
Eh. You live with me long enough, you get used to it.
I know that as Halloween approaches some wise guy is going to send me one of those Halloween emails where you're supposed to play some goofy game that has you concentrating super-hard looking for the queen of diamonds on your screen, or where you're supposed to watch a girl on a bike to supposedly see her fall in a hi-larious way, or watch a car ad where a car goes meandering peacefully through a forest, and then out of nowhere Linda Blair's Exorcist face or some other ghastly-looking creature pops up and screams 3 inches away from your face. I know this as sure as I know that the sky is blue and UK will win another basketball championship someday, but that won't keep me from screaming my scream within 30 seconds of opening the link.
Such is the life of an easy startler.