When is fear unreasonable?

Can we talk about fear for a few minutes?

The news of threats to Sochi have no doubt been on my mind and the minds of my family and friends considering our trip to Russia for the Olympics next month.

A few people call me crazy for going.  Some days I think I’m crazy for going.

But I’m afraid of a lot of things, but I still do them because I want to enjoy life.  Despite all my travels throughout my life, I still don’t like to fly.  I remember becoming acutely aware of turbulence and how unnerving it was when I was about 15 years old.**  Before that, I don’t remember having a single fear when flying, and I flew a LOT as a child.  But these days, during takeoff and turbulence, I am a truly white knuckle flyer.  But I still fly all the time.  Last year, I was terrified to try rock climbing.  But I did it anyway. And I’m always so nervous waiting in line for roller coasters at amusement parks, but I still go on them.

There are many things to be scared of here in the United States, so why am I more scared about things that might happen when I’m abroad?  Here in the United States, we realize that no one is immune from being a potential victim of a mass shooting.  Not when we’re at the movies, not when children are at school, not when we’re at the mall, and not even when we’re at our workplace.

But, despite all the news coverage, I think we all realize that the odds of these things happening to us are very low.  That’s why people still send their children to school, and go to the movies and to work.  That is how I’m trying to approach this risk that is being reported for Sochi.  It is an unlikely event, so why should I change my plans?

At other worrisome times in my life, I’ve had random sleeping problems.  I’m typically a champion sleeper, as my husband can attest, so any time these sleep issues arise, it always seems like SUCH a big deal because I’m not used to poor sleep.  When I’m worried about something,  I usually have no trouble falling asleep, but I’ll wake up at some point in the middle of the night, like 2AM or 4AM, and my mind will be racing with thoughts.  This has happened at various times in my life like before our wedding, right after my mom died, and now.

I’m waking up in the middle of the night panicked about our trip to Russia.  I debate canceling the whole thing.   I just lay there and panic.  It’s certainly not a very healthy thing to be doing.  But, I eventually fall back asleep and by the time I wake back up again, my panic has subsided and I feel confident in our decision to go.  Then the panic starts all over again the next early morning.

One of the most dangerous situations any of us experience in life is getting into an automobile.  But we do it anyway.  My study abroad program, called Semester at Sea, departed on August 31, 2001. That meant we were traveling all over the world in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks and seeing anti-American sentiments in many places.  I picked up and moved to the Middle East for nearly a year just three months after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. I’ve obviously put myself in less-than-safe situations before. And I was always a little scared too.  I was never one of those teenagers or young adults who thought they were invincible. But fear is definitely more pervasive these days.  Perhaps it’s because I’m older now and even more acutely aware of these dangers?

I did some googling earlier today.  Threats before the London 2012 Olympics were just as numerous and specific as the ones to Sochi.  And the London Olympics were fine.  So that calms me down.  At least for a bit.

I’ve experienced some crazy things in my life.  If a time traveler from the future had told me these things I would eventually experience, I would’ve said to them, “I could never handle that.”  And, yet, when I’ve always handled things just fine, even under really terrible circumstances.  So, what if the shit does hit the fan one of these days when I’m traveling.  Assuming that past performance can be an indicator of the future, I’d say that I’d handle it.  I’d stress and worry, sure.  But it would all work out just fine.

**Yes, I know my fear of turbulence is unreasonable.  Yes, I know that planes fly just as well in smooth air as they do turbulent air.  Yes, I know that there has never been a major plane crash directly attributable to turbulence.  I understand all of these things conceptually, so I can’t explain why my mind goes into instant panic mode during turbulence.  It just does.  And please, please, do not tell me to just “think of something else” during turbulence.  If that actually worked for me, that would be amazing, but it doesn’t.


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