I dreamt last night of cougars. Someone dragged two of them, hunted but not fully dead, into my current home (which is no longer my home) and dropped them by the large gray couch in our living room. They lay there with tails twitching, giant paws and thick fur, their teeth bared and angry. Suddenly, they began to fight with each other and I tried my best to keep them apart, but my hands kept getting precariously close to their giant teeth and claws. I kept looking up at the window, wondering when Mike would come home to help. I was alone, wishing for a gun and also the knowledge of how to use it.
Google tells me that to dream of big cats is a sign of your power and femininity. Sure, I suppose it could be that, my subconscious trying to remind myself that I am made up of my strength rather than my fear. But it could also simply be literal – that I’m terrified of encountering an actual cougar on the new property we are moving to. Because apparently there have been six cougar sightings on the property over the past eight years. Mike didn’t want me to know this information and reluctantly shared it with me the other night. My reaction was dramatic and panicked. I yelled out, “What? No! No! No!!!!”
I don’t know why I signed up to basically live on a savage savannah. This seems ludicrous. My children will now be layered in bells before they go outside. I will learn how to shoot a gun. I think I much prefer my drug deals across the street and the comfort of sirens in the neighborhood. I understand this. Drug dealers are just minding their own business, making ends meet. I suppose you could say the same for cougars too.
My fear is usually a small balloon that grows and deflates in my tummy, but lately it has expanded beyond me. I’m inside it, looking out. “Everything is going to be ok!” my village says to me from the outside. I cup my hand to my ear, “I’m sorry, what? I can’t hear you from in here!” There is so much unknown. The move, my job, what the president will do next, whether shoes will be rejected this morning by the three year old.
I watch my heartbeat and sleep patterns on my Fitbit, the charts resembling a mountain range or a roller coaster, both apt metaphors depending on the moment. I breathe in and out, trying to return to calm. Mike and I try to remember to stop and give each other long hugs, Mila squeezing between us like I used to do with my parents. We all try our best. Meanwhile the cougars are brawling, our fear and strength head to head, trying to claim dominance.
I forget so quickly how every up and down and detour my life has taken has led to precise and serendipitous details of blessing. Most of these, in the form of people who I was meant to know. My mother, my siblings, my husband, my in-laws, my best friends, my children. Chromosomes zippered, seats were assigned, resumes were read. I once overheard someone once say, “All we need is each other…and snacks.” This is probably the truest thing that I know.
Mila just came out of the bedroom and climbed into my lap. She was holding a little magazine for kids that Auntie Meg got her a subscription to. There was a tiger on the front and Mila says to me, “I don’t like Tigers. They are scary.”
I asked her, “What do you do when you are scared?”
And she simply replied, “Say hello.”
Well good morning little Dalai Lama, nice of you to join me this morning.
This idea, of simply saying hello to your fear, is exactly what I’ve been reading about in Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. She has made peace that fear is always going to be a passenger on the ride and that to not feel it would be un-human. She tells us to write fear a letter, acknowledging its presence but firmly reminding it that it won’t be driving the tour bus. And let’s not forget that along with fear rides our strength. It depends on us as to which one we let take the wheel.
So I guess, for today, I will try to simply say hello.
Hello fear, I see you. Get in and let’s go. And try not to be a backseat driver.