Don’t Let Fear and What-If’s Change Your Behavior

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf

posted the week of July 9, 2018 in the Albert Lea Tribune and The Courier Sentenel

 

Growing up in a small town I felt a sense of safety most of the time. It was during my childhood I learned about the “what-ifs” of life. It was taught to me unknowingly by my mother. She had no idea her anxiety about the evils of the world lent itself to my childhood fears.

Of course I was scared of the dark. What child isn’t? That was not anything my mother worried about. She worried about my health — what if you eat that and you get sick? She worried about my having an accident —what if you go with another family and they are in a car accident? And she worried about someone snatching me even if in those times kidnapping wasn’t a well-known problem.

We lived by the railroad tracks, and it wasn’t uncommon for hoboes to stop by and ask for money or food. They would often talk to my uncle when he was across the street with the horses or cows in the pasture. I was never allowed out when they were near. I was told they might kidnap me, and my parents would never see me again.

Gypsies were someone else to be afraid of in those days, at least from what I garnered from my mom. I was told they stole kids and did terrible things to them. I was terrified. I remember one time when I was home alone with my wheelchair-bound grandmother — I was around 9, a woman who dressed somewhat like I thought a Gypsy would dress, came to our door. I was afraid to go to the door. I opened the inside door but left the outside door latched.

The woman wanted to know if my mother was home. Of course I didn’t know what to answer. She wasn’t, but did I tell the woman that? The woman tried to get me to come outside, but I refused. She finally went away, but I was scared the rest of the day with visions of me being pulled out of the house and stolen.

Another time while in kindergarten, my mom wasn’t on the corner where she usually met me to walk me uptown to my dad’s store. I was terrified, because of the anxiety of what-ifs that mom wasn’t there. What if she had an accident? What if someone kidnapped me off the street?

Having been taught by a loving overprotective mother about what-ifs, my life continued and still does to this day to be fraught with scenarios when presented with something out of the ordinary or scary — scenarios that the majority of the time never come to pass but in my mind they are bigger than life and make me react out of fear to a situation, rather than thinking it through and coming to a sensible conclusion.

Right now I am in a book study which helps us confront our what-ifs and it is helping me immensely overcome those messages. But the vibes and messages of what-ifs and fear unknowingly sent to me in my childhood by my mother have had lasting consequences.

The other evening I attended a community meeting. A Level 3 sex offender is moving to my community onto a street with many children, close to parks and near the school. The community meeting was to give us information to make our community stronger and to alert us what to watch out for when it comes to our neighborhoods and children.

I thought it was well presented and felt the monitoring system in place was well thought out, along with the fact, well known in a small community, we all know what our neighbors are doing before they know it. We look out for each other. But the level of panic and anger outweighed any information attained to help us deal with the situation.

The “what ifs” were rampant. “He’s going to rape someone.” “What happens when he kidnaps one of my children?” “My son won’t be able to ride his bike safely to the pool anymore.”  “My children won’t be safe in their own yard.” “He’ll grab a child and put them in his car and we’ll never see them again.”

The tears fell, the anger built and some were out of control with their accusations. Some blamed our law enforcement for letting this person move into our community but the law is the law and they had no say in the decision.

I experienced something similar when my children were growing up in a different community from where I live now. The difference is the person hadn’t been caught yet and lived next door to me in a very old house. As neighbors, we watched as the men in the house enticed middle age school children to their home. I watched one day as one took a knife to another’s throat. The entire neighborhood was concerned, and we worked with the local police. This was a person detrimental to children but because he had not been charged, etc. we received no warning he was moving in.

Our neighborhood banded together. We calmly talked to our children. We took to the street. By that I mean, the kids went out into the street to play and we adults went out with our lawn chairs when we saw activity we were suspicious about at the house. We could track everyone coming and going because we were having neighborhood picnics. Soon, the neighbor moved because we were interfering with his activities. Soon after he moved he was arrested.

Were we angry? Yes. Were we scared for our kids? Yes. Were our kids scared? No. They were not scared because we worked together and the neighborhood did not show our children our fear.

We have a Level 3 sex offender coming to our community. We should be worried. We should be upset. We should have a plan, and we should be watchful. What we shouldn’t do is let our fear and what-ifs change our behavior so we teach our children that fear. Our fear should not be so out of control that it makes us act irrationally because that could have dire consequences not just on our future, but on the future of our children.

We as a community have to work to put safeguards in place to make our children safer and stronger. We need to work with local law enforcement to change laws in our community and with our legislature so offenders are not put within a close distance to day cares, schools and parks. In the meantime, new community residents need to know that small town residents watch out for one another. They care. Remember the “Sesame Street” song, “Who are the people in your neighborhood?” In my community we know the answer to that question.

Looking For Peace In This Crazy World

my mindPublished in the Albert Lea Tribune the week of January 2, 2016©Julie Seedorf

It’s the beginning of a New Year. I’m not quite sure what to do with it. If I pin my hopes too high on a new year I will most certainly be disappointed. If I stay stuck in my ways and try to hold on to the old year I might stay glued to a sticky life.

Last year I vowed, not a resolution, but an  idea to take the time to work on my health, write lots of books and work on finding peace within myself. I followed that idea for the first month and then I got caught up in the whirlwind of life and expectations.

Some of my friends worked on their bucket list. I don’t have one. My friend who lives out east, at the age of 70-something, experienced her first sky dive. She was exhilarated. I know sky diving out of an airplane will not be on my list anytime soon. I am very happy for my friend, but I have this thing about heights and falling, especially free falling without a net, and I don’t trust someone else to pull the cord. Left up to me, I fear I would be too frightened to think about pulling the cord to open the chute. I have no trust in me when I am wrapped up in fear.

Another friend was called for the reality show “Worst Cooks In America.” I will tell you a secret — although I claim I can’t cook — I would fail at winning worst cook because I wouldn’t make half the mistakes the worst cooks make because I find myself yelling at the television and cackling at their ineptness because they don’t know how to boil an egg. I actually can cook, I just don’t let people know, then they have low expectations and they don’t ask me to bring anything to a potluck. I won’t make a resolution for that.

Another one of my good friends made the New York Times best seller list and more. That’s not on my resolution list ether. I’m very happy for my friend, but I am realistic about my writing and don’t think Granny or Jezabelle could handle the notoriety. Maybe I don’t enter awards because I am insecure about my writing, and you have to enter to win. I’ll have to ponder that thought.

I asked some of my readers their expectations of themselves for 2017. Most replied they wanted to be a better person and to laugh more and enjoy life. I happen to think those that answered already are pretty good people, yet, they are going to try harder in 2017 to be honorable people. They actually hit the nail on the head for what I was hoping to do for 2017. I didn’t like the way I handled some challenges this year and hope to be a kinder, more patient person.

Looking back on 2016, I have a hard time believing things are going to change for the better in the New Year. I don’t remember a time in my life when I have felt the attitude of our nation to be one of rudeness and hate and disregard for others as I have seen this past year. The elections seem to have brought out an America I have never known, pitting friends against friends, leaving us to ask ourselves “Who are those guys? Did we really know some of our friends?”

As much as I have heard people lament and be happy the old year is gone because of the rhetoric, I fear we are only on the tip of the tide. 2017 may be no different.

I really do want to be a better person this year. I don’t want to get caught up in the sniping because I don’t like myself very much afterward. I could be silent and stay out of harms way and let it all happen around me, ignoring wrongs that may need righting. That might leave me unsettled too. There is a fine line between being silent for peace sake and being silent for fear of retribution.

I could try the “Eat, Pray, Love” thing. I like to eat, I love to pray and who doesn’t like love? I could call it eat, pray, exercise. After taking all that time off searching her life, the writer of “Eat, Pray, Love” did end up with a best-selling book and a new love, but as the years passed the love didn’t quite work out. I’d rather take my chance on exercise as the only emotions it involves are mine, and there is a good chance my romance with exercise won’t work out.

The new year is here. Perhaps I’ll become a poet, and in 100 years or so my poetry will become a trivia question. Maybe a goal for me would be to be one of the writers in residence on Amtrak. I can dream of a thousand goals and not care if I can accomplish one because they aren’t as important as having peace inside of myself. Will I find it this year? Will you?

Mental Dental Mishap Fear!

It is no secret I don’t like dentists. I live in fear of their tools the same way the characters in my books fear being caught by the protagonist.

I don’t actually dislike the people who are dentists. I have very good friends who are dentists, and I like them as the person they are but not the career they have. It’s not their fault I fear their tools. It is a deep-seated fear from childhood and the old ways of the dentists back in the ’50s and ’60s.

My fear of dentists began the summer after I finished eighth grade. A fun game of badminton turned into the last time my real two front teeth inhabited my mouth. A little swing of the racket, my coming forward with my racket, and the meeting of my friend’s racket with my mouth as my friend swung at the birdie, sent pieces of my teeth probably flying over the net or somewhere never to be found. I remember my mom’s angst when she saw what happened. I wasn’t too upset until I visited the dentist. What was left of the teeth had to come out, a root canal had to be performed and pegged teeth had to be cemented in my mouth.

We didn’t have the technology we do today, so the first month of that summer, every few days was spent in the dentists office. I had a month of no front teeth. There were no TVs or music to drown out the noise of the drills. And I remember a lot of pain when he was working on my teeth.

Again, the man behind the drill was a very nice man and a caring man, but he wasn’t trained in gentleness technique. And his hands always shook, so occasionally they missed their mark.

My old school friend and I were comparing dentist notes from our childhood. She always wanted to go to my dentist, and I always wanted to go to hers. Must be the grass is always greener on the other side of the street thing. I wanted her dentist because they got cute plaster Disney statues for going to the dentist, and she wanted my dentist because hers sometimes had imbibed too much before working on patients. It was the shaky hands from being older versus the shaky hands from having a few fun beverages.

There was an upside to my accident; before the accident I had spaces between my real two front teeth. My new teeth were great.

Because of all this I have avoided the dentist for years and years. Yes, that many years. Add to the fact I have no dental insurance and it cemented my resolve to stay away from the imaginary torture chambers in my mind.

Over the years I have tried to make it to the dentist. I have made the appointments, and the office has made bets on whether I would make it. In the past weeks I could no longer avoid the dreaded dentist.  I was in a dither. My broken tooth sent me into a panic. Yes, I know, a small thing for most people but remember the torture chamber of my youth.

I remembered the restful feeling I had when accompanying my husband to his dentist this past year. He is a veteran and this dental office had a day when they provided free dental work for veterans. I thought possibly the restful feeling was the fact I was not the one undergoing the work, but I bit the bullet and had my husband make an appointment. They got me in right away.

The office was as I remembered it, peaceful with restful decor and a quiet atmosphere which calmed my nerves. The staff, knowing I was nervous, took time to make sure I was calm and comfortable. I had a TV right in front of me as I sat in the spa-like comfortable chair. This was not the dental office of my childhood.

And then I met the dentist and the dental assistant who were the essence of calm. I had my teeth examined — not as bad as I thought — and the gentleness made me quit shaking. I made the next three appointments. The truth was in the pudding. Would I make it back to actually have the work done? I canceled the first appointment because we had a blizzard, and the dentist was 40 miles away. I made it to the second appointment.

As I sat in the chair and watched “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” on television, the dental hygienist worked on my teeth. I almost fell asleep. I was able to daydream and plot my next book, and I can’t believe I am saying this: It was a relaxing time. I have two more appointments, and again I can’t believe I am saying this, but I actually am looking forward to getting my teeth fixed.

I have always loved new technology, but I haven’t thought about it in the terms of dentists. Technology has come a long way in making the torture chambers of my youth into a better experience for those of us that have dental aversion. My fear made the thought of the experience into a bigger terror than it was. I think I need to ponder that and wonder where it might carryover into the rest of my life.

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” — Henry Ford