Effigy of Fear

When I was very young boy I was afraid of everything. I mean everything. I was small for my age and everything just looked overwhelming to me. I was afraid of heights, I was afraid of insects, I was afraid of losing my family in a crowd, I was afraid of the dark and I was really afraid of dogs. I don’t know where my fears originated from but I couldn’t deny them. I would try, but each time I’d fail and run to the safety of my mother.

My mother was very good at calming my nerves and trying to help me over my fears. A few weeks before I was to start school she showed me the huge set of stairs I would have to climb to the front door of the school. She knew about my fear of heights and she wanted to prepare me. The wooden slatted stairs allowed you to see through to the ground below. This terrified me. Mom urged me to try. The first few steps were ok, but by the fifth or sixth my knee caps would shake and I’d freeze. My mother would have to carry me back down to the bottom. So we practiced and practiced and practiced and with her gentle prodding and encouragement I was finally able to conquer those stairs before school began. (As long as I could hold on to the railing and not look down) My first day at school was a success thanks to her.

My mother used to walk me to and from school. I felt so safe with her beside me. One of the houses we passed everyday had a couple of dogs behind its wire fence. I used to make her walk with me on the other side of the road just in case they got out.

“You’re going to have to face all of your fears one day or they will keep you a prisoner your whole life. Get to know them, push yourself through them and you will come out the other side free. Just like you did with the stairs at school.”

I thought about her words during art class that day. We were going to create whatever we wanted with clay, our creations would then be glazed and fired in a kiln. I had no idea where to start with my clump of clay, but as I massaged it with my fingers my mind wandered back to what my mother had said that morning and a shape began to form in the clay. To my surprise it was of a dog’s snout. I worked at it some more and my fingers began to form its mouth. This is the part of a dog that scares me the most, I thought, and its teeth, those are what really scare me, and so I added large sharp fangs.

When my creation was done I took it home and showed my mother. She was surprised that I, of all people, would choose to sculpt a dog’s fanged mouth for my art project. I explained that I planned to place it in my room and face it everyday, get to know it, until I wasn’t afraid anymore.

That was many, many years ago. I’m a grown man now and yes, I did conquer my fear of dogs. In fact, my wife and I have a wonderful lab that follows me everywhere. I can’t imagine life without that sweet dog.

I live on the opposite coast from my mother but I visit her as often as I can. The year my father passed away I went and stayed with her for a few weeks. During that stay I noticed she had my old ceramic dog’s mouth on the dresser in her bedroom.

“I can’t believe you still have that old thing!” I said.

She explained that she put it out after my dad died to remind her not to be afraid.

“You see, you’ve taught me some important lessons too” she told me. “If you can face and conquer your fears, so can I. Sometimes it helps to have a little reminder though.”

My mother called me last month to explain she was going into the hospital for a week but that it was just to fix a simple “lady issue” and I shouldn’t worry. It turns out she really went in to have a tumor in her brain removed. She died during surgery.

My sister lived closest to my mom and so she volunteered to go through and sort her things. I mailed her a small list of items I’d like to have to remind me of my mother. One of them was my old ceramic dog’s mouth.  She called me as soon as she received my letter.

“I let the hospital staff take the few things that mom had in her room to give them to the
Salvation Army. I feel just terrible. Among her things was a ceramic statue that she insisted on keeping beside her bed so she could always see it. I didn’t realize what it was or that you might want it. It’s already gone. I’m so sorry.”

The funny thing was I didn’t feel upset at that news. Instead a deep calm settled over me then and I realized that neither my mother nor I needed that effigy any longer. It was meant for someone else now. I hope they get as much comfort from it as we did and I hope it swallows up all of their fears.


P.S. This story came to me when I saw the picture above posted on Jaquie’s  Facebook page. She found and purchased it for 89 cents at a thrift shop and was bothered that some parent had let it go. Thanks for the inspiration Jake! xo



One of My Many Aha Moments !


I was only 14 pages in when reading Marianne Williamson’s book ‘ The Age of Miracles Embracing The New Midlife, when I had an aha moment that I think about often and wanted to share with all of you.

Marianne wrote;

ONE DAY I LOOKED AT MYSELF in the mirror and indulged in full-scale self-pity.
Oh, I remember when I was young, I thought.  My skin was tighter, my breasts were higher, my rear was firmer, my entire body was voluptuous.  I had so much more energy, and I practically glowed.  I wish I had realized what I had when I had it…and now I’ll never have it again.
Then another voice in my head intervened.
“Oh, Marianne…,” it said, “shut up!  Let me give you a rundown of what it was like when you were younger.  Your nerves were jangled, your heart was restless, your mind was disordered, your appetites were addictive, your love affairs were tragic, your talents were squandered, your opportunities were wasted, and you were never at peace.
“What you did then, in fact, was exactly what you’re doing now: You kept thinking that if only things were different, you’d be happy.  Then it was whatever man or job or resources were there to save you; now it’s if only you were still young.  Reality check:   In those days , you looked good but you didn’t know it.  You had everything but you didn’t appreciate it.  You had the world at your feet but you didn’t realize it.
“ You know what it was like?  It was just like now!”  Thus began my recovery from “youth-itis”

I think that there is no better time than the present !!  I loved this book because it puts aging into perspective. It is a gift to finally be at a point in your  life where you can concentrate on making a difference in the world WHILE being comfortable FINALLY in the skin your in.  This made me reevaluate what I think is important in life.  I decided to do what I love and everything else would follow.  I started to live in the moment and live my life authentically.  I hope you do too after reading this.

TracyThe Age of Miracles