Posted by: Shanna Germain | 06/09/2009

Pg. 70: Fear Itself


Evening on the water. It’s the perfect time to see seals.



  • Weather: Yes.
  • Mileage: A couple of miles. Slowly. My knees creak when I walk. It’s really… disturbing. I sound like a haunted house.
  • Discovery: Apparently I’m not the only one being taken down by tick diseases.
  • Media: Ghosting: A Double Life
  • Worst Thing: They love their karaoke here. A lot. Loudly and a lot.
  • Best Thing: Music in the mail from my friend in Texas, including Ludo, Stephen Lynch, Bloodhound Gang and more. Yeehaw — I’m feeling the love!
  • Quote of the Day: Not really a quote, but one of the women who works at the coffee shop is originally from Denmark, and today she was talking to some customers who were also from Denmark. And the language — I couldn’t understand a word of it, but it was so … beautiful, lyrical, lilting. I could have sat and listened to them talk all day.
  • Word of the Day: Dae and Dinnae. Do and don’t, respectively.


I knew a guy once, years ago, who was deathly afraid to fly. And if I remember correctly, he was also afraid of fire. I think the two combined would have killed him just from the fear alone. He said he’d been born afraid of those things, that it was proof of a past life of some sort, one in which the fire, at least (since he was too young, probably, to have a past life that involved planes), must have played a role.

I don’t know if I believe in past lives. I do know that my whole life I’ve wanted to be a writer. I think I wrote my first poem as soon as I could write at all. At the age of, I don’t know, eight or nine, I won a poetry contest — about Icees, of all things.  Perhaps I was Sappho or Shakespeare in a past life — or more likely, some toiling unknown poet — but I doubt it. What I do know is that I was born to do this thing with words. Nothing makes me happier or more alive than when I’m writing, and writing well.

But, oddly enough, that’s not what I thought I’d talk about in the post. I wanted to talk about fears. I just got sidetracked by the very interesting — but very long-winded — discussion on the possibilites of past and future lives. I’m sure I’ll tackle that topic one of these days though!

I’ve never been a girl who’s afraid of things. I mean, I have my fears. We all do. I’m afraid of not living fully. I’m afraid of writing badly, or, more vividly, I’m afraid of never writing things that are as good as I want them to be. I’m afraid of regrets. I’m afraid of not accomplishing the things I want to do. I’m afraid of getting dull and stale, of forgetting what it means to truly live. I’ve also been afraid at certain times — when I got caught in a riptide on the Jersey shore, when I was in a plane during a huge thunderstorm and we got struck by lightning, once in a dark alley of an unknown city.

But those are nebulous regrets, instant or long-term, intangible things we carry all our lives. We work through them, I think, or we try to, but they never really go away.

I do have one pervasive and persistent fear though, one that I’ve had for as long as I can remember (and, this if nothing else, probably proves the “previous life” theory) and that fear is spiders. Not snakes (cute. i wanted a big one as pet). Not rats (smart and kinda cute). Not moths or caterpillars or worms (all fine). Not bats (totally cute, and they eat the midgies, so bonus points).

Just spiders.

All spiders. Any spiders. Irrational, I know. When I was a kid, I had this National Geographic book on spiders, and I couldn’t even touch the pages to turn them. And, yet, at the same time, I couldn’t not look. Those up-close shots of hairy legs and big eyeballs and crazy fangs. I’d look and shudder and turn the page with a lincoln log, and look again. It was awful. Spiders make my hair stand on end and my lungs open in that little Minnie Mouse shriek and make me do an odd jig, usually accompanied by “get it off get it off get it off!”

Now. I know, as my grandfather used to tell me (this is the same grandfather who hates snakes so much he’d chop them up with the lawnmower or a shovel, whichever was nearby), “They’re more afraid of you than you are of them.” I know this. But it. does. not. matter. I’ve even been bitten by spiders — twice — and didn’t even die. Or get sick.

Which, finally, brings me around to my point. I have lost my fear of spiders. Is this permanent? Temporary? Will my future selves still carry a spider fear? I have no idea.

What I do know is that right now, spiders don’t bother me. Not a whit.

Now ticks, on the other hand… All I have to do is feel something creepy-crawly on my skin and I do this bizarre kind of white-girl breakdance move that sends me sprawling halfway across the room. It’s that evolutionary mechanism that keeps us from re-eating food that makes us sick, or that makes us not want to touch the hot fire after we get burned badly. I think twice before I walk in the woods. I bought bug spray for the first time in years. I’ve taken to wearing slick fabrics so that the ticks can’t attach. The thought of being this sick again just sends me into a dark spiral of fear that I can’t shake. I have this odd feeling that I’ve traded my life-long fear of spiders for a life-long fear of ticks. Or maybe it’s more than life-long…

So, if you meet a girl a hundred years from now who is born deathly afraid of ticks, ask her if she wants to be a writer. And if she says yes, give her a pen, will you? Or whatever it is that people use to write with in the future. Because, after all, you just never know…

Fearless in the face of fear, s.

PS — I am feeling quite a bit better. Not well, per se, but better. Thanks so much to all of you who sent nice thoughts and well wishes. It means so much!


“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” ~Frank Herbert, “Dune”



  1. I understand the tick fear. It actually kept me from my garden for a few years after my bout with lyme and I am more hesitant to wander in the woods – though I love to wander in the woods. One thing that I find attractive about Maine is that where we will be there is no lyme – too cold in winter. That was the sickest I’ve ever been and don’t care to be again. I hate ticks. When I find one on me I reach for the tape – they get incased in tape and I hope they slowly slowly die and know it.

    As for spiders, I’m not NOT afraid of them – I like them, but not too much. I saw a beautiful huge spider this weekend while pulling weeds on the side of the house. It was as big around as a small cupcake (yeah, a weird comparison). But it had run off by the time I returned with my bug book. In college biology class I held a tarantula. I did it because nobody would volunteer (especially none of the guys!) and I was feeling my … whatever it is I feel when I do something daring. It was a most peculiar sensation. I would do it again if the opportunity arose. And I find those little jumping spiders particularly enchanting – they see the world similarly to how we do – I read that in National Geographic once.

    Anyhow, fear ruled a good portion of my life. But it was an intangible fear that I’m not going to get into now.

    Now I’m itching. 😉

    • Mhn. It is that funny thing.. I KNOW spiders are good for the world so I can’t bring myself to kill them. But I can’t bring myself to live with them either. Which usually means I run around until I can find someone to take the thing outside for me.

    • Mhn. It is that funny thing.. I KNOW spiders are good for the world so I can’t bring myself to kill them. But I can’t bring myself to live with them either. Which usually means I run around until I can find someone to take the thing outside for me.

      I can’t imagine holding a tarantula!!! No. F-ing. Way.

  2. There is something very alien-looking about certain spiders and also I was terribly frightened of them as a kid. Until I was brave enough to kill one myself then that fear slowly went away. Of course I still have a healthy respect for black widows till I hit them with the bug spray n watch em wither and die . Suddenly the big monster becomes this dying piece of lint with legs ‘There you aren’t as scary and big as I thought…’

    Then I feel bad. And silly for being scared of this little creature.


    Now I need to work on my fear of public speaking and job interviews.

    • Oh, public speaking. I’ve heard that’s a huge fear for people. I get a little jittery beforehand if I think too much about it, but 4-H cured me of that, I think. I once did this public speaking thing where I had ten minutes to teach the judges how ot make butter by shaking cream vigorously in a canning jar until it churned. But I’d forgotten to take the cream out of the fridge the night before so it was overly cold. Needless to say… Me talking and shaking and talking and shaking. And still no butter. Eventually, my time ran out and I had to make a joke about the number one tip on how to make butter was to remember to take the cream out of the fridge.

      I don’t remember, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t go on to finals that year…

  3. You know, I had a sympathy tick-dream last night (I have a bite on my side). One of those uber-realistic dreams, I woke up with the white circle round the bite and knew it was going to be deathly serious!

    Weirdly, my fear of spiders seems to have calmed down a bit too lately. I’m just scared of … absolutely everything else!

    ; )

  4. My irrational fear is leeches. Those squirmy black ones that attach themselves to you and suck your blood, so that you walk out of the Australian rainforest covered in them. I shake and hyperventilate and generally act completely hysterical. Funnily, I’m perfectly cool, calm and collected with ticks (which can do you harm) and will pick them off with aplomb. It’s the harmless leeches that freak me out.

    I hope your Lymes clears up soon.

    • Oh, Cheyenne! I can only imagine… blech. There is something about leeches. I’m not afraid of them… but grossed out? A little. For sure.

  5. I’m glad you liked the music! I just can’t believe it took me so long to realize you could send stuff to Scotland lol.

    My two big fears are needles and snakes. I’m pretty sure I was born with the fear of needles, have been freaked out by them for as long as I can remember. Just something… off… about getting stuck with a needle.

    Now the snakes are a bit odder. As I a kid, I loved snakes. I adored them, soaked up all the information I could on them. Hell, I even convinced my parents to buy us a Ball Python as a pet (We named him Jaws, and my mom still has him!). I’m not even sure exactly when it happened, but the fascination in them slowly gave way to a fear.

    It could have been the open pit snake farm we saw in thailand. Where there were literally hundreds of snakes in each ‘cage’, basically a 10 foot deep pit with a tree in the middle, whose branches actually -touched- the tree’s around it outside of the pit. Or it could have been when we were biking through Brazos Bend and I ran over a stick, which turned out to be a 3 foot long water moccasin. Never though I’d see a stick turn and look at me before burying its fangs into my boot.

    Either way, I now loathe snakes. Unnatural things, slinking around on their bellies, hiding the grass, waiting for one single bite to kill me.

    • That is the best snake story ever… I can’t believe you ran over a water moccasin! Don’t they have lots of big, nasty snakes in Texas? Or is that just a rumor?

      • On no, that is definately no rumor. The one I ran over was at least 3 feet long and as big around as -my- arm, and it still wasn’t the biggest Cottonmouth I’ve ever seen. And even bigger than the Water Moc’s are the Rattlers. Back when I was still fascinated by them, me and my friend ran into a 6 foot monster in the woods behind our house. Sucker was so big we actually saw it before it starting shaking its tail. I, being a dumb kid, picked up a branch and started moving the bush around it to get a better view of it curled up ready to strike. My friend ran off to find my dad, who showed up with a neighbor and his shotgun, took the big bastard right out. Thinking back on it I’m fucking terrified, but at the time I was just excited lol.

  6. When I was young, I was terrified of storms, well not storms, the fact that the power would go out leaving me alone in my cramped little room, the now dead box fan lazily moving in circles, sending abstract shadows all over the wall/door of my room when the lightening would flash.

    Inevitably I’d call for mom and she’d come and I slowly grew up to be not afraid of storms, not even tornados – now I have a healthy respect for both but I’m not the “frozen in place” terrified that some people get about things.

    Funny thing – later on.. recently really, I learned my mother was terrified but didn’t want me to get the fears that her mother passed onto her.

    But there is one thing that terrifies me. A while ago (before I moved) I lived in what I thought was a peaceful home in a quiet town, some crazy neighbors moved in – fine, great.. I don’t mind.

    I didn’t until one day I was walking up the stairs from the basement (where I’d been online playing eq2) and there was a HUGE crash.

    Sounded like a million glasses shattering. It was my window. Both of them actually – because some punk picked up my frozen pumpkin (I was going for a minimalist look that year for halloween) picked up the frozen pumpkin – thinking I was the neigbor that called and bitched about his loud parties – and tossed it at the house, not realizing it was frozen and well…

    The local PD came, followed the tracks in the snow from my house to theirs, the parents were positive it wasn’t their kid – until the police found that he left his wallet behind.

    In the end I moved – not because I was afraid of the kid, I just couldn’t walk up the stairs if someone dropped something upstairs or I heard a strange noise.

    New house – a lot better but still, I have to force myself when I hear strange noises to get up and go look.

    Otherwise my fears run the same – not living enough, not loving enough – so just to make this clear – I heart you all, yes all.

    Shanna is such an awesome person and she obviously has awesome taste and since I heart her you are all hearted by proxy 🙂

    And Shanna – thanks for being gorgeous /smooches

    • Oh, I love storms! One thing I should probably be afraid of, but I’m not for some unknown reason. I miss storms, actually. They didn’t have them in Portland. The storms here are awesome, but totally different. They just come right across the water, and bam!

  7. Hmmm… Brian HATES ticks. Mr. poke anything in the woods with stick and see what happens is utterly grossed out by ticks. You’ve never seen him kill something so completely.

    For me it’s cockroaches. Oh… and maggots crawling out of a squat toilet in the hotel room during a rain storm. I don’t know why they freaked me out so badly – but they really bothered me.

    • Okay, Letha, the maggot thing freaked you out because it’s just gross! Oh man… I would have been completely out of my mind. Not that they bother me in general, but in my hotel room?! Gah!

  8. I wish I could overcome my fear of spiders. I stop breathing when I see them, after I make an agonized noise that, thankfully, my husband can hear and identify from a mile away.

    I’ve tried to desensitize myself by looking at pictures in books. I start to sob and have to turn the page. Shelob in The Return of the King? Not a huge (pardon the pun) problem when filmed from the side–I assume because she was so big she seemed unreal. But shots from above? Sobs caught in my throat.

    I’ve gotten over my fear of llamas…why can’t I conquer this?!

    • Oh, Dayle! Shilob did me in too! I couldn’t look… Gave me the willies.

      And, wait, llamas? My parents raise llamas. Now you -have- to tell me that story!

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