My son is travelling to Asia today. He’s not going alone—as usual he travels with his girlfriend—a young woman I absolutely adore. Sigh. I’m not happy about their choice of destination, because they’re heading to a place where the earth keeps rumbling. I’m afraid something bad will happen while they’re there. It’s a Mom thing—I’ve been trained to think worst-case scenarios. That’s how I knew to pack a change of clothing and 2 extra diapers when we visited the in-laws.
I could justify my admittedly neurotic fear by blaming the media. They’ve been manipulating our fight or flight instincts for decades. Turn on the television, and what do you see? Well, it’s summer. If you’ve seen the rerun episode so many times that you can recite Barney’s lines (“Bro!”), you might opt instead for the news—doom and gloom—or the 20/20 episode—the one about the unsuspecting housewife/student/real estate agent who disappeared, only to be found four days later dead in a drainage ditch. You find yourself wondering: could that happen to me? Disquieting. So, you go back to the channel guide. What else can you watch? Let’s see, there’s the cop show, CSI or perhaps you could watch that other show, the one where she’s a criminal investigator/undercover operative/agency spy? The plots are usually fairly interchangeable. In the space of one night, you’ll witness at least two violent acts, some sort of murder (or murders), and if you’re in the sweeps? Maybe a terrorist plot. Sex used to sell. Now fear does.
See? All this pot-stirring of dread causes some of us to over-magnify. We begin to worry about things we can’t see. Like bird flu. Poisonous lead hidden in that novelty mug you picked up on vacation. Meteorites. The planet grinding to a halt because we’ve reached the end of our natural gas resources. Exploding silicone breasts. (okay, I just threw that one in there). The media is determined to convince us that everything is potentially dangerous, from strangers walking down your street to the sodium levels in your minestrone!
Yes, blame the media.
Unless of course, you’re part of it. An inconvenient fact: as a writer, I’m a bit of a fear-stirrer myself. My books have lots of moments where Hedi Peacock’s toes are justifiably curling. Truth is, I wrote the type of book I like to read–one with action and romance. I did that because I know that we readers like to be scared. A little. And also, I know that most people can easily draw the line between fact and fiction, be it in print or in movies.
So if I understand the difference between real life and fiction, then why I am worried?
It’s a Mom thing. We worry. It’s part of the job description, like loving your kid, no matter what they do. Missing them when they’re not around. I’ve explained this to myself–you’re only worried because you’re a Mom–and myself has agreed to let it go.
So to my kids I send out this wish: be fearless and happy! Fly, little darlings, fly.