You know that moment when you get preoccupied with your projects, then become startled by a noise in the room or someone rustling behind you? My mom use to be that person rustling behind me every so often. After I would jump around, startled, she would say, “It’s just us chickens,” with a playful smile. Then she would give me a hug.
Traveling 9 or so countries through Central and South America, I hear many rustling sounds that make me alert and looking around, for howler monkeys, big lizards and water bugs. In most cases, it’s just a shadow of a bird flying by or of a palm tree branch waving in the wind.
In Belize I sometimes hear news about mounting robberies that scare the expat residents. Most are just pick pocketing incidents. They call the robberies crime here, which puts fear into the air that is socially infectious. In NYC, where I’m from, crime equals severe violence and denigration. My awareness becomes heightened when people around me speak of “high crime.”
I like to work outside on the veranda. The first time I heard rustling in the neighbor’s yard I thought for sure, with the crime everyone keeps talking about, that there were vicious thieves in the bushes watching my every move and preparing to pounce. I couldn’t work like that, so I grabbed the metal pipe I keep by my bed and went out to face my fears.
I peered into the neighbor’s bushes from a safe distance only to find that the noises were just a bunch of chickens scratching the ground looking for snacks. The chickens were more afraid of me even after I put down the pipe. Relieved, and seeing the humor of this scene, I could almost see the face of my young mom in those bushes smiling and saying to me, “It’s just us chickens.”
We all carry the human need to connect with each other and feel a sense of belonging. Fear is one facilitator, which does that. If 2 people share the same fear, not only can they form a bond, but fear intensifies their connection with passion deepening the fear. The problem with fear, in my experience, is that it’s based mostly in fantasy. Fear is a life altering distraction and encourages disconnection from the world where we seek to experience more connections. I’d taken the concept of pick pocketing and turned it into violent crimes against women while trying to get some work done outside in the daylight.
One of my worst fears were brought to light in a bunch of chickens who ran away as soon as they saw me through the bushes. Facing my fears instead of giving into them by locking myself in the house showed me that life is what we make it up to be in our minds. It also brought to light a new connection with my mom who’s oblivious to my moment with the chickens because she lives in another part of the continent. I finished my work that day in comfort, rooted in a stronger sense of myself.