On a summer Saturday when I was about seven, some friends and I were stalking the awnings and eves of our New Orleans apartment complex spying the paper nests of the big red fiery wasps. They were easy to find. Once spotted we would take turns shooting our bits of elastic at those nests in a mostly fruitless attempt to knock them down. All we succeeded in doing was stir up the inhabitants who aggressively questioned our intent by their immediate actions, “Who dat?” and “Waz Up?” On this particular Saturday a wasp decided to fight back with a Kamikaze-style dive at us. It struck me in the right side of my face stinger first. Dropping my inefficient weapon to the ground, I screamed, ran toward home, and started crying all at about the same moment. I was greeted with a not-so-soothing, “Told you so.”
Failing to learn from my mistake, the next Saturday found me on the prowl again…with the same result. I was stung in the same spot on my cheek before the first wound had even fully healed. I never hunted wasps again. Something like “Fool me twice shame on me” may have come to mind even though at that age I don’t remember being anything but scared to death. I have maintained a fervent, though somewhat by now seasoned, phobia for flying insects with stingers ever since.
My God doesn’t want me to be afraid…of wasps, stingers, dentist’s needles, heights, peanut butter, or anything else. I’ll get back to the pb later. The Bible encourages us to “fear not” or “be not afraid” hundreds of times. I’m sure there’s a message in there someplace for me. He also tells me not to be anxious or worry about my height, my clothes, my next meal, or even tomorrow. God would certainly approve of the Serenity Prayer (full, original, long version by Reinhold Niebuhr, 1892-1971):
God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, trusting that You will make all things right, if I surrender to Your will, so that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.
Niebuhr died the year I was married. I’m sure he had my phobias in mind when he first prayed those words. Perhaps he was deathly afraid of…the list seems endless, but I’ve included a few of the more unusual phobias here:
- Peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth- Arachibutyrophobia (I like pb regardless of what part of my mouth it sticks to)
- Bees- Apiphobia or Melissophobia (think I mentioned this before)
- Blood- Hemophobia, Hemaphobia or Hematophobia (especially my own)
- Flutes- Aulophobia (my daughter Kara played this instrument beautifully – I was never afraid)
- Lawsuits- Liticaphobia (never had one of these thrust upon me – probably would not like it much)
- Mother-in-law- Pentheraphobia (never a problem – my mother-in-law was the kindest of women)
- Needles- Aichmophobia or Belonephobia (this one got me big time for years – still not in love with them, but have matured to something of a tolerance when absolutely necessary)
- Stings- Cnidophobia (de ja vous)
- Wasps- Spheksophobia (de ja vous all over again)
There are hundreds, perhaps thousands more. Check the Internet for lots of lists. But be aware and beware that there could possibly be a phobia for lists of phobias that might keep someone from looking at such a document on the WWW. A phobia-phobic person might rationalize that there is nothing to fear but fear itself.
By today’s standards I should never have survived the Fifties. Those were scary times, but we didn’t even know it. Our baby beds were covered with brightly colored lead-based paint which was promptly chewed and licked. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, or latches on doors or cabinets and it was fine to play with pans. When we rode our bikes, we wore no helmets, just flip flops with clothespin noisemakers on our wheels. We rode in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the passenger seat was a treat. We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle – tasted the same. We drank fizzy pop with sugar in it, but we were never overweight; because we were always outside playing. We shared one drink with four friends, from one bottle or can and no one actually died from this…or even got mono. We did not have Playstations or X-Boxes, no video games at all…didn’t even miss the Wii or Guitar Hero (wasn’t that a nickname for Chet Adkins, Elvis, or somebody). No 99 channels on TV, no videotape movies, no surround sound, no mobile phones, no personal computers, no Internet chat rooms. We had friends; we went outside and found them. We fell out of trees, got cut and broke bones and teeth, and there were no lawsuits. They were accidents. We learned not to do the same thing again. We had fights, punched each other hard and got black and blue – we learned to get over it. We walked to friends’ homes. We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate live stuff; and although we were told it would happen, we did not have very many eyes out, nor did the live stuff live inside us forever. We played home run derby with a whiffle ball and plastic bat. Street football was for Sunday afternoons. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law. Imagine that!
So phobias aside, let’s put our phobias aside. Not sure what any of this means, but I’ve enjoyed once again rambling about not much. Guess I could steal a line from Mr. Shakespeare and title this Much Ado about Nothing. But don’t titles usually go at the beginning rather than her at The End. Besides, I have a plagiarism phobia…it leaves my blogging skills incapacitated.