Living with the Intruder

If you’re like me then this has happened to you.

You were looking at a baby (yours or someone else’s) and the memories of when You were a baby came rushing back. Suddenly you could remember the first day your parents brought you home from hospital and how you looked the entire house over and wondered if this was the house you’d have to live in for the next 15 years! Then you remembered how livid you were when your mom tried to introduce formula…what was wrong with breastmilk…you didn’t remember complaining about it. And it felt just like yesterday that your mom snatched the weekend newspaper from you…why did she do that? Afterall, you were only trying to be like Dad, who was reading it a few moments ago and she didn’t snatch it from him.
The most persistent memory though was the fact that everyone seemed to want to stop you……when you tried to come up close to the TV just so you could touch Pooh bear – NO! COME AWAY FROM THERE….when you decided to keep crawling even though you were at the edge of the bed – NO! STOP BABY!…. when you saw some exciting insect specimen on the carpet and decided to orally explore it – PUT IT DOWN, NOW! One too many STOPS! naturally began to make you a little bit apprehensive…you couldn’t wait to grow up and stop being a baby that got carried around all the time to places you didn’t really want to go…like the doctor’s clinic for those immunisation shots. You were pretty sure that when you grew up you would be free to do whatever you wanted to do. You could get as close to the tv as you wanted, and you could read the weekend newspaper (or shred it if you so wished).

Well, I did grow up, albeit in stages. Different stages of growth came with varying amounts of freedom as well as restrictions. The great thing about being 3 years old is that you no longer need to sleep in the cot so you don’t have to keep trying to climb over the bars. The not so great thing about being 3 years old is that you most likely have been introduced to the Intruder.

‘Intruder: someone who is present where he/she is not welcome’.

When I was a baby, I was innocent (some of you might find this fact hard to believe, but its true) and I was full of trust. I trusted my parents and I trusted the world. This was why I would let anyone carry me; I would eat anything from anyone; I would smile at anybody; I believed everyone liked me (I was a baby, I was cute, I was cuddly. who wouldn’t like me?); I used to try and hold big dogs by their ears; I wasn’t afraid of anything. By the time I was 3, I had learned not to talk to strangers; not to eat anything from just anybody; to tell Mum if someone touched me in a way that made me feel uncomfortable; that some people didn’t like me for some reason; that I couldn’t cross the road without an Adult because I could get killed…I had been introduced to the Intruder – Fear.

Age 5 – I was in Kindergarten and I hated the ordeal of having my Mom or anyone else comb my hair. When I combined this attitude with managing to get lice, it was the last straw for my Mom, so she cut my hair. Monday morning I was driven to school and it was the worst day ever. Some bullies in my class gathered around me and sang horrid songs and I began to fear school. School meant bullies. They were monsters that came to school everyday and made life miserable for you. I considered ending my education at that point but my parents had other ideas.

Age 15 caught up with me in high school. Most girls were trying to be noticed by the boys. If you didn’t dress a certain way, you were destined not to have a boyfriend and this meant you were uncool. Needless to say, my Mom made sure that my skirt was always way below the knees, so I didn’t have a short enough skirt to be cool…and I didn’t have a boyfriend in highschool. I got introduced to the fear of what my peers thought.

Age 19 saw me at Uni. I had reached a point in life where I was not living at home and I was quite shocked to suddenly discover that I now had to make choices. Bad choices could even lead to the end of my life (or at least life as i knew it back then). I always heard of people who had made a bad choice and gone off with a guy they didn’t really know and were never seen again…or people who got infected with HIV…or people who got kicked out of Uni…or people who got into gangs and got shot. It was all overwhelming…there was just a lot to fear and there were no parents to protect me. I felt like my life was now up to me and I had no one to blame if I took the wrong turn. Good friends and a doting boyfriend helped. Oh, and my parents had friends who seemed to be at every nook and cranny of the Uni and who I could count on to tell them if I had been seen doing what I wasn’t supposed to be doing. They made me worry a lot actually.

Age 23 turned up and I had finished Uni. Yay. At this point, even though I knew there were bad things happening all around the world, none had happened to me up till then and this was a good sign. There was nothing in the world to be afraid of….but then I went and had a car crash. I was traveling on a National assignment and the driver lost control of his vehicle. I was sitting in front and I can’t remember much of the crash except that I lost a few teeth, had a deep cut on my knee, couldn’t walk or talk for weeks, and sustained minor bruises to my spinal discs. Great! I was not transferred to a location that would not involve traveling so I had to deal with this new found fear of traveling (mostly for 6 or 7 hrs at a stretch) to this post for the period of 12 months that I was on duty.
Till date, I can’t really sleep when someone is driving me and I have not gotten my license yet. I have to fight the Intruder to be able to do these things.

When Age 24 came by, I had finished my 12 month posting and I had just come back from one last (safe) road trip. I did not need to do any more road travels. I only had to hop on a plane to Brisbane in about 2 weeks and there was nothing to fear. Air travel is one of the safest means of travel. Then the Belview airline crashed. OMG talk about bad timing. CNN decided to air a time-line of all the plane crashes that have ever happened in the world…and I became pretty worried about spending about 25 hours on a plane from Abuja to Brisbane. I can still feel the butterflies in my tummy. I stopped watching CNN and switched to Cartoon network. I hopped on the plane to Lagos enroute to Brisbane and when I got on my Emirates flight, I looked at the screen and noted that one of the Planes that left Abuja around the time I left had crashed at Port Harcourt. Great. In fact, some of the Kids I saw milling around the airport were gone. What perfect news to receive at the start of a 25 hour long flight. Needless to say, I made that trip with the Intruder close at hand. I fought hard and long during every turbulence and when we spent hours over the Atlantic.

Age 25 was pleased with me because I decided to marry that doting boyfriend of mine. About time. I traveled back to Nigeria for a small and quick wedding and spent roughly 2 weeks with my beau before coming back to Brisbane – ALONE. I was now married…and the Intruder whispered this to me…’the risk of being a widow is now real’. Scary. No,nothing can happen to my husband, we’ve only just got married. His parents are still married and alive and so are my parents. It runs in both our families. But the Intruder lingered. My husband called me almost everyday and when he went on travels (which he seemed to be doing all the time) he would tell me of ordeals he went through on some and how others were fine. My mind seemed to be able to filter out the good stories and retain the bad stories. So I worried. When I realized that worrying wouldn’t do me any good, I switched to praying for him everyday when I woke up and before I went to bed. He joined me 5 months later. Phew.

Age 26 saw me get pregnant for our first child. Life was good. We got married. We live together. We were going to have a baby! There wasn’t much to fear…till we lost the baby. Then miscarriages became a real and potent fear to us. I had to deal with this fear for 6 months until I felt bold enough to try again. I’m happy I tried because I now have Izabelle. However, the 9 months were spent fighting the Intruder on various issues that worry pregnant women – Oh God, I pray that my child will be healthy; I pray that I won’t loose this one; I’m trying to eat well so that all will be well with my baby; I pray that my baby will not have down syndrome or any other syndrome….Believe me when I tell you that 9 months is a long long time when you’re pregnant. Time only seems to go in the 5th gear after you’ve had the baby. which is probably because the babies can’t wait to grow up. 🙂

You probably get my gist by now. Life is full of things to fear. The Intruder lurks around every corner and you don’t even have to turn on the TV to see it because it’s on the radio. Bomb blasts, air crashes, car crashes, kidnappings, fires, serial killers, natural disasters, cancers, health issues, arrrrrrrrrrgh!!! MAKE IT STOP!
We have all met the Intruder and we have learned to either live with it or deal with it. We can’t achieve our highest potential if we are held back by fear. We have to take risks.
The highest feeling of fear for most people is the fear of death. For some other people, the fear of being rejected and worthless surpasses the fear of death, hence the push to commit suicide in some cases.

My encounters with the Intruder is not a sad ending story though. I have discovered that the opposite of fear is trust. If I trust you, I won’t fear you. If I trust a driver, I won’t fear when I board his car or bus…and so on. I have chosen to trust that even though I live in a world were I am exposed to a lot of dangers, I will be safe. So for me, it boils down to doing what I can do, and leaving the rest to God.
This is the reason that I have stopped being scared if a visibly Muslim man or woman enters the bus and sits beside me. I have stopped worrying if they’re going to blow up the bus. I didn’t stop because I trust Brisbane’s security, I stopped because at that point, there is nothing else I can do except deciding not to go to work (which is not an option). The only thing I can do is trust God.

Recently I asked my colleague if she was ever scared of flying and she said that it didn’t bother her. When I asked her why, she replied that since one would still die someday, what does it matter which way someone dies, death is death. She wouldn’t let the fear that she might crash keep her from travelling on holidays or for work. After all, the odds are in her favour that she is more likely to land safely…moreover, if one decided to keep away from things that had the potential to kill like cars, planes, etc, then life wouldn’t make sense. I like that attitude and I am trying to wear it. You’ve probably noted that I’m particularly nervous about flying, but I will fly. I will need to. I can’t say that the butterflies would be gone the whole trip, but you know what? If the Intruder won’t go away, I’ll do life AFRAID. If you’ve noticed, when you do life, the Intruder slips away.

My Conclusion? Lets do life…don’t let the Intruder intrude. Just do it.

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