Grandma Got Eaten By A Grizzly Bear (well…almost)
I’ve been thinking a lot about the feeling of vulnerability that has increased since I have become more disabled due to a broken neck and two brain surgeries. This has made me think of others with similar experiences, and I’ve wondered how they cope. I’m still in a state of shock that this has happened to me. Next on the agenda will be trying to answer the question, “What now? How do I become the most independent version of myself while accepting my dependance on others? I’m wrestling with that question during this season in my life.
But in all honesty, I have always felt more vulnerable than a lot of other people. I was a very shy child, terrified of most everything. I grew up during the cold war with Russia. We had monthly air raid siren tests; people built bomb shelters in their backyards; once a month we crawled under our desks at school in unison, making sure our hands covered the back of our necks. For what? I thought. As a young child, my imagination ran rampant, always wondering what was going to happen next.
Unfortunately, a lot of things happened next. Feeling more vulnerable and helpless attracts people who liked to control others, mentally and physically. I had plenty of experiences with being hurt by those bigger and stronger to cause a lifelong fear of being left in any deserted place by myself. I’m better but I may not completely lose this remnant of post traumatic stress symptoms until I reach the other side.
I read something interesting the other day. The author suggested that there were two kinds of people…those whose thoughts tended towards the “false positives,” and those whose thoughts tended towards the “false negatives.” If you were the type who thought a saber-tooth tiger was probably somewhere outside the cave, but you went out anyway, since hunting was a priority and you were willing to take the risk, you were of the “false positive” type. Your amygdala, that tiny almond shaped part of the brain that works as an alarm system, didn’t go off quite as quickly as it did in other folks.
If you stayed in or close to the cave because you were worried there “might” be a saber-tooth tiger outside the cave even if there was no sign of one, you were the “false negative type. According to the author, these types of thinkers are spread pretty evenly across the bell curve, and both are needed in the perpetuation of the human race. The false positive types hunted, the false negative types stayed close to protect the children and maybe did some gardening. Personally, I was glad to learn that all this fear was the way I was made and that it was good for something!
The other day, my husband and I were on a camping trip. We decided to drive over to a canyon and drive in for about a mile and have a picnic lunch by a large stream. It was a beautiful, open, park-like setting, and we had it all to ourselves. We got out our camp chairs and sat down by the stream to eat. I felt that sense of great peace that only the beauty of nature provides. I was present to the moment. I was hearing the rushing water; smelling decaying leaves, feeling the brush of a breeze across my cheek. It was heavenly. After lunch, we both got out some books to read. My husband mentioned wanting to cast a line into the stream so he got up and went behind me to the truck to get his fishing pole.
I continued reading. I was reading a book titled Astonished: Recapturing the Wonder, Awe, and Mystery of God, by Mike Erre, about the presence of God in our lives; how he is always near no matter where we are or what we are doing. It is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it.
So, as I was reflecting on God being right there with me in the moment, when I suddenly realized that Tom had not come back into view to fish the stream in front of me.
Although I am disabled, I look like any other able-bodied person, but everything has changed for me. I cannot hear out of one ear, meaning that I can’t tell which direction sound is coming from. I cannot see well, and if I swing around to scan my environment, my vision goes double and it seems like I’m looking at objects while riding a merry-go-round. I cannot run, as my equilibrium is off, and if I were to start running it would end up like that time I tried to outrun a bear (which turned out to be snow falling from the tree) while wearing cross-country skis (watching me pitch face down in the snow while the wet lumps came lose from the tree and almost covered my back was quite a funny sight if you ask my husband. Splat!).
So, back to our picnic… as I got up and looked around for my husband, not really seeing well, not really walking well, and not really hearing well, I felt a sense of dread and foreboding envelope my body. I began to yell his name. He didn’t answer. He had the truck keys, the cell phone (which wouldn’t have worked there, but would have a few miles down the road), and the sidearm. Our jackets were locked in the truck. Images raced through my brain as I screamed his name louder and louder. I was a little worried I was going to bring campers from the next mile over rushing to see what all the noise was about!
Suddenly, that beautiful, tranquil spot seemed filled with danger. My shark music kicked on. I pictured trying to walk out of that canyon, cold, scared, unprotected. I pictured the moose someone had spotted right in that canyon earlier in the day. Moose are very dangerous creatures. They have razor sharp hooves and could stomp a person to death in nothing flat. You can’t talk them out of it.
I pictured a grizzly bear, ripping me to shreds like one did to Leonardo Dicaprio in the movie The Revenant. I After watching that movie, I had already decided that I would not try that hard to live through being torn to shreds, while almost being buried alive, and then walking through a snow-filled wilderness while eating raw flesh and sleeping in the insides of a dead horse, thank you very much. But I guess the survival mechanism kicks in for all of us. It is a God-given gift.
Suddenly my husband walked out from some bushes down the stream a ways and when I saw him the sense of relief I felt turned my fear into something else altogether. I turned away from him and began to sob. When he got to me I was almost inconsolable. I finally choked out the words, “I didn’t know where you were!” He comforted me, clearly perplexed (as only a bigger, stronger, man with the keys, cell phone, and sidearm could be). And I was very embarrassed. Somewhere in my brain was a message I have picked up somewhere along the line. Helplessness is not attractive. I have been married to my husband for 22-years and have never felt such love from another person other than my children. But I still want to look good for him, put on the brave face, be attractive, interesting, desirable and, well, damn it, capable.
And believe me, it was no lost on me that I had just been reading about how God was right there with me, every moment, and as soon as something happens, I forgot all about Him.
I understood something about myself that day. We all have limits. I have been the type that has tried to pretend that I don’t have any. I tend to push myself when others may have given up (for instance, after my first brain surgery I worked my way through a masters degree while lying in bed. My inspiration was a quote by George Eliot: “It is never too late to become what you might have been.” (Oh really? Could I become an astronaut now if I wanted to?). I have prided myself on my ability to finish what I start, or to persevere beyond what most people may attempt. I think God is trying to show me something.
I thought about the Apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” He asked the Lord three times to remove this from him, and the Lord chose not to. Paul goes on to say that the Lord answered him this way:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (I Cor. 12:9).
I think this means that in those times when I reach the end of my own strength, when I am weakest, Christ’s power within me shows up all the more clearly to others. There may be not much I can do about my survival mechanism rearing it’s head at inopportune (or unnecessary) moments, and there may not be much I can do about being a “false negative” type of thinker (although I believe working on thinking errors can calm it down a bit).
But I do think there’s room to grow a little more holy boldness…to become more assured that my life in the hands of a loving God who already knows the number of my days, and that leaving a legacy for my grandchildren that includes the story about how “Grandma got eaten by a grizzly bear in the backwoods of Montana,” isn’t the worst thing I could leave them. But the best thing I could leave them? Faith that Jesus will never leave them alone, even when the alarm bells in their brain cause them to feel like a helpless infant. Especially then.
What about you? Do you feel frustrated by weakness and disabilities or do they draw you nearer to God, knowing he is the source of strength and power in your lives? Like this post? Please share it with anyone you think may benefit from it. Let me know you’re here by saying hello to me in the comments. :o)