The WRite Life, A Life of Conscious Purpose full of Joy, Tears, Laughter, and Stories
My nine-year-old daughter, Anika was assigned to write an essay on fear. “What is your greatest fear?” her teacher asked. Sitting at the kitchen table, I helped her brainstorm ideas. I said, “What about sharks, or snakes?” We visit Kona in the summers, and she is often the farthest child out, sitting on her boogie board waiting for a perfect wave. We live where rattlesnakes crawl into our yard, surprising us near doorways or in the rabbit cage.
She told me no that she really isn’t afraid of sharks, “That’s your fear, Mommy. And I can out run snakes.”
I suggested, “What about being the goalie for your soccer team?” She often said she was nervous before games because everyone counted on her. Lastly, I mention her nightmares that have begun since her farther and I divorced.
She wrote on her paper, “Death.”
I wanted to scream no don’t even think that, knowing that if she never said the word, or thought about death then surely her death would never happen. I also wondered about what her teacher might think of me, letting her daughter write about something as dark as death.
She continued to write her ideas. Death to her meant no light. Death to her meant not being with her family and friends. Death to her meant hurting the ones she loves the most.
Recently, the family court judge asked to meet Anika. He promised he’d take off his black robe. She asked me, “Who is a judge?”
Her father and I were in a custody battle. Would the judge rule the standard 50/50? Would he rule 80/20? I was told by his lawyer, by the mediator that as the primary caregiver if I didn’t conform and comply, the court could take custody from me. In California, dads get 50%, regardless of what kind of father they had been. When I have been threatened in this way, fear would rise, and I had to tell myself to breathe.
Anika reminded me that death is our greatest fears. But death doesn’t necessarily mean a physical death. Maybe death to Anika wasn’t dying but the death of her intact family: dad, mom, brother and sister. Death was felt in the fear of the judge. “Why do I have to meet the judge,” she asked. “What will he do to me?”
This kind, smart, intuitive girl, like when she plays soccer, was confident in her fears.
Me, not so much, my biggest fear was losing her. And yet I felt happy and content as I watched her run through our field with no shoes on. I saw her with her sword and swear she was fighting the dragon only she could see.