If you have been following along with my Braver Than Before journey these past few months, you will know that I have been working hard at conquering fear and anxiety in 2017. I have taken some major steps forward and learned a lot of healthy coping mechanisms that have helped me navigate through some of the more difficult times. I have been trying to be more intentional about facing my fears, even in small, subtle ways. But that being said, every once in a while, something comes up that just scares the daylights out of me.
This was the case last night. It was around 11:00, and I was sitting in my home office doing some late night reading. Below me, I could hear the muffled sounds of our roommate, Kevin, packing up some of his things for his upcoming move back home to Ontario. All was well.
Suddenly, I heard what sounded like the front door of our house opening and closing, ever so quietly. This caught my attention because I wasn’t expecting Ryan to be home for at least another hour or two, and I knew Kevin was still in the basement, as I had heard him down there only moments earlier.
Though this was a little bit unsettling, my initially reaction was to brush it off, thinking that there must be a reasonable explanation for what I had heard. Maybe I just hadn’t heard Kevin come up the stairs and walk across the main floor, or maybe he was getting some late night help from a friend and had instructed them to let themselves in. Maybe Ryan came home earlier than anticipated, or maybe I had been mistaken and the door hadn’t actually opened and closed. Maybe it was something else altogether.
But something about it still bothered me. The sound had been so subtle. If it was the front door, the opening and closing of it had been intentionally quiet, and that troubled me. Ryan wouldn’t come in like that. And even if he did, He would have walked quickly through the house, dropped his backpack, and gone to the bathroom or made some other kind of noise. If Kevin had someone coming over, they would have come in and gone directly downstairs to help him, but I hadn’t heard that either.
Instead, what I heard as I listened sounded to me like someone moving around very quietly on the main floor. To make matters worse, I could still hear the sounds Kevin was making downstairs, so I had to rule out the possibility that it was him. My heart started to pound as the fearful thoughts poured into my mind.
Listening so intently at this point, I continued to hear this strange combination of sounds—Kevin moving around in the basement, and something else seemingly happening in the living room or kitchen of my home. I was terrified and frozen. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to move. I kept my eyes on the open office door, all the while expecting to see a strange and menacing figure appear in the hallway.
I started making action plans. At one point I actually dialed 911 in my phone without hitting send, just so that I could be ready should anything happen. Eventually I got up the courage to stand up and walk closer to the office door. I didn’t know if I should hide, close the door, or investigate.
I think, in my heart of hearts, I knew that my mind was playing tricks on me. But my perception of the situation seemed so real in that moment. I was convinced that there was an intruder in my home. I knew what I was hearing, and it wasn’t right! But somehow, for some reason, I decided that I had to move. I had to do something. And the moment was now.
I walked out of the office, down the hallway, and into the living room. I had expected to see someone the moment I stepped into the hallway, but I didn’t. There was no one in the living room. No one in the kitchen. No one in the entryway. There was no one on the main floor except for me!
Relieved, I took a moment to catch my breath. But then I noticed something. I was still hearing the sounds of Kevin working in the basement, but this time, they weren’t coming from below me. They were coming up through the open stairway and into the main floor of the house. Now that I was in a different room, I was hearing the sounds differently.
It all started coming together. From my office, in the farthest corner of my main floor, the sounds coming up the stairway had sounded like they were coming from the living room. They sounded closer than the muffled sounds I was hearing from below me, because they were travelling through the open space of the staircase, rather than through the floor. But from the living room, it was clear that those sounds were actually coming from the basement.
I realized last night that while sitting in the office, my perception and my reality were two very different things. The only noises I had heard from that room were coming from the basement, but I mistook some of them for something else. When I changed my position to another room in the house, I was able to more accurately perceive and comprehend the situation. The sounds were all the same sounds, they were just coming from different angles and that had messed me up.
I feel like there is a lesson in this for me. I think it can be easy to get caught up in wrong perceptions in life. Sometimes things happen, and we can only see our circumstances in a certain way, because of our position—because of our vantage point. And we are convinced that our perception is right, because it seems so real to us in the moment. We’ve weighed all of the other logical explanations, and they just don’t seem to make sense.
But the thing is that sometimes we are just wrong. Sometimes our perception leads us astray, and we misinterpret the situation completely. Maybe sometimes, instead of getting stuck in these situations, we would experience a better outcome by taking the step of courage to change our vantage point. All of my fears and worries were laid to rest last night when I moved out of my hiding place and into a space where I was better equipped to understand what was going on.
I hope that I will remember this moment the next time that irrational fear has me pinned to the wall. I hope that I will find the courage to change positions—to find a new vantage point—so that I can see the situation differently. I think that I would learn a lot by doing so. I think that I would grow in courage, and faith, and strength. I think that I would become braver than before.