Boo! What Scares You?

two people dressed as ghost
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 It’s almost Halloween, and in my corner of the world, you can take a haunted hayride, visit an abandoned penitentiary, or dress up like the walking dead. You can, not me. I don’t like to be scared. Come October, I’m all about comfort. Hot apple cider, knitting in my rocker while I watch the Hallmark Channel, curling up by the fire with a cozy mystery.

I like the way lighted windows look on a fall evening, as if the people inside are safe and warm. When I walk through a neighborhood, my eye is drawn to the windows on the top floor. I think of the nineteenth century poet Emily Dickinson, writing in solitude in her upstairs garret. Comfortable, safe and out of sight. I can’t even begin to tell you how much that appeals to me.

When I was small, my home was an anxious place. I carried a fantasy of safety around all day like a little purse. In my imaginary future, I would read and write all day, gazing down at the people in the street below. Maybe I’d sew a little – doll clothes, or pretty skirts. And I’d have a handsome boyfriend who’d come to visit.

Emily Dickinson seems prune-like now, in her white shirtwaist and long brown skirt, a black ribbon tied around her neck. She sits ramrod straight, unsmiling, her whimsical poems her only voice. I don’t think I’d like her. If I had her cloistered life, I’d want to run for the hills. Escape the self-imposed prison and travel the world, or at least a few hundred miles around my home.

But I realize I don’t know anything about her. Maybe she had a boyfriend, maybe she liked scary stories, maybe she was nothing at all like I imagine her. Maybe she took a risk now and then.

Risk is the thing that scares me, Halloween or not. Calling strangers to ask them to support a cause. Walking alone to my car at night. Waiting for surgery. Watching the nightly news.  Risk of harm to my physical or mental state. And fear of the unknown – cancer, dementia, a storm, a war.

But fear is a funny thing. When shared, it seems to lessen. Maybe that’s what Halloween is all about. Scaring ourselves together, to make the goblins run away. Shall we try? What scares you right now?


Be brave and comment on this post, and I’ll put your name in the hat for a copy of Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala, who lived through a tsunami that killed her entire family. It’s a terrifying and beautiful story of grief and resilience.


The winner of last month’s drawing is  Judith Heffernan Elmy. She wins a copy of Mary Jo Doig’s new memoir, Patchwork. Congratulations, Judy, and thanks for your comment!






8 thoughts on “Boo! What Scares You?

  1. I enjoyed this piece as I enjoy all your writing. I like thinking of you as I a little blonde girl over on Catherine St. that I would have played with… that I wish I could have known then. My time on Sanford/Jonathan Lane was often spent alone as well. love, Judy

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel about you as Judy does. When I met you I liked you immediately. You were a comfortable person in my own chaotic world. Not much scares me now, although I spent the last several years in a bad place. So I guess the thing that scares me most is returning to that darkness.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a nice thing to say, MaryLou! Isn’t it funny how we seem to others? I looked comfortable to you but rarely felt that way, and your world was chaotic but you didn’t seem that way to me. I hope the scary stuff of the last few years is in your rear view mirror forever.


  4. Not being able to work, feeling forced to do work I don’t want to do, lack of health insurance, a devastating health problem, financial ruin, or being unable to afford a decent home and necessities as I age. These are the things that worry me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dear Linda, thank you for sharing so much of yourself in your writing. I wish I had known you more in high school. My major fear: I have an adult disabled son (31) with quite severe autism, and I am frightened at times about who will really love and care for him when I am gone. He has a residential placement, but who will ever become his loving (surrogate) parents? My husband died 14 years ago; my daughter is only 25, and needs to have her own independent life. I seek support from other parents of autistic adults, which helps enormously (2 support groups). You are right – one of the best things is to share one’s concerns with “fellow travelers” — they are the ones who intuitively know the road you are walking, and can give aid and comfort.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So good to hear from you! I think mothers worry about their children’s happiness all their lives. Added to that, your disabled son presents another layer of concern. Sending you a big virtual hug.
      P.S. I don’t think I was quite so interesting in high school. 😁


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