Nothing to fear but fear itself

Paula Tessier
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Every year at exactly this time, hubby and I find ourselves sitting in our living room with the Christmas tree glowing, soft Christmas music playing (well, until The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York” comes on, then she’s cranked up on bust!), he with a smooth rum, me with a chilled white, and we always have the same conversation: “I wonder what this coming year has in store for us?”

We also reflect on the year past in great detail.

Highlights of great things with our family, our friends, new things we’ve tried and loved, new things we’ve tried and weren’t so fussy about, and without fail, we find ourselves reflecting on those in our lives who faced challenges, tragedies even, and our hearts ache for them.

We’ve been together, hubby and I, for nearly a quarter of a century. We’ve had so much in our lives to celebrate, but not everything has been easy. When we reflect on the hardships of others, when we feel for them once again, we always wonder, “When will it be our turn?”

Sure, we’ve had sicknesses in our families, and of course have lost people we love. But nothing could have prepared us for this past summer.

On June 26, I received the most disturbing phone call. Our middle son had been involved in a bicycle accident, and it turned out to be enough to require an ambulance ride to the emergency department.

Even that phone call however, didn’t really impart the seriousness of the situation. A bike accident, a pedal bike no less — how bad could it be? Turns out, incredibly bad.

One week in June, I danced with this boy at his high school prom; exactly seven days later he was in emergency surgery with two expert surgeons opening his abdomen, removing most of his then completely severed pancreas and his spleen. His father and I were in the private waiting area, nearly sick with worry and completely paralyzing fear.

Over the course of the next six weeks, there were several very serious complications.

I kept it as positive as possible with our family and friends and updated social media as often as I could, because people were worried and wanted to know. Always with an upbeat message.

What I couldn’t say or show was that some of those serious complications were beyond hiccups. Some of them, like the injury and the surgery itself, were life-threatening.

Last January, during our retrospective chat and our wondering of what was in store, never would we have imagined such a nightmare.

To our complete joy and appreciation, this boy is nearly entirely recovered, is driving us bats most of the time by coming home late and leaving the gas tank empty. We couldn’t be happier! Well, it wouldn’t hurt him to leave the tank with just slightly more than fumes in it.

And while there were so very many good things about 2013, his recovery being the highlight by far, this past year has changed me.

Fear of silly things? Nearly gone. Too nervous to speak in public? For the love of all that is good and holy, why would I be afraid of that now? Fear of having people hear me sing? Whatever! Fear of running in an election again? I would still wake up the next day.

Because, you see, it doesn’t mean success is always a given. Of course not. It just means I’m not afraid to screw up or fail.

I have become a worrier and as a result, an expert texter. The touch screen on my iPhone was once cursed at nearly as much as my toe-thumbs. Now I can type out “Where you at? What you doing?” to each of our three boys in 2.4 seconds flat. All I need is to know they are OK and the worry subsides, just a little.

So, if I may be so bold, 2013 can go pound sand! However 2014 is right here, ready to start fresh with, hopefully, many wonderful things indeed!

No doubt I’ll screw up from time to time — we all will. But that’s OK. Perspective is a wonderful thing, and experience is the very best teacher.

From our house to yours, happy new year!

Email Paula Tessier at

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