by Janna Leyde
It’s that spooky time of year when screens big and small are chock full of horror, homicide, blood, ghosts, creepy houses, and demons. It’s pure entertainment for most of us, campy and fun to watch. Not for me. Normally, no thanks.
Yet, for whatever reason, this year I’m racking up my tally of grim and gore—Sinister, American Horror Story, VHS, The Decent, Walking Dead, Zodiac Killer—and none of them seem to scare me like they usually would. I grew up in a haunted house (a story for a later date) and I’m pretty wimpy (something my father will attest to) about many things: spider webs, bears, seaweed, paranormal activity, floorboards, my parents’ upstairs barn, the dark, Pincha Mayurasana, and things working out the way I want them to.
Yes, even that last one: I am afraid of what might happen when things get really good. Because, then what? Yes, I know, it’s a really stupid fear. I’m aware. In the last couple years, I’ve done a pretty solid job of abolishing it, except when it resurfaces in places like Forearm Stand, because what would happen if I actually practiced the pose and one day nailed it?
Scary. It freaks me out.
Lately it’s more than Pincha that has me freaked out. Just in the last week everything has, as if my fear of the whatifs (the message of that old Shel Silverstein poem my dad used to read to me) has come back in full force. I’ve tried mediating through it. I’ve tried sleeping through it, drinking through it, talking through it, and writing through it. The fear won’t leave, and now I’ve allowed it to morph into a mountain of unnecessary worries leaving me convinced that anything good I’ve got going on will crash and burn.
I decided to talk to my dad about this, because, way back when, he was the person who could best talk me out of being scared. Bat in the house, happiness—it’s all the same, right?
He told me that he wasn’t afraid of anything. Really? No, nothing. He told me that he didn’t see the purpose for having the feeling of fear. You can choose? Yes, can’t you?
This was barebones logic to him. In the world of brain injury you have to work for your emotions, have to work hard to cultivate them, to share them. Unlike the rest of us, my dad gets to choose the ones that work and the ones that don’t work.
“So how do I get rid of my stupid fears?” I asked him.
“They are not stupid fears,” he said. “They are only stupid if you let them stop you from doing things and not enjoying things. Are they?”
“They are starting to.”
“Then I would choose not to have them.”
“I don’t know that. Only you do. You must be doing something that makes you fearful. You have to figure it out.”
The next morning, in the absolute dark of 6 a.m., on the sidewalk down Bergen Street, I figured it out.
The scary TV!
Even I think applying the law of attraction here might be gimmicky. I am totally into manifesting and setting intentions and positive thoughts, but have generally shirked the idea that what we watch on TV dangerously seeps into our brains. And I know that the movies and shows don’t have the power to keep me walking around afraid of demon spawn, insane asylum ghosts, zombies, murderers, or pagans of the underworld. But could it be that through all the horror I’d been watching I’d invited my very own fears—my what ifs—to surface?
The subconscious is tricky. I’ll leave it at that and bring my block to the wall and practice some pincha.
Janna Leyde is a yogi and writer living in Brooklyn. When she’s not on her mat or at the front of the room teaching, she is working on publishing her first novel, He Never Liked Cake, a coming of age memoir that tells the story of growing up with her father’s traumatic brain injury. Oscillations: A Yogic Exploration of the Brain offers her perspective on the practice through the lens of the complex human brain.