Facing our fears

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Husband-and-wife journalists Bob Miller and Callie Clark Miller share the same small house (still), work in the same office (again) and somehow manage to cling to their sanity (barely). Older and wiser (she's wiser, he's just older), the Southeast Missourian sweethearts offer their views on everyday issues, told from two different perspectives. This column first appeared in the Southeast Missourian Aug. 25, 2005.

SHE SAID: I'm afraid of wasps.

There, I said it.

I'm not ashamed to admit when one comes buzzing near me I dive under the closest piece of furniture. I reached that level of paranoia after sticking my bare foot into a shoe in which a red wasp had taken up residence.

Last Sunday, the pastor of our church talked about becoming addicted to fear, or rather the adrenaline rush associated with certain kinds of fear. By the end of the sermon, I was feeling pretty good about my own fears. I don't seek out wasps the way adrenaline addicts watch horror flicks or bungee jump.

In fact, I go out of my way to avoid wasps. And chickens. I'm afraid of chickens. Also geese and other large fowl, the sort you'd find waddling around city parks where, incidentally, you're also likely to find wasps.

Hmmm. Maybe I should add city parks to my list of fears.

Bob says I'm afraid of everything. This is not true. I'm not afraid of spiders. Unless they're really, really big spiders.

I'm not afraid of storms, though I get a little paranoid when the electricity goes off at night.

It's not my fault really. I have a vivid imagination that carts me off to a land of monsters and psychos when the lights go out.

But don't cry for me, Southeast Missouri.

Martin Farquhar Tupper (whoever he is) wrote that "hope is a better companion than fear."

Now that's comforting. When I'm home alone at night and the electricity goes out, I will always be kept company by the hope that no wasps are soaring blindly around the room.

HE SAID: As I began to write this column, I had to erase my first paragraph two or three times.

I guess it's because I struggle with the definition of fear.

I think fear is something more than a phobia. To me, fear goes deeper than that, almost like love, straight to the heart.

I fear letting people down. My bosses. My wife. My son. My parents. My God.

I live out my fears every day when I allow a mistake in the newspaper; when I spend too much time at work and not enough time with my cute and talented wife; when I miss my son's football practice; when I defy the Holy Spirit.

I fear that one day I'll be remembered as a man who wasted his talent, a man who could have done great things but settled for mediocrity. I fear my wife will forget why she married me. I fear my son will grow up disappointed in his father.

I fear that one day a good friend will die and I'll ask myself why I didn't call more or write more.

I fear God will ask me why I spent so much time in front of the television and not enough time helping people. I fear I will die and there will be no God. I fear my faith is too small.

I fear death. Not my own death. But my wife's and my son's. I fear that I won't be able to breathe without either one of them.

I think about my fears every day, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. My fears are the reasons I work my tail off. Why I tell my wife she's beautiful and why I let her have her way all the time. They're why, even after getting home from work at 2 a.m., I take my son to school bright and early every morning.

Grandma, if you ever read this, I love you.

Lucas Fryman, Jim Waggoner and Nathan King, I'm sorry we've lost touch. If somehow this column reaches you in Albion, Ill., (or Mount Carmel or West Salem or wherever you are now) give me a call. I wish we could talk.

Joe and Jon, I'll try even harder tomorrow.

Callie, I'll never forget why I married you.

And Drew, it's Sunday. After church, let's go play baseball.

Bob Miller is the managing editor of the Southeast Missourian. Callie Clark Miller is the managing editor of online and special publications. Reach them at bmiller@semissourian.com or cmiller@semissourian.com.

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