My favorite holiday is now well within sights: I simply adore Halloween. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas; what it represents, why we celebrate it, and especially its message of peace and love. But Halloween? Talk about getting the blood pumping! The frights and scares and thrills….the dark edginess with more than a touch of eroticism….what’s not to love?? The costumes are absolutely awesome, the decorations are fantastic, and the electricity of fear in the air is intoxicating. I love all that…but the nest part? The best part is allowing the imagination to do its best to wander through the dark corridors of fear and fright in your mind – pick your poison: ghost, ghoul, monster, vampire, werewolf, or demon – that is the beauty of this holiday, to allow what scares you the most to scare you!
This will prove to be a different one than Halloweens passed, given the virus still haunting us. Our governor has publicly stated that Halloween is not cancelled here, we are “permitted” to dress up, trick or treat, and celebrate the holiday. But with the (now) standard modifiers: masks, social distancing, and limited group sizes, all of which is OK, I am just glad we are still celebrating. As usual, we will hold a family party the week before, and then go up to trick or treat with our grandkids on Halloween night. What would really love to do, but cannot, is take the boys through a good ole’ fashioned haunted house; the kind where the characters jump out from behind doors or false walls, where the floor changes from solid to spongy to squishy, where it is pitch black dark and then suddenly strobing, where webs and streamers touch your face in the dark, and where creatures pop up or drop down from above. A haunted house with smoke and strobes and screams, intermixed with maniacal laughter. A haunted house where you begin to doubt you’ll get out. One of those. But of course, we can’t; the virus has seen to that. I don’t think the soon-to-be nine year old could handle it anyway….not even sure about his older brother. Maybe next year….
Also new, and virus induced, this year is an option to register your home Halloween display with the town to be published on a website where parents can look up places with Halloween displays to drive by with their children. So, of course, I signed up my house and as such, need to develop a plan for decorating the front. Typically, all my decorations and “scares” go out back, in the woods; I do almost nothing in the front, save a few mild little things for the younger kids at the party. But with this drive-by viewing, no one would be able to see a thing in the back so I am forced to put together something for the front, along the street, where people can see it. That, of course, means I need to either take decorations I use in the back woods and move them to the front, or buy more stuff – or both. I have chosen both. I bought a lot of lights as I plan to use lighting much more than ever before, along with some new figures and animatronics – it should be good!
But all this aside, there is no better way to scare yourself than to walk, alone, down a dark deserted road or trail on Halloween night. No props, no lights, no characters, or no animatronics – just you, your imagination, and the dark quiet night. Because no one….no one….can develop and craft a spookier and scarier atmosphere for you, then you can yourself. You, and you alone, know best what scares you most. Only your mind and soul know what truly terrifies you; the sights and sounds that can squeeze your heart and numb your body with fear are already fully developed and vividly painted in 3-D in your head. No amount of time or money can craft a display that could ever approach the horrors and terrors you’ve already built in your own imagination, nor could the hands of a thousand artist with a thousand brushes ever paint a picture more hideous and harrowing than can your mind. That is how best to terrorize yourself on Halloween, immerse yourself and your imagination in the dark night, alone.
I am happy to say that I have done this, a lot, through my years, even as young as 14 or so. The neighborhood in which I grew up was perhaps a dozen homes, well spread out, built into a former, several hundred-acre, private estate. As such, there were private roads that rambled through the woods and around the pond, backed by deep and deserted woods. I recall walking down this dark deserted road and then climbing uphill and over the stone wall and into the woods. Every sound echoed loudly and was accentuated by the knowledge I was alone in the dark woods and that it was Halloween night. Every sense, every nerve, every cell in my body was on high alert and oscillating between fight or flight. The intensity of that fright was remarkable and intoxicating and one that I have often sought to repeat.
But isn’t that true of everything in our minds? We magnify our most minute flaws a thousand times over until they become crippling and limit our social interaction or success at work. We convince ourselves we can’t achieve something due to our fear and self-doubt, often with no basis in reality. Our minds can manifest fears that can eventually alter our behavior and our personalities without reason. There is no force in nature capable of generating more fear and anxiety than our own minds. FDR said that “there is nothing to fear but fear itself”. That ghost, that ghoul, that board room presentation, that baseball game, that first skydive…..they are only limiting if we allow them to do so. They are merely obstacles to overcome, bumps in the road….moments to endure. They end, they pass, and they shift into the rear-view mirror. But the fear? That can go on forever. The actual moments are nowhere near as scary as is the fear of them. They become magnified, exaggerated, and amplified in our minds to the point where we are incapacitated. It is the fear that is truly scary. Once we learn to stop allowing fear control us, our lives can become much more enjoyable and productive.
Don’t let fear limit you dear reader, whether it is fear of failure, of inadequacy, or even of a virus. Face your fear, assess it, and develop your plan to attack it and minimize it. Conquer it. That is not to say you won’t be afraid, but you will not be paralyzed by it. Stay well!!