Midnight. Pitch black.
On these rural, winding roads are many carcasses–deer, rabbits, chipmunks, raccoons, and most of all, opossums. I’ve been driving this same route to and from work for almost three years, and I haven’t hit an animal yet. When one darts across the road I slow just the right amount, or swerve slightly, recalibrating efficiently, keeping a cool head.
But tonight I am just too tired and preoccupied. I’ve been at work since 7am, and I’m planning the next day’s tasks in my head, worried about this and that. When the possum leaps into the headlights, racing straight toward the front right wheel, I gasp and swerve sharply to the left.
PLEASE let it not be dead PLEASE let it not be dead, I beg. I crane my neck to look in the rear-view mirror, but of course, I can see nothing in the dark.
The next morning’s drive to work tells the inevitable tale.
If I had merely slowed down a little or just not even swerved–willing to let whatever would happen, happen–I probably would not have killed the creature. It’s funny–and by “funny” I mean “tragic”–sometimes we are so afraid of who we might become or what might happen that this fear creates the very reality we hope to avoid. It’s Oedipus trying to avoid the prophecy he will kill his father and marry his mother–he runs away, and in running away, runs toward.
I fear being a possum killer.
I try to avoid being a possum killer.
I become a possum killer.
It’s a perverse liturgy.
Resisting fear, perhaps, only strengthens it. Instead, allowing it to live, allowing it to pass through us without coming to reside in us, allowing ourselves to rest in non-doing as we experience exactly what we experience, not trying to create a particular outcome–that is, I think, what it means to be not afraid.
We give up control, we let go of our ideas about what “should” happen, we trust God to sort it out–even, and especially, the scary bits.
In the afternoon I drive home past Possum Point, as I think of it now. She’s gone. Some other animal–probably one of the family of buzzards roosting near my house–has lifted her off to another life as a feast.
I say a prayer for the possum.
Thank you for teaching me this, my friend.