apparently our brains don’t differentiate true I’m-in-danger fear from the my-mind-made-it-up garden variety fear. our bodies feel both as if there is an immediate threat to safety. we hit that fight or flight response and our amygdala — the good old lizard brain — takes over.
i’ve had reason to more fully understand this over the last month. that pack of juvenile coyotes learning to hunt with mom and dad that was kinda cute back in february have turned into a true menace. in particular one young adult male and jax and I are having a dance around who is top dog.
i’ve had to be reminded, and daily remind myself again that yes, I want to co-exist as much as the next, and yes, I will protect myself and my jax. I am a predator.
I’ve taken lessons from the guys at animal control, I stride into our little arroyo of eucalyptus deliberately. my shoulders are pulled back, my posture and presence say that I mean business. i carry a club that is part of a branch from a tree. it’s of good size and heft and I can throw it accurately a fair distance, across the creek and to the open point in the fence the little bugger uses as his door. some of the neighbors have taken to calling me bam-bam. so be it. additional accoutrements include a whistle, a bottle of ammonia for scat spraying and territory marking and a couple rocks in my pocket.
what is *fascinating* is the frisson of fear that wriggles up my spine upon seeing this coyote. he’s a teenager now, healthy, about 60 pounds and, like most teenagers, absolutely invulnerable and unafraid of anything. fearless.
i’ve now recognized this electricity as the exact same sensation i’ve felt in situations of confrontation or fear in simple human interactions. no, I’m not talking about situations in which I should have a healthy sense of concern. I am talking about thoughts and situations i have created in my own head where there is zero physical threat. I can stress myself out when it is needed and I am truly threatened, or I can do it to myself in my head. this is amazing to me.
jax? man, when he’s off leash he just lights up after that coyote. and that coyote runs. fortunately, the voice training continues to pay off, and I can actually pull jax off the chase and get him to return to me. (although not before he once injured himself going downhill too fast — he IS 12 and a half) Jax is fearless, too.
we saw the coyote again this morning, just as we do every other day or so. jax was on leash and broke into furious big german shepherd barks (love those!) and strained to give chase — my hand is still sore from gripping the leash. we chased him across the street and up another hill. the adrenalin during THAT was the needed real deal. it helped us both with a big boost of energy in speed for the chase and to use in protecting our “turf.”
all of this? it’s taught me to pay closer attention. to be alert and aware more consciously and consistently. it’s taught me to own my presence. i watch for clues to sense real danger. I get curious when I have those fear sensations and there is no danger. i’m beginning to truly understand that stress and disconnection from logic-brain won’t serve me in those instances. maybe I’m getting just a little bit wiser by watching and living in nature.
just maybe I’m working on some fearlessness of my own.