Tomorrow my sister visits the psychologist. Her ailment, if you choose to call it that, is quite simple: too much fear.

My sister is afraid of tornados. Where we live there are no tornados but this means nothing to her. When winds pick up as they do this time of year she goes into the basement to watch The Weather Channel, eagerly expecting some sort of wind warning that would justify her fear. The report is always the same: winds at 30km/h gusting to 60.

"It's much faster than that! It's more like 110," she exclaims. She is an expert at wind velocities. Often, I sit with her on the couch. She lies under a pink comforter with her head propped up on blue cushions. I sit on the other end of the couch, with her feet in my lap. I hold her feet in my hands.

"Look," I tell her, "there won't be a tornado. I met a girl who lived through many tornados and she says the surest way to know it's a tornado is if the clouds are green. I just looked outside and the clouds are only greyish-white. There won't be a tornado."

"There could be," she says, "you don't know."

She's seen all the TLC specials on tornados. I beg her not to watch them, but she always does. I ridicule the television, saying "a tornado took my trailer" in a southern accent. I note all the facts: "Look, they said you need winds around 140km/h constant to have a tornado! It's never been that strong here!" She doesn't respond, or she tells me to shut up. I ask her what she's afraid of, what she sees. Does the house blow down? Does someone get sucked up into the vortex? What is it, then? She says she doesn't know.

With her feet in my hands she's telling me she wants to go upstairs to get some food but she can't because of the wind. She wishes she could go outside and play with her friends but she can't because of the wind and I don't know what to do except wish that I could help her.

I maintain that all fear is irrational. All fear is a sickness of the mind. When danger is present we do not fear - we do what is necessary to escape it. Fear comes when there is nothing we can do. The proper response is to accept the situation and deal with it when it is time to act, otherwise to do nothing at all. Sit, wait, meditate. But I am a hypocrite. I have my own irrational fears.

Do you want to know my irrational fear? You'll laugh at me.

Aliens. The grey ones with the big black eyes and bony three-fingered hands. The ones that come at night and take you away to their ship to do experiments upon you. Aliens. Completely irrational. I have never seen an alien except on TLC. If an alien did want to abduct me there's not much I could do about it. There are no preventative measures. Until such time I should sit, wait, meditate, but I can't. When I was maybe thirteen I would go to the library and get all the books on aliens that I could find. Weird volumes of pseudo-science crap and unreliable first-hand accounts. I would read about the abductions, the visions, the bizarre experiments done under paralysis and I would be terrified but unable to stop reading. I learned nothing - there was no pattern of attack, no signs of warning, nothing to do. Some nights I would hide under my comforter with it up over my head. I would be sweating and uncomfortable, but too afraid to stick my head out and breathe the cool air of my room. I wouldn't open my eyes for fear of what I'd see. I wouldn't fall asleep for hours. Sometimes I had bad dreams about aliens.

I did get over this. At some point I realized that if I didn't want to see aliens in my dreams I could simply not think about them - just avoid them in my dream journeys. I avoided them in real life - stopped reading the books, stopped watching the TV specials. I began to think, "hey, I wouldn't mind meeting an alien, so long it was daytime." I had a dream that I did meet some aliens and had to help them find fuel for their spaceship. Their spaceship ran on organic matter - specifically dog poop and I found it very funny to be out with a bunch of humanoid aliens hunting the streets for dog poop, telling jokes to them and laughing.

At least I almost got over it. Last week there was a lame TLC show about the "Top 10 Mysteries of the World" or somesuch tripe, and number 7 was aliens. The grey ones with the bony hands. That night I couldn't sleep. I sweated under the comforter unable to quiet my mind. I'm twenty years old, I said to myself, what is this shit? Twenty years old. Completely irrational.

Indeed. My sister is about the same age as I was, and sometimes I think I understand why she watches those TLC tornado shows. For the same reason that I read those books about aliens. You just can't turn away. The difference was that my fear did not impact me in any way beyond sleepless nights in that there were no ways to prevent alien abduction. There are, seemingly anyway, ways to avoid being hurt by tornados and it's when my sister does these things - hides in the basement out of fear - that my parents take note and call in the psychologist.

I believe that there is some weird Freudian thing going on - that these irrational fears that we all have are a front for some deeper human emotions that everybody feels. There are so many phobias and I bet everybody has one. It's all in the way we deal with it, the way we swallow it up that keeps us sane.

I just hope this psychologist is a damn good one who knows what she's doing and can really help my sister because I feel there's nothing I can do... and that scares me even more than the aliens.

I think having proper motivation and honesty are the keys to overcoming those kinds of fear and anxiety. Motivation is the antidote… to fear and anxiety.” “- The Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness

"Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to… suffering.” - Yoda, centuries old “great warrior” of the Star Wars universe

I come out of a particularly pleasant REM sequence about giving money to charity and kissing my boyfriend to read this headline, midst sips of coffee black and petulant squeezes on my arm from my younger sister:

Brazilian police: Drug lord kills journalist

Aghast, I continued to read the story: Tim Lopes of Brazil’s El Globo Television was captured and ritually slaughtered June 2 while he was trying to do a little ‘investigative’ reporting of the increasing gang scene and ‘fiefdom’ land-owning practices employed by the drug lords of Rio de Janeiro. His body was found yesterday, charred and black, alongside a few stills of film (the police admit that it may not be him, but DNA evidence will solve the mystery, or so they say.) I wonder, would this be reported if the victim was a 13 year old girl instead of a renowned old guy?

In a tiny but sensationalist font, there is also an aside about dengue fever, the mosquito-driven epidemic that the World Health Organization says is experiencing a resurgence among tourists and locals alike of Brazil. People are advised to ‘avoid travelling’.

I get up and pour the rest of the coffee out in the sink. A glance to the counter- the plane ticket rests, inviting and plain. I pick it up and look at it with a renewed fervor, praying to deity that maybe the dates and place have been changed. Maybe I misunderstood my mother and am going to the Swiss Alps instead of anywhere in the southern hemisphere. Surely the heavy jackets are for Europe and not a tropical winter? No. Still the same- Rio de Janeiro, June 17 to June 26. Next week. I shudder to think.

I ignore the annoying popular "Voices in My Head" shirts that my fellow American Hot-Topic purveying youth seem to enjoy wearing as they flaunt their depression medication, but the fact remains that there are different personalities that we employ. If America is a melting pot of people, I am a melting pot of emotions- an internal, unceasing argument that has tainted my dreams with conflict and self-doubt.

Breathe in.


Breathe in.

Motivation. Think like a Buddhist. Think of the good things that will come of this. You will get to see your grandmother.

I also get to leave my boyfriend, the man I have not seen in weeks and probably will get to see little of all summer. I will die of dengue fever in the remote wildenerness and go to Hell for my unerrant Agnosticism.

So what if I get to see my grandmother? She'll hate me. She'll think I'm a geek just like my stepparent's family does. She'll grab the books out of my hand and tell me to face reality. She'll look the other way when the gang members kidnap me to be the virgin sacrifice in their Occult rituals.

Don't be ridiculous. Think like Yoda. Fear leads to anger. You cannot be angry, you know not of what other people feel. You can only control yourself. The space within your own skin- it may seem tiny and insignificant compared to the rest of the universe, but think of the control implied! If you apply yourself, you can have a perfect understanding of your actions. Your thoughts. Your mind. Your experience- for you are the ultimate master of your own.

I listen to the Voice of Reason. I will look forward to looking into my grandmother's eyes- the delightful, rich blend of hazel, emerald, and gold that I see blurry in the mirror every morning. I will delight in her voice- accented with the beautiful languages of Portuguese and Spanish, a treasure compared to my own uncouth Southern voice. To see her in her home- not in Florida, where my great grandmother came by raft, where my grandmother in her visits shifts uncomfortably in the orange floral slipcovers and gapes with disdain at the decadence and environmental discord witnessed at a trip to Disney World. To see where my father would have spent his childhood, had he not been kidnapped by my grandfather so many years ago. Perhaps I will live his childhood vicariously for him when I return.

Motivation is the perfect antidote to fear.

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