On Healthy Fear

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”

– Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist


When I was eight, I fell ill, as I typically did at the time. At the time, Analgin Injection was king, so I was given a dose. A few minutes later, I wanted to go pee. I got off the couch, only to find that my legs had become rubbery. I tried it again. Same thing, I went straight down. My legs suddenly couldn’t bear my weight, which was probably only around 20kg then. My mom brought me a potty and then we hoped it would just be a few hours. But hours turned to days, and days into weeks. I don’t remember all of it but I know there was anointing oil and prayers of faith and mantles to be tied around my leg. My mum eventually resorted to carrying me on her back when we had to go out, and out meant hospital.

Down our street, there was a Medical Centre in a two-storey building. It was a small practice, owned by my an acquaintance of my dad. He lived on the first floor, while the clinic was on the second floor. The ground floor was residential as I remember it. The building was fairly decent. The paint was peeling but it was still more distinguished than the houses around it. The Doctor (we called him Dr. Jubilee because that was the name of his clinic) seemed well off, almost made me wish my dad was a Doctor and not a Pharmacist. You see, Dr. Jubilee was also a lover of dogs. His dogs were Alsatians, but we didn’t know what they were called then, so we called them Police Dogs. He must have had about three of them at the time. They lived on his balcony on the first floor.

One fine evening, my mum wanted a doctor’s opinion on my inability to walk. So she backed me and we walked down our street to the clinic. I had never been inside Dr. Jubilee’s compound before. I had only seen the dogs from the road and watched them, on my way from running errands. But that night I was face to face with my fears. I was on my mother’s back on the ground floor but was convinced that the three barking dogs would jump down from the balcony and tear me to shreds as I heard Police Dogs do. I kept begging my mum to turn back but she was convinced that they couldn’t come back. I thought she had lost her mind, so I took matters into my own hands. I jumped off her back!

Of course I fell, but I didn’t have the time to fail. So I got up and tried to determine which leg was better and could bear my weight. The left leg seemed fair, so I rested on it while I attempted to limp out. Mother was stunned as she watched the movie unfold. When she finally came to, she had a good laugh, asked me why I chose to punish her for weeks and then promptly gave me a new nickname – talantolo (one who limps). Let’s just say that I never saw Dr. Jubilee, there was no need. I went back to school about a week afterwards.

Fear is – a treacherous adversary. Fear can freeze you, and destroy you. But maybe fear is good too, the healthy kind of fear. Fear makes you want to conquer new ground and do great things. I don’t know if my story is a good illustration of the good that fear can bring. But the fear of fear is worse than the failure we are afraid of. Once we conquer our fears, we find that there’s really nothing on the other side. But you should never be afraid that you forget to live life and dance in the rain.

Maybe I’m just trying to tell you that no matter how hard I fall, I always get back up – I crumble, and I limp and then I walk. Then I fly away

Or maybe I just wanted to tell you my talan-tolo story.