It’s supposed to storm real bad today.
Going out tonight? Well be careful.
These are just some of the phrases favored by my mother-in-law, who is an inordinately fearful person. I’ve never met someone so afraid of the world as she is. Especially fearful, it seems, of the weather.
But also of trying new food. Leaving the windows unlocked overnight. Large dogs. Putting more than 3 pair of jeans in her large-capacity washing machine.
Comments she makes to me or my husband in nearly every conversation lead us to believe she may have issues with compulsion. She is compelled, beyond her control, to find the potential dangers of any situation, and point out what bad thing could be awaiting us. In part, it seems as though this comes from a lifetime living in the same small farming community. The rest, I think, comes from watching too much TV news.
We live about 50 miles from Philadelphia. Far enough away that it takes about an hour to get there by highway. But there isn’t a “local” news other than that of Philadelphia. So, every night, my in-laws watch the TV news, and I think they believe that the crime and the house fires and the danger is awaiting on their doorstep. In other words, it’s kind of not relevant. Even the weather forecast isn’t quite aligned with the area we actually live in.
When we lived in Texas, it really sank in that the weather happening in Austin was not necessarily going to match what was happening in Pflugerville or Buda. Some systems just didn’t spread out that far. Recently, there were some strong storms coming from the mid-west, and the forecast map suggested they would pass through southern Pennsylvania. But it really didn’t seem to cover the area where we lived. It didn’t even really cover Philadelphia. But the news team was reporting this incoming storm as though it was the next Hurricane Sandy. They put their Fear into my in-laws, to where they were hiding plants in the shed and battening down hatches like the Great Flood was upon us.
Unsurprisingly, nothing happened. The storm passed to the south with some damage outside the “viewing area”. One tree toppled (reported as “…and trees have been downed.” and there were some power outages, again, no where near our area. While it’s understandable to want to know of impending weather, the sensationalization of a coming storm and the Fear drummed into viewers seems to me as irresponsible and meant to do little more than keep eyes glued to TV sets. Check NOAA to see what the weather warnings are. They don’t have to please shareholders or get high ratings.
There doesn’t seem to be much I can do about my mother-in-law’s fear of everything outside her tiny world. For someone who has traveled (UK, Switzerland, Canada, various US states), one would think she would have shed her Fear-based living and embraced trying new things. But, evidently, one would be wrong.
And so, we continue to receive the warnings to “be careful” and “don’t miss your bus” and “don’t get hurt” instead of “safe drive!” or “enjoy the trip!” and “have a good time!” as though my husband and I are children in need of reminding of the simple act of not self-sabotaging our daily activities. It’s a head-scratcher, to be sure.