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The Newcomer

Fear vs. fun

by Frankie Potts

Every day seems to bring new warnings about health hazards, terrorists and random violence. We've been told that everything from coffee to wearing red can put us at risk.

It's enough to make us scurry into our homes, bolt the doors and cower in front of the TV to receive our next dose of fear.

Or not.

Are we too fearful, too protected, too worried?

I remember a winter when I had to travel from west of Snoqualmie Pass to the Yakima Valley. I hadn't driven in snow before, and became afraid of what might await me. I paraded a host of worries before a friend. What if the highway was buried in snow? What if it was icey? What if I had to put on chains?

The list went on and on until finally my friend said, sarcastically, "What if the tires fall off your car?"

That brought me up short, and the fear fell away.

That first drive through snow has been followed by lots of others, and, when trucks aren't kicking slush up over my windshield, I have enjoyed some beautiful winter scenery.

I learned that fun can be squeezed out of life by fear.

We live in a society in which aspects of our safety are even legislated, and we're liable to be fined if we don't wear seat belts and helmets. Yet I never felt more at risk than when driving a snowmobile while wearing a helmet. It was a near-blind ride when my glasses fogged up, and head motion was definitely hampered.

You can seldom get through a day without hearing about the danger of food-too much, too little, too fat, too salty, too apt to cause any number of diseases. The list changes year to year. What's not safe to eat this year might be good for you next year.

Then there are the drugs offered to help us avoid heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes, depression, high cholestrol, anxiety. And that list goes on.

I figure if I follow the foosteps of mother and grandmother I have about 17 years of life left-barring accidents-and that's plenty for me. If it's less, that's OK, too. While I appreciate the effort of so many to extend my life, I really am not interested in popping pills in order to add a few more years.

I think my youngest aunt, 79 and sick for many years, had the right idea last month when she was hospitalized with a tired heart too weak to pump blood. She was told she would die if she didn't have surgery.

"That would be good," was my aunt's calm response.

Her children respected her wish to return her to her assisted living apartment, where she dined on her favorite KFC meal and died quietly four hours later.

While I will probably continue to try to pare 20 pounds from my frame, I know there will be some KFC meals and more than a few double fudge cakes in my future. And, I hope, more laughs than pills.

. Frankie Potts is a retired journalist who spent her career working at several newspapers in Washington state.

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