The Bear and the Tent: Illusions of Safety

A loud crash shocks me awake. I tense in my sleeping bag. What was that? I open my eyes, wide, but it’s dark and I see nothing. I strain to hear. It sounds like a very large, definitely alive creature pushing against the garbage bins no more than 100 yards from our tent.

I hear him rattling the recycling bins down the path. Is he angry? An angered bear will do things an ambling bear won't. Oh, I really really should not have read that obituary on the last page of Maclean’s magazine last time I was at the chiropractor about the man was mauled to death by a bear while sleeping out by the fire as his companion slept safely in the trailer up in the wilds of mainland BC.

I huddle here, listening, listening. Wishing my sleeping bag was nearer the centre of the tent. As if that would help.

Why do I feel safer within this gray and neon dome? As if the bear’s claws couldn’t slice through this thin nylon like a steak knife in butter.

I try to stop scenario-izing. What would I do if. Should I blow my whistle. What about my best friend, sleeping peacefully three feet away.

It would be hard to ‘back away calmly and quietly,’ or ‘clang a pot without making eye contact’ as the campground’s “bear aware” pamphlet recommends, if said bear is inside my tent.

My mind brings up images not in my current possession. Rifle. Hardtop trailer. Car. Bear spray. Bear horn. Safety, safety.

I think, and not for the first time, how foolish we humans are to delve into the wild as if we soft-handed urban dwellers are prepared for the adventures our SUVs suggest.

No, no. Drive the SUV to Starbucks, buddy, and forget camping in bear territory. It's 4 am and I don't want to die. 

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In the morning light, my fears feel unfounded.

Silly me. Everything is fine. Birds are chirping, waves are crashing, all is well with the world.

But I do reflect on my terrified half hour in the tent. 3:30 to 4:00 am. How funny it is that I felt safer just by being in a tent. Made of thin nylon.

So, the fruit of my ponderings, is a question for you.

Do you have a tent in your life?

Something that makes you feel safe, but is not actually a source of safety. An illusion of safety.

What’s your tent?

And, the other question: what are you afraid of? What’s your bear in the night?

(It might not be about literally getting your head ripped off or being mauled by a bear. We’re talking figuratively – I’m the Analogy Queen over here.)

Our very safe tent. (Bonus points if you can spot my face.)

What’s your tent? At one time in my life, my job was my ‘tent’ or illusion of safety.

I held on to a job. I knew in my gut it was no longer good for me. It’d started off a good fit but it was time to move on. But the idea of looking for other work and trying to figure out next steps, while struggling with some trauma in my personal life, was so daunting that I stayed in the tent (job).

Eventually things went very badly; I didn’t know there was a bear, but there was and it attacked. (Still talking figuratively.) I didn’t deserve things to go badly, but I could have left sooner. If I’d had help and the courage to leave the apparent safety of the job, when I first sensed I should.

So what is your tent? A relationship? A commitment? Work? Something else entirely? What’s something that you’re sticking to because it makes you feel safe, but really . . .

If something occurs to you, wow, I’d love to hear about that, if you’re comfortable sharing it --- if not, please share it with someone you know and trust. I'm waiting to hear from you below in the comments.

I’m just endlessly fascinated with what’s going on inside of humans – not in the way a physician is, with blood and guts – but what are your thoughts, feelings, motives, desires- -- that is my jam – so I would be very fascinated to hear what came up for you – what’s your tent….and what are you gonna do about that?

I’ll leave you with one last thought. If you’ve got a tent, an illusion of safety, in your life, recognize this: staying with something is as much of a choice as leaving. Leaving feels different, like a choice. But staying is – logically – equally a choice.

Thanks so much for reading and sharing this episode. I appreciate you --- please say hi, on twitter, blog, facebook, email, whatever. Have a great day, and see you next time.

Glad to be alive,

Coach Corri

Best friend in the morning light, drinking coffee. 

P.S. You can follow and listen on iTunes: search Introvert Kingdom: the Podcast.