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  • Writer's pictureSusan Carr

The fear of holding a peanut in a shell

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

Bertrand, and his friends, want to feel safe eating their peanuts. But they react differently when the peanuts are in the shell.

This is him happily finding a peanut he did not have to shell.

I was sitting in the yard, and he came down to munch.

But then he spotted the peanut in the shell.

I couldn't get my camera ready fast enough before he took off up the tree, shelled nut in hand. Well, actually, in mouth.

He stayed in the tree, happily unshelling and munching, and then returned to the ground for more.

For some unknown reason, sitting on the ground and eating a shelled nut is less daunting of a task than sitting on the ground, having to shell the nut, and then eat it.

Is it because more work is involved in removing the food from the outer shell, so it allows more time for another squirrel to move in and snatch the food?

Or maybe Bertrand feels that if he lingers too long on the ground, spending time to remove the shell, a predator will swoop in on him?

Whatever the reason, there is a significant difference in how Bertrand eats a shelled versus a non-shelled peanut. And it seems to center around fear.

This made me think about two other areas in life where we experience fear.

My mom has dementia. It's a recent diagnosis, but one that we suspected for a while after she had some unfortunate incidents happen while driving.

She is happy, still meets most of her ADLs, and always wants to do her best. She gets up daily, dresses in cute clothes, adds beads and a fun hat, and dances in her kitchen, listening to smooth jazz while feeding her orange tabby cat, Buddy.

Since I live 60 miles away, we can only spend one full day a week together. We will usually go out to breakfast or lunch, get her groceries, maybe go to a thrift store, and attend to any medical appointments.

We have an Alexa video call daily at lunchtime when she shows me her outfit and makes sure I notice that her beads match the colors on her shirt. I ask how her day has been going, if she's taken her small number of daily pills, and whether she's had something to eat. We'll chat about the weather, laugh at Buddy as he walks in front of the camera, and I always have to end the call by telling her I need to get back to work. Otherwise, she'll wander off camera, distracted by a random thought.

More often than not, she forgets that I'm her daughter.

Just recently, on a video call, where she could see my face, she asked when I was coming to see her and if we would be going out to eat and get groceries. I told her I would be there on Thursday, and we would get lunch and go shopping. She said, "Good! Make sure you get ahold of Susan because she handles all my money."

It's okay that her mind doesn't connect familial relationships much anymore. Over the years of walking with other family members during their end stages of life, I have learned that it's more important that a person who is ill is comfortable, and not necessarily that they know who the person is providing the comfort.

It's okay not to be known as her daughter on some days because I know she feels safe with me since I provide her with familiarity.

Not so much with other people, though.

We've looked into having a family friend come in a few times a week to check on her and ensure she's eating, taking her pills, and is overall well. But mom's not in agreement with this.

The fears associated with dementia are very real for the afflicted person. The cognitive ability to reason between truth and fiction is no longer working, so paranoia and mistrust become two very real emotions for them regularly.

Mom realizes she is easily confused and doesn't remember things like she used to. So she holds her purse tightly to her whenever we're out, and she doesn't want strangers in the house. She doesn't mean any disrespect toward anyone, and she is not by nature a rude person. When she is at a familiar place, such as her local grocer, she will talk to anyone and everyone, never meeting a stranger.

But her home is her safety zone, and if someone she doesn't know tries to come in, she becomes very afraid.

I may not understand this fear, but I accept it. As her days progress and she needs more help to remain as independent as possible, I'll need to learn how to help her accept change and new people.

Fear also shows up when you're not sure what path to take.

My mom's condition is actually what motivated me to pursue working full-time as a freelance editor and writer.

I most recently saw a website that spoke to this exact thing:

So I know I am not the only one who needs time freedom, not just wants it.

Leaping into full-time freelancing was (and still is) scary.

  • What if I don't make enough money to cover my expenses?

  • What if I can't find clients?

  • What if I get a job and then find I don't have the skills to finish it?

  • What if I have to work 60+ hours each week?

The list of questions is endless.

But so is the list of possibilities.

  • What if I earn more than enough to cover expenses, set aside a hefty amount in savings and retirement, and splurge now and then?

  • What if I find great clients, provide them with exceptional value, and create long-term working relationships?

  • What if I find a way to learn the skills needed to do various jobs?

  • What if I do have to work 60+ hours a week for a while, but down the road, I only have to work 30 hours or less each week?

I've said it before. Freelancing is hard work.

But if you adapt your mindset to recognize that when others are depending on your time freedom, the hard work, in the beginning, will provide more peace of mind down the road. You may find that a new path is not so scary after all.

I wonder if I could train Bertrand how to use a nutcracker?

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