I've been a scaredy cat my whole life.
Never wanted to break the rules.
Didn't want to get shouted at or punished. 
If a teacher called me out for talking in class,
my usual reaction was tears.
I can remember as a kid—I was probably 7 or 8,
when a couple of kids thought it would be fun
to play doctor—gynecologist, actually,
though I didn't know the term at the time.
One of my friends exposed herself 
while the others looked at her intimate parts.
Everyone was supposed to take turns being the patient,
but the idea horrified me and I ran home
and never mentioned a word about it.
In fact, this is probably the first time 
I've said anything about it to anyone. 
Once we went to a mountain shack in the Catskills
to have a vacation weekend with my aunt.
As city kids this was meant to be a fun getaway;
for me it was a nightmare.
There were snakes and other creatures to terrify me.
There was no running water 
and the outhouse was so nasty 
I made my father walk me into the woods
to take care of business.
I knew I would always be safe with my daddy nearby,
and that was true for my whole life,
even when I was a woman grown with children of my own.
On this same “vacation” my cousins
took my sister and me exploring 
over deep crevices that I was too afraid to cross—
I ended up following my aunt's German Shepard,
who was apparently as much of a scaredy cat as me.
When we reached the ice caves 
(that my mother had specifically warned us not to enter),
I begged my sister not to climb down the rickety wooden ladder
with my cousins—I was terrified she'd get stuck down there,
leaving me lost and all alone in the woods.
She wanted to go, but she stayed with me. 
I like to think that maybe she didn't really want to do it
and I made a good excuse for her to save face,
but I was probably just the pain in the ass
little sister who spoiled her fun.
I've been that way for most of my life,
following the rules that were meant to keep me safe.
I'm not perfect and I've done things I probably shouldn't,
but it's no joke when I say I'm a Goody-two-shoes.
There have been many times in my life
when I've wished I was different,
and not so afraid to take chances.
The only time I seem to escape my innate timidity
is when something threatens someone I love.
I pushed an old man to the ground once
to stop him from taking a swing at my husband,
who could clearly have defended himself without my interference.
I have stood up for my children when others tried to bully them.
I gave the eulogy at my mother's funeral
because I was the only one who was able.
I stood beside my father, holding his hand,
and telling him it was okay to let go,
that I'd be okay without him.
Telling that lie was hardest 
and the bravest thing I've ever done.
The scaredy cat still lives in me,
but I take some comfort knowing
there's a lioness sleeping beside it.

~Elise Skidmore ©2022

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