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I am sitting in the patient chair, making a fist as the lab technician ties my upper arm with a band and swabs the soft skin at my elbow juncture with alcohol. The slight shock of cold is the most unnerving part, the sensation of the body being touched by another. Deftly, the technician inserts the tip of the needle into my vein to draw my blood.
I remember back to when I was young, fighting my mother as she hauled me by the arm into the doctor's office to have my blood drawn for routine examinations. I screamed and threw the full weight of my body against her to resist being taken into the exam room, but I was so small and she was so strong. The more I cried, shouted, and flailed my limbs, the stronger her grip became on me. How could I resist this force? The more I tried to pull away, the harder I was drawn to it, meshing into her body as a single unit as she picked me up and held me close, her arms wrapped around mine to discourage the thrashing.
"It's just a pinch," she'd say to calm me, "a bite from a tiny little ant." Tears traced rivers of salt down my cheeks, dripping off my chin. I stared at the needle in the nurse's hands, this giant metal tip that would soon stake claim in my body, taking away my blood, my essence. The room smelled of antiseptic and the nurse was dressed in sterile white, the color of mourning and death. The crisp wax paper on the exam bed crinkled loudly beneath me every time I shifted positions. There was no escaping two strong, full-grown women in a closed room. Terror magnified in my head and reached invisible tendrils to bind me, knotting up and entangling around themselves, rooting me down. My mother steadily pinned my arm in place and held it out to the nurse, exposing the vein, her gentle words breaking through the dizzying cloud of fear to soothe me.
There is just a pinch as the technician injects the needle, and I am a grown woman, calm and collected and watching my dark-red blood fill the test tube before gauze and bandages are put on the tiny pinprick wound. I think of how often in aikido fear can magnify itself within the limitless constructs of the mind. When I run out of breath and my test is only half over; when a technique is called that does not quite register in my head; when a very large, mountainous uke grabs me by both arms and flings me aside like a pillow and I lose all motor control, or I have to perform a koshinage or force myself to take a high fall on my bad side, or when I'm sitting seiza at one end of the dojo, that split second before I am charged at for a round of jiyu-waza--I am a lost little girl with all the world against me, and fear rears its monstrous head, threatening to tie down my flailing courage.
This is when I think, "It's just a pinch." Over before I know it. The pain will be fleeting, the hurt will be little, and I would have overcome all this within a few minutes' time. There is that soft, distant little voice that quells my fluttering, frenetic thoughts. And I stop resisting. And I let them in. And this is how we grow to conquer our fears.