chasing fear

chunky barber shears

Fear and I have a dog-and-bone relationship.

Power outages. Achey chills. TV news. Unemployment. Downed trees. The Election. Plague-doctor nose cones. Lost mail-in tax returns. Panic attacks. Masks with too-tight elastic. A sinking bank balance. That large creature in the attic that will scrape through the walls any day now. A low car tire. Poison Ivy. Loud trucks. Sweaty-palmed phone calls. The cat’s swollen, bald ear. Ruined soup in the fridge. Bathroom scale readouts. An empty asthma inhaler. Search results for “How much is too much whisky?”

I’ve got a bottomless basket of worry-bones for Fear to toss, and I obediently chase them down rabbit holes. I bet I’m not the only human with a stash of stinky buried bones to supplement the common ones. It’s become a family tradition, and I get it. I used to believe in it.

Maybe it’s my Deep-South upbringing or my Autistic characteristics, but I’ve fattened Fear up on a steady diet of ancestral philosophy: “Prepare for the worst — and expect the worst. That way, you won’t be disappointed.” Bad stuff is bound to happen. If we plan on it, we don’t feel betrayed when things “go South.” And if things go well, we can smile and shrug as if we were joking about our worries. So clever. But what a debilitating energy drain, challenging oneself to consider every possible horrific outcome.

I woke up the day after Election Day and realized that Fear might keep me scurrying all week. Or longer. But I had fun things I wanted to do.

So I decided to chase Fear instead of him chasing me.

Imagine the backlash. I don’t know how Fear did it, but he kept unlocking my phone so the news feed would pop up. He wanted to be sure I was on top of things. My homeboy even warned me about my outdated LinkedIn profile — and that I needed to eat some greens. I was out of those, so I’d better squeeze in a trip to the grocery store — but only if I had a freshly-laundered mask. Oh! Never mind. That haircut I’d just given myself needed to stay out of sight for at least two weeks, anyway.

“See? You’re screwed,” Fear muttered.

Then, today, I reminded myself of my resolution to unleash the hounds in a new direction. I reached into that basket and tossed bone after bone over the horizon. Instead of checking the newsfeed and my to-do list, I sat in the window and watched, fascinated, while a crew surgically removed a giant tree from my backyard. That entertained me far more than Apple or Reuters or the Washington post might.

As I sat watching and listening to the tree guys’ cheerful banter, I remembered that my choppy personal barbershop moments are a helluva lot of fun, too; maybe as much fun as taking down a tree. Back in April, I bought several pairs of barber’s shears. I love the one that takes a row of 1/8″ chunks out with a single snip. On Wednesday night, liberated, I stood in a dimly-lit bathroom with two smeared mirrors and 20/90 vision — holding those shears. I let it rip, cutting mostly by feel. Mom says it’s a little short in the back, but both times I’ve cut my hair during the Pandemic, the phrase, “I don’t care what they think, this is cool,” has taken on a new meaning.

Once the tree was out of the yard, I checked on Fear and his basket. He’d disappeared, and the basket was empty. I’m breathing a sigh of relief, hoping the Humane Society will nab him soon.

I’m so grateful I didn’t chip that stupid mutt.


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