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worrying about fear
Dealing with Goliath
“You have to face your fears,” we’re told.
Sooner or later, you have to confront Goliath,’ the thing that’s always loomed large over your existence: pitch-black dead of night dark, soaring heights, closed-in space, flying way above ground. Or maybe circus clowns. Goliaths bully you, taunt you and then talk about your Mama. Mainly Goliath means to have his way with you, beat you up, take your lunch money — and whatever esteem you have left.
The idea of ‘dealing with’ Goliath, of course, is that you’re supposed to summon all your courage, tap this deep, hidden well-spring of testosterone that allows your ‘inner- Casper Milquetoast’ to rise up and –before God and everybody — thrash the bully within an inch of his life and then dispatch hooligan Goliath from town forever!
Of course, facing your fears has long been a rite of passage. It is an ordeal to be endured – and won — in order to finally win your manhood (or your womanhood) and to prove once and for all that you and no one else is the boss of you. The ultimate face-off is an unwritten law — most likely promulgated by the Self-Help Book author’s lobby as well as companies that market Band-Aids, First Aid kits and analgesics for people who’ve just suffered bloody, open wounds, broken bones and serious bodily harm (even if it is only to one’s ego.)
Me? I’ve never been particularly excited about High Noon-ing my Goliaths. There seems to be little percentage in it. I’ve looked into it and found that in the long, sordid history of these kinds of things, the little guy mostly gets his ass kicked and sometimes loses consciousness. Who needs that!?
The truth is David beat Goliath — but only once, which is the reason they made a movie of the whole thing in the first place. A higher truth is in the rematch, the one nobody tells you about — the one you can only find out about on the Deep Internet–Goliath tore off David’s right leg and then nearly beat David ‘half to death with his own lower limb.
So when it comes to grappling with my own Goliaths, I’ve learned to listen to the advice of ‘Las Vegas’ and go with the odds, which are usually weighted heavily against the ‘little guy’ — or anyone named David.
When it comes to my specific phobia, I’ll say this about them: they have not been your run-of the mill, garden variety types such as fear of flying, fear of heights, claustrophobia or say, fear of the dark. My fears have been an eclectic bunch.
The first one I remember was my abject fear of nuns, particularly Sister Mary Katherine in Fourth Grade. It actually worked to my benefit in that it caused me to not REPEAT the Fourth Grade although I generally enjoyed the view out of the side window of her classroom. I could only surmise Sister Katherine nee ‘Sister Goliath’ disagreed about the outside scenery as well with the rest of my approach to the Fourth Grade curriculum. I inferred as much as she, using me as a rag-doll prop, invented ‘waterboarding’ on October 15, 1960. I remember the whole thing well. As a result of me getting pummeled by this Goliath, I vowed not to peruse the window view anymore. At that same time, I, exhausted, waterlogged and under serious duress, confessed to the Lincoln Assassination (thus proving for the very first time that waterboarding was an unreliable method of discipline and interrogation.)
Another one of my Goliaths is an insane fear not ‘of flying’ — nor even ‘of airplanes’ — but of airports themselves and the TSA gauntlet one must brave before even boarding a plane.
Then there’s my irrational fear of making campaign contributions for fear the politicians’ PAC will relentlessly and endlessly hound me with robo-calls and spam e-mail to contribute even more money – no matter who ultimately won the election.
I have a fear of mail men. No mail man has ever brought me a cashier’s check, an IRS refund or a scintilla of good news. It is a suspense thriller every time I go to the mail box. It’s either a bill, junk mail and/or a summons to jury duty.
My fear of cable caused me to dispatch Comcast and avoid bills and monthly statements that were five metric pounds by weight –a stack of pages themselves thick enough to make Seabiscuit gag. I am alive today because my phobia of being bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat caused me not to then subsequently steal my neighbor’s cable-feed.
As I have reached ‘seniority’ –and am not as lithe –as I once was, a huge fear is having to bend over and look for anything I may have dropped on the floor …especially if the object has run itself under the bed or the living room sofa.
My biggest fear though — my huge, big hairy, ugly Goliath — these days is the same one that sends a dagger in the heart of most men: Doctors.
Most men would rather discuss their emotions and feelings’ or –God-forbid — female gynecological matters than go to the doctor, although we would really appreciate it if you wouldn’t call our bluff on any of it.
As it turns out, we men are a stubborn lot, putting off going to the doctor as long as possible –until we’re pissing blood or having chest pains strong enough to bring a Clydesdale to its knees. Government statistics show 54% of all men are afraid of doctors. Those of us in the 54% know that the men in the other 46% are either doctors themselves—or liars.
The bald-headed naked truth is I’ve always been a wuss when it comes to doctors’ visits. I liken the experience to being pulled over on the expressway of life and being given the once over by a State Trooper. At best you’re going to get a stern warning to change your fast living, hard driving ways. Or, at worst, you’re going to be identified as a ‘person of interest’, arrested and taken in for further questioning — and no one is ever going to hear from you again.
Over the years, I’ve done enough self-analysis to figure out that my doctor-phobia is wrapped up in the ultimate disappointment of death. So far, death is something that has always happened only to other people — and I’m bound and determined to keep it that way. To be sure, the jig is going to be up someday, but my attitude while in the doc’s office is ‘I just don’t want to be jigged up today!’ For one thing, I’ve got Field Level Tickets on Aisle 123 for this afternoon’s game versus the Cubs. Or there’s a 12 –ounce ribeye at home marinating in cooking sherry and beer. If I hear from this new doctor that I have a terminal condition, knowing myself like I do, I’m going to want an immediate Second Opinion which is going to mess up my afternoon plans for the steak and the ballgame. Of course, even if I don’t get a terminal diagnosis there are two ancillary worries. The first is that on my way out the door says “Not so fast” and then hands me this long list of comfort foods I can no longer eat. Or the doc tells me I need to get more exercise. “Maybe you could do some bend-overs, Cantrell. Attack that waistline a little!” Both of these outcomes are fates worse than death to a person like me.
Some would say a person with all my fears ‘has issues’ and needs help. I’m sure there is some doctor somewhere who has pioneered some expensive 12-Step Program that is hustled over TV during late night infomercials and during Pledge Weeks on PBS that addresses my fear of doctors or say, my fear of airports. To be honest about the thing, I don’t relish the idea of someone taking me and a group of other TSA fearful people on a field trip to Hartsfield International to show us just how easy it is to board a plane. I’ll drive. I like road trips anyway.
I’ll also pass on therapy for the doctor-phobia thing too. Going to one doctor for therapy because you’re afraid to go to visit a physician seems oddly circular to me — dizzying even. It’s a classic “what comes first, the doctor or the doctor” questions. My life is complicated and dizzying enough already.
Who knows if I will ever overcome all my trepidations, face down and deal with all my Goliaths? I’ve lived a long time with them already and they have actually become kind of ‘interesting’. Also, quite frankly there are better ways of spending my time than jousting with fears. Besides I’ve learned that sometimes if you’re ‘a David’ and you procrastinate long enough, Goliath will find a better job elsewhere and leave town forever. Until then maybe I’ll just stay the hell out of Goliath’s way. “Don’t SAY nothing, won’t BE nothing,” I’ll tell Goliath. Of course, none of this is the most grown-up way of looking at things, but then I’ve never been accused of growing up.
 The editor of the site is convinced I have a ‘pronounced fear of punctuation.’ I counter by reminding him of his own apparent fear of remuneration.
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