The power of pretending to be fearless


Since the day some years back when I was changing one of my son’s very first diapers, I’ve blustered about how the Smiths are fearless.

“We ain’t afraid o’ nothin’,” I said for the first time that day.

I repeated it several times while fighting back my ridiculously sensitive gag reflex and wiping that baby boy’s ’s sore butt clean of one of the foulest, stinkiest messes I have ever encountered.

Some of you are snickering. I can hear you.

You’re probably mothers or nurses or both, the true badasses of the world who deal with this shit and so many of the really hard things in life without flinching.

When I was a kid, I could barely stand to pick up dried dog poop in the back yard with a shovel. My first child’s diaper on that one fateful day, and that five-word incantation, changed my life.

I’ve repeated those words to great effect countless times since, fending off challenges small and large, real and imagined, physical and otherwise. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

The words have power.

When you persuade yourself that you have no fear, that you can take whatever comes along, you can fake your way through almost anything. Being afraid of nothing, or at least pretending to be, can be liberating.

Sooner or later, it can even become something close to true. I am afraid of very little now: letting my family down somehow; railroad crossings when I’m bicycling in the rain; one other thing that I’m not prepared to share.

Oh, and I can walk the dog and pick up after him without a whimper.

It is entirely possible that what I feared so long ago was being a father. I had seen how not to do it.

I’ve learned something, though, and now that my fearless son will be a father soon, this seems to be a good time to share it:

There really is nothing to fear where you’re going.

You will always worry, but there is nothing to fear.

Pass it on.

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