still afraid

Liz is terrified of sharks. I am terrified of mice. Me, I see a mouse and I scream and I run. And still that mouse will spot me and chase me down and try to run up my pant leg. And that, my friends, is a fate worse than death. 

Liz, on the other hand, is afraid that a shark will swallow her whole.

Liz claims that she is justified in her fear of sharks. Statistically, of course, that is absurd. Yes, a shark can bite off your torso, but you’re as likely to be killed by a shark as by a falling piano and nobody’s afraid of pianos. Besides, her argument falls apart over the fact that she gets nervous in the very deep end of a pool at dusk, where the water is cold. It simply isn’t reasonable, which she would be the first to tell you. (In contrast to my mouse-up-the-pant-leg fear, which is very reasonable and very, very real.)

They say we should learn to face our fears. To which I say: You first, dude.

Why should we learn to face our fears? They never tell you that. You want me to release a few dozen mice into my house so I can face my fear? Lemme tell you something – you ever prank me like that, the joke’s gonna be on you because I’m burning down Fairfield County and moving my family to Kuwait.

But our shark vs. mouse debate has led me here:

The object of our fear is less important than why we are afraid of that thing. Meaning, you can have irrational fears (about spiders and stuff), or rationally-irrational fears (like your kids getting abducted, even though that’s highly unlikely), or rational fears (like of grizzly bears if you’re picnicking in the Yukon).

And yet those all pale in significance next to Anxiety.

Anxiety lingers. Anxiety is the constant fear that MAYBE there WILL BE a mouse in the room at some point. 

Anxiety, unlike fear, should be faced. The problem is that we can’t outmuscle anxiety. It can’t be shouted at or run from. The only way to get rid of anxiety is to give someone permission to pry it out of that iron grip of yours.

This is, again, the beauty of counselors.

Lizzie and I lean into marriage counseling – we always have. Listen up, men: Couples counseling is a powerful way to strengthen your relationship with your partner, period. We have a marriage counselor that we adore named Steve.

Here’s how Steve does it – he gets right there into our anxiety. He sinks into the pain and validates it and understands it. And he slowly eases open our clenched fist and helps us release it, even when it’s more comfortable to hug it close like some kind of gross security blanket.

For me, my big anxiety has always been that I somehow won’t be able to provide for my family.

Now, I don’t really have any good reason to believe that – I’ve always been blessed with income. But anxieties, as illogical as they are, still insist on seeping into your entire identity like food coloring. Remember my last entry, about being insanely cheap as a human being? Any truly cheap person will tell you that there is, at the core of that, a fear that you’ll never have enough. 

Give somebody permission to help you let go of that anxiety. Because it’s near-impossible to do it yourself. 

Me, I got Jesus to do that for me. I know not everyone is down with Jesus – I get that, having been an atheist for my first 32 years. But Jesus promises to take anxiety away and crush it into dust. Still, I have to keep giving it to Him, again and again, on a near daily basis. And He just keeps annihilating it, like a steam roller over a champagne flute. It’s impressive and it’s visceral and my life is different because of that.

But I’m still stuck with my actual, stupid fears. Which brings me to…

Top Five Things I Have No Right to be Afraid of:

1.) Cobwebs. 

Spiders, for some reason, I can deal with. It’s the cobwebs. If I’m walking through the woods or an abandoned house or something, I’m coming in with my arms pinwheeling and extended in front of me like Frankenstein falling down a flight of stairs. A cobweb hits me in the face and I will scream like I’ve been stabbed in the neck.

2.) Open Manhole Covers. 

I’m petrified of falling into an open manhole. Why are we even making holes in the ground like that, just willy nilly where people can fall down them? They put a few orange cones around it as if that’s going to do anything? It’s like going to the zoo and finding that they’ve just put a few orange cones around the Bengal tiger. 

3.) My Attic.

I know that, statistically, the odds of there being anyone in my attic when I go up there are miniscule. Thus, the odds of there being, say, a man dressed like a clown with a bloody ax up there are so remote as to not be concerning. But when I’m climbing those attic steps it feels about 50-50 that  I’m going to get murdered by a clown. I’d like to say I blame Hollywood or Stephen King but the truth is that I blame the insane asylum that let that clown escape in the first place.

4.) Getting Kicked by a Horse.

You know those scenes in movies where the cowboy is leaning over a fence watching his horse run around the paddock at dusk and it’s supposed to be all beautiful and relaxing? I literally can’t watch that. I’m just like “Get outta there, idiot!” because in my mind the horse is just waiting to pass that cowboy and kick his head clean off his shoulders so his hat is just hanging in midair for a moment before floating to the ground.

5.)  Tongue Depressors.

I know nobody loves them. But they are the first thing I look for in a doctor’s office. I’m terrified of them. I would rather my doctor come toward me with a coping saw, breath stinking of moonshine. My doctor takes the top off that tongue-depressor mason jar and he’s gonna be looking at a Conor-shaped hole in the wall.

I have no interest in passing any of these fears on to my kids. They’ll have their own. I just pray that I can be a father that helps them let of their own anxieties. And in exchange, they’ll be taking care of any mice we find in the basement.

By | 2018-01-31T08:52:16-04:00 January 31st, 2018|30 Comments


  1. Kathryn January 31, 2018 at 9:30 am - Reply

    Dude – you make me laugh so hard! You’re such a good writer! Favorite parts: pinwheeling arms anticipating coming in contact w/ cobweb; and the Conor-shaped hole in the wall.

    • Conor January 31, 2018 at 9:41 am - Reply

      Get outta here with those cobwebs! They serve no purpose!! (Except to spiders but get outta here with those too! Except I guess they keep the insect population but GET OUTTA HERE with those too!!)

  2. Elsa January 31, 2018 at 10:50 am - Reply

    So good!

    • Conor January 31, 2018 at 10:59 am - Reply

      Thanks Elsa!! 🙂

  3. Liz January 31, 2018 at 10:57 am - Reply

    Sharks = the worst. Ugh.

    • Conor January 31, 2018 at 11:00 am - Reply

      At least they’re not running around New Canaan. Mice are a modern day plague!

      • Mark January 31, 2018 at 12:40 pm - Reply

        Spidersharks are the worst

        • Conor January 31, 2018 at 2:13 pm - Reply

          I feel like they would cancel each other out, no?

  4. Heather January 31, 2018 at 10:58 am - Reply

    Conor I think I’m scared of chickens like you’re scared of mice. The reason is that they are not to be reasoned with in any way. I feel like you can talk to a dog, and they get you, but you can’t say anything to a chicken or mouse. They’re purely reactionary and completely scary, and cobwebs are just downright gross. I mean, who knows what homicide has been committed in the name of hunger. Who knows what carnage remains? That said, I’m with you. We have to give those to someone else so we can see them for what they are-often worries that resonate from our childhood.

    • Conor January 31, 2018 at 11:02 am - Reply

      This is pure, unfiltered wisdom right here, Heather. And chickens. I totally get it. Why won’t they listen? We’re so big!

  5. Bob January 31, 2018 at 11:02 am - Reply

    Your “Attic” paragraph is the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time! I hope you, Liz and the kids are all well.

    • Conor January 31, 2018 at 11:04 am - Reply

      Attics. Nothing ever good came out of an attic. Nothing. (Hope you all are well Bob!)

  6. Amy January 31, 2018 at 11:41 am - Reply

    Laughed so hard I had to reapply my mascara. Loved this and shared with friends and family. Conor shaped hole in the wall and burning down Fairfield county were highlights. Bless you Conor. Keep on writing. And Liz, I have the shark fear too. All I need to hear is the music from Jaws and I look for them. Could be on the 21st floor of an office building.

    • Conor January 31, 2018 at 11:49 am - Reply

      I keep laughing at sharks on the 21st floor. Like they’re pressing the elevator buttons and awkwardly checking their iphone on the way up.

    • Liz January 31, 2018 at 7:53 pm - Reply

      That’s what I’m saying! 21st Floor! Because you never know when you’re going to run into a Land Shark! (“Candy Gram…”)

      • Conor January 31, 2018 at 8:32 pm - Reply


  7. Jennifer Lopezz January 31, 2018 at 12:32 pm - Reply

    So raw and so funny. thanks for sharing. Funny what fears we have. For me its heights and public speaking….The worst! pretty common though. Don’t get me wrong. I hate spiders and mice and all that stuff too. I’m sure I’d break my face trying to get away if one ran up my leg.

    • Conor January 31, 2018 at 2:14 pm - Reply

      Even you saying one ran up your leg makes me want to put my leg in a paint shaking machine.

  8. Linda Grimes January 31, 2018 at 8:47 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the great blogpost. I’ll take spiders, snakes, sharks and mice any day. But I’m TERRIFIED of slugs, snails and frogs. People tease me, saying a snail can’t chase me (or run up my pant leg)! Please tell Liz that when my son was five, he wouldn’t take a bath (yes, in a tub, not the ocean!) because he was afraid of sharks! But he OUTGREW that fear! Let’s all embrace our humanity and praise Jesus!

    • Conor January 31, 2018 at 9:49 pm - Reply

      I can totally get behind slugs and snails. And yes – embrace humanity! Praise Jesus! 🙂

  9. Donna Foley February 1, 2018 at 3:14 am - Reply

    I was afraid of fire, at 40 years old I became a firefighter. But I’m still scared of the “Hand” from the beginning of creature feature( I used to think it was in my parents basement )when I was young and would tear ass running up the basement stairs…ummmm still do!

    • Liz February 1, 2018 at 6:06 am - Reply

      You became a firefighter at age 40? That is the coolest thing!!!!

      • Conor February 1, 2018 at 6:23 am - Reply

        And YES. Firefighting at 40!! Incredible. That’s like me becoming a mouse catcher at age 43! Little more dangerous than a firefighter, but still. I think I could do it.

    • Conor February 1, 2018 at 6:22 am - Reply

      Yes, the hand. I know the hand. Why, The Hand??

  10. Joan February 1, 2018 at 7:52 am - Reply

    Good thing that you are married to that fearless beauty, Liz. Keep the man safe, Liz.

    • Conor February 1, 2018 at 8:35 am - Reply

      She does! The safest!!

  11. Jennifer February 1, 2018 at 9:02 am - Reply

    Hugs back to you Connor.You make me laugh! How in the heck did you ever do what you did in Nepal with all those fears? You faced insurmountable odds and challenges but the idea of a tongue depressor makes you run? I am a nurse so that’s funny! I loved your thoughts on anxiety, and counseling, sometimes it’s good to realize everyone struggles with that. Love what you did, love your blog. (Jenny)

    • Conor February 1, 2018 at 9:55 am - Reply

      Tongue depressors! I don’t know how you share an office with those things. Thanks for reading Jenny!

  12. Dad February 2, 2018 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    Very mice I mean nice, Conor. Surprised not to find “fire” in that list of 5, remembering my Da your Grandad grabbing you out of the fire in Ballymoney all those years ago. . . . Real.

    • Conor February 2, 2018 at 3:01 pm - Reply

      Fire indeed! Maybe I just know that you’ll always come rescue me? It may be why I never let the kids ANYWHERE near the fire…

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