Facing My Fears

I’ve faced my fears and I’ve avoided facing my fears. Often, I’ve not even been able to define my fears. But I addressed one fear in my younger years that has since served me well.

When I lived in Ganado, Arizona decades ago, the small College of Ganado offered evening classes. One semester I got brave and signed up for woodworking. Power tools that could seriously maim people terrified me. The energy, the noise, the razor-sharp teeth, the possibilities—all of it tightened my chest and made me go numb. Learning to safely use those tools would help me get a grip.

My first woodworking project–bookshelves–from 1981. Still functional. Notice the ancient large speakers–they’re from 1981 also and used now as furniture. If you see any DVD titles you want, let me know. They’re all for sale. Cheap.

The instructor, a local high school shop teacher, was confident and talented. But in the first class he made us hand-chisel a mortise and tenon joint, which severely bored me and the other adult students. I wasn’t interested in using woodworking tools of the previous century. Nor was I slobbering to flip a switch merely to hear noise and watch wood chips fly. I needed to learn how to safely command the killer table saw, and I needed that soon—before I lost my resolve.

He realized by the next class that the students weren’t interested in chiseling joints. Veterans of that class had already planned their projects. I planned to build bookshelves from the finest white oak. Wide enough to hold my stereo setup with its turntable and receiver. Tall and sturdy shelves, to last forever.

Corners are still sturdy!

The project required a few cuts. With my heart pounding and ear and eye protection snugged to my head, for the first time ever I ran a board through the table saw. I was thrilled. The teacher checked the machine’s adjustments beforehand and I kept a healthy distance as the blades ripped the expensive oak like butter. And like slicing butter, it could have been a hand, or fingers—but not mine, because I had observed all safety precautions. I cut all my boards with those slayer machines and glued and screwed together bookshelves that I still have.

And I still have my fingers too.

And a healthy respect for woodworking tools. Now I have my own portable table saw, but I rarely pull it out. After I used it to build my kitchen and bathroom cabinets in my strawbale house, I pretty much retired it to a parking spot in the garage.

Now if I can just muster the guts to tackle my fear of…wait, what was I afraid of? And do I really need to face that fear?

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