The Smell of Fear

I am part hippie. Maybe more hippie than not, really. And I like an alternative, all-natural personal grooming product. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with crystal deodorant. I’ve been off antiperspirant for at least a decade, so this was the next logical step. Hippie logic, that is. So in the mornings, I gently moisten the smooth, rounded end of a chunk of potassium alum and roll it around my armpits.

Weird, I know, but it does keep me odor-free as I go about my day. Even after a work out. If you’re thinking about trying this, you should know it doesn’t help with wetness so it might not be ideal for some people, but all in all, I find it effective and economical. Win-win!

With one. Significant Exception: stress sweat. Chemically, it’s different from regular sweat and unexpectedly pungent! One might call it the smell of fear. And I encounter it far too often these days.

Call me a fragile flower, but my job protecting the health and safety of the public and nuclear power employees from nuclear disaster is STRESSFUL. Maybe that makes you sleep easier at night, knowing that emergency preparedness employees are vigilant and contentious to the extreme. That is, until you learn that our office is hundreds of miles from the nearest nuclear plant that we support. Yes, I, like most of my fellow employees at the corporate office, are paper pushers. Yes, sometimes those papers are highly consequential, but I must humbly admit the truth: I’m mainly fearful for myself.

Fearful that my world here in Birmingham will come crashing down around my ears should I lose my job. And I don’t think it’s losing my job that’s at the root of the fear. It’s the humiliation of yet another failure.

But Joni, you seem to have it all together! But Joni, you’re smart and hard-working! But Joni, even if that did happen, you’d get another, better job! I’m telling you, even if all of those things were objectively true, they do not guarantee protection.

And if I’m honest, completely honest, I haven’t always been a stellar employee. I don’t know if I would qualify for that even today. Without going into the whole story, it’s been a rocky road over the past few years. Working for a manager with very high standards whom I have trouble communicating with, any hiccup, big or small, sends my heart rate soaring, shrinks my spirit back to a pruny remnant of who I really am, and without fail, the odor.

I think I like the crystal deodorant because it doesn’t disguise the fear. It reminds me that I’m giving into it again. It makes me hate the fear because of what it does to my body. One day, if I keep wearing it, I will have a very tangible signal that I’ve beaten fear. I’ll have the confidence to move gracefully through the tight spaces, never forgetting who I am or whose I am.

Until then, I keep some antiperspirant in my desk drawer, you know, while I’m working out my salvation, and all.

…for God gave us a spirit, not of fear, but of power and love and self-control.

II Timothy 1:7

4 thoughts on “The Smell of Fear

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