Kathryn the Anxiety Slayer

I love the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The show, created by Joss Whedon, ran from 1997 to 2003 as a spinoff of the 1992 movie by the same name.

I suppose one reason I love it is that I’m someone who shops in the petite section and often finds long sleeves going halfway down my hands. So I relish the idea of this small, young woman kicking some serious monster butt.

Mostly, I really like that those monsters generally represent the anxiety or crisis that Buffy is facing at that moment in her life.

I didn’t start watching the series from the first season but rather got introduced to the creepiness with a season four episode called “Hush.” In this episode, the “gentlemen” come to town, stripping everyone of their voices so that they can complete their heinous scheme more easily.

At this same time in Buffy’s life, she’s a freshman in college who has met someone she likes very much but feels she can’t date because she can’t tell him about her life as a slayer sworn to killing evil.

As Buffy confronts the week’s villains who have stolen her voice, she also confronts her inability to speak her truth.

I know there have been times in my life when my fears felt diffuse so that I didn’t know how to confront them because I couldn’t name them. And though I certainly would prefer not to meet the “gentlemen,” even with Buffy’s super strength, it would feel nice to kick the butt of an embodied fear rather than cope with the unnameable anxiety that can come over all of us at times.

Such unnameable overwhelming fear is why I have begun my own pretend TV show entitled Kathryn the Badass Dog Mom.

Our dog Omarius was two years old when we adopted him from the Humane Society, and we are his third family. It turned out he had some health problems, requiring an x-ray that revealed pellets still embedded in his chest where he once was shot. He is, understandably, a bit anxious while also very sweet-tempered.

At home, Omarius does well and is happy. But, though he expects and begs for walks, he struggles mightily with anxiety as we stroll our neighborhood.

He looks happy, going along wagging his tail, but he whines and frets based on birds in the sky, dogs barking from inside houses, and mere smells. Everything feels like a threat.

So we are now starring in a new TV show called Kathryn the Badass Dog Mom. As we go along in our quiet neighborhood (because I try to walk him early and late when there are fewer “threats”), I reassure Omarius that I am the toughest of all dog moms completely capable of protecting him from stray cats, the occasional possum going across the street, and other dogs who are on leashes being walked by their moms or dads.

Our show includes dialogue as well as occasional songs because I do love musicals.

I tell Omarius that his viewing audience is excited for that episode where he finally enjoys the walk completely knowing that his mom will slay any and all monsters.

I guess that episode will be our series finale because every walk is a challenge thus far in spite of the treats, the singing, the reassuring pats on the head, the training, and the amazing scripted dialogue where I assure Omarius that he is safe because the most badass mom around adopted him and will keep him safe.

In spite of our low ratings, I’m determined that the show will go on, for surely, with enough effort and reassurance, Omarius will eventually get his happy ending where the monsters are slain for good.

Or not.

Anxiety is a fact of life. Omarius likely will stay afraid of at least the possums, and that’s okay.

The occasional monster is going to appear in all of our lives, but, like Buffy, we can manage. We can use our voices, name that fear, and truly kick some monster butt because, really, that monster is nothing more than a made-up story about a girl who’s a slayer or a woman ready to protect her dog no matter what.

On next week’s episode, watch Omarius cause Kathryn to nearly fall when he sees a stray cat. Will she fall? Or will she use the balance of a vampire slayer and save the day? Tune in to find out.

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Kathryn Duncan

Kathryn Duncan

Kathryn Duncan is an English professor and author of the book Jane Austen and the Buddha: Teachers of Enlightenment.