As a seasoned catastrophizer, I was stunned when the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic caught me unaware.

"How could I have missed this?" I wondered.

I've since tried to make up for it by being ultra-cautious -- so cautious that I canceled my hair appointment before the salons were closed.

Unlike friends who entered lockdown with a fresh color and cut, I already was six weeks overgrown.

For a while, it was no problem. "I kind of like it longer," I declared. "Maybe I'll even like it gray." That lasted about two weeks.

Then I started hating the sight of my long, stringy self on Zoom and decided to take matters into my own hands.

My daughter-in-law, a salon owner, loaned me some scissors and yelled bangs-cutting instructions from her front porch.

"Do not cut them straight across," she warned. Instead, I dutifully sectioned them off, held them in the air and cut from two different angles. Snip, snip, snip -- not bad!

"Maybe," I told myself, "I could do more." That's when I decided to search Amazon for my own equipment: scissors for cutting and thinning, hair clips and a sectioning comb. How hard could this be?

Apparently, others had the same idea. It was three weeks before all the parts and pieces arrived from various vendors. Even then, I let them sit a few days before taking the plunge.

This was due in part to a history of bad-hair trauma: my daughter reminding me what I'd once done to her bangs; my older son recalling the rush to a barber after I'd "evened up" his curly hair out on the screen porch. Seated beneath an honest-to-God deer head, he'd lost his girlish locks that afternoon to a buzz cut.

But I could wait no longer. Ever the multitasker, I decided I would take on the self-cut during the prayerful ambience of online church.

"If it turns out well," I promised myself, "I will even appear at the online coffee hour."

Newspaper instructions made it look easy: Just pull it all up to the top of your head in a giant ponytail, and whack!

That works for long hair; not so much for a short, layered look. Instead, I'd have to discover a million or so same-length sections and shorten each one.

So with my laptop on one side of the bathroom and a large towel covering the sink, I vowed to capture each section of same-length hair with a clip, lift it with the comb and trim off a quarter inch.

This seemed consistent with my stylist's usual question, "So about a quarter inch?" to which I had always replied, "Yes." What could go wrong?

The answer turned out to be "the mirror." Although I possibly could have succeeded in cutting someone else's hair with that method, it was a whole different story cutting my own.

I'd pull up a section with the comb, come at it with the scissors and somehow be either in front of the hair or in back of it -- but never right on it -- with the blades.

By the time online church was offering the meditational music of a French horn player, I had tossed the comb, grabbed the hair and was starting to ram hanks of it between scissor blades and squeeze. It was hit or miss, with jubilation so high when I actually got hair between blades that I whacked regardless of how much. Inch-long hunks of blonde flew past.

After the left side was shorter, I covered up the hacked appearance with longer strands, then traveled to the right in a long-familiar effort to "even up." This reminded me that even my own stylist had squinted and snipped and measured here, with better results. But by this time, I just said "good enough" and quit before I had to even up again, then attacked the top with the thinning shears.

To their credit, my daughter, daughter-in-law and stylist all were merciful when I messaged the picture from my phone and then went straight to the online coffee hour.

Still, I hope this will be my only foray into the tricky world of selfie haircuts.

For anyone who can't wait until salons open, I have only one piece of sure-thing advice: Put a very large towel in your bathroom sink.

Balancing Act author Pat Snyder is a northwest Columbus resident and life-balance speaker and coach. Find her at