Facing Fear

My Steelers Spider

My Steelers Spider

This picture is a little blurrier than I’d like, but the fact that it exists at all is a point in my “kickass” column.

I am completely and totally squicked out by spiders. It could be a lot worse. I think I’ve already mentioned my former co-worker who would climb on furniture and flail and scream when an 8-legged freak paid us a visit. I’m not that bad. But if an arachnid wanders into my space, all the sudden it just flat out ISN’T “my space” anymore. My ass is gone.

My house is in a fairly wooded area, which means a lot of spiderific visitors make their way into my home at certain times of the year. There’s nothing worse than sitting on the toilet taking a pee, or being butt-naked in the shower, and looking up to notice a spider dancing down towards you on a thin silvery thread. A pin-sized arachnid can make me feel like I’m about to get my butt kicked when I’m not wearing any pants.

True confession time. When my ex-husband and I split, I lived here alone for a time. Well, alone with my ferrets and cat. I’m that girl who will bring home the bacon even if she sucks at frying it up in a pan. I don’t normally follow the “boy/girl” household stereotypes. But bugs, especially spiders, were always the exception to that rule.  Spider removal was Ex’s job, even if it meant he had to get out of bed.

I tried, I really did. But when I lived here alone, I just couldn’t bring myself to dispose of arachnids the way a normal person would. I’d stand and look up or down at it with jelly-legs and shivers running up my spine. I’d imagine that if I left it there, it would sneak into the bedroom and dance on my face while I was sleeping. Or worse, send out a signal to all its spidey-friends that said “Hey dudes, safe house alert. No one here but a squeamish chick. And she’s got beer. Get on in here, and let’s party!” But I still couldn’t do the squishing myself, even with a big combat boot.

One night, a particularly ugly eight-legged mo fo decided to hang out in front of my toilet. Luckily, he got there before I sat down to use it, but still. I REALLY had to pee. So I did what any girly, squeamish freak would do. I picked up my cat, carried him into the bathroom, plopped him in front of the spider, and said “Dude, you’re the man of the house now. Do something about this.”

No, I’m not making this up. I am THAT afraid of spiders.

Fast forward to 2009. Lee and I have been together a while now. He lives here with me, in the same house where a cat once had to serve as SpiderGuard. He has learned his bug removal duties quickly. What man wouldn’t, when the alternative is a never-ending bout of girly squealing interrupting the man-show on TV?

It is a late summer Saturday, and he’s at work. He gets up at buttcrack-o-dawn to get there on time, and I’m a light sleeper so I usually end up awake with him. I decide to take advantage of the relative coolness of early morning and go weed our flower gardens. I’m in my front yard, enjoying the quiet of the neighborhood and the dewy grass under my feet. There’s a sense of simple and tangible accomplishment that comes from reaching into the soil and yanking out the weeds that are choking my flowers, and I’m totally content as I play in the dirt.

Then suddenly, there’s a movement off to my left. I glance over, and there’s the spider in the picture above, far too close for comfort. An aptly named garden spider, wondering what the hell I’m doing mucking around in her territory. Never mind that I’m the one who pays the mortgage, bitch.

She was so close that had my fingers moved another few inches, I would have touched her. The thought of that sent icy shivers up my arm and down my spine. I jerked back quickly, lost my hold on my tenous gardener’s squat, and tumbled butt-first onto the grass. In a moment, I had gone from all’s-right-with-the-world gardener girl to mud-butted scaredy-cat.

Since I was already muddy, I scooted back at bit, and then just sat on my lawn staring at the spider. She stared back. After a while, my fear ebbed and I realized that in a strange, alien kind of way, she was pretty.

Hell, she was sporting the colors of the Pittsburgh Steelers. She couldn’t be THAT bad. So I went in the house, grabbed my camera, and got intentionally close to an eight-legged freak for the first time in my life to snap that shot. Then I finished my weeding, working carefully around her.

I still rely on Lee to remove bugs from the house. But I’m pretty sure that if I stumble on one when he’s not around, I CAN do it myself now. And yes, without the cat.

A lot of times, our fears are based on something valid and real. My spider thing got a lot worse after both my father and a co-worker ended up in the emergency room because of reactions to spider bites. My dad’s eight-legger was hiding in his woodpile. My co-worker’s bit her during a backyard cookout.

At the same time, we often give too much power to our fears, and let them keep us from doing things we want or need to do. My spider example is a bit of a silly one, since when it comes down to it I’m a lot bigger than they are. But there are other areas of life where I’ve allowed – and in some cases continue to allow – fear hold to me back.

For the longest time one of those areas was fear of rejection of my writing. I let my worry that rejection would break my spirit keep me from submitting things for publication. Now that I’ve finally gotten over that hurdle, I wonder what took me so long. Sure, it hurts. But it doesn’t kill you. I break it down the same way I looked at that spider. On the surface, it is an ugly, harsh thing. Look a little longer, though, and there might be something to be learned from it.

I still let fear of being poor rule my life. My job is pretty stable and allows me to pay my bills without stressing, although there’s not much left over after that. Anything I’d rather do instead, any work I might actually love, pays a lot less. So I stay, and bitch and moan. I cannot yet build up the balls to cut my losses, further simplify my already pretty simple life, take risks, and be willing to survive on less.

I’m not giving up hope, though. I never thought I’d put myself face-to-face with a spider, on purpose. I definitely never thought I’d learn to deal with rejection as well as I have. So who knows? Stranger things have happened. Maybe I WILL figure out how to break the ties, find work that inspires me and isn’t so all-consuming, and free up more time to write.

What about you? Do you have fears that hold you back from achieving your dreams, or have you conquered them? If so, how?

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About hawleywood40

Writer, Steelers Fan in Baltimore, Frequent Visitor to the Shot Fairy
This entry was posted in Gardening, Personal Development Mumbo-Jumbo Stuff, Slices O' Life, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Facing Fear

  1. starzyia says:

    well done! so brave. I live in the land of ‘spiders, snakes, freaky lizards, and crocodiles (though so far as I know, no crocs in my neighbourhood) but everything else mentioned is either waiting at the door to get in my house or already inside’, aka Australia… and I am still only brave when home alone. If there is anyone else home when these things arise, it is THEIR job to dispatch the critter. I am glad the cat I have now is as scared as I am because previous cats have actually brought home live snakes to play with…not good.
    I have never seen a spider that looks like yours though, with team spirit and all. My friend Diane lives in PA and is a massive steeler’s fan.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      I am so glad I never had a critter who brought my least favorite creepy-crawlies home to me! My mom’s dog does like to catch “prizes” in the yard and brings them to her all proud of himself … not good! I looked up the spider and I’m pretty sure it is a fairly common garden spider around here. At any rate, I’m glad if one was gonna come live in my flowers it was one I could kinda relate to! Tell your friend Diane I said “Go Steelers!” : ).

  2. Facing your fears one way or the other: bravo! I loved this story written with such humor and vivid images (even the spider image was vivid). While I’m not afraid of spiders, I could sure feel your anxiety–you paint a great picture with your words.

    My irrational fear is of worms. Worms, can you believe that? I avoid gardening and fishing. Pretty simple. Other than that, I’ve faced most of my other fears (rejection–personal and professional–my health failing me, loss of beloved souls–four and two-legged) and realized that I really feared change. Once I accepted change, the fear vanished. Worms, however, don’t change…

    • hawleywood40 says:

      I totally get the worm thing. I’m not “afraid” of them, but I just don’t like the way they feel and don’t want to touch them. My boyfriend loves to fish and occasionally wants me to go with him – no problem as long as he does all the “squirmy work” (i.e. touching the worms or any other gross bait) for me if he actually wants me to try to fish myself! Otherwise, I’m perfectly happy enjoying the scenery, puttering around with the camera, or reading while he does the fishin’.

  3. Amy Isaman says:

    That does NOT look like your everyday average garden spider. It would’ve scared the crap out of me. It looks sort of deadly! Kudos to you for maintaining enough composure to get your camera. As for fear, I think we’ve all got it. I had a horrible nightmare this week about being abducted by aliens. I’ve never had a dream like that and woke up wondering what that was all about. After journaling on it and thinking about it, I decided it had to do with my very real fear of not being in control of situations I’m involved in. Putting myself out there as a writer is one of those situations. I have no idea what will happen. I can’t control people’s reactions to my words. It’s scary. You’ve been much braver than me on that front. To deal with it, I have just been surrendering a little bit every day. Writing is the right path for me, and I just need to believe in that. I think its your path too. Thanks for all your posts. I admire your consistency!

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Your analysis of the alien dream makes total sense, Amy! I still struggle with worrying about how people will react to my words, and I still take rejection hard. I just keep reminding myself that a lot of successful writers – GOOD ones, at that – have dealt with their share of “no thanks” or criticisms too. That must mean it isn’t always about my writing being not up to par, right : )?

  4. jsh0608 says:

    OMG this gave me the heebie jeebies. Now I feel like there are spiders everywhere. I’m not a bug person. I really hate roaches. Once there was a roach in my living room and my cats were just sitting there looking at it. I was all yelling at them. Kill that damn thing already, but of course they just meowed and one even walked away. I was so scared. My husband was laughing at me because he didn’t kill it. I had to do it. And everytime I was slamming it with the shoe I would give out a very loud squeaking screech. I hate bugs. Oh and yes you are brave. That thing looks huge!!!

  5. Aurora says:

    Your vivid imagery just carries me away even without the great photo. I love how you talk about your fears so openly because it makes me feel a lot better about mine. Right now I have a huge fear of making myself emotionally vulnerable to men again but I also know it’s the only way to get past it… However, should you ever need a spider removal, I am not afraid of those at all and my ex would awaken me to remove them, he even screamed me awake once, AH, AH and I couldn’t believe it, he thought there was a spider in the bed! Must be horrible to be so fearful, glad to be with you on your “conquering” journey, thanks for the great read 🙂

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Wish I could promise the same to you about being able to help if you ever needed man removal, but they’re a little harder to deal with than the bugs lol (just kidding, guys!). If I was ever with someone who was as afraid of creepy-crawlies as me, we’d probably be overrun.

  6. I made the decision about a year ago, to live and write without fear. It’s a wonderful way to look at life, but not always so easy to do. I’m emerging from a ‘dry spell’ of several months and I’m pretty sure that part of that came from fear. We have to do so much as writers that it’s a little overwhelming at times. For me, understanding the social media technology we need to know is a tough one. But as long as I keep working at it, it gets a little easier every day.

    I had to laugh at your spider story. My son, who is 36, heavily tatttoed, with broad shoulders and and the bicepts of a body builder, is terrified of bugs. His wife and 7 years old daughter have to do all the debugging in their house.

    Thanks for a great post.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      “To live and write without fear” – I love that! I am striving to do the same, although I know I have miles to go before I get there! Knowing that your son shares my bugophobia makes me feel a lot less like a wimp – and kudos to his wife for not falling into the girls-are-scared-of-bugs stereotype with me : )!

  7. Rosie says:

    So…I’m cleaning my bathroom last night. All of a sudden, a bit of movement catches my eye; it’s a female Arizona Recluse crawling up my medicine cabinet behind my toilet. Since I was going to bring my vacuum into the bathroom to deal with the daddy long legs, I boogied off rather quickly to the living room and wheeled it into the bathroom. Now, where was the spider?

    I tapped and prodded with the hand wand for a few minutes, until I suddenly spied movement again. Now, because I have very high ceilings, I have a total of 3 extensions on my hose, so I can stay far, far, away from the critters, and with a quick suck, thunk, whup, the offending spider was happily whirling around my see-through dust container.

    Well, I was happy it was in my dust container!

    Then, as I went to get a drink of water after my harrowing experience, I saw a beetle on my dining room floor. y’all, look up Palo Verde Beetle aka Derobrachus geminatus. That sucker was easily 5 inches long, and would have clogged up my vacuum cleaner hose. So I herded it into a Styrofoam coffee cup and chucked it into the outside trash.

    Some days I really hate being the only human in the house.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      I envy you those ceilings, Rosie – but NOT those beetles! Eeeeek. And I used to be terrified of the super-crunchy-when-squished Baltimore waterbugs who invaded our rowhome when I was growing up! So good to hear from you, too. How have you been?

  8. Patti Kuche says:

    Oh, hon, those damn fears . . . I hate cockroaches, mice and housework but that fear of rejection? Amazing how a little of it goes a long way. Overcoming it? Believe in your balls!

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