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?