January 25, 2012

Living with Spiders

Outside of my parents’ house there is a shed where we keep our lawnmowers, pool chairs, floats, sleds, and all the other outdoor equipment/toys that we’ve accumulated over the years. As a kid, that tannish colored shed, with red shutters and flower window boxes was a regular pit-stop for me before embarking on all kinds of adventures (read: trucking my fake gas pump, chalk, and bike up to the cul-de-sac to play ‘traffic’) and activities (read: making mud pies on my Barbie kitchen set and trying to get my brother to eat them).

The shed was such an exciting place for me – I’d get all of my fabulous ideas about what to play and how to keep myself entertained by what was inside. Unfortunately, the shed had one crucial flaw: spiders. I really don’t like spiders. After I read one time that the average person swallows seven spiders a year, I was never the same (I honestly don’t even know if that’s true, and I continuously question how they gathered that data). Regardless, I am convinced now that whenever I wake up with a sore throat it’s because a spider crawled into my mouth during my sleep and thrashed and scratched all the way down my esophagus before making its way into my stomach. I’m sorry; I’m realizing that is a super gross thing to talk about. Maybe I should have prefaced this blog with some kind of ‘disturbing imagery’ warning. Anyways, back to the shed. The shed didn’t have just any kind of spiders on it, but daddy-long-legs, the creepiest of creepy spiders. Their legs are just SOOO long, and I know people say that about me, but I have a pretty normal-sized body to match my very long legs, whereas daddy-long-legs do not. They have those teeny tiny bodies and you can’t help but wonder if there is even enough space to fit a brain in there. And if not, what tells them how to function? Plain and simple, if there is a brain in there and if it is that small and relying on those long, long legs to do its bidding, well, I just don’t want any part of that.

Whenever I couldn’t get to my toys in the shed because of a parade of daddy-long-legs covering the door, I would run and get my daddy (who also has long legs incidentally) to move them for me. I always thought it was so awesome that I could just run to my dad and he’d make my fear of spiders a non-factor, removing them for me and opening those shed doors to the realm of infinite playtime possibilities…

At some point, and I’m not sure exactly when, and as we all do eventually, I stopped running to my dad to make my fears disappear. The awesome thing is that together, my mom and dad were able to give me the tools I needed in order to make a lot of my own fears disappear. When I realized for the first time that I had fears that they couldn’t take care of for me and I couldn’t take care of for myself, I learned the serenity prayer. Through the serenity prayer I started to understand that there are things I cannot change, and rather than let them stew inside me and cause all kinds of ruckus, the best thing I could do with those fears was acknowledge them, and then let them go.

When I first got to my apartment in Limoges, I was greeted by none other than a community of spiders. Since I obviously couldn’t run to my dad to have him take care of them for me, I gave myself two minutes of freak-out time, and then got a cup and a magazine putting them all outside, one by one. That is except for one. That one spider was super quick and I just could not catch her (she’s also pretty big and super scary looking), so I let her be and named her Charlotte. She lives in a hole in the wall where the pipes are in my bathroom, poking her head (and creepy legs) out from time to time. I don’t find her nearly as scary as I did that first day I came here, and in fact, her presence doesn’t even bother me anymore (except for when I wake up with a sore throat and run to the bathroom to make sure I didn’t eat her in my sleep).

I think it’s pretty incredible that sometimes there are fears that we not only overcome, but actually learn to even enjoy (unfortunately, I think that’s where my analogy of this spider fear ends). Before coming to Europe, I’d never really spent much time alone. In all honesty, I feared what I might discover if it were just me and my thoughts and lots and lots of time. At first, I didn't know what to do with myself, but after a few weeks, and then a few months, I slowly started to really enjoy the time I had alone. I’m not trying to say that there aren’t days where I miss home like hell (today was actually one of those days), but in the grand scheme of things, I’m really proud of myself for ‘Eat. Play. Love.’-ing my way to a place of serenity I didn’t know I had. 

Living with spiders isn’t so bad after all.

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