The other day I was having lunch with a friend and conversation turned towards our fears. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. On some level, I consider myself a pretty brave person. I’m not afraid to move across the country and start a new life, or jump in a cage in the middle of the ocean to get closer to massive sharks, or drive on the Jersey Turnpike. I’m not afraid to fly or speak in public or be the only one dancing.
However the smallest of spiders will stop me in my tracks, filling me with sheer terror. I don’t remember an instance where I didn’t have this fear; I guess I was born this way. People asked if there was an incident that caused this, but I can think of lots of incidents. Every encounter with a spider has been jolting, leaving me reeling for days. To the untrained eye, I don’t appear to be a basket case. The casual observer wouldn’t know that I scan the walls and ceiling of every room to search for the offending beasts. I minimize the danger by not going to the jungle or going camping or hanging out under trees.
But my crazy is right under the surface. I’ve pulled over numerous times to ask strangers to kill a spider in or on my car. Once, I just jumped out at an intersection when there was daddy long legs on the radio console of a borrowed truck I was driving to help my mother move furniture into her kindergarden classroom. Did it matter that I left my mom screaming in a truck with a stick shift that she couldn’t drive? No. Because all rational thought goes out the window when you’re running for your life.
Mr. Betty says he knows when there’s a spider because my screams reach a different pitch then normal. Luckily he’s not afraid, so I have a spider-killer on hand to take care of business. He smacks them with a shoe or paper towel or whatever’s on hand and in a slow southern drawl says, “He deaddddd.” I’ve accused him of missing them and lying to pacify me, so now he always tries to show me the corpse. No thanks.
I’m in good company with many, as arachnophobia is the most common of phobias. We’re not just afraid of the terrible beasts themselves, but also of photos, seeing them on TV, the webs, killing them ourselves, and everything even remotely related. Even other people’s spider stories scare us. Revisiting the lunch where fear was discussed, my friend told me she and her mother saw a tarantula the size of a rabbit in New Mexico. Mental note: Never go to New Mexico. I’ve searched for this monstrous spider-rabbit hybrid around my apartment complex ever since, because it probably hopped to Austin by now. I’m sure it will kill me in the mail room one day.
I guess my other major fear is not as easy to talk about, and I guess most can relate it it, but death is pretty high on my list of terrors. I saw a therapist when I lost my nana years ago and while I don’t think it helped me vanquish all my grief, the hypnotherapist did help me relax a bit during those sessions. Later, I lost a grandfather and then another grandmother. That’s when the panic and reality set in that I —and worse, everyone I love— will die. I let these dark thoughts ruin me for about five years before I was finally able to shove them back down to an unaccessible place where they will surely bubble up again one day.
Eventually I will have to make peace with death. I’m not ready to confront this devastatingly sad and lonely reality, but I know I need to. As for spiders, well, that’s just not something I’m willing to accept. One by one, Mr. Betty will eradicate them all. We simply cannot coexist on this planet.
What are you afraid of, my friends? Leave me a comment and let’s hash it out.*
*Note that if you send me photos of spiders I will (for the first time ever) censor your comments and not post them. Yes, I’m pretty messed up. Sue me.