Last week I saw the biggest spider I’ve ever seen in my life. It was 10:30pm, I was reading in bed, and suddenly my peripherals began to move. I looked across my bedroom floor and two feet away, there it was. It was the size of my palm, its body alone the size of a silver dollar.
In my room.
Two feet away from my bed.
I had heard for years how massive spiders were in the Pacific Northwest and couldn’t help but wonder why in all of my time living here, I was home alone at 10:30pm the first time I saw one.
But here I was.
I racked my brain, thinking of every scenario that didn’t involve me dealing with this.
I could call someone.
I could sleep on the couch and shove stuff under the bedroom door to trap the spider inside until morning.
I could chuck every item in my room at the thing until it died.
In the midst of my very productive brainstorming, I then proceeded to grab the two things closest to me; a coaster in one hand, a slipper in the other, I sat cross legged on my bed for 10 minutes, just staring at the thing.
I was waiting for it to make the first move, because reactivity is always easier than proactivity.
After what seemed like a lifetime longer than ten minutes of my pitiful criss cross applesauce stance, I was struck by something I’ve learned many times in my life (often the hard way), whether in monumental moments of fear or my wimpy moments of arachnophobia:
Running away is never the antidote to discomfort; it is merely a bandaid.
It hides the wound, it does not heal it.
Every time I’ve allowed myself to be driven by fear, I’ve robbed myself of my own power. It is only when I’ve faced my fear that I’ve not only recognized how much power I have, but how seizing the power that already belongs to me makes what I’m facing less scary.
The hardest part about facing fear is we are choosing to resist our most natural instinct to protect ourselves by numbing the fear, instead of healing ourselves by staring terrible discomfort right in the face and feeling it. We don’t want to feel fear. It’s awful and uncomfortable. But we have to feel it to overcome it, otherwise we are not overcoming – we are remaining stagnant.
And it isn’t that facing the hard things make them easy, but it empowers us to stop running from them. Because we remember where being brave got us the last time:
Reactivity may be the easier route, but it will never make us brave, because it doesn’t require us to practice being brave. It is a skill, after all – being brave. And like all skills, being brave takes practice.
I looked down at my coaster and slipper and couldn’t help but giggle at myself. It’s also amazing how fear can hinder clear thinking. What could this spider actually do to me?
Palms and silver dollars pale in comparison to the size of my body and the power of my own mind.
Being alone in my room with that spider terrified me to my core – and then it empowered and healed me.
I caught the damn thing, after all.