I have always been afraid of spiders. Let me assure you that I know the foolishness of arachnophobia. By comparison, spiders are smaller and weaker than I am. I know that they will avoid me if possible. I know that they are not hunting me. I know that they are not my enemy. Essentially, they don’t give me any thought…if they think at all. That being said, I have always been afraid of them. I dunno, maybe one crawled across my face in my crib when I was a baby and startled me. I have no idea where the phobia stems from. To me, they are hideous, monstrous things that I can’t wrap my head around. I mean, why all the eyes? Ugh! And I don’t understand where their mouths are. Gross. Also, they’re little vampires, sucking their prey dry who, by the way, are still alive when the spider starts eating them. They’re like horror movie fiends. I know all the arguments about the good spiders do, how useful and amazing their silk is, and how beautiful and intricate their webs are. I agree, and it’s true. We need spiders…there…I said it. But I am still horrified by them. Horrified… Interesting word. I am horrified by them, but does horrified mean the same as terrified? I have begun, of late, to rethink my phobia and gain some perspective.
Before the Monster entered our life, my husband was my champion when it came to tracking down an invading arachnid, eliminating it, and disposing of its carcass. (Flushed down the toilet only. It can’t be put in the garbage in case it comes back to life and seeks vengeance…which is just how weird the phobia can be.) Spider-Slayer was a mantle, among many mantles, that my husband took on for me. Even amid his chiding “C’mon, it’s just a spider, you big baby,” he never shirked his duty. When it came to de-bugging our house, my husband was my hero. But now, as the Monster’s shadow spreads its venom further over my husband’s body, he cannot always rescue me from spiders. These days, I must battle them alone. I don’t even call my husband when I see one now. You see, spiders just don’t frighten me anymore…not like the Monster does.
You don’t realize, I guess, how roles are different in the home when you’re in a marriage until those roles are somehow disrupted. My husband and I have always maintained a “pink” and “blue” balance that seemed to work perfectly for us. For instance, I did the cooking and he did the washing up. I did the laundry and he cut the grass. I cleaned the bathrooms and he cleaned the car. I did all the grocery shopping and he took care of fixing stuff. I vacuumed and he took care of spiders. Balance. It worked flawlessly until the Monster threw us off kilter and set our life on its ear. I suppose, too, that our idea of balance will not work for everyone, but I guarantee, every happy married couple has a balance of their own. Same, same, same…and when that balance is out of whack, it seems everything is out of whack. For a while…
Lately, and especially now that my husband takes to his bed for extended periods during the day, I have learned the “blue” jobs. And I’m okay, mostly. I was considering earlier this year as I dug out the soil of the garden, sifted it, and planted my veggies, that maybe I could manage by myself. I’ve been cutting the grass all year. And why can’t I take the car in and have the oil changed? It’s not that I’m helpless, it’s just that I’m used to having help. Then it occurred to me, a terrible realization, that maybe I was learning, very naturally and unconsciously, to prepare myself for life without my husband—learning who I must be when he is gone. Then I wondered if this is the same for everyone in my shoes. Is there a part of our brain, that we aren’t even mindful of, that begins the transitioning process out of necessity? Is it a self-preservation mechanism? Because I am not ready to say goodbye to him—not at all. I can’t help feeling that there is still so much more.
So, I killed a spider the other day, and I wasn’t afraid. I saw it coming down the wall—big, black, and evil. There was a time when the mere sight of it would have sent me screaming from the room, calling my husband in a panic. People who know me well will attest to this truth. However, on this day, I simply used the flyswatter, tissued up the remains, and threw it away…in the garbage can. Done and done. Don’t get me wrong—I would not want a spider crawling on me, but something inside me has changed now, and I have bigger fish to fry.
There is a famous bible verse that says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways (1st Cor 13:11).” That quote has come to mean more to me in the past couple of months than it ever has before. Simply, there comes a time to be rid of folly. I know that what lies ahead will require a fully actualized adult, a mature mind, a grown-up capable of critical thinking…one who doesn’t run away if there’s a spider on the wall.
When it’s a nice day, my husband gets up for a while. He sits outside on a lawn chair, his feet up, wrapped in a blanket while the sun shines on his face, and watches me. He tells me he wishes he could help me in the garden and I tell him he is helping by keeping me company. And so we chat about radishes and tomatoes, and while away the afternoon. It’s peaceful, the Monster is silent, and we have more. This is not the end.
You who are finding the strength to go it alone, you can do it, and you will surprise yourself. Since the Monster invaded your home, you have often wondered, as you lay in bed at night, staring at the ceiling when sleep eludes you, just how you will manage alone. It’s okay. In a way, you already are, aren’t you? Somehow, you will grow into these changes, little by little. Some of these changes will happen almost without you noticing, and you will look back, astounded. While your attention was focused elsewhere as you did battle with the Monster, you forgot to be afraid of inconsequential things.
You see, it’s not that I don’t need help. Often I do, and when I do, I’m not shy about reaching out anymore. However, I have learned to help myself too, and it makes me feel little bit safe. I have answered some of my own questions, and by doing so, the balance has returned, fragile though it may be. Normalcy is important. The Monster wants fear and chaos. Ignore him. Instead, cut the grass, or bake some cookies, or run the vacuum over the living room floor. Wherever you can take back control, take it! It’s what I do now—I’m getting the knack slowly but surely—and if a spider happens to trespass, no worries. I got this.