Creature Comforts

Oh Dear GOD…

There it is.

My skin is crawling.  I’m not even sure if I’m breathing.  My hair is literally standing up on end.  There’s this sickening feeling in my stomach. I’m frozen in time, helpless.

In front of me, my deepest fear.

A spider.

Spindly, large, gross….a million words coming out, all to say,
AHHHHHHHHHH!!

What is it for you?

Snakes
Heights
Public speaking
Rats
Cockroaches

I mean, YUCK!

What makes your skin crawl and you do EVERYTHING in your power to avoid?

I get it, I ran from spiders for most of my adult life, convinced they were pure evil and would kill me.

I mean, HOW could a spider help me?

This was my fear.  This was something to AVOID, not walk towards.

Right?

 

In 2012, I was the dance captain for a production of the musical A Christmas Carol out at the Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City, Utah.  I loved this musical, and I loved the cast.

But my life was falling apart.

On Thanksgiving, my husband flew out to tell me he didn’t want to be married anymore and was in love with another woman.

I felt as if the world had opened wide, and swallowed me whole. I was in shock, and utterly devastated.

I wanted to scream to the world,
STOP!

I wanted to control the immense change that was happening.

This wasn’t what I planned.

I planned we would go old together.
I planned we would work through any issues.
And most of all, I planned we would have a family together.

In one conversation, I saw all of that disappear.

And I found myself facing my deepest fear,
losing my marriage.

Because, WHO was I if I wasn’t married and trying to have a child?

In December, we had a cast Christmas party, and the company manager brought in a company called.
Creature Comforts

I walked into the party room to large turtles crawling around, and walked over to my fellow dancers who had a giant boa wrapped around them.  I got out my phone to take a picture, as I think snakes are SO cool, and then out of nowhere, a man came up from behind and placed a spider on my friend’s head.

Not just any spider, A TARANTULA.

My whole body froze.  I stopped breathing.  This wasn’t just any spider, it was the mother of all spiders..the largest.

And then I looked behind this man to see a table with FOUR tarantulas in cages.

My worst nightmare.

I was just about to bolt from the room, when a small voice arose,
I always thought spiders were my largest fear, but facing divorce is far deeper.  Since I’m facing that and still breathing, maybe I can finally face this fear of spiders.

I saw an opportunity.

So I walked over to the handler, and asked him to place the tarantula in my hand.

When he first did, the spider started to scratch and crawl in my hand. It was freaking out!  I realized I needed to probably calm down because the spider was feeling my fear.

So, I took a breath.

The spider stopped moving, and was standing in my palm, it’s abdomen shaking, and I realized,
It’s just as scared as I am.

And then a wave of realization came over me.  The spider was NOTHING like I thought it would be.  It was actually soft, light, and fuzzy.

A huge smile came over me, as my fear dissipated, and my friend took a picture.

That picture became my profile picture for months on Facebook, because every time I looked at it, I was reminded,
If you can hold a tarantula, you can do anything.

And anything included,
surviving and healing from a divorce
launching my own successful arts business

Who knew the key was in my biggest fear?

In that moment, my arachnophobia vanished.  It literally disappeared when I realized what I had in common with the spider, and that I was still breathing and ok.  My fear vanished when I LET GO of the woman who ran from spiders.

Who was she anyway?  She was really just made up in my mind.  She wasn’t permanent.

So, what is your biggest fear?

WHO would you become if you no longer had it?
What would be possible for you in your Creative Life?

So often, we isolate and avoid our fears, but the real lesson lies in facing them.  We may have formed a massive belief the fear will harm us, but what we are really avoiding is the FEELING.

If your fear of heights or snakes was faced, and you found yourself still breathing as you skydive or pet a snake, then what other assumptions could be blown apart in your Art?

Perhaps,
No one wants my work
I’m a fraud
My work needs to be perfect to be shown
No one will pay that price for my work
I’m not ready

If these are no longer holding you back, perhaps you would find your fears are actually not harmful, but soft and fuzzy.

You just made them far larger than they actually were.

Maybe even as large as a tarantula.

 

Over the holiday weekend, I was staying at my boyfriend’s house in NJ.  I went into the downstairs bathroom, and caught my breath when I looked in the shower stall to see,

A giant spider.

Instead of running from the room, as I would have done five years ago, I sat down and looked at it. I could feel some of the hairs on my arm rising, the old pattern and memory of fear.

The spider was pretty huge, and I knew I needed to get it outside.

I grabbed a glass from the kitchen, and a piece of mail, and placed the glass over the spider.  As I lifted the spider closer to me, I became surprised at how small the spider looked up close.

It had looked SO large from a distance.

And I found the closer I was to it, the less scary it appeared.  I became curious, looking at it’s markings, as I carried the glass to the backyard.

As I watched the spider crawl in the grass, I marveled at the journey.  I could NOT do this five years ago.  I would have screamed, and ran from the room, shutting the door, and pleading my man to kill it for me.

And I thought of that woman five years ago, who really thought she was keeping herself safe.  And I gave her a hug.  I loved her.  She was doing the best she could.

And I looked at the yard of this house that will be my home, that will house my children, and I remembered that moment holding the tarantula.

Thank goodness for the tarantula.  My biggest fear actually set me free.

The way is always through.
You have everything you need.

 

Get curious around your fears, and turn towards them.  Hold them in your hand, and LOOK at them.

You can’t change what you can’t see.

WHO would you be without them?

WHAT could you create?

 

 

Top Photograph: Caitlin Cannon Photography

Hand Held

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I’m standing in the open frame of my childhood basement door, each stair’s wooden outline lessening into the thick darkness descent. The lights are out again from a blown fuse, and my brother passes me with a lamp to flip the switch. He plummets down into the abyss with ease, as I stand constricted in my spot, hearing his feet thud against the wood.

My body remains watching my brother travel out of sight, but my mind is below, standing before the basement windows, their rectangular panes peeking to the heavily slanted stone driveway outside. Except I can’t see out because the way is enshrouded in webs, endless dusty white in downward curves from frame to frame.

And then I see the legs, black as pitch, emerge and crawl from the frame towards me.  My whole body goes cold and my mouth opens in a noiseless scream.

 

Arachnophobia.

I had it my whole life, but didn’t really give it a name until I was an adult. What began with the basement terrors of my youth manifested into prickled skin and a choking fear at the sight of a web and eight legs.

I sought protectors, loved ones that would place the glass cup around the creature and take it outside, or flush it down the toilet.

Their glass kept my fear at arm’s length, and I accepted its place in my identity. What was more, I named it.
“I’m afraid of spiders.”

Two years ago I was the dance captain for a production of A Christmas Carol out at Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City. My husband had flown out from New York, and sat me down on Thanksgiving day, telling me he didn’t want to be married anymore.  The earth opened beneath my feet and a great divide yawned in its wake, a giant chasm between us.  In the ravine lay broken trust and built-up fears now exploding in our voices, the exhaustion, the lies, and a distance from him I hadn’t experienced before.  I was in shock.  Though things had been tense and strange for months, I honestly hadn’t seen this coming.

In the wake of his message, and because I had to go into tech the next day, I sent him home.  I spent everyday on the phone with my best friend or mother desperately trying to breathe, and to keep control in the midst of the maelstrom that was tearing my life apart. My best friend had given me the wise advice to not tell anyone in the cast, because if I did I would not be able to escape it, and during this initial shock and nights of endless crying, pleading, and fighting with my husband, I needed some respite.

Going to the theatre and doing the show was a coping mechanism and survival technique when I was drowning.  So I put on my costume, applied my lashes and makeup, and tried to find some normalcy in my world that was completely upside down.

Pioneer Theatre had their company Christmas party near the end of the run and hired Creature Encounters to entertain us. I walked into the large room to see giant tortoises crawling about and a huge Python wrapped around two of my dancer friends. They were laughing and I came over to take a picture just as one of the party staff placed a tarantula on top of my friend’s head.

I froze.

Behind my friends was a long white table with four tarantulas, each in their own case; my worst fear, multiplied and enormous. These spiders made the basement inhabitants appear as laughable toys.  Every spider I had ever ran from paled in comparison to these beasts.

“Would you like to hold the spider?”
As I took in the animal handler, something shifted.  I saw my community wrapped in snakes, playing with the tortoises, and allowing the spiders to crawl on them, and instead of bolting from the room, I felt awareness coming back into my legs.

I suddenly realized that the spider wasn’t my greatest fear. My greatest fear was losing my marriage, my husband, and the ability to have a family with him, or never becoming a mother.  I was actually facing that fear right now and somehow still functioning.

Maybe I could do this.

I walked over and held my hand out, and the handler placed the tarantula into my palm. It immediately started to freak out, scraping around the skin of my hand, and I realized it was matching my energy.  I needed to calm down so the spider would calm down. I relaxed my hand and the spider stood shaking on its legs, it’s abdomen quivering.

The spider was just as scared as I was.

I started to breathe, and the spider stopped shaking and a smile of relief and realization came over my face. The spider was nothing like I imagined.

The spider was soft.
The spider was light.

I was ok.

Within my palm lay an embodiment of my fear, not the thing itself.  Years of goosebumps and hardened beliefs vanished as I gingerly handed him back to the handler.

I then felt so good, I decided to hold a scorpion.

 

In the months that followed, back in New York City, I would imagine myself covered in tarantulas, their legs crawling over me.  As I relinquished control for the first time in my life and accepted the impermanence of my marriage, this was a great comfort. I was sitting in a pain far worse than any web could manifest, and allowing the real fear to surface instead of a eight-legged symbol was crucial.

 

While birding with my parents this year, we walked down a path I have traveled before.  Greenery rose all around us, and we stopped intermittently to take in a sparrow or warbler.  As we passed some leaves, my eye caught the web, and I walked in close to see the Orb spider sitting so neatly in the middle of it’s home, the bright yellow stripe down it’s abdomen like a lightning strike.  Coming in close, I exhaled,
“Beautiful.”

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