The other night, it was about 1 am and I was up late (as usual), sitting at the nav desk doing some research an upcoming post on freelance writing when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something move. I stopped what I was doing, looked around, and decided it was just a shadow and continued working.
A few minutes later, I saw it again – movement just at the edge of the nav desk. To my absolute horror, I see that it’s a big, brown, 2-inch-long cockroach…a mere 6 inches from my laptop.
First, let me back up and say that there aren’t many things that I’m afraid of. Like stop-me-in-my-tracks-paralyzed-by-fear scared. But these things are high on the list, right up there with camel crickets and Sarah Palin.
Unfortunately, we’re currently in St. Simons Island, GA, where these things run around like they own the place. The locals refer to these demon-creatures as Palmetto Bugs. I don’t care what the hell they’re called, they look like roaches, and they scare the hell out of me.
They come out at night and roam the docks, and when we take Jet out for his last walk before bed, we call it “The Roach Walk”. The hubs gets annoyed with me because I jump, scream, and dance around them, never going out without being armed with a flashlight and closed-toed shoes, lest I get caught by surprise by some brave roach that decides to run across my foot.
So there I was, faced with a dilemma… Chris was in bed and I didn’t want to wake him up. Which meant that I couldn’t scream or jump around like a crazy person either.
I had to face my fears.
So as this thing crawls ON MY LAPTOP, I quickly get up to see what I can find that will be lethal. I open the cabinet under the sink and quickly curse the fact that we’re so eco-conscious that we don’t have anything remotely toxic to
palmetto bugs giant roaches on board. So I did the next best thing, and grabbed the vinegar. It’s acidic, right?
Wrong. The roach just looked at me like, “Really? Is that all you got?” then scurried away, through a crevice that leads into our electronics cabinet.
So I took a few deep breaths, moved all of the cushions on the starboard side (so he wouldn’t hide in them if he scurried out), opened the cabinet, and saw him sitting there. I knew I’d have to kill him with blunt force trauma so I grabbed the first thing I could find that might work in a tight area like this — a wooden spatula — and I very slowly began pulling things out of the cabinet. You know, so I wouldn’t break anything else when I smashed him to bits.
Let me say that this was a turning point for me. Never before would I voluntarily reach into a small space like this where I knew something evil was lurking, just waiting to do whatever it is they do if they touch you (yes, I know they don’t bite, and that my fear is completely irrational). But regardless, there I was, reaching in, over and over again, pulling out CD’s, cords, and various other containers with chargers and electronics.
And La Cucuracha just sat there and watched me. Plotting his evil plan.
After I pulled everything out of the cabinet, armed with the flashlight on my cellphone, and standing amid a cabin now in disarray, Chris comes in with sleepy eyes, looking at me like I’m a complete crazy person.
Chris: “What are you doing? It’s 3am.”
Me: “There’s… a roach. And I’m going to kill it.”
Chris: “With that?” (pointing at the spatula)
Me: “Yes!” I say with conviction.
I turn back to the cabinet to show him where the sucker is… and… the roach is gone.
We tore apart the rest of the cabinet and searched around the entire cabin, and he was nowhere to be found. Right then, I realized I had a fear even greater than seeing that huge palmetto bug — and that was not seeing it.
But… after all this time battling my demon (literally), fear gave in to exhaustion, and I just wanted to go to bed.
And then I had an epiphany. I was no longer afraid… at least for the most part. I had given in to my own imagination — worrying about what might happen if one of these things touched any vulnerable inch of skin — that I was paralyzed. When in reality, my imagination was way more evil and powerful than this sucker.
I mean, when I really sit and think about it, I’m pretty disgusted that this thing may be lurking around here somewhere, but after forcing myself to face my fear that night instead of waking Chris up, I realize that even though something may be severely uncomfortable to take on, it’s not impossible. Psychologically difficult, yes, but impossible? Nah.
There comes a point when there’s a mental shift and you just say “fuck it”, and dive right in. Sometimes it’s forced upon you and you just have to do what you gotta do to make it through something bad, but other times — the times that count even more — you have to voluntarily take a risk and put yourself in a situation that may scare you. One that takes you outside of your nice and cozy comfort zone.
And my experience tells me that usually, the reality is nowhere near as scary as you always thought. We, as humans, are actually quite resilient.
The point is to not be afraid to do something that scares you. No one gets anywhere by staying inside their little shell. As I’ve said before, complacency is the enemy of success.
What does a roach have to do with all this? I’m not sure, but I’ll tell you that now, I can do the “Roach Walk” at night without heart-pounding anxiety. I still don’t like them, and I’m still a little freaked out by them if I’m completely honest, but one day, maybe I won’t be at all.
Maybe late one night, I’ll get another visit from my old friend and I’ll name him Ralph, or Maurice, and maybe I’ll find a way to help him off the boat instead of smashing him to bits (doubtful, but hey). Who knows.
But –at least for the time being — I can go to sleep at night without being afraid to open my mouth.
So tell me… what are you afraid of? Post in the comments!