Several years ago, I had one of the roughest periods of my life:
I lost my job, which I loved with my whole heart because it was completely aligned with my talents and passions, and it allowed me to collaborate creatively with a group of amazingly talented people. But it was a performing arts program and, as can happen with so many of those, budgets got slashed — and my position was a casualty of those cuts.
Within a couple months after that, I had a miscarriage.
A year later, my husband and I split up.
Sometimes when you’re down like that, you begin to wonder if there will be a ray of light at the end of the tunnel, or if all signs are pointing to the fact that the end is near.
Well, I got a sign of doom that was unmistakable.
Just 2 months after we split, on the date that would have been our 7th wedding anniversary, I went into the kitchen. I didn’t have the lights turned on, so the only illumination in the room was a bit of sunlight coming from a small window behind the counter.
I opened the dishwasher, which was right below that window, and I saw a spoon that had fallen down out of the basket.
No biggie. So, I reached in to grab it.
And that’s when a tongue came out of the spoon.
NOT a spoon…
My biggest fear — probably the #1 biggest phobia I have in this entire world.
A snake was in my freaking dishwasher!
And I had no idea what to do to get rid of it.
(That line from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” kept playing in my head… “Snakes… Why’d it have to be snakes?” But I digress…)
I didn’t want to touch the snake, but I couldn’t very well leave it there, either.
After all, my 3-year old daughter was in the next room…
It could be poisonous, for all I knew. We lived in a desert area, so it could very well have been a rattlesnake.
Its body wasn’t visible, just the head, which was spoon-shaped — and all the urban myths say that’s a bad sign where snakes are concerned. So I had no idea what I was dealing with.
I just knew it scared the living hell out of me.
I’ve never had a panic attack before that day, but I sure as hell had one right then. My heart started pounding so hard that I could literally hear it thumping inside my skull, and I was breathing so fast that I started to get light-headed.
I didn’t want to take my eyes off the snake, but I didn’t want to go near it either.
My phone was in the other room — so if I were to go get it to call for help, I’d have to let the snake out of my sight — which I didn’t want to do, in case it decided to crawl out of the dishwasher and go hide somewhere else in the house.
I might never find it again… Or worse, I might find it — and give myself a heart attack.
Worst of all, my daughter might find it before I do.
And that thought, my friend, was the turning point.
I grabbed the barbecue tongs out of a nearby drawer — the kind that are really long and have jagged edges for gripping raw meat — and reached for the snake.
Once I grabbed it, I got a clear look at its tiny little body — it was only as big around as my pinky finger and maybe a foot long — and breathed a huge sigh of relief that there were no rattles on its tail.
As much as I hate snakes, I didn’t want to kill it because it wasn’t poisonous — and even if I think it’s icky, that doesn’t mean I don’t respect that it’s still a living creature.
It was just NOT welcome in my house.
So my plan was to grab it, hold it as far away from my body as possible, and go toss it outside — as far as I could throw it from the house.
But that slippery little sucker got out of my barbecue tongs.
So much for the grippy little edges!
And I watched it crawl into a teensy little crack beside the dishwasher, into the base beneath the cabinetry, and out of sight.
It had gotten in through a crack that was even narrower than my pinky finger.
Shortly after that, we pulled the dishwasher out to make sure there was no sneaky little snake hiding in there.
Once we were in the clear, we put the dishwasher back — and I plugged all the crevices around it with steel wool. (Our pest control guy had told me that mice can’t chew through steel wool — and if a mouse couldn’t chew through it, I figured that a snake couldn’t either.)
No more snakes in the dishwasher ever again after that. (Thank God!)
“So what’s the point of this story?” you might ask.
Snakes have been my biggest fear since I was a toddler, and my uncle’s pet garter snake crawled toward me in the front yard.
For the record: When you’re only 2 feet tall, a 3 or 4 foot long snake slithering toward you looks like a python. So don’t judge the fear.
I about drove myself into a tizzy just staring at a puny little snake — and the only thing that snapped me out of panic and into action was the love I felt for my daughter.
“A Course in Miracles” talks about coming from a place of love instead of from a place of fear.
And I can tell you without a doubt, if I’d been at home by myself that day, I would have kept working myself into a tizzy until I passed out.
But with love as my driving force, I could face that fear — even if it all did get a bit bungled in the way that things played out — and maintain that courage long enough to get the job done.
The other thing I learned that day?
Fears creep in through the tiniest cracks in your foundation.
So you’ve got to make sure you’ve built a foundation that’s rock-solid, and deal with any cracks as soon as you find them, to keep the fears from seeping in where they’re not welcome.
But if one or two should sneak up on you, remember this:
If you love what you’re doing, and that love outweighs the fear that you feel in the face of it — that fear doesn’t stand a chance.