Earlier today I was mowing and weeding the yard. While doing so I came across a three to four-foot King Snake hanging out in the grass. I didn’t want to hurt it so I nudged it with the wheel of my push mower and it didn’t move. I bumped it again and the snake curled up into a ball. I was hoping the third time was the charm and tried to get it moving but it wasn’t going anywhere. I then went and grabbed a wooden stake, found the snake still rolled up and not willing to budge. As a last result, I pushed the stake through the center of the ball, picked it up and placed it in another part of the yard where it would be safe. “Sheesh!” I thought to myself. It just had to be difficult.
After getting back to my mowing I thought about the defensive behavior of the snake. It wasn’t helpful for it or me. I reflected on my defensive behaviors and unhelpful coping skills. As someone who deals with mental illness, I know first hand what a sense of being in danger, uncertain, threatened can do. It can cause me to make a bad decision, seize up, pull myself into an emotional ball and try to keep the danger out. Most times it doesn’t work but, like the snake, its instinct.
I know if I would’ve been able to communicate with the reptile I would’ve explained it needed to move for its own safety. If it was left alone eventually the snake would relax and be able to go on its way. When people fight, flight or freeze when we try to help our intention doesn’t matter. What matters is understanding and adapting our help to meet the needs of the other.
a Visit –
Last night, before letting the dog outside for its last chance to do some business my wife asked me if I could bring two Christmas Cactuses in the house. The temperatures were supposed to be dropping into the 30’s and she wanted to make sure they weren’t harmed. I grabbed the flashlight and opened the door. The dog ran out quickly and grabbing the first of the Christmas cactuses to bring inside I was handing it to my wife when a small bird flew out of the pot and into the house. My wife surmised this wasn’t a situation she was comfortable with feeling certain the bird wanted to nest in her hair and bolted for the living room. I picked up two mesh hats and tried to corral and capture the scared and fast-moving critter. It wasn’t easy but after a few moments, I noticed it kept heading back to the door where it came in. I propped open the door and was able to guide it to the opening and away it flew. “Whew!” Way too much excitement for that late at night.
As I chased the bird around the kitchen, mud room, and laundry room I wondered how ridiculous I looked trying to catch a bird, without harming it, with two mesh caps and my obvious lack of speed and agility. I also reflected on the unpredictability of life and how we can find ourselves so quickly in a situation we wouldn’t have dreamed of before it happens to us. Then, without warning, the unexpected comes swooping into our lives, and we are forced to deal with it.
Life is many things but none of them are boring. Thankfully, the troubles and challenges also, sooner or later, take flight and we’re left to ponder; “What’s next?”
Earlier this afternoon I was burning some old pallet furniture we no longer use. It was creating quite the bonfire in our fire pit. As I kept watch over it a big Red Wasp landed on a piece of wood that was too large to fit in the fire pit. Its wings were vibrating and it was alighting from place to place. Unfortunately, it landed too close to the flame and its wings were singed. It began writhing on the wood and fell to the ground tumbling around and disappeared into the grass. Not too long after that a beautiful butterfly was drawn to the flame but pulled up at the last moment and allowed the smoke to lift it up and out of danger.
I thought about the two creatures and the impact the fire had on each. One was scarred and the other soared. I reflected on people I know and how the dangers and difficulties of life also damaged some beyond healing and others used their pain to reach heights not previously known.
I wish I knew the secret; how to be the one who takes flight not the one who flies no more. I know which one I want to be, the life I want to live and for my wings to help others soar.
Fear Doesn’t Work that Way
Last night, the Mrs. and I were late going out to water our flowers and bushes. I grabbed my brightest flashlight and went out the front door. Just beyond our porch there is a huge Oak tree. As I stepped off it something falling from the tree caught my eye. I shined the light on the flowers beneath the tree trying to find the object. Seeing nothing I then illuminated the area where whatever fell came from. That’s when I noticed movement and it didn’t take me long to see it was a large Rat Snake (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_snake), in fact there were two of them. As soon as Beth heard the word snake she wouldn’t get near the tree. I told her they were non-poisonous, not fond of humans and kept the mice and rodent population down. This didn’t dissuade her nor reduce her fear of snakes.
In an episode of; “Sports Night,”(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sports_Night) Dan and Casey, two sports anchors, were discussing a fear Casey was experiencing. Dan says to Casey; “Don’t be afraid!” Casey smiles and replies; “Fear doesn’t work that way.”
Fear has a way of reaching down inside of us and finding a place to reside where mere words, logic and assurance have a hard time dislodging. Being afraid is primal. It often triggers; fight, flight or freeze response. Too often we judge and don’t understand another’s fears, especially if we don’t share it. We try our best to talk them out of being afraid or tell them how to work through their fright. The best response, however, is to listen, understand, don’t judge, don’t push and allow them to work through their fears in their own time and their own pace.