Anyone who knows me well knows I have a serious fear of insects. When I say fear, I don’t just mean that I don’t like them, which is definitely the case as well. Truth be told, I have a serious phobia, which is an intense irrational fear, and I’m not ashamed to say I actually went to counseling because of it.
A few years ago, an insect native to the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States called cicadas were set to reemerge after a 13-year hibernation underground and I thought I was going to lose my mind. Even worse, I feared I would inadvertently kill myself behind the wheel of a car if one of them got into the car with me, which they’ve been known to do – fly into cars with people, not kill them (smile). I considered looking into ways I could take a leave of absence from my job and just live somewhere else during their visit. Sounds crazy right? Well, I opted for therapy instead and I’m glad I did. That 8 week counseling period did not just get me through that time unscathed; by the end of my last session I was picking up (dead) cicadas with my bare hands. Yuck! So unfortunately it was a temporary solution; I was cured only for a season. I’m sad to say I still have a serious bug phobia. [Insert deep sigh here.]
A couple of months ago I decided to add some variety to my morning workout routine by taking a walk in my neighborhood. One morning I had an idea to visit the Franciscan Monastery, a longstanding beloved fixture in my quaint neighborhood of Northeast D.C. called Brookland. Interestingly enough, my mom grew up in the same neighborhood and I later learned that my grandmother used to take my mom with her on walks to this very same monastery about 60 years ago! I don’t think it was a coincidence that I was being led there. As I explored the monastery like a tourist visiting for the first time, I discovered a beautiful pond with a small waterfall flowing into it and a dozen or so beautifully colored fish swimming there. A few benches surround the pond so I decided to take a breather there for a minute and take in the serenity of the environment. It was amazing! So much so, I named it my new quiet place and started visiting at least once a week for quiet time, reflection and prayer.
You may be asking, OK what does this have to do with your fear of insects. Well, it wasn’t until after my second or third visit I looked around and discovered a sign that made me realize the place where I had found so much peace and serenity over the past few weeks was actually a home to the thing that causes me more angst and fear than just about anything in the world. That place is called The Insect and Butterfly Garden. I had to laugh at myself and the irony of the situation. At first I became disappointed, and not soon after discovering this revelation of course I started to notice all of the annoying flying insects buzzing around me. But instead of letting that new information taint my new quiet place, I just decided to include it in my experience. What that did for me was more enlightening than any therapy session.
I couldn’t ignore the lesson. Before I knew what the place was called, it was considered a safe haven for me. In an instant, upon discovering what it “really was”, my perspective was threatened. I say threatened and not changed because I chose to have an empowering context for this place instead of defining it by the false, limiting thoughts that tend to creep into my mind. I’m trying not to get too deep here but I really want to express the power of perspective. It is so powerful and we may not think we have control over it but we absolutely do. I could have made the choice to throw up my hands and turn my quiet place over to the insects; after all, it is their home, right? Instead, I chose to refocus my attention on the wonderful attributes that lead me to the garden in the first place, and I reclaimed my peace. Once I chose that perspective, I realized the insects didn’t care about me being there anyway. In fact, they didn’t bother me at all. In the end, I found some very good advice in that old adage: when you can’t beat them, join them.