Apologies for not writing sooner. I hope none of you were too concerned about my safety given my latest adventure. For those who may have forgotten, I spent last Friday attempting to conquer my fear of all things eight-legged.
For those who have been worried since I last wrote, know that this post is evidence that I survived my adventure unscathed. Better than that, I have a new understanding of spiders and their ways. I’m not saying that I’m cured of my fear. I’m sure if a spider were to drop down in front of me right now – praying to the almighty FSM that doesn’t happen - I’d probably freak out. But, I’m pretty sure the fear is no longer completely debilitating1.
How do I know this? Well, the mere image of a spider isn’t completely freaking me out anymore. Yes, my heart rate might elevate slightly, and they might give me the willies, but I’m
not immediately running from the image. In my books, that’s progress.
Of course, getting to this point wasn’t easy. I spent the bulk of Friday completely freaking out, especially as each passing minute brought me closer and closer to my date with Natasha2. It started off with a lot of fidgeting. I had a hard time sitting still – but fortunately managed to distract myself for most of the morning with meetings. However, around 1pm things started going downhill. I was having some serious misgivings about what I was about to do. My stomach hurt – a lot. I was running to the bathroom far too frequently, and I had the shakes. I couldn’t get warm, or I was suddenly too hot. My heart was racing3. I was pretty much the picture of discomfort.
And then the time came to meet Natasha. She arrived in a covered cage. I could feel my heart race knowing what was inside. I could also tell that my blood pressure was jumping. I have no idea how high it spiked, but I can say that I could hear the blood rushing through my ears; I could feel the pressure in my head. My heart felt like it was going to burst out of my chest. Visibly my hands were shaking. In fact, it felt like my entire body was trembling.
I’m not exactly sure what was going on around me. All I knew was what was in the cage. I kept my distance while keeping my eyes trained on the cage. While I didn’t want to see her, I wanted to know where she was at all times.
And then the cage was moved to the floor4. I was shaking while I watched the cage being opened. I was shaking while I watched Natasha being released. I have no idea if I was breathing. I have no idea how long all of this took. I recall that Natasha’s owner Nichelle and previous owner Andrew were talking to me, telling me things about her, but I wasn’t really hearing any of it. I was focused on Natasha and the sound of my heart trying to burst out of my chest.
I remember someone holding Natasha first – I have no memory of who it was. I don’t even remember how long they held her. All I know is that at some point I found myself making my way to her level. I was on my knees first but quickly decided to sit cross-legged as I didn’t think I’d be able to support myself. I remember watching Natasha. I remember shaking.
And then I remember stretching out my arms, placing my hands directly in her path. And then someone nudged her and she started moving. Towards me. I remember the first of her eight legs touching my hand. My brain froze, my body felt like it couldn’t stop shaking, my heart raced. Her second leg. And then her third. And then she was completely in my hands.
So many things ran through my mind. I know there were a bunch of people around me, but I didn’t hear any of them. I barely sensed them. All I knew was there was a tarantula in my hands. Was it going to bite my hand? If so, how would it feel? Or was it instead going to climb up my arm or jump at my neck? Would I have enough time to react?
And then something happened.
I started breathing.
After that things changed. I started to recall the things Nichelle and Andrew had been telling me. Natasha was extremely delicate – a simple fall could kill her. More than that, Natasha was mostly blind, seeing the world as shades of light and dark, managing to navigate her surroundings using her web.
For whatever reason I stopped seeing Natasha as something to fear. Instead, I started seeing her as quite delicate and vulnerable. Don’t get me wrong – my heart was still racing – although far slower than it had been. But I had stopped trembling. I had stopped fearing.
I had a tarantula in my hands and I wasn’t afraid.
After the event concluded I returned to my office; to breathe, to reflect, to decompress. It was only when I sat down that I realized how exhausted I felt. Having my heart race and my blood pressure spiked all afternoon, coupled with the rush of fight or flight hormones when I met Natasha had wiped me out.
But there was something else. As I sat at my computer desk I managed to catch a glimpse of my reflection in my computer monitor. I was smiling, and the more I thought about what I had done, the more I couldn’t help but smile. And then chuckle. And then full-out laugh.
1 In the past I would react in one of several ways at the sight of a spider: 1) I’d run away, 2) I’d freeze and not be able to move, or 3) I’d manage to kill the spider by throwing something from a very safe distance at it, only to leave whatever thing I threw at the spider wherever it fell for a period of weeks, for fear that the crushed spider might actually be still alive and plotting my death, or possibly not alive but in zombie-spider form – also plotting my death. I wish number 3 were a joke.
2 Natasha being the Chilean Rose Tarantula that I was to spend some quality time with.
3 My normal resting heart rate is around 50 beats per minute. Throughout the bulk of the afternoon it was 80+. Just prior to meeting Natasha it jumped again to almost 100. I have no idea what it was during my initial few minutes with Natasha, but I’m sure based on how I felt it was well over 100.
4 The cage was put on the floor to prevent injury to Natasha.