Too Many Spiders, Vol. 2

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There always there. We just don't always see them. The things we're afraid of.
They’re always there. We just don’t always see them. The things we’re afraid of.

I am afraid.

I am afraid a lot. It’s because I scare easily.

Not over things I’d consider irrational.

Horror films don’t frighten me. I’m not scared of the dark. I’m not afraid of being home alone.

That’s me trying to convince you I’m brave sometimes.

But I’m afraid of many other things. Things I would thoughtlessly describe as rational, even though a wise person might tell us that all fears are irrational.

I’m afraid of people I love being hurt.

I’m afraid of rejection.

I’m afraid of failure.

I’m afraid of things I’m too afraid to tell you about.

Sometimes Brave

My almost-six-year-old son was running around the yard with me while I was mowing. I asked him to run to the garage and grab the push broom so I could sweep the sidewalk.

He ran back to me a minute later, empty-handed.

“Where’s the broom, cheese?” (I call him random names. A lot.)

“Dad, you have to come get it,” he said.

“Bud, it’s just leaning up against the wall. Please bring it.”

“But there’s a spider!”

“Why don’t you just use that big broom to take the spider to Chinatown?”

“It’s too scary,” he said.

We walked to the garage together.

“I don’t see any spiders.”

He pointed toward the gas cans, about five or six feet away from where the broom was leaning against a wall. There was a barely visible, super-small spider just waiting for my kindergartener to grab the broom, so he could then expand into a snarling, truck-sized arachnid and capture my son in his giant web with the rest of the neighborhood children and pets.

I walked over and grabbed the broom without being attacked.


Or was it just me being confident that everything would be okay?

When I was little, I was really afraid of spiders, too.

One time my dad put a large toy spider (that could move) on my face, and I cried.

I’m still kind of afraid of spiders. Not like jump-around-flailing arachnophobia, or anything. But a healthy fear of the occasional large spider I find in the house. I tend to use shoes and rolled-up newspapers, as opposed to a simple paper towel in my hand.

After all, as soon as I grab the spider, it would certainly chew right through the paper towel and crawl all over my hand doing scary spider things.

Sometimes Afraid

In September 2008, a large 85-foot wild cherry tree turned our backyard into a scene from the television show Ax Men. The tree’s root system had decayed and high winds from a severe storm blew it down. The impact destroyed our detached garage.

Our four-month-old son had been napping in our upstairs bedroom. Had the tree fallen toward our bedroom and not the garage… he might not have made it.

The realization of how close that came to happening made me cry.

I’m not even embarrassed about how scared I am of something happening to that boy.

But I am embarrassed about how scared I am of many other things.

Sometimes I’m scared to try new things.

Sometimes I’m scared of some of the things I think and feel.

Sometimes I’m scared to write things because of what you might think of me.

I subscribe to the theory that EVERYONE gets afraid. I think feigning fearlessness is a foolish endeavor. A wiser choice is to embrace the fear, face it head on, and overcome it. Easier said than done.

We get afraid in competitive situations.

We get afraid in our social and professional lives.

We get afraid in any situation in which we are forced out of our comfort zones.

So we sometimes play it safe. We maintain the status quo. Because it’s easy. Because maybe we won’t get hurt.

One of my favorite things I read this past year was this fantastic Forbes article by Margie Warrell where she encourages readers to take risks, drawing the following conclusions:

1. We over-estimate the probability of something going wrong.

2. We exaggerate the consequences of what might happen if it does go wrong.

3. We underestimate our ability to handle the consequences of risk.

4. We discount or deny the cost of inaction, and sticking with the status quo.

(Please read it. It’s infinitely more important than this post.)

You know, it’s funny.

If you asked me whether I’d rather be someone who always succeeds at everything I do, or someone who was courageous in any situation, I wouldn’t know how to answer it.

But—gun to my head?—I’m leaning toward courage.

You know what’s interesting about that?

I can control how courageous I am. I can choose courage. There’s nothing stopping any of us, ever, from choosing courage, regardless of outcome or circumstance.

Too Many Spiders

Traffic was typical for a Friday morning commute—busy—only it was moving briskly as opposed to the highway traffic jams we often incur.

The rolled-up sleeves on my button-up shirt allowed me to feel the tickle of movement on my left arm.

I looked down.

A brown spider—not gargantuan like the imagined one my son thought might attack him in the garage—but large enough to make someone who doesn’t love spiders (like me) very uncomfortable.

It was dangling from a single web strand attached to the arm I was using to pilot the Jeep.

If I had been standing in my backyard, or anywhere not involving dozens of closely packed vehicles traveling three-wide at 75 miles per hour, I would have quickly swatted it away and watched the hair on my arms stand up.

If I do anything like that, I’m going to cause a massive Interstate pile-up.

So, I held still. The spider just hung there, but was certainly going to crawl up to my arm soon enough. I was not pleased.

But I wanted to die and kill other people much less than I wanted a brown spider crawling on me.

My mind overpowered my instincts. I switched hands on the steering wheel and managed to reach the button that opens my driver’s side window.

Window open, dozens of speeding cars to my right, just behind me and in front of me, I slowly pulled my arm up hoping the rushing air would pull the spider outside.

I felt the spider fly off, but couldn’t tell whether it flew out the window.

I realized immediately what I had done. In a moment of fear, my entire body told me to do something.

But I didn’t.

I did something else. Something smarter. Something braver. Because, in that moment, it was the right thing.

Good for you, Matt.

Maybe that spider flew out.

Maybe it didn’t.

In a few hours, I’m going to get back in the Jeep and drive home.

Maybe I’ll have another run in with the eight-legged passenger.

Maybe I won’t.

If I do? I know I can handle it. No matter what’s going on around me.

I’m not afraid.

32 thoughts on “Too Many Spiders, Vol. 2”

  1. I am not a fan of spiders either. However because of my wee one I now have one (or several) as a house pet.
    Fear is okay. It keeps us on our toes. It is not good to carry on as though we are invincible, even if we believe we are.

    1. Spiders as house pets. An effective way of dealing with the fear. 🙂

      Hope you’ve had a great weekend.

  2. I hate driving on motorways. Just hate it. And all those arguments about overcoming fear are totally rational. However, they don’t cut the mustard with an irrational fear. So, every so often, I drive on a motorway, scream internally, and then feel great because I know I’m not going to do that again for ages. Good luck with the spiders.

    1. I do if almost daily and it doesn’t bother me much. BUT. When spiders are involved, it becomes a little dicier.

      1. Oh I don’t mind them! I’m Scottish, so was brought up to believe they are lucky. Although maybe not so much if they dangle in front of you while you’re screaming down the fast lane!

    1. We can totally choose it. Super hard. But it’s an option. Every single time we’re afraid of something. I wish I would do a better job keeping that in mind.

  3. Fear has driven me my whole life. Fear of ending up like my parents, which is now happening. Fear of losing what I love, which is also happening, to an extent. It has caused me to choose the safe route, can’t take too big of a risk. Trying to find my way out. Easy to say, hard to do

  4. Fear is what we do not yet know. You knew that the tiny spider in the garage was not going to hurt your son. He hasn’t developed that knowledge yet.
    I blogged about fear earlier this month so I understand perfectly how you feel.
    And fwiw – I hate any spider that is bigger than a 5 cent piece. I just can’t deal with them. So I admire your bravery in not screaming like a girl when that spider was on your arm. 🙂

    1. It’s possible I have called my son more names than any other human has called another in all of history. I’m not sure why. Just kind of my thing.

  5. ha – – I loved your paper towel part. I definitely have “the crawling phobia.” I pay my sons to kill spiders for me. But now one son is a nature nut and refuses. I get crazy. I stand five feet away and throw heavy books at the wall. Not the classics.

    Loved the message in this post. One question for you, a technical one. I have always noticed that you find a way to write good sized posts that are extremely reader friendly with easy readability. Do you think your particular theme helps or are you hitting more “hard returns” than most people do between your lines to create lots of open white space? Have you always posted this way? As a bonus, your posts often read like poetry to me!

    1. Not the classics! You’re always funny!

      Per the readability thing…

      I picked this theme because there’s no bullshit on the sides. No distractions. You either give a crap about the post. Or you don’t. And it gets to stand on it’s own. I’ve always liked that.

      On the flipside, it’s not good for new blog visitors. Sound internet marketing principles suggest you have things of interest to read and click on in the sidebar. I don’t always do what I’m supposed to.

      I definitely hit “Return” a lot. I do think it helps with flow. I’ve always been a fan of short sentences. And white space, from a visual perspective.

      Eventually, I’ll choose another theme and clog up the sidebars with things. But not today.

  6. Thanks for making me think… I battle fear everyday. I used to be petrified of flying, but I refused to let it stop me from going somewhere. I would just spend months before stressing and imagining every plane crash scene I’d ever seen. Eventually the fear dissipated and now it’s just a tiny bit of nervousness. But there are plenty of other things I spend a lot of time fearing. And all the energy I spend thinking about them and about consequences and worst case scenarios is totally wasted time. Also, totally scared of spiders. Your picture at the top should have included a trigger warning… 🙂

    1. I really do have all these little fears, most of which I’m sure are a colossal waste of my time and energy. I hope I can make more courageous choices moving forward.

  7. Was the spider there when you got back in the car?

    That’s the only part about being married I miss. Having someone to kill the big bugs.
    There might be more. *thinks*

    Nope. That’s about it.

    1. The spider was crawling on the piece of trim between my driver’s side door and windshield as soon as I climbed in Friday. I opened the door, slapped it outside, and drove home.

  8. Glad both of you guys escaped unharmed! 🙂 I wrote a blog about a spider too. A pretty large one wove its web right outside our front door in front of a sidelite. I had an up close and clear view of it. I let it live there for a few days because I (as afraid as I am of spiders) was so intrigued by its nature. I watched it weave most of the web which was extremely strong. I watched it wait with patience for its meals. I watched it crawl in full speed to wrap each moth up that was caught by its sticky web . . . that it took the time to weave. Well, that’s the purpose of the web, but still. I watched the moths slowly die as the spider sucked the life out of each one in its own precious time. I watched it tear pieces of its web each time it caught fresh food to wrap, until hardly any web was left. There were some moths/insects mediocre in size that it left stuck…no need for those. Fascinating!! Then, I awoke one morning to find that the intricate web of death had been destroyed by someone who apparently cared more about our lives and us not being possibly poisoned to death by this spider – as we had to go in and out of the house! So, I did learn much from watching that spider and I applied a few things to my life and the people in it. I believe that it represented something else in my life. I’m glad I observed that. Sorry for the long comment.

    1. I am guilty of enjoying the elaborate webs. A spider that camps out and stays in one place doesn’t bother me. It’s all the creepy crawlers running around surprising me I don’t appreciate. 🙂

      You comment as long as you want! Appreciate you doing so!

  9. While I’m not afraid of spiders at all (I had a basement room as a kid), I have a healthy fear of skunks. Specifically of encountering one in the dark. This is not an irrational fear though.
    I also have fears surrounding almost any new situation so I imagine the worst that could happen in that situation then think about what I would do if it did, what my options would be. It’s kind of like making the unknown known. That usually helps. Except with skunks in the dark, it doesn’t help with that.
    If your son’s gecko was at your house you could just catch the spiders & feed them to the gecko.

    1. Are you afraid of the ones that have had their little odor glands removed?

      Are you afraid of the scent or the mammal itself?

      1. Umm…I’d rather not meet any skunks.
        I’m afraid of both in the wild. If someone else is holding one or it’s in a cage I guess it would be okay to look at. I have no desire to touch a skunk. I have a black & white cat, that’s good enough for me.

    what kind of jeep do you drive?
    haha. yes THAT is what i took out of this entry,

    Haven’t read your blog in a while and i always remind myself WHY AM I NOT READING THIS MORE when i re-discover your blog. Your post’s never cease to amaze me.

    ps. i’m afraid of spiders too. But recently i’ve discovered i’m even MORE afraid of bee’s. or wasps or yellow jackets. i scream i run i hide. i hate them! that is all.

    1. I have a new Grand Cherokee, though it will stop being new soon when the ’15s come out.

      Thank you for liking the things I write. Rest assured I understand what it’s like to be busy and not have time to read things. Happens to me daily. Appreciate whatever time you give. Very much. Thank you.

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Matt Fray

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