Shane at Pet and Aquatic Warehouse put my mind at ease. I called and asked if I could come in and hold a snake without being a serious buyer – pretending to be interested in purchasing a snake is not an experience that interests me ~smile~ – and he said, “Sure, people come in here all the time just wanting to hold stuff.”
Whew! Step one to overcoming my fear of the creepy, crawling, potentially deadly creature I have hated since my infancy (i.e., calling and arranging the opportunity): complete.
Actually, it was really step 1B. The actual first step was simply looking at pictures of snakes. I am not sure I technically passed this step, however, because I cannot hold my glance on their snakey faces for more than a few seconds. Sure, they have never done anything to me (perhaps it was the fear instilled in the Garden of Eden), but their very existence reminds me of all the evil in the world. Whether they are green and harmless or striped and deadly, I would run screaming from them all.
My current philosophy: Every snake is a bad, evil snake.
My preferred philosophy: Some snakes can hurt us and some cannot. Become comfortable enough with them to learn the difference between deadly snakes and harmless snakes.
To say that I am afraid of snakes is a gross understatement. Ever since I was a small child, I have been petrified (read: horrified! terrified!) that I might come into contact with a snake.
In the second grade, our class covered a unit on reptiles and even “enjoyed” looking at dead, formaldehyde-soaked snakes floating in oversized pickle jars (maybe you had the same pleasure in elementary school?). Very little about my second grade year sticks out in my mind: I remember my teacher’s face. I remember my grades dropping for a short spell when some of my desk-mates and I decided to race through our worksheets. Being a “rotten egg” in those days was serious business. ~smile~ And, I remember talking about snakes – coral snakes to be exact. I remember hearing, “Their bite will kill you in four minutes.” (And you know, I am not even sure that is true. My short bit of research just now suggested death would take a few hours, but seven-year-old Heather did not know that and seven-year-old Heather would have been terrified just the same.)
Shortly after learning about these spawn of Satan, I spent the night with my grandmother who lived extremely close to a heavily-wooded area. It was not uncommon to see snake carcasses in the street in front of her house. Sleep was sparse that night to say the least! Stepping on the floor, or especially trying to sleep on the floor, might summon the snakes – the coral snakes! I would be a goner!
Even now, at thirty-two years old, I approach a snake’s cage with extreme caution. And why do pet stores insist on putting all of their reptiles in a small, closet-like area? Snake claustrophobia! The struggle is real, folks!
Step Two… the real step two… is coming up tomorrow!
Day Two: It Is Snake Day!
To those of you who have a legitimate phobia, you will understand what I am about to say. After I made yesterday’s phone call to the awesome Pet and Aquatic Warehouse, I did not spend too much time thinking about my snake appointment; but, today, as I grabbed my purse and headed for the door, it hit me.
“I am about to hold a snake. … What if I cry? … What if I freak out?”
I drove to my friend’s apartment and we went over to the pet store together. My friend was playing the roles of moral supporter and photographer. Before we made our way to the reptile section, we visited the puppies and kittens. Something about furry, cuddly doggies makes everything in the world seem better. And they had golden retriever puppies! (Anyway, I digress.)
After we stalled long enough, we headed back to the reptilian closet. It was mildly horrifying. We walked into the small space and stood close to the door for a minute. “Wow, I can barely walk in here… and I think I am going to have the courage to actually hold one of these?!” Slowly, I continued to walk down the long, warm hallway, taking care to see what was in each cage before stepping in front of them.
Before long, Evan came over and I introduced myself as “the lady who called yesterday who is afraid of snakes.” ~smile~ Evan did not head for the baby snake section as (I learned today) they can be hyper and therefore faster and harder to control. (Noted! Weren’t baby everything’s supposed to be harmless? Please do not bring me a hyper snake!) Before long, he returned with a midsize python.
It became so real.
“That is a snake. That snake is about to be touching me. What if I drop the snake? That snake is kind of big. Oh my word, it is a snake… and it is coming closer.”
There I was, face-to-face with… “Fred.” (Nicknames make them seem more friendly and less deadly, right? ~smile~). Fred was wound up in a tight ball and slowly Evan started to hand him over to me. I had a short moment of emotional hesitation and I am pretty sure my eyes watered.
Finally, he placed Fred in my hands… and honestly… it was okay. I am not going to say it was the most fun I have ever had – or that it was awful – but, it was okay. I did not drop Fred and he did not lunge at me (as I had feared). We became tolerable acquaintances. ~smile~
After handing him back to Evan, I rubbed his skin a bit more trying to get used to his leathery feel and became less freaked out by his mere presence. Slowly, he moved his head over towards me and started smelling me with his tongue. A number of puppies have licked me in my day, but never a snake. ~smile~
Evan said, “He is just trying to decide what you are. He knows by now you are not food because you are not scurrying away.” ~smile~ Quote of the day as everything within me wanted to scurry away!
Yet, as completely crazy as this sounds, I kind of liked the snake. I would hold him again… and in fact, I might! I do not think I could ever own Fred because I could not stand the task of feeding him live mice. It would break my soft, animal-loving heart!
How This Applies to You
We are better, less inhibited, and more productive when we are not ruled by fear. Some of the biggest battles between Eric and me have been due to my fears. He wants to conquer the world because he is driven and passionate – which does not fare too well with a life partner who hides from anything which scares her (and many unfamiliar things have to this point).
Sure, snake handling was not part of Eric’s vision (at least I do not think it was ~smile~); but, my thought is that with each fear I overcome – each time I am able to take a step forward toward conquering something which terrifies me – I am a step closer to becoming more brave and a partaker in what life has to offer. I can more quickly say…
“Look at all the fears I have faced. I know I can face this one too.”
For yourself and your relationship, step out and face a fear – become more comfortable with those “snakes” of life which torture you. It may not seem like facing your giants of fear will make any difference in your future marriage; but, I can tell you from personal experience that it most definitely will. We cannot be our best if we are encumbered by fear; and we feel unstoppable when we finally stare our beast of fear in the face and say, “You will not rule me anymore.”
What is your biggest fear? How can you and your sweetheart face it together?