In the company of bees

“Fear can make a moth seem the size of a bull elephant.”
― Stephen Richards, Releasing You from Fear

I used to be scared of bees. And I mean terrified. I’m talking run screaming, arms flailing, there-might-as-well-be-a-swarm-pursuing-me, full-on meltdown. It’s incredible how something so small could cause such a powerful reaction.

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According to my mom, I stepped on a bee when I was a toddler and I suppose that one painful experience was where my fear began. But I got older and figured out my fear was unnecessary and unfounded. I watched with awe as others handled a bee’s presence so casually and calmly, and began to practice it myself. I started to see bees for their gifts instead of their stinger. And I stopped being afraid.

And you know the funny thing? I was never afraid of spiders. Ever. I’d flee from a bee but walk right up to a web. As far back as I can remember, spiders and other creepy-crawly creatures enthralled me. Hold a tarantula? Yes, please! (They did, however, completely freak my sister out. On more than one occasion I was called upon to kill a spider if one was discovered lurking in her room. I still feel kind of bad about that.)

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Fear is fascinating, remarkably individual, and also very deceptive. What one person thinks is cool will make another person’s hands clammy. ‘Fess up, do you cringe looking at that spider picture? I get it. No judgment. (Well, I don’t get it because I think the spider is gorgeous, but still…no judgment.)

I share all this because I’ve been thinking a lot about fear lately. About my own fears and how I have let fear rule much of my life. And I don’t think I’m alone in this.

Some fears are understandably born from bad experiences, situations that stung. But, if I’m really honest, something that isn’t always easy to do, most of my fears are based only on conjecture and the darkly creative imaginings of my own mind over “what might happen.” Cue ominous music.

“Men are not afraid of things, but of how they view them.”
― Epictetus

From fleeing bees to not pursuing my passions and dreams to not speaking up and speaking out, fear has held me back. And don’t even get me started on the seeds of fear planted by my parents and others around me: It’s hard, it’s stupid, it’s not possible, that’s not how it’s done, only the lucky or special few find success, and on and on.

Fear has filled my head and kept me from trying because the possibility that I might be hurt or fail or make a fool of myself was enough to prevent me from living fully, exploring all I am, and allowing others, and my own mistakes, to teach me.

Fear can be a gift; it’s meant to keep us safe. But focus too much on fear and it will turn on you and become a walled fortress of reasons why you can’t and excuses why you won’t.

“Overcoming what frightens you the most strengthens you the most.”
― Matshona Dhliwayo

Once upon a time, my mind took a single sting and blew it into a fear so great that any encounter with a bee was the equivalent of being chased by a monster with a hacksaw. It sounds crazy even writing it, and yet that’s exactly how I remember it feeling. But our minds and emotions are powerful and can send us down rabbit holes of doubt, dread, and despair. And boy, have I let mine play me like a fiddle.

You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.
– Morpheus in “The Matrix”

So what is really true? The truth is a bee is simply a bee. It’s not out to get me. Yes, it may sting if it feels threatened or a need to defend itself, but it’s just as likely that it won’t. And, after all, aren’t we all a bit like that too?

What might I uncover if I allow myself to dig deeper and wonder what else is possible? Is this fear really a threat or is it imagined and based on assumption or misperception? Maybe if I simply stand here and breathe and be calm, the bee will fly off, maybe the right answer will come, maybe I’ll learn something I didn’t know, or maybe, even if I do fall, I will be more than I was before more because I tried.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think or question or allow for some skepticism in life. Just that I have to think and question myself and my deeper motives and assumptions – and fears – as well. At least that’s what I’m trying to do more of every day. Because I’m finding the real danger lurks within me, among the swarm of fears buzzing around in my mind.

You are love(d).

PS – The above “covered in bees” gif is courtesy of Giphy.com and features my favorite comedian, Eddie Izzard. To see his hilarious bit about beekeepers and being “covered in bees,” visit this link and enjoy his brilliantly absurd take on, well, everything: https://youtu.be/Xs-tl6GBOBo

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