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September 24, 2009

This Wonderful Life: I sssssseeeeeee you there

The first thing you should know is that I used to suffer from a snake phobia. The operative word there is phobia. It wasn’t just a matter of disliking snakes. It wasn’t a fear of being bitten. It wasn’t a simple reluctance to touch their impossibly dry, nimble bodies.

I was phobic. It was a fear completely devoid of reason or logic.

The technical term for it is ophidiophobia. The lay term for it is buuuuuhhhhuuuuuuugh. Or maybe it’s aaaiiiiiieeeeeeeekkkk!!!!!! There are different levels of severity.

I avoided outdoor experiences because of the possibility that I might see a snake. Just see one. When the family went to zoos, I stayed outside while they toured the reptile exhibits.

Once, while riding in a car down the long strip of highway that runs the length of Pensacola Beach in Florida, we saw a rattle snake making its way across the sweltering asphalt. I screamed.

Let me repeat that: I was inside a car traveling some 55 miles per hour, and when I saw a snake on the street, I screamed and curled into a fetal position. Thank goodness I wasn’t behind the wheel.

So, a few weeks ago when I wrote about Serpentina, the snake who hangs out in the garden along our front path, it wasn’t just a reflection on my relationship to my surroundings. It was a reflection on my relationship to my internal landscape as well.

I no longer have a snake phobia, and that’s just one of about half a dozen irrational fears that no longer take precious time out of my days.

Flying in airplanes, needles, surgery, hospitals, driving on rainy roads, driving on snowy roads, driving on roads that may become rainy or snowy... Gone.

How my fears left me is complicated and boring. I survived cancer. I became intimate with a number of my phobias, and they became ordinary, everyday elements of my life.

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