This morning, as I was walking out of my house, I was lucky enough to find a giant spider web. It was a huge web that stretched 6 feet and was home to a fairly active nickel-sized spider. Over night, he had constructed his web and then he spent the early hours of the morning gathering the fruits of his labor to provide nourishment for his multi-limbed body. He had been very busy, judging by the copious amounts of tightly bound insects lined up. I found this particular spider web the hard way. I walked into it unsuspectingly and, while the spider was just as shocked as I was, my mad ninja skills trumped his frantic climbing. Panting and disheveled, I emerged from the other side while he gathered up his tattered silks to retreat to a dark corner of my porch for the remainder of the day. While I don’t have any particular animosity towards spiders, this one caught me off guard and was the victim of my anxiety-fueled reaction.
My porch had been landscaped to create the illusion of a safe-haven where I could find my inner peace before entering my home. On one side of the door, English Ivy hides a structural necessity behind a beautiful canopy of green. Diagonally across from the ivy, an enchanting purple Rose of Sharon provides the right amount of shade during the warm East Tennessee afternoons. My front porch is one of the happy places I have intentionally created to bring inner peace and joy to all visitors to my home. Unfortunately, this morning, the serene landscaping provided a false sense of security that quickly slipped away from me as I learned the hard way that adversity can hide anywhere, even in lush, welcoming beauty.
When the first strands of the web hit me, I panicked and flailed about uncontrollably in a quasi-interpretive dance of fear which only succeeded in delivering even more of the sticky web to my face and hair. The harder I struggled, the worse it got. I was communing with the trapped insect already bound in the web on an emotional level. I could understand their fear and anxiety even though I knew that my life was not in danger. It was unnecessary fear and irrational anxiety but those phrases were unintelligible to me during the frenzied impromptu dance I was performing on my porch. I had to exert considerable effort to stop struggling to regain enough calm to step clear of the web. Once on the other side, I was able to pull the sticky strands from my face and hair. As my personal calm returned, I was able to clearly see how minor the incident had been. The spider was still in the web and the majority of the web had been removed from me. In my panic, however, I had imagined the spider perched atop my head, like a multi-limbed bull rider leaving the chute and trying desperately to hang on for the bell.
As my breathing returned to a more normal level, I heard a questioning “Morning?” called across the driveway. I turned to wave to my neighbor. Her forced smile told me that she had seen my display and I immediately knew that she didn’t know what to make of what she had seen. She could have thought I was experiencing an overabundance of joy for a Monday morning or she could have thought I was experiencing a mental health episode. Regardless of why I behaved the way I did, my neighbor only saw the outward signs of my very real personal struggle. She did not see the spider web, nor did she know there was a spider on the web. She only knows that when I walked out my front door this morning, I started waving my arms around and shrieking.
What I found interesting about this particular incident is how this holds true for other situations as well. Recently, I had a friend who was suffering from depression. As I didn’t know of her inner turmoil, I just assumed that I had caused her to avoid contact through something I had said or done. I made assumption based upon her visible behavior of withdrawing from shared activities. I didn’t see the web of despair in which she was tangled. I reacted to what I perceived as odd behavior without seeking out the root cause of that behavior. Perhaps, in the future, I will remember my spider web dance and, the next time my friend behaves differently, I will simply ask her what is going on in her life. Also, in the future, I will check for spider webs before leaving my house.