I've been away from home for much of the past month for weddings and work meetings. On the way to the airport, my brother mused that he hopes I don't return to a home infested with snakes. Since moving to the wild, we have discovered the occasional scaled squatter after returning home from vacations.
After a thorough inspection, I texted my brother: No snakes had moved in. Just a nice family of scorpions.
"Get out! Get out! Get out!" he texted back. "That's worse!"
I may be losing my grasp of normal.
Friends told us a similar story as we watched fireworks. When they moved to the wild, the husband had a deathly fear of snakes. All snakes. The wife would summon the kids over to look at the harmless rat snakes, while the husband looked on through the window, envisioning his sweet babes being swallowed whole. Spousal arguments would follow.
They (both?) agreed the husband had to buck up and get over it. So he worked on it. He began facing his fear head-on — joining his family members when they spotted a friendly water snake or king snake.
He has certainly improved. The other day, the wife came home to see her husband and two small children, both under 5, circled around something on the front porch. Excited to see what cool bug or baby mammal they had discovered, she ran over to join them. There she saw that they were in fact huddled around a venomous copperhead.
"Get the children away! What are you doing?!" she shrieked, grabbing both children and moving clear across the yard. Her husband stayed near the pit viper, proving just how far he'd come.
"I thought you wanted this from me!" he yelled over to her, utterly perplexed.
"I wanted you to get over your fear of nonvenomous snakes, not the kind that will eat your children!"
"Hey now, unfair," he retorted. "You've told me many times that no snake will eat our children. They may get struck and die, but not eaten."
With a huff, the wife carried her children into the house and locked the door, leaving her husband outside with his new, orange-colored bestie.
Living in the wild slowly alters your impression of normal. And don't we want it to? When I first moved here, everything was scary. Every sound, every buzz, every shadow meant that something ominous was lurking. I feared that behemoth hawks would come down from the sky and carry my baby away. I feared that every step to the car would land on something that would sting or bite or seep toxins out from its skin. It was no way to live.
To avoid scoliosis from being in a chronic stress-induced fetal position, I had to adjust, to let go, to disassociate from my fears.
It's how my friend invited his young children to stand well within striking distance of a copperhead and marvel at its beauty and power. It's how I texted my brother with nonchalance about the scorpions in my home. We grew accustomed to the wild we're living in.
"You never want me to come visit, do you?" my brother texted me back.
"I guess I shouldn't tell you about the baby snake I found upstairs in the kids' playroom."
"!!! Srsly? How'd you get rid of it???"
"I didn't," I texted. "I figured he found a way in, he can find a way out."
"But what about the children?"
Survival is always about your ability to become acclimated to your surroundings. And if we let ourselves, we can become acclimated to just about anything. And we do want to let ourselves — because there will always be something scary lurking in the shadows. There will always be something ominous that will slither in under our radar or go right up to the front door like the copperhead. And we let it happen, because to live in a state of constant fear is too taxing.
"But what about the children?"
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I got on a list of prospective foster parents for the kids stolen from their parents entering our country for asylum. There is a time to fear and a time to pull children away from something in striking distance.
Some things in the wild we must acclimate to, and some we must never.
Katiedid Langrock is author of the book "Stop Farting in the Pyramids," available at http://www.creators.com/books/stop-farting-in-the-pyramids. Like Katiedid Langrock on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/katiedidhumor. To find out more about her and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.