I stepped into the shower and stifled a scream at the sight of the panicked spider wriggling at eye level from the soap dish in front of me. I stared at the spider. The spider stared at me, shaking its little legs as the water bulleted from the showerhead above.
I thought about squashing the earwax-colored arachnid. If spiders think, I imagine it was thinking about poking me in the eye and making its getaway.
I am generally afraid of spiders, particularly the big, hairy brown or black ones. My long-held belief has been that a flattened spider is the best kind of spider. My typical reaction has been to grab something with which to smack the eight-legged crawling things.
But now, I just stood there, watching the little creature as it bopped one way, ran into splashes from water droplets, and then hopped in the other direction seeking escape. I have no idea what came over me.
“Not that way! One hit from that water, and you’re a goner. I don’t want you drowned underfoot. Here, you’ve got to go this way,” I said, running my finger along a damp but safe-from-shower-spray path to the spider’s freedom.
As oddball as it might have been that I was talking to the spider, funnier still was that it appeared to listen! More likely because of dumb luck, eight legs scuttled at full speed along the exact escape path I had traced. As the creepy-crawly thing skittered past me and disappeared to the dry side of the shower door, I smiled, despite my long-held belief regarding spiders.
I hoped I wouldn’t be rewarded for my benevolence with the spider pausing, flexing its legs and breathing a sigh of relief on the bathroom floor, where I would likely step on it. It was a risk I would have to take.
“Run, little spider! Don’t stop; go, go go!” I said.
I had no idea why I’d shifted from reaching for something with which to smack the spider, to aiding and abetting the tiny disliked thing’s escape. The world would not be shadowed with sorrow because of the death of one – or 100 – spiders. So what had changed? Was my healing brain instead turning to mush?
No, my brain was still functioning, but apparently it wanted a change of pace. So my hesitation and change in action was my effort at creative thinking and an attempt to shine a new light on the same old occurrences. I had hoped to see something I hadn’t noticed before.
I wanted to weave a web of an unusual pattern: How often do I do the opposite of what I’ve always thought or believed? Why not shuffle the cards and deal a different hand?
Allowing a spider to run free instead of killing it may be a trivial experiment in trying a happy dance instead of my annoyed monster mash. But how in the world will I be able to make open-minded decisions about more important situations if I can’t at least consider the little things, such as seeing the plight of a simple spider, from a different perspective? I’ve got to start somewhere.
I’m glad I tried something unconventional. I don’t know why, but I found satisfaction in seeing the creepy creature find unexpected freedom. That doesn’t mean I’ve transformed into a spider-lover. The next arachnid to cross my path has an equal chance of either ending up flattened or fleeing freely.
I am nothing like Fern, children’s author E.B. White’s creation. I didn’t make friends with the escaped spider, nor did I name it Charlotte in hopes of finding an encouraging message in an extravagant web. I also don’t have a pig that needs saved. But life sometimes feels very cruel and cold. It seems to enjoy crushing me like I have flattened many a spider. Trying something different and creating a brilliant backup plan that may help save me from some of life’s devastation sounds like a wonderful web to weave.
Dawn Kessinger lives in Lima.