My family and I visit the South Carolina coast every summer to spend time with my parents, brothers, sister and all of their kids - every time with different configurations of cousins, aunts and uncles. Whatever the mix, it is always special and magical.
One of the things I love about going to Coastal South Carolina is the abundance of wildlife (and I'm not talking about the wildlife inside the house, LOL). We look over the back deck to catch a glimpse of bunnies and look for the occasional alligator in the marsh. We go for long walks on the beach looking for Hermit Crabs, sand dollars, sharks being caught and this morning, we even got the treat of finding loggerhead turtle tracks and alligator tracks on the beach. What a find!
But what about that 5 foot Black Snake that my husband spotted out in the front yard the other day and the Diamondback Rattlesnake that was spotted in the dunes? These are part of the wildlife, but not welcome finds at all. In fact, so unwelcome that every time I walk past that part of the yard I scan the area looking to find it. When I walk the boardwalk over the dunes I search for that Rattlesnake. You know, so that I won't be caught unaware and startled.
Of course it is fear that is causing me to look for these snakes. Naturally we should fear the Rattlesnake due to its venomous bite. But I was looking for the Black Snake when there was no inherent danger, maybe just a startle. This is when it dawned on me that the snake lives around here and has lived around here for at least the last 3 visits, yet I couldn't have cared less, because I was not aware of its existence. In fact, I was living in blissful ignorance. But now that I know that it is there, I just can't keep myself from looking for it.
So why am I so concerned about this snake and why do I search for it with a pit in my stomach? I look for alligators with curiosity and excitement and they are much more dangerous than Black Snakes. It is because I have assigned them a negative, scary value in my mind. Snakes are not good. Snakes are creepy. Snakes should cause me to recoil in fear and loathing. But in reality, snakes are creatures that should be looked at just like a Hermit Crab. What is the big differentiator? Snakes are wonderful creatures that keep the marsh rat population under control, for example. Snakes are not out to get us. Actually, they don't particularly want to be around us much, either.
The point of my story is that we all have unhealthy and fear-driven thoughts about things that lead to negative feelings and sometimes cause us to create a story for something based on a pre-conceived notion or learned behavior. Many of these thoughts have been ingrained in us from a young age of which we aren't even aware. I was unintentionally taught to fear snakes by my mother and grandmother from a very young age (sorry for outing you, mom). But what else were we unintentionally taught at a young age? That girls can't fix things? That men shouldn't do the laundry, unless you want pink towels? That since you didn't graduate from high school, that you are not smart? That a man is going to love you only until he finds something better?
When you start to pay attention to your reactions to seemingly innocuous things as well as major life events and become more mindful of why you are having these reactions, you will start to learn a little bit more about yourself. Take some time to step back from your brain every once in a while and become an outside observer. You may just realize that a snake is just a snake and will remain a snake minding its own business, regardless of how you choose to experience it.