A few days ago I woke up to a strange noise. I didn’t know what it was and at first thought I had dreamt it. I tried to go back to sleep but I heard the noise again; an aggressively loud erratic buzzing. I thought maybe it was the washing machine as the room I was staying in at my parents’ house was situated next to the laundry room. I had been awake until roughly four AM painting the night before and was exhausted, so I tried to go back to sleep. When the noise started for the third time, I impatiently got up to investigate.
“Is it a fly?” I wondered. It couldn’t be, the noise was unlike anything I had ever heard before. I lifted the blinds and stood on the foot of the bed to reach the small upper window of my basement room. The noise was coming from up there.
Sure enough, I spotted a plump black housefly. It was trapped in a spiderweb and its captor was approaching. The persistent noise was the sound of the fly literally fighting for its life. Something came over me in that moment of realization and I started to panic. I must save the fly! But the spider needs to eat. Who am I to play God? What do I do?
With no exaggeration, the fly was buzzing at the pitch of a scream. It had woken me up after only four hours of sleep. I impulsively grabbed a pen and tried to free it from the web, immediately regretting damaging the spider’s meticulous creation. Knocking down the web, I nudged the fly from its tethers but my efforts were futile. The fly couldn’t move, likely paralyzed by spider venom.
I began to cry.
Now, I cry A LOT, at least once a day. I am perhaps the biggest advocate you’ll ever meet of the cleansing power of tears, but crying for insects is next level even for me.
The fly’s terror reflected my own fear of feeling trapped and helpless in Vancouver. I had been back since Christmas after sixteen months of travelling in Europe and North Africa. I had originally planned to fly back to London at the end of February but ended up overstaying by three additional months. My desperation to save the fly was my own desire to liberate myself. The fly’s fear was triggering my repressed terror of the unknown, which had the paralytic effect of keeping me from from acting on my truest desire.
The guilt over interfering in this Planet Earth moment on my windowsill shed light on the fact that I do the same in the lives of everyone around me. Interfering or offering unsolicited advice where compassion would serve better. For example; my youngest brother is a manager at a local restaurant and the staff are like a close knit family with all the same love and inevitable dysfunctions. Since returning to Vancouver, I had incessantly brainstormed alternative career paths for my brother, “You should go into the film industry. There’s so much opportunity and money to be had,” or “You know what you’d probably enjoy? Being a merchandise manager on tour with a band. You love music and could travel around for free.”
My perspective was that I was being supportive, but in retrospect I realize I was offering advice he was absolutely not asking for. He is twenty-two years old and sincerely enjoys his job. That is more than I can say for the majority of people I know who are my own age (thirty-three as of today). I was projecting my desire to save myself onto his situation. Each time I told him what I thought might be best, actually implied that his current actions weren't good enough in my eyes - potentially harmful to his self esteem and self worth. Who else was I harming with my condescending encouragement?
I gave my parents self help books for Christmas. I called out both of my brothers and their friends for offside locker room talk that I overheard and judged. These things would have been ok if my parents had suggested they wanted those books, or if I had been a part of the conversation with the group of young men. But they didn’t and I wasn’t. How had I hurt other family members and friends interfering where I shouldn’t have? Or former coworkers and ex-lovers? My unsolicited advice and opinions were an indirect way of saying, “You’re not good enough as you are,” which is a huge fucking lie! Each and every single one of us is perfect. Being imperfect is inherent to being human and as with art and everything else, there is beauty in that imperfection. We are all perfectly imperfect. Exactly as we should be in every moment. Not accepting ourselves as we are leads to judgment and lack of acceptance of others.
My view of myself as stuck and helpless was a reflection of my low self worth. I didn’t think I was able to go back out in the world on my own again and succeed. My lack of self love kept me cooped up in the cold dark guest room of my parent’s basement for the most part of the last six months. The same low self worth caused me to go around trying to save those around me because deep inside I longed to save myself. Ultimately, the irrational fear and worthlessness in my head was keeping me from acting on the dreams and love in my heart.
So I sobbed for the terror of that fly, for my own fear of being worthless, and for the pain my lack of self worth in turn caused others. Every time I stopped crying the fly would start up its noise again, as if sacrificing itself to trigger the repressed emotion I needed to release. Not loving myself had kept me from being able to truly experience love and compassion. When I was done crying and releasing my fear I immediately booked a one way ticket back to Europe. A week and a half later, I am writing this on the flight there. On this day of my birth, I am gifting myself new life.
With Love and Kindness,
PS As I sit in an adorable cafe in London editing this post, still experiencing waves of fear of the unknown, a fly momentarily landed on my hand reminding me to feel it all. There are always lessons in our emotions when we stop resisting them.