I wasn’t going to write about my existential crisis because it sounds like hippy-dippy shit, and hippy-dippy shit annoys me. But one of you asked me to write about it, and I’m a sucker for requests. Besides, the blog is called “Abandoning Pretense.” If I don’t explain about my stupid meltdown and subsequent rebuilding, it won’t make sense to you to when I say things like, “I saw a spider in my house and let it live.” Especially if you’ve been following long enough to witness The Great Spider Massacre of 2013 wherein I brutally murdered a mother spider and approximately ten gagillion of her innocent babies. You’ll just think I’m bat-shit crazy for no reason at all. (I might be crazy, but I have reasons, dammit.)

I won’t go into details about what triggered my meltdown, because it would require “starting at the beginning” and also I get the shakes just thinking about it so I’m not gonna fucking talk about it. Now quit pestering me. It wasn’t just one thing, anyway. It was a bunch of things all converging at the same time to squash me like the proverbial bug that I suddenly felt sorry for.

While I’m currently labeling the last couple of months as an existential crisis, until I had adequate hindsight and was able to properly label it as such, I described it thusly: “My brain exploded.” Based on my admittedly limited research about what an existential crisis actually is, this is a fairly apt description. My brain exploded, my heart imploded, my guts and all my insides splattered all over the walls, and I, with raspy, gurgling breaths, army-crawled all over the place for weeks trying to stuff all my guts and different pieces of me back inside my body where they belonged. And I did manage to stuff everything back in there, but once I’d completed the task, I discovered that everything had been rearranged. (This is all metaphorical, people-who-are-new-around-here; please don’t call 911 for me.)

So I was more or less all put back together, but I was different. Am different. That’s what an existential crisis does; it changes you. It’s a little embarrassing and inconvenient because, before my brain exploded, I was pretty secure with how I thought about stuff. I mean, I was really insecure as a person (as in, pretty sure people thought I was weird), but I was secure in my insecurity (liked myself anyway). That makes sense, right?

Anyway, one of the first – and probably oddest – changes I noticed is that I now have a significantly higher level of tolerance for creepy crawly creatures (yep, we’re talking about spiders now). Normally, anything with more than four legs sends me running for my husband’s flip flop or, if it’s big enough, has me leaping up on top of my kitchen table a la that lady with the shiny leather pantsuit in The Matrix, all: Ready for Anything!

But a few weeks ago while reading on the couch, around midnight, a movement in my peripheral vision caught my eye; it was a wolf spider about the size of a quarter. I watched him creep across my floor, oblivious to the perilousness of his situation. I didn’t jump or squeal or freak out. I only observed him, and as I observed him I thought, Shouldn’t I kill him? I tried to tell myself the usual, which is that, should I permit him to live, he would certainly ascend the stairs and up one of the posters of my bed, crawl into my mouth while I was sleeping, and I would chew him up and eat him, none the wiser. (Everyone knows that is what spiders do if you don’t murder them immediately, right?)

Second, I thought, Well . . . what if it DID crawl in my mouth while I was sleeping? Isn’t there a statistic that says humans eat around ten spiders in their lifetime while asleep? I’ve never noticed eating any thus far, so odds are good I wouldn’t notice if I ate another. Eating spiders while asleep is just like a tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear it. It’s like it never even happened. (I know; basically I just said, “Sure little spider, crawl in my mouth.” Crazypants. Now you see why I said my brain exploded.)

But third, and most importantly, I thought, Why should this tiny creature die just because I, a big strong brute of a human, happen to find him repulsive? This little spider – who did not have any choice in the matter of what type of creature he was going to be – does not deserve to die. For the first time, and very much to my surprise, I felt pity for a spider who was not a cartoon. As he crawled under my couch, I cried about my weird new outlook on things.

I’ve noticed this same sort of feeling with frogs and toads. Every night when I walk the dog I see at least ten toads. I used to get Goose Bumps of Horror every time I passed one. But now I think they’re kind of amazing how they come out night after night, crouched in relative safety between the sidewalk and the grass under the neighborhood lights with a miraculous understanding that bugs congregate around light and they’re far more likely to get dinner in that location. Their tiny hands don’t look as scary as they used to; they look like tiny human hands. Little frowny toads that didn’t ask to be toads and have no idea why or what they are.

A cute young girl watching a toad
He didn’t ask to be a fucking toad, you guys. Be nice.

And last week I was doing yoga on my back patio and a small beetle managed to land on its back a few feet from me. He couldn’t seem to right himself and lay there struggling helplessly. I picked him up – with the naked flesh of my fingers – and placed him in the grass outside. I . . . touched . . . an insect. On purpose.

I told you it was hippy-dippy.

And that is phase one of my probably-still-unfolding existential crisis. Be sure to subscribe to AP so you don’t miss the rest of this damn magical series. I promise I won’t talk any more about spiders crawling in mouths.


  1. I haven’t gotten to this point with toads! I’m afraid to leave the house after dark. For reals. They are everywhere! I wish I could attach a picture of our patio door. HUGE toad stuck to it. *shudder*

    • I confess, I go out my garage door when I have to walk the dog. I’m not scared of the toads anymore, but I don’t want to be startled by one jumping on me, either. =)

  2. You are a way better person than I am. I have a low tolerance for bug and reptiles. I don’t kill them; I just don’t like them. Usually, one of the cats or dogs gets to the bugs before I even notice. This is one good thing about living “up north.” All things creepy and crawly die in the winter.

  3. I’m very hippy-dippy and feel I’m rather connected to nature, but lord help me if it actually comes into my house–MY SPACE–and invades my privacy. While I will usually spend 10 minutes trying to shoo out a fly, spiders don’t stand a chance.

    But with that said, I think that one of the “benefit,” if you can call it that, of any mental illness or episode is a greater empathy for not only other people, but other things. Without having gone through (and continue to go through) so many of the things that I have, I don’t know that I would be as sensitive to everything other people are going through. Sometimes it takes knowing what it’s like to be in that place in order to truly connect with other people–and tiny little bugs.

  4. I can mostly live and let live, although those enormous buzz bomb flies that get in my house are goners. The only thing that really freaks me out are the little tree frogs that live around us, but that’s because I’ll be minding my own business, picking flowers or something, and all of a sudden SOMETHING MOVED. And I scream like a little girl and my husband shakes his head at me. If they just wouldn’t startle me, I’d be OK with them. Not that I then kill them, but I say mean things to them.

  5. My daughter (the toad lover and catcher) would TOTALLY agree with all of this! She loves all things creepy crawly and slimy! Me…not so much. But I don’t kill anything except for spiders in my house. Too bad I missed the big f*$*@#r that bit my ear 2 nights ago and made it swell up like a balloon… ugh.

  6. I usually remove creepy crawlies from our house and deposit them outside, unless they’re ants. Sorry, they are so prolific, if they come into my house, it’s on like Donkey Kong. I’m terrified of frogs, but I’m not going to hurt them. I accidentally ran over one and cried. I totally get where you’re coming from.

  7. Grammy4Jaybird

    Are you kidding me?!?!? Every time I see a bug in my house, I take a picture of it and send it to my husband with the caption “it’s trying to kill me.” After I send the pic to my husband, I can’t delete it because it gives me the heeby-geebies to even touch the picture again. And of course I spray the bug with bathroom cleaner…repeatedly…until it dies.

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