“Just for today, I will be unafraid. Especially I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful, and to believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give to me.” (Alanon “Just for Today” Bookmark)
Recently I came across a sign in a sporting goods store that said: “Just for today, I will do something that scares me.” It caught my eye because I had lately been thinking a lot about fears – a fear of killer bees was pressing deep into my consciousness. I was out golfing on a Sunday morning with hubby when the marshal pulled alongside to warn us that the day before a golf course gardener in our retirement community was attacked by a large swarm of killer bees. He was stung between 300-400 times and ended up in the ICU.*
This sad news set my fear radar into overdrive and all I could think about the next few days was killer bees. I was signed up to go out with the ladies golf club two days later, and I tossed and turned at night worrying about bees. Everyone was talking about it, and the starter made an announcement over the loud speaker asking players to please report any sighting of bee hives or unusual bee activity. Africanized honey bees, to be exact.
The darker colored bee on the left in the photo below is an Africanized honey bee; the golden one on the right, is a regular honey bee. Africanized honey bees also pollinate plants, and their sting is no more potent than that of other honey bees. Yet, the former has a bad temperament (to say the least!) and is extremely aggressive when he swarms with his buddies, and will not hesitate to ambush a perceived threat, and will pursue that threat for up to a quarter of a mile. Experts say don’t bother jumping into water to escape; the killer bees will simply wait for you to surface. Whoah – this is the stuff nightmares are made out of! They go for the head, and all you can do is cover your head, run and find shelter.
As the announcement was made to the lady golfers, I talked with others about my worries and nightmares vis-a-vis killer bees that resulted in uneasy and fitful sleep. Internally, I reminded myself: “Be careful not to give this matter too much thought; your obsessing may end up attracting the very thing you fear !”
I actually made it off the course in one piece and did not see one bee. Victory. I pulled my golf cart into the garage and went into the bathroom to wash sweat off my face, when I felt a sharp pain underneath my left arm. I looked to see what was going on, and saw a bee on my shirt. It must have traveled home with me. I tried to shake it off into the bathroom sink; it wouldn’t budge and I started to scream! (Yes, a little drama took place) I was alone and doing battle one-on-one with a bee that looked just like the darker bee in the photo. All my fears were magnified and all of a sudden this little bee was a rampaging Godzilla in my mind. Finally, I braced myself and touched the bee and swept him into the sink with my fingers, and ran the water to make sure he went down the drain.
A magnifying mirror and tweezers were at my fingertips, so I employed those to remove the stinger. Little did I know that one shouldn’t use tweezers; instead, the edge of a credit card is best to scrape away the stinger. Pulling the stinger out with tweezers can release venom deeper into the skin. It had been a long time since I had been stung but I knew to grab some baking soda and ice.
A memory of my first bee sting stands out like technicolor in my mind. It was 1960 and I was 6 years old living in northern Arizona, and playing in the backyard with my sisters while my Mother read and sunbathed. I noticed numerous bees hovering over clover in the lawn, and I swear, I said to my childhood self, “I wonder what it feels like to be stung by a bee” so off I went in my little bare feet across that patch of lawn inhabited by a bunch of bees.
I looked straight ahead, kept walking, and all of a sudden… Ouch, Pain, Cries. I fell into my Mom’s lap and my eyes pleaded for relief. Pain is a big teacher, of course; and that’s the last time I attempted such an experiment. Yet, I wasn’t completely cowed as I went on to search for scorpions under rocks in the Arizona desert while my Dad hit golf balls a few yards away. I don’t think he knew what his little girl was up to. When we moved to California, my audacious searches switched to Black Widow spiders. Needless to say, I’m no longer that kind of adventurer!
So when my granddaughter Riley Grace came to visit and got stung by a bee in our pool, her Mom rattled off an order: “Get into the house and get your Nana. She’ll know what to do.” I immediately grabbed a credit card that was conveniently at arms length, scraped away the stinger (it came out easily) and made a paste of baking soda and water. After baking soda and ice, we applied a little honey (I looked it up!).
A friend who is very allergic to bee stings (and has been hospitalized more than once as a result) offers this advice: if you are out and about and get stung, grab some dirt and water and make a ball of mud and put it on the bee sting; it will squeeze out the venom. In fact, my friend says that she’s avoided hospitalization by applying that simple folk remedy!
Riley’s wrist shows no signs of a bee sting less than 48 hours later in the photo below; not like the site of my wound that was irritated, red, swollen and itchy for a number of days. Of course, it might be due to the fact that 12 year olds heal a lot faster than 65 year old Nana’s.
Fears, I realize, are scary dark holes that most of us prefer not to peer into. But when we are face to face with rational or irrational fears, we discover what stuff we are made of.
Even though I screamed in terror when that killer bee clung stubbornly to my shirt, I didn’t freeze and I sprang into action. I peered into the dark hole of my fears, and I survived and learned something along the way; best of all I was able to *calmly* help my granddaughter.
I strive to be cognizant of not letting my fears grow like thorns across my mental landscape; JUST FOR TODAY, I will practice replacing a negative thought with a positive one.
I look back and shake my head realizing that a lot of my mental energy was spent in fear of killer bees and sure enough, one latched onto me. What are the odds?
Some of the acronyms I’ve learned about F.E.A.R. in Alanon 12 Step meetings provide sumptuous food for thought:
Future Events Aren’t real
False Evidence Appearing Real
The mind is a funny thing – it can be our best friend or it can be our worst enemy. One thing I know: I hold the reins to the wild horses that run roughshod in my mind. It’s up to me to pull them back, stop for a moment, and remind myself: “In this moment, you are safe” and I find that to be true 99.99999% of the time!
“To break the cycle of worry and fear, I’m learning to focus all my attention on this very moment….this day is all I have to work with, and it is all I need. If I am tempted to worry about tomorrow’s concerns, I will gently bring my mind back to today.” (Courage to Change, page 10)
Just for today, may your fears be small and manageable, and may you never have to wrestle with a killer bee!
*Postscript: As of this writing, I am told the golf course employee who was attacked by killer bees is out of the ICU but still in the hospital. He’s been in the hospital for over two weeks. Two colleagues tried to rescue him but could not swipe the bees off and 911 was called. God bless that gardener – he’s in my prayers.