November 14, 2020

Understanding what Triggers our Fears (Lessons from a Honeybee).

I was once terrified of bees.

I remembered this when I noticed a lone honeybee flying around as I was collapsing onto my yoga mat after an intense workout I’d just finished.

The mat was on the floor in front of a giant garage door, which was wide-open and rolled all the way up, 10-feet high, to the industrial ceiling as it always is during the warmer months in my non-air-conditioned gym. I live in South Texas, and it was only March. But the day was sunny and hot; the humidity in the air had already triggered my sweat glands into a splashy dripping frenzy.

The bee landed on the mat and started crawling toward the puddles of salty water my body had shrewdly left behind. I moved my hand near the bee in a swiping gesture to gently encourage it to fly away so that I could start my stretches.

As I laid on the mat, the words love conquers fear popped into my awareness. Instantly, I knew what they meant, and it was about more than just the bee.

I’d had an epiphany.

I’ve only been stung one time in my 42 years of existence, and it happened six months after my 41st birthday. I was walking across the lush, green lawn of a house my husband and I had just toured and fallen in love with. I suddenly felt a piercing, fiery pain in my foot, and I involuntarily yelped out loud. Immediately a red, swollen welt appeared on the inner arch of my foot.

I realized that the streak was over—I had finally been stung by a bee!

While trying to find out whether being stung by a bee is a good omen—I really wanted that house, ya’ll—I learned that likely, I had stepped on a wasp’s nest hidden beneath the grass. Plus, the stinger was not still impaled in the flesh of my foot. Turns out being stung by a bee is a good omen, but a wasp? Not so much. Needless to say, we didn’t get the house.

I think my fear of bees was amplified by having lived so long without experiencing a sting. I didn’t know what it would feel like, and I was scared of the potential pain it would cause.

Hello, fear of the unknown, nice to see you!

I am glad to know firsthand (finally!) that the pain from a beesting isn’t as excruciating as my wild imagination had always conjured.

I blew it up in my head, into this almost catastrophic thing that would damage me, similar to how I feel about needles. I still have a fear of needles, and I am not sure if I’ll ever lose the fear; that one goes all the way back to when I was starting the first grade and was held down as I fought and screamed while the doctor gave me a vaccine shot. That particular trauma also created a fear of confinement and—well—doctors, but I digress.

My fear of bees had gradually melted over the last decade as I became more interested in where our food comes from.

I developed a passion for eating a healthier, more diverse and nutritious diet, and I began cooking with a variety of vegetables, in every color of the rainbow. I learned how important our bees are to the existence of all that delicious, colorful produce. I also learned that they are getting sick and dying in massive numbers due to our country’s Big-Ag monoculture farming practices.

Like humans, bees can’t thrive on the pesticide-laden junk food that dominates most of the farms in our country.

I also began to accept that a bee really doesn’t want to sting us, it’s just an instinct to protect their hive. That awakening changed the way I acted whenever a bee came near me. I began to understand that my frantic swatting and nervous movements in the presence of any bee that flew close by actually put the bee on the defense and increased the likelihood that I would get stung.

So, I stopped swinging in fear and taught myself to stay calm, even if my heart was pounding out of my chest.

On springtime runs, I would stop to smell and take selfies with the fragrant wildflowers. If you’ve never taken a picture of yourself in a field of blue bonnets, then you’re not a Texan! Noticing the bees pollinating the flowers made me happy and grateful, because without them I’d never get to enjoy such wild and raw beauty.

Before losing my fear, I never would have laid down in a patch of flowers swarming with bees no matter how much I wanted to show off on Instagram.

Then, the universe brought pictures of cuddling bees sleeping in a flower into my awareness.

Cuddling bees?

Sleeping in a flower?

When I recognized how adorable this was, I knew my irrational fear of them was healed.

The bee at the gym wouldn’t leave me alone as I was stretching on my sweat-drenched yoga mat. I reminded myself to stay calm and let it explore at its will, its fuzzy feet tickling my skin as it roamed over my body.

Soon, my workout buddy came over and I told her about my epiphany. I explained how my love for the bees—because of the vital role they play as pollinators—had conquered my fear of them. I think this idea can apply to other fears we have in life.

I stood up and the curious bee was not finished, flying back to me and crawling on my leg, seemingly attracted by my sweet, basil scent. My friend commented that I was being really brave, allowing the bee to meander as it pleased.

I was proud of my courage and recognized my tremendous growth, too.

I decided right then that love conquers fear would be the first words I would permanently etch onto my skin, along with a picture of an adorable bee, as a mantra and reminder of how to overcome fear in life.

Conquering fear is not an easy thing to do; it’s tough stuff. Fear is real and valid and deserves acknowledgement. It deserves acceptance. We mustn’t shun or bury it or be controlled by it. If we can find the love behind the fear, we can learn to live with it in a healthier way.

Love is always there, we just have to be willing to look through the fear.

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