I have been phobic about bugs all my life. I can remember wearing my mother's high heels around the house because I wanted to be as far off the floor as possible just in case something was crawling.
I wore long sleeves, long pants, and a hat one hot summer so nothing would land on my skin.
When I had my first apartment I made my Dad drive across town to kill a spider in my shower. I once spent a day on my porch because there was a dead moth on a wall and no one around to get rid of it.
I kept bug spray with me in the house at all times, two cans- one that sprayed wide in the air and one that shot a targeted stream. Jim (my husband) joked that he was going to make me a holster.
I once made a painting of a cicada as a kind of self-therapy, though it helped a little the effects lasted only about as long as it took to paint.
I screamed and shook and panicked if something crawled on me. Twice I had to go to the emergency room because the panic was so intense.
And it seemed that no matter where I was, I could always spot a bug when no one else could see it. My shrink said it was because I was in the habit of "scanning the environment for danger".
This was no- "ew, a bug" phobia- this was the real thing.
But no more.
I began noticing about a year or so ago that my panic seemed to have gone from a roar to a rumble. I became increasingly calm. I watched, in awe and wonder, as a spider walked across my dining room ceiling during dinner one night, and I had no desire to flee, or to even stop eating. My wonder was at my physical response, or lack of one. This, I remember thinking, is how normal people respond to a spider on the ceiling.
Lately I find myself ignoring the crawly creatures when I can, or removing them without so much as a shudder.
And the only thing to which I can attribute this relatively sudden and complete 360 is the hormonal changes of a post menopausal body. I cannot explain it otherwise- which to my mind confirms my long-held belief that we are much more influenced by and at the mercy of our physicality than many of us would like to think.
We humans go to great lengths to convince ourselves that we are in control; that if we have "lost it" we are mentally weak or lazy and simply need to "get a grip".
But science has again and again confirmed my suspicion that, unnerving as it is, much of who we are is simply beyond conscious control, impervious to mindful manipulation.
Ultimately, we really are what we eat. And what we secrete. And the unique and particular combination of organic materials with which we are born.