School had just let out for the summer and the first place I wanted to go was to my grandmother’s house. She was not working that day, so it was just the two of us for lunch. Being a typical thirteen year old, I wanted to go out and play while she was making lunch.
I ran out the back door and slammed it shut. Much to my surprise, I was immediately attacked by a swarm of pigmy wasps. I ran and still they followed. In all I received thirteen stings.
I immediately ran into the house and grandma’s maid quickly applied the old remedy of baking soda on the quickly rising welts. It was apparent that this was not a typical wasp sting situation. My heart rate was elevated and my breathing became difficult. My grandma called my mother so she could drive me to the doctor’s office (grandma didn’t drive).
I was ushered through the backdoor of the doctor’s office and placed on an examining table. It was clear to the doctor that I was in a major health crisis. My heart rate and blood pressure were at dangerous (read life-threatening) levels and my whole body was turning bright red. Immediately the doctor administered epinephrine.Initially, each time I received a shot, the symptoms dropped a bit, but still I was in danger.
In the middle of this drama, my doctor’s associate came in and announced, “I’ve never seen a reaction as bad as yours.” (You can imagine how reassuring this was for a thirteen year old). Over a period of two hours the medication kicked in and my systems returned to normal. It certainly was a good scare.
For many years, I carried a prescribed bee-sting kit. I never had to use it, but it felt good to have it when I was away from immediate medical care. In 2003, I was attending a program at a retreat center outside of Helena, MT. As I was sitting in a patch of clover, I put my hand on the ground for balance. Apparently, I disturbed a foraging bee and was stung between my thumb and forefinger. I waited to see if I had a reaction. Nothing. It seemed that my childhood experience was past. I have had several wasp and bee stings since that time and my reaction is what one would expect – a little swelling that quickly subsides.
Last year, I decided to become a beekeeper. I thought that since my sting incident was past, this should be no problem. Wrong! I built three hives and ordered bees for them. I went to the beekeepers house and brought the preformed combs and bees home. So far, so good. Once home, it was time for me to transfer the bees to their permanent hives.
This is when the fun began. As I opened the first temporary hive, the bees swarmed out. I was not wearing any of my beekeepers gear. I stopped in my tracks. My wife went into the house and brought out my gloves and helmet with veil. I put them on and then put my attention on transferring the bees. For almost ten minutes, I was frozen. All of my fears of death by bee sting were making themselves heard.
I was determined to move the bees, and finally did so. When I got to the third hive, I saw that the bees were more active than the first two had been. I again felt the fear rise up and started to move the hive anyway. In the middle of the process, a bee got inside my protective veil and stung me on the face. Panic was right in my face, and I did run away form the hive. I settled myself down and came back and finished the job.
Now its 2012 and I’m still keeping bees. I had a hive die over the winter and just picked up a replacement. Yesterday morning, it was time to move the bees into their new home. This time I was both aware of the inner fear and a new story – bee stings won’t kill me. I let this new story settle in and then began the work of moving the hives. When the first swarm of bees rose out of the hive and started pinging my head veil, I took a breathe and blew them away.
I felt a deep appreciation of my fear and the deliberateness to face it head on. In fact, my summer’s ambition is to have no fear of bees at all. I’m not sure if that’s how it will turn out, but that’s not so important at this point. I now have an experience of overriding my body’s fear when it is no longer helpful. I’m reminded that fear can be a strong teacher and is something to turn into rather than avoid!
I offer a few questions that may help you along your way. What is it that you are afraid of? How does it affect your relationships with others and yourself? Is it time to face the fear with appreciation and let it go?