Michael Marano, 129 TCCS
There are a lot of things you don’t have to take on. – June Diane
Before I joined the Peace Corps I assumed that I would be cut off from all technological communication, sending letters through the mail that would end up in the jaws of stray dogs before ever reaching my fellow volunteers. 14 Facebook groups and 27 group chats later I realize how foolish, and maybe hopeful, that was. One common thread throughout all of these forms of medium has been advice on which podcasts to listen to. Remembering taping Days of Our Lives on VHS tapes everyday in the 4th grade, I’m not exactly up on all of the coolest podcasts, but I do faithfully give one recommendation, B***h Sesh: A Real Housewives Breakdown (not censored). It’s hosted by two of the funniest comedians and gives my favorite topic the time and thoughtfulness it truly deserves.
Other volunteers don’t take me seriously when I suggest this but it is at their own loss. Just recently on an episode titled “Mystic Mistake”, before taking on the huge and important task of dissecting a dinner party hosted by “Mystic McKayla,” a guest host expanded my worldview more than any podcast delving into the human psyche ever could. I stood up from the dirty bucket used to collect vegetables, dropped the clothes I was hand washing back into the muddy water, and took a moment to be present as my whole life philosophy was upended.
Comedian June Diane told a story of her car being stolen right out of the driveway in front of her house. Instead of feeling shame or fear she decided that she just simply wasn’t going to mentally or emotionally take it on. “I’m not going to take on the identity of someone who’s had their car stolen from their driveway. I’m not going to take on the experience of that, what that means. I’m not going to take on the worldview of the victim of auto theft. All that is attached to it is not for me. I viewed it as; I see that that happened… over there. But that’s not anything for me right now,” she testifies at the 15:45 minute mark on “Mystic Mistake” hosted by Danielle Schneider and Casey Wilson.
When my little host nephew asks me to play fetch with him and the dog and I go outside and he hands me the skeleton jaw of a pig who I watched grow up, heard butchered, sold at the market, and then ate… not taking it on.
When I watch the dog eat a frog that I’ve just released outside after running around my room with a giant cup to capture it as it not only jumps but flies and then glides through the air onto my bed leaving small, damp marks of filth… not taking it on.
When I’m lying on my mattress, graciously not murdering the ants and beetles that also call it home, and a scorpion has the audacity to sting my ankle in this comfortable refuge that I’ve welcomed all creatures into… not taking it on.
When I use the squat toilet in an unfamiliar place because of an emergency and get done to see that there is no “bum gun” and definitely no toilet paper and that I’ll be using a tiny bucket and my hand to clean myself… that experience is not for me and I will not be taking it on.
This advice has come in most helpful with the spiders that make their home in my bathroom. I initially used the same cup that would assist me in my “rescue” of the frog to catch them and set them free outside. However, running around my bathroom squealing like a stereotypical gay sitcom character quickly got old and with the gaping hole in my bathroom wall called a “fan” allowing them to come back inside whenever they wanted I decided that it would be better to just coexist.
Not taking them on became easy with three different rationalizations. First, I assumed they would start to eat the other unwanted bugs in my life and they actually proved this theory correct by capturing my biggest foe, a baby scorpion, in one of their webs. Second, I began to fantasize about a Charlotte’s Web type scenario where the spiders would start leaving me messages to save the pigs in the backyard. Suddenly, the dingy cobwebs in every corner transformed into magical silk Ouija boards connecting our two worlds together and the sets of eight hairy legs that seconds ago carried my enemies were now carrying wise confidants with the voice of Julia Roberts. Finally, sometimes being at site is lonely and taking on spiders as pets was easier than a stray cat.
One day I noticed that an especially resourceful spider had caught fifty little bugs in their web. Not only was I proud of myself for this genius idea, imagine all fifty of them creeping into my bed one by one slowly starting to suck and fuel their lives off of my blood, but I was also proud of my spider’s work ethic during this massacre. As time passed though, it appeared that the bugs were morphing into miniature spiders. I knew nothing about spiders or insects but it seemed unusual for spider prey to start to look like spiders themselves. However, the alternative was that all of these bugs were actually baby spiders and that was something I also wouldn’t be taking on.
Then one especially dark night, around 2am, I was drawn into the bathroom by an ominous energy and also the need to pee. In my sleepy state, a bravery that I can only credit to the remnants of the strong heroine I am in my dreams tricked me into conquering my fears. I boldly kind of looked with a quick glance in the general direction of the spider web. I could no longer deny that the bugs were in fact spiders and that they were growing. The thought of fifty baby spiders crawling into the orifices on my face sprung me into action. I scanned the bathroom for a weapon and saw the bum gun. Someone within me, a stranger waiting in the shadows of my soul, emerged and put their finger on the trigger and sprayed. Lying in bed after this bloodbath, my thoughts teetered perilously close to a guilt spiral until I heard the soft voice of my real Charlotte, June Diane, whisper, “Because I know the depth of feeling that I’m capable of… that’s why I have a strong rigorous reflex that kicks in, which is like, that is not for me. “ I rolled over and fell into a deep, peaceful sleep murmuring over and over again, “that is not for me.”