Fears are challenges everyone must face

By Anita Doberman: Lifestlyes Columnist

One of my favorite short stories is Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” where Gregor Samsa wakes up as a gigantic insect and has to deal with his newfound identity. I like this story because it deals with change, something that I have experienced many times since joining the ranks of “military spouse and mother.”

A couple of nights ago my oldest daughter, Luisa, 5, came into our bedroom at 3 a.m. — my husband is deployed so no chance of asking him for help — and said, “Mommy, there is a scorpion in the bathroom.”

I got up and quickly walked back with her explaining that there was no scorpion in the house, and that Mommy needed to sleep at night. Just as I began my lecture, I saw the big scorpion. If this had happened a few years ago, I would have been paralyzed with fear at the mere sight of ants, let alone a scorpion.

Growing up in Rome, I never encountered bugs except for mosquitoes and tiny black ants my mom found under our kitchen sink, and quickly destroyed with lots of bug spray. When I lived in Manhattan for several years, I continued to be terrified of insects, especially roaches. As a good Wall Street business woman, I relied on others to take care of the problem (I did always give good instructions), pest control companies that would come at New York City speed whenever called, friends, co-workers and, at last resort, all manner of products with dead bugs on the label.

When I got married, I thought I had gained full-time, live-in protection from bugs. Ha. Naturally, the bugs sensed when my husband was gone — which is often, given his job, so I had to learn to deal on my own. There were times, when no one could come and help, because it was the middle of the night or we were new in town. Becoming a mother also made it imperative that I lead my children by example, not so much with words.

That night I got a beer mug and a plate, covered the intruder and, brought it in the kitchen where it remained until the next day, when I threw it outside. I did not set out to have a bug metamorphosis; in fact, I often told my husband that I would never get used to the bugs, I was too much of a city girl.

But after a few years of long deployments, during which I had to be in charge of everything including the bug situation, I changed. My sister, who continues to be terrified of insects, asked me how I overcame my fear. I told her that I didn’t consciously work on it but the military lifestyle provided me with lots of opportunities to “grow.”

As military spouses and mothers, whether we are dealing with bugs or with any “fear,” we have plenty of opportunities for our own metamorphoses. It is up to us to make it for the best.