A week ago, I woke up at 3am with an intense pain in my arm. Unable to comprehend where it was coming from, I turned the light on. There, hanging out next to me in bed, was a spider. I immediately killed it (which I later came to realize was the wrong thing to do, because I wasn’t able to identify it–apparently a crucial step in spider bite care). The back of my arm continued to throb right above my elbow, and the spot around the bite got red and swollen. I googled “what to do for a spider bite,” hoped that wouldn’t be my final google search ever, followed the instructions, and tried, unsuccessfully, to fall back to sleep for an hour. The pain was awful. The fear that I’d have to visit a hospital without accompanying health insurance was more painful.
To make what wasn’t originally a long story but is somehow turning into one short, the next morning, the swelling had disappeared, and the only sign of the remarkable pain from the previous night was the tiny red dot on my arm. It still hurt a little bit that day, but after 24 hours, I generally forgot about it. Because the bite was in a spot I couldn’t readily see, I didn’t think to look at it again.
Until yesterday. My friends were complaining about being bitten by mosquitoes, and I proudly proclaimed, “I barely ever get bites.”
“It looks like you have one right there,” one of my friends said, pointing to the back of my arm.
“Oh, that’s a spider bite,” I said. “Wait. You can see that?” The last I knew, the bite was hardly visible unless you knew where to look.
I twisted my arm around, trying to get a good view. From what I could tell, the wound had swollen up a little and was redder than before.
“You know that can eat away your skin,” my friend helpfully offered. “You can actually get holes in your skin.”
Delightful. Cue panic.
Apparently, I’d have to squeeze out the poison if I wanted any hope of keeping my skin intact.
So I did. Or at least, I squeezed until a white pus oozed out and then it was just blood. And then because it helped me refrain from thinking about what might happen if the poison wasn’t really all gone and did start eating away at my skin, I thought about how relationships–all kinds, romantic and otherwise–can be like spider bites.
You may experience a minor setback and think you’ve worked through it, talked it over, whatever it takes. You keep going on with your life, oblivious to the fact that the poison has worked its way into your system, until one day it’s revealed to you that there is something truly wrong. You have no choice but to squeeze out the poison and hope it works. But what if the poison’s been in there for too long? What if you didn’t catch it soon enough? What if the scar you leave from squeezing out the poison is worse than the bump the poison left in the first place? Would you have been better off never realizing anything was wrong? Or is it better to try your best to get the poison out, even if it’s ultimately useless?
I know my answer–obviously I’m a squeezer. I’m a squeezer, and a picker, and a do-whatever-it-takes-to-get-everything-out-in-the-open kind of person. Sometimes it gets me into trouble, but usually I think it’s the more authentic way to live. At least by squeezing, you’re not ignoring the problem. At least you’re trying to do something, even if it’s too little, even if it’s too late.
I’ll let you know if I change my mind once this wound has a chance to either heal itself or rip off my skin.