Shadow beliefs and giant centipedes

One of the neighbor girls was here the other day. As soon as she walked in the door, I could tell that something was wrong. She sat anxiously on the edge of the couch for a while, half-heartedly playing with the kids, her mind elsewhere.

Finally, she said what she had obviously been waiting to say: “Miss Jennifer, can I talk to you about something?”

“Sure,” I said. I was more than happy to offer her soothing words of comfort and wisdom for whatever it was that troubled her.

“Well…you see…” she struggled to find the right words. “I woke up at five o’clock in the morning with a huge centipede crawling on my face. I’m still freaked out about it.”

I pondered her words for a moment. Then I replied, “A WHAT??? A CENTIPEDE??!?!? ONE OF THOSE MASSIVE BLACK ONES WITH A RED HEAD? IT WAS ON YOUR FACE? YOUR FACE?!?!? IT’S GOING TO GET YOU AGAIN AND I’LL BE NEXT AND OH MY GOSH WE ALL HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW!!!!!!!!!”

Lest you think I was overreacting, let me show you a picture of what she was talking about. I took this shot with my cell phone camera after Yaya called to tell me that she found “a scary centipede” in her yard.

7qt218 centipepe Shadow beliefs and giant centipedes

Yaya has been known to stomp big, hairy spiders when she’s not wearing shoes, crush wasps with her bare hands, and absent-mindedly knock down yellowjacket nests and then just stand there. When Yaya describes a bug as “scary,” it’s time for people like me to grab a hazmat suit and a blowtorch.

The Dallas zoo calls these things “fast moving and aggressive titans.” They are poisonous, their venom is extremely painful, and they can sting with with their legs JUST BY CRAWLING ON YOU.

And my teenage neighbor had one all over her face.

While she slept.

When I stopped screaming to hyperventilate, she told me the rest of the horrifying details: when she brushed the centipede off her face it began racing down her body. She could feel it, but couldn’t see it well in the dark. She jumped up and turned on the light, and finally managed to get it off of her. She got one glimpse of it before it slithered into a pile of junk under her bed. She was not able to find it again.

“I’m so stressed that it’s going to come back, and what happened to my mom will happen to me,” she said.

And that was my cue to change the subject. If I had any care for my own sanity, I would have assumed that whatever happened to her mom was something lovely and immediately changed the subject by asking her if kids are still into Justin Bieber these days. Instead, I spoke the words that guaranteed that I would never get a good night’s sleep again so long as I live in this house: “What happened to your mom?”

Her answer was worse than I could have imagined. “She had a scorpion sting her while she was sleeping. But it got caught in her hair, and she couldn’t get it out.”

Of all the “poisonous bugs attacking me in my sleep” scenarios I have so carefully thought out, never had it occurred to me that one could get caught in my hair. My hair. While I was making a mental note to start a Cute Buzz Cuts hairstyle board on Pinterest, my neighbor friend continued:

“How am I ever going to be able to sleep in my room again?” she asked.

“You can’t,” I said wisely. “I know that arson is technically illegal, but I think your insurance company might be sympathetic if you explained that you just have to burn down your house and start over.” (I added a caveat that she should first run it by her mom, who would undoubtedly agree that it’s the only solution.)

When Joe got home that evening, I breathlessly recounted the story to him. I even told him about the part where our young neighbor’s mother began tearing out her hair and clawing at her own eyes as she became frantic with terror when the scorpion kept attacking her and all her efforts to stop it only embedded it more deeply in her hair (I was not told that part of the story, but obviously it must have happened).

I waited for Joe to duck and cover and start shouting “Don’t let the bad bugs hurt me!” But instead he rolled his eyes.

“I’m sorry. I guess you didn’t hear me,” I said. I raised my voice and spoke more clearly as I reiterated the facts: “I am talking about scorpions and hideous centipedes. Attacking people. While they sleep. People who live five houses down from us.”

“Whatever. If a centipede stung me I’d just kill it and be done with it. I wouldn’t do all this blah-blah-blah talking about it.”

“The point of talking about it is to process it.”

“I’d process it by killing it.”

“I assure you that you would have at least a few things to say about it if it ever happened to you.”

“That’s moot, because it won’t happen to me. I am never going to get stung in bed by a centipede, a scorpion, or anything else.”

I gasped. I glanced around the room in horror, half expecting to see a giant centipede crawling on the ceiling above me, called down by Joe’s fate-tempting words. “You can’t say that!” I screeched. “Now we’re definitely going to be attacked by centipedes and scorpions! Lots of them! Probably tonight!”

Joe gave me a look that seemed to indicate that he’d just reached his daily quota for listening to crazy talk, and he left to change out of his suit. I, however, was not done with the subject. Nay, I had not even begun obsessing about it.

That night, at approximately 1:14 AM, I found myself having a delirious internal debate about whether the centipede that was about to attack me would get into the bed by creeping up the bedpost, falling from the ceiling, or crawling up the part of the comforter that touched the floor. I think it was around 1:48 that it hit me:

I really believe this. On some level — not the conscious part of my brain, but a deep level that has plenty of sway over my actions nonetheless — I accept it as a truth about the world that Joe is able to control the local bug population through his words.

In my defense, I see how I could develop this view. There was the time that I wrote a blog post saying that we hadn’t seen a scorpion in months, and only minutes later my son got stung in the face while he was sitting on the couch. Then there was the time we had one of our priests, Fr. Jonathan Raia, over for dinner. He was asking me if we’d seen any of our favorite arachnids lately, and while he spoke a large scorpion appeared on the floor, crawling directly toward us.

fr jonathan scorpion Shadow beliefs and giant centipedes

So my superstitions about small stinging things are understandable. But it got me thinking about all the other types of similar “truths” I have tucked away in my mind. I’ve come to think of them as “shadow truths”: ideas that I would not assent to if we were to sit down and have an open conversation about them, but that I treat as true in my daily life. And it’s surprising how often they impact my actions.

(Surprise! This post actually does have a point other than whining about the fact that I live in an environment inhospitable to human life.)

It is amazing how frequently I act like something is true that I do not actually think is true. All of the following thoughts have crossed my mind in recent days:

  • “I can’t tell my friend about that idea exciting idea I have for my next book, because if I speak of it it won’t work out.”
  • “The last two times I put the baby in the blue pajamas he woke up at night, so they are obviously cursed and should never be worn again.”
  • “We had a great week last week, so now I’ve spent all my cosmic goodness and we can’t have a good week again this week.”
  • “The last few times I checked our bank balance from my tablet the number was really bad, so I shouldn’t check my bank balance from my tablet anymore.”
  • “If I check my email too often, that important reply I’m waiting for won’t come in.”

I mean, if you were to sit me down and say, “Jen, do you believe that you can control when another person replies to an email by the number of times you hit Refresh on your Gmail account in a day?” I would laugh and say no. On an intellectual level, I know that that is false.

But there is a part of me that believes, and believes very strongly, that this is true.

It’s interesting to note that these superstitions crop up most powerfully in the areas where I have the most attachments: my writing, sleep, money, not being stung in the face by gigantic centipedes in the middle of the night. These are the parts of my life that I am least willing to turn over to God, because I have a white-knuckle attachment to them turning out a certain way. In a way, it’s oddly comforting to think that Joe can call centipedes into our house with mere words — because that means that by not speaking the words, he has the power to keep them out.

So one of the things I’ve been working on lately is dragging all of these shadow beliefs out of the recesses of my mind, examining them in the light, and making the conscious choice to reject the ones that are false. What I’ve found is that, more than anything, it’s a process of letting go of control. It’s a process of accepting that I am me and God is God and, given those circumstances, it’s really for the best that I am not actually running the show. It’s a process of relaxing and not wanting to force my will on the outcome of everything all the time. And, in that sense, it’s ultimately a process of becoming free.

(But I am still going to scream and plug my ears next time Joe says we’ll never be stung at night by centipedes. Just in case.)
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77 Responses to “Shadow beliefs and giant centipedes”
  1. Kyra says:

    This is why I am never, never moving to Texas. Ever. I can’t handle our small innocuous house centipedes- I would die in proximity to one of those suckers. Of melodrama and hysterics.

    I’m staying up north where the bugs don’t get as big.

  2. Sue says:

    My daughter was stung by a centipede just like that this past summer (or, possibly the Japanese version of it) -thankfully on the foot, not the face. She couldn’t walk for a week, because it was so painful and swollen. It took forever to heal, and finally the second doctor I took her to see ended up digging some… parts out of the wound, and then it did slowly get better. I know that’s probably not very comforting, but all that is to say I can totally understand your feelings of horror about centipedes!
    Sue recently posted..Cosmos

  3. Camille says:

    Please tell me you called an exterminator. That would be my first call. All spare pennies would be redirected to that cause. Food? We can eat less. Or just Ramen noodles. Whatever. The centipede cannot be found in the house.
    Camille recently posted..Seven Quick Takes (Vol. 32)

  4. Thia says:

    I must agree with the first poster. Bugs is a hugs mental roadblock to moving down south. 9 months of snow and no sun? Fine. Feet of snow at a time? Fine. Creepy crawly poisonous bugs….heck no I won’t go.

  5. TheresaEH says:

    9 months of snow and cold verses killer bugs, gee let me think!

    • Kyra says:

      Well, I live in Toronto, so realistically we get… four months of snow and cold. Mostly. Makes it an even better deal. I have occasionally thought of moving further north to get away from the bugs we do have, but now I am content with our small centipdes and unscary ants and things.

      • Olivia says:

        I live in Prince Edward Island where 6 months of winter sounds about right. Maybe even nine – and I will take that over poisonous creepy-crawlies ANY day. Our most dangerous critter is a drunk driver. Other than that, we truly are “the gentle island”. I am such a raving coward that I would take a blizzard or a hurricane over poisonous spiders, scorpions or centipedes any day. I guess it’s all what you are used to.

  6. Oh my!

    And I thought the bat crawling on my husbands head while we slept was bad!

    Eeekk!
    Julie @ Connecticut Catholic Corner recently posted..The Pope Francis Problem

    • sara mcd says:

      You probably already know this, but if you ever wake with a bat in your room, it is recommended to be treated for rabies even if you find no evidence of a bite. Totally freaks me out.
      sara mcd recently posted..It’s a rock. I think.

      • the other Becky says:

        Unfortunately, I recently found out that although for many years this was not the case, the current treatment for rabies is from a culture derived from embryonic cells. As in, as baby that was alive until the scientists dismembered it. So, even though I have several risk factors for exposure to rabies, I decided that if they can’t find some of the old stuff I will just have to take my chances on developing rabies.

    • Umm…seriously? Bat on your husband’s HEAD? That’s pretty bad. I think that might beat centipedes.

  7. Seana says:

    Hey, I totally get your “shadow truths”! When I was younger I nearly lived by them! Even still, when my husband or family is late and not answering a phone I start thinking horrible things happened because if I think it then it wont happen because it wouldn’t be a surprise and I’d like know the future or something like that! Ha! Reading your blog as given me great peace about living in NH despite the long winters…bugs are much less big and bad!

  8. Amelia says:

    I love your post about shadow beliefs and superstitions. I do the same thing.

    A big one of mine has to do with pregnancy and miscarriage. With my second pregnancy, we told everyone right away…I mean even announced it in our Christmas letter. Then, sadly, I had a miscarriage a few weeks later. I went on to have 3 more healthy babies (and no miscarriages) and with each one, we didn’t tell anyone I was pregnant until after we heard the heartbeat on the doppler (so around 12 weeks). Even though it is just plain ridiculous, for some reason in my superstitious mind I feel like m/c is related to telling people too soon.

    My other “shadow truths” also revolve around telling people things. For example, my husband once had a job offer rescinded on him (it was a dark, depressing time), but we told everyone the offer right away and then they took it away, so with his new job, I refused to tell anyone until after it was a “done deal.”
    Amelia recently posted..Blog in A Blink

  9. Amy says:

    Ew. That poor girl. Ew. Ew.

    I really enjoyed this post (because I live in the North Country where the worst stinging bug thing we have is a wasp). But more because of the reminder to stop trying to control everything so much. I really need to work on that one :)
    Amy recently posted..Louisville – A Little Walk Down Memory Lane

  10. Amy B says:

    This is exactly why I have no regrets moving from Arkansas to New York. Jennifer- the spiders up here are smaller, I’ve YET to see any scorpions, and snakes? Have seen a tiny DEAD garden snake in the street one time….But in all seriousness, you are spot on with how we think- my sixth child will sleep through the night, ONLY if I use the pink, fleece sheet….

    It’s the gospel truth…
    Thank you for your wit and truthfulness! It’s a breath of fresh air!!

  11. Clearly, I am not man enough to live in Texas. And yes, you will have a centipede in your bed very soon thanks to your husband’s bravado!

  12. Molly R says:

    I think there might be something to the pajama thing, because I’ve had the same experience. Maybe it’s not so much superstition as those pjs aren’t as comfortable? Anyway, I don’t envy you the bugs. You’re a brave woman to live in Texas!

  13. Melissa says:

    For the love of all humanity, please tell us what area of Austin you live in so that the rest of us don’t go near the land of the scorpions and centipedes!!

  14. MrsDarwin says:

    Pish. Joe doesn’t have any hair. Of course a scorpion won’t get caught on his head. I give you permission to keep worrying about this.

    Also, move east of I-35, where there are only huge roaches that sometimes fly. West of I-35: scorpions, centipedes; east of I-35: huge flying roaches. At least the roaches don’t add stinging and biting to being agonizingly ugly.
    MrsDarwin recently posted..Basically Good People: The Great Modern Heresy

  15. Veronica says:

    When, when, when will I learn not to read your blog while drinking my morning coffee??? Of course, I was so entranced by the retelling of your young neighbor’s story that even though I literally had my hand over my mouth so that I wouldn’t spit my coffee out, I HAD to keep reading while shaking too hard from laughter to actually swallow. Thanks again for a terrific laugh. Again!

  16. It is a known fact that if you think about scorpions, they appear. We go months without seeing one and then I think, “Wow, haven’t seen any (blank) recently” and one crawls across my foot. It is freaky. So you must never speak of them and try never to think of them either.

    The centipedes are more rare. It’s unlikely you will have one in your bedroom on your face. Really.
    Dreena Tischler recently posted..Musings on Mercy

  17. Amanda S says:

    Thank you for this post. I have too many shadow truths I have been living by for way too long. Mostly revolving around my health or the health and safety of my loved ones. Like a previous commenter said I also start thinking and worrying about horrible things happening because, somehow, if I can think or worry about every possible scary thing then somehow I will have control of them. That’s crazy! I want so badly to be free of these lies. I struggle daily but your post has put this issue into a new perspective for me.
    Amanda S recently posted..Salmon patties my kids actually liked, or: save your kid’s bread crusts

  18. Melody says:

    Beautiful. Thank you. Not for the thoughts of scorpions and such (although I see that they were necessary)… the other part.

  19. Katrina says:

    This post was very needed this morning. I am struggling to let go of my own “truths”, but with each one that I shed I feel like a new person. The control they have had over my priorities is ridiculous!

    You know, perhaps giant bugs was the only way God had for you to make the connection?

    Oh, and I just noticed your footer comment about Joe! Ha!
    Katrina recently posted..Quick Fix – Make your bed!

  20. Whenever I kill a bug I always leave the body where it is for a while for two reasons:

    1: Need adequate time to make sure it’s REALLY dead
    2: To send a stern message to other bugs about what will happen to them if they come inside our house.
    Adam Introvert recently posted..7 Quick Takes Friday – Vol. 41

  21. Nella says:

    I live in Buffalo and hear comments from people all the time: “Ohh the snow! Oh the cold!”. But I’d rather put on a sweater and watch my husband run the snowblower than deal with the constant threat of insect doom. You’re totally right about shadow beliefs, but in your defense…YOURS ARE LITERALLY LURKING IN THE SHADOWS WAITING TO ATTACK YOU AND MEMBERS OF THE CLERGY!!!!!!!
    Nella recently posted..You. GUYS!!!!!

  22. Jennifer H says:

    My family is planning to move to Texas from the Midwest next year and this is the ONE thing that I’m nervous about. We don’t have a ton of bugs here, but really, I think it’s worth it for everything good about Texas (and my husband is rejoicing at the idea of no 4-6 months of snow and cold). And I have friends who live there and grew up there, so I’m consoled by the fact that they aren’t dead and some of them have not been stung yet! So, that’s my consolation. That and the fact that, as a child, I lived in other southern states that had big stinging bugs as well and survived, so I’m hoping too that we will survive again. ;)

  23. Laura says:

    Thank you for this story as it gives me even more of a resolve not to join the rest of the country in moving to Texas. Sorry, can’t do it. As to the other point of your post, I can totally relate to your way of thinking. I, too, am very guilty of thinking that way and boy is it hard to change!
    Laura recently posted..Saturday Night Fun

  24. M Hearn says:

    At least your children will grow up with no fear of bugs! I spent my youth in Africa, and played outside where deadly green mambas lurked. we were told not to play in the mud because these creepy worms laid their eggs under your skin, would hatch and grow up your arm like a red vein (happened to a friend of mine,). To this day I can’t believe my mom gave us so much freedom. Believe it or not, we kids just thought the critters were exciting and fun, not scary. Your kids will just yawns and say, “scorpions, yeah, whatever.”

  25. kpicou says:

    have you ever considered sleeping in a mosquito net?

  26. sara mcd says:

    Maybe you should have been a baseball player; they’re a pretty superstitious lot.

    Also, I think Texas is probably akin to the Garden of Eden and you just tell these horror stories to keep the tourists out.

    I have these little lies running round my head too. Things having to do with not believing in God’s goodness. Like, don’t pray for virtue because He’ll send some horrible trial in answer to your prayer. It’s the Christian’s version of “be careful what you wish for.” As if He wouldn’t also send the grace to handle it. Of course, I know that His grace is enough for me, and that
    His strength is made perfect in my weakness, but I’m a fraidy cat.
    sara mcd recently posted..It’s a rock. I think.

  27. LeAnna says:

    My husband once woke up with a house centipede on his face when we lived in Toronto, so that’s where my mind was going when I read this. Then I saw the picture, and it made the centipede thing ten million times worse. I like the lack of deadly bugs in England. it’s one of the plusses of moving here.

    As for Shadow Beliefs, that is exactly what I needed to read today. It’s like God hit me over the head with a big stick and said ‘THIS’, which is better than my anxiety-attack state of yesterday. Sometimes the shadow beliefs can lurk so big and overwhelming, probably because they are cloaked in shadow and don’t appear as what they really are when we examine them critically.
    LeAnna recently posted..Menu Plan Monday: 7/10 – 13/10

  28. Uh…I think you are making a good point in that post, Jennifer, but I am TOTALLY FREAKED OUT BY THE STINGING INSECTS AND I CAN’T PROCESS THE REST OF IT! MOVE! MOVE AWAY NOW!

  29. My sister in-law and her family lives in Austin. She would absolutely love it if my husband, kids and I packed up our worldly belongings and moved there as well. She has never once mentioned scorpions or centipedes….and now I know why. She is very much aware that the mere mention of the word “scorpion” or “centipede” is enough to make me run screaming into the night. I think Austin is a fantastic city with a lot to offer, but creatures with far too many legs and something that can sting me and get caught in my hair in the middle of the night are reason enough to make me move to a place like upstate New York.
    Marisa@Mia Cucina, Mia Famiglia, Mia Vita recently posted..What We Wore Sunday

    • LPatter says:

      You are so right! As a native Upstate-er (Schenectady County), I have to say – I thought my region was pretty boring, save fall foliage and SPAC (performing arts center) concerts, growing up – until I left for college and became more acquainted with other regions of the world/country. I soon realized:

      -we have 4 beautiful distinct (and fairly moderate, depending on your definition of a moderate winter – we’re too far for lake-effect snow)

      -we have little to no chance of any horrific natural disasters, at least no propensity for hurricanes, earthquakes, or tornadoes

      and last, and most importantly NOT least:

      -we do NOT HAVE DISCUSTING BUGS!!!!!

      As a grown up I see so much more appeal in the Capital Region of NY than I ever did – I got my big-city cravings filled in my 20s and hope to be back in that area in the near future. :) It’s close to multiple major cities, all of New England, Canada, sports teams, museums, etc, but holds plenty of natural beauty and rural landscapes (along with 2-3 great sets of mountains in close proximity) for the days you want to feel disconnected from the culture and one with nature :)

  30. coco says:

    I love your blog! You are so funny! I wish I had had access to it while I was raising two sons but I guess I am experiencing ex post facto healing! Once I found maggots, MAGGOTS, in my van. That’s the worst I think….

  31. Jeni says:

    Ok #1 That just completely confirms that there’s no way I could ever live in Texas. Great prolife laws–but still.

    #2 Although, a GIANT sinkhole just opened up in my subdivision last month and then another one at a local park, so really, maybe Florida is not for me either.

    #3 Your husband’s conversation with you is just like my husband’s conversations with me. Like identical! Apathetic yet patronizing. I am not a crazy person. He is a crazy person for not reacting reasonably. Clearly.

    #4 I am EXACTLY like you with the superstitions!!! But I really don’t think they are superstitions. When my husband said–”a sinkhole is NOT going to eat our house!” I was all like, “Don’t say that! A sinkhole IS going to eat our house–NOW!” Course we haven’t had a sinkhole eat *this* house just yet but ya know, if you don’t hear from me in a really long time, it’s safe to say it’s my husband’s big mouth’s fault. And really, could there be something to these “superstitions” more than coincidence?

    #5 Yes arson is completely legit for dealing with violent alien attacks which is clearly what your friend is facing. So yes. Torch ‘em. Torch it all.

    #6 in. your. hair. #nightmares

    #7 Yes, I realize hashtags don’t work on blog comboxes.

    #8 But still.

    #9 8 was just a random number to stop at I felt like I should make it to 10.

    #10 I have no idea why I numbered this comment in the first place. Have a blessed day Jennifer and thank you for today’s bug story. Cracked me up (simultaneously terrifying me).
    Jeni recently posted..Feast of the Guardian Angels: A Reflection

  32. Jesabes says:

    That settles it. I’m never, ever even visiting Texas again. The fact those centipedes even EXIST is scary enough.

  33. Kathy Allen says:

    And people say we are nuts for living in northern California which has earthquakes, but hardly any bugs. I would so be sleeping with my hair wrapped skin tight in a scarf!

  34. LPatter says:

    Jen, I was just thinking about what you call “shadow beliefs” recently. I was thinking about them more in terms of the faith, the integration thereof, particularly in terms of mercy, other people’s opinions of us, trust, etc – in regard to my own as well as others’. It’s amazing how an analysis of certain reactions to day to day events, discomforts, gut feelings, etc, can reveal so much more below the surface in us, so much room to grow – and it made me realize how (a la Socrates “unexamined life”) life really calls us to continually *engage* and reflect, grow, change, process, etc – I keep thinking (shadow belief alert!!!) that at some point we “arrive” – but not so! Only when we meet Truth face to face.

  35. Emily B says:

    Jen,
    You must read UNBOUND by Neal Lozano or go to one of his conferences. We all have lies that we have accepted as truths (some of them much bigger than the ones you mention) that can really hold us in bondage. My diocese has held an UNBOUND:Freedom in Christ conference for the past two summers and they were phenominal! Historically, deliverance prayer has been a little scary but this model is not!

    Just to give you a small example, I am overweight. For the past 3 years my weight has been affecting my health but I just felt powerless to do anything about it. I’d start a diet and fail…the cycle continued. 5 weeks ago, following the UNBOUND model, I renounced that lie “that I can’t do it”. I renounced the lie “that food is comfort(ultimately it’s not)”. I renounced any unholy ties with food. I also apologized to God for making food a false idol and turning to it instead of HIM.
    I have since lost 14 lbs and I have not even been trying that hard. The other day I looked at some chocolate covered almonds and thought, “hm, those would taste good, but almonds usually upset my stomach so I think I’ll pass.” Previously I would have stuffed the nuts in my mouth because they had chocolate on them and stayed close to the bathroom for the entire afternoon. I now have the freedom to choose what I eat rationally! Please check out the book or his website.
    http://www.heartofthefather.com/
    Emily B recently posted..I’m Alone

  36. Jessica says:

    This is something I often think about–how Christians will claim not to be superstitious, but many of us struggle with these sorts of superstitions. I think part of the problem is that so often we do see that God likes to prove us wrong (in both happy and difficult ways), and so by making a confident claim, we’re just asking for him to teach us a lesson and make the opposite situation happen. Pride comes before a fall and all of that. I find myself resisting the words “never” and “always” if only to fight off the possibility of being wrong. I would like to be free from these fears, but I have this sense that I need to keep myself in check and prepared. It’s hard to separate the truth and freedom from what feels like a responsible way to think/live, somehow.

    • Camilla says:

      You sum it up perfectly. It is a constant back and forth in my mind…dismissing these “rules” as superstitions, but many times having these “mystical” rules actually come true. Who is the source of them…I honestly can’t tell. That is what makes it so exhausting.

  37. Camilla says:

    Jennifer – Please, visit the topic again. Your post has been a blessing to me.

    I have a question for you – Did you have these “superstitions” when you were still an atheist? Or did they spring up once you were Catholic? I ask only because I remember having inklings of them in my youth before my reversion(like whenever I wrote the date on a certain side of the paper for a school essay I would get a better grade), but they became a lot stronger in recent years and I can’t tell if there is a spiritual connection or if I just have more underlying anxieties in this world as an adult.

    • Great question. I was thinking that I might do a separate post about that topic, because there’s so much there. But the short answer is that I did have these little “shadow truths” lurking in my mind when I was an atheist, though I would have never admitted it. I think I actually had more of them back then, since I had so little peace in so many areas of life.

      Thanks for a thought provoking question!

      • C says:

        Isn’t is weird how a fear of jinxes, and the superstitious phenomenons of our minds, seem present in all cultures and times of history? I mean…is it all in our heads…just some antiquated survival instinct of making associations that just translates to neurosis in modern life? OR is it a real thing…some natural cosmic law as part of the new reality after the fall. Sure, we are redeemed by Him now…but we still get hurt or sick…so maybe even if we love Jesus, this invisible current of *jinxed* thoughts and objects is yet another reality we must be subject to during our time on earth. Make sense?

  38. emily q-f says:

    So needed this. Thank you!
    emily q-f recently posted..All the Information for Me

  39. Cari says:

    Are you SURE you’re an INTP? Because I live with an INTP, and his reaction to horrifying creatures whose sole purpose for existence is to lurk in waiting to harm us sounds WAAAAY more like Joe’s than yours.

    In fact, YOUR reaction sounds an awful lot like a certain terrified-of-fisher cats- ENFP woman I know….

    (it’s ok. You can come out as an ENFP. We’ll still love you)

  40. Julie says:

    Please move away from that terrifying place and come to live by me here in California. I am pretty sure we would be best friends because you would make me laugh all the time. And it’s not scary here because I control the earthquakes by not having a survival kit prepared. ;D

  41. Your husband used the word “moot” in ordinary conversation. He is SUCH a lawyer.

    Signed
    Notre Dame Law School class of 2001 :)

  42. Kira says:

    We are waiting to hear the decision on the annulment of my husband’s first marriage any day now. It’s been “any day now” for two months, after being in process for two years. Every day when I walk to the mailbox, I tell myself that if I feel any hope, it won’t be there. Don’t hope, just walk.
    It doesn’t matter that I know that the letter is just a part of a whole process that has nothing to do with me or my feelings. I know that the truth goes even further than that, that the state of that first marriage is not changed by what the tribunal has to say, it is only illuminated. Somehow, I’ve come to believe that my own unruly heart is what’s causing this block, even though I can’t explain why God would want to punish me for wanting so badly to come home.
    Shadow beliefs. Thanks for writing this.
    Kira recently posted..A Symphony of Fail, or Checkmate

  43. Nicole says:

    OMG, I have not laughed that hysterically in so long, I mean I can’t breathe laughing for way too long. Not that I was laughing at you or your neighbor Jen, but I was so freaked out by the visuals and in complete agreement with your phobia that I went into a nervous, hysterical fit of laughter. I hope that doesn’t mean that I’ll wake up with something crawling on me tonight. You know how that goes right!!
    I remember vacationing years ago in the Caribbean and waking up with one of those mega roaches crawling on me, I went crazy, almost killed myself trying to get out of the bed. For weeks I could not get rid of that crawling sensation. Please invest in a monthly contract w/ the BEST exterminator in the area!!! Sweet dreams!!!! I love your writings.

  44. I think there might be more truth to the shadow truths than you think, but in the opposite way you were thinking.

    Here is the point that I was waiting for you to get to in your post… what your husband says over your house is part of his role of having authority over his home and family, and God honours it! Genesis 2, Matthew 16:19 and 18:18 gave him the idea, soon after reading “Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To”, so he prayed that we wouldn’t be bothered by mosquitos at our home (I especially hate them buzzing around in the dark when I’m trying to sleep).

    So, he prayed, and the mosquitos didn’t disappear altogether (although they were much fewer). They didn’t just drop dead when he looked at them either (we were kind of hoping for that). BUT they don’t bother us in the dark, and they are MUCH easier to kill. They will land on the wall or sofa right next to us, and sit there while we smush them. Totally didn’t happen before. We have 12′ ceilings, and they used to be very good at evading us, but the few that make it as far as to bother us seem to just give up now.

    The other day at church a woman mentioned that the mosquitos are particularly bad this year. “Really??!” I thought. They have become a complete non-issue for me.

    Relatedly, my husband has also prayed that if there are cockroaches in our home, that he would see them but I would not. I have seen only one since then – my husband has taken care of any others (easily, these days, as opposed to the former furniture-moving battles) without me noticing. When the exterminator comes, my husband phones in to tell him any sightings, because I’m not bothered with any of that any more.

    Our faith has increased through this experiment!
    Elisa | blissfulE recently posted..a new website is coming soon

  45. So, I open my Feedly for the first time in 3 weeks and there are not one– not two– but three (3!) blog posts featuring centipedes! I am traumatized for life. I have such a phobia of them that I have only recently been able to say or write the word, so seeing three pics (one of a crochet creature, the other made of sushi and then yours) ugh, my heart is still beating! I thought the ones we had in Wisconsin were bad… At 2-3 inches! Hot Damn, I am never coming to TX because I’d end up with one of those beasts ready for a tete-a-tete. (See how I worked that all in?) At least the 2 that I have seen here in So Cal have been itty bitty!

    Now I need to go back and read the end of your post to really digest what you were saying.
    Karianna @caffdcatholicma recently posted..{Virtual} Coffee Date- Vol. 17

  46. Cheryl says:

    I had a similar experience before I was married with a “revealing” of a lie I was being bound by, related to what you say here: “We had a great week last week, so now I’ve spent all my cosmic goodness and we can’t have a good week again this week.”
    I was driving in a devastating car accident that left a friend handicapped for life, and afterward, I found myself saying, more than once, “I just knew my life was going too well!” When I was working through the whole thing with a Christian counselor, she helped me to see the lie in this, that it comes from a ying and yang sort of belief, that the good in the world has to be balanced out by evil. This is NOT biblical. So good and freeing and comforting to know that God is ONLY and ALWAYS good. (Proverbs 10:22) And I think this is a very subtle lie that we too easily believe. Thanks for bringing these things out in the open!!

  47. There is a REASON women used to bundle their hair into nightcaps before their evening slumber.

    Also, read The Flame Trees of Thika. The author describes how she and her parents (colonists in Africa) had to place the four feet of the bed frame in wide metal cans full of water. That prevented the horrid ants they had there from climbing onto their beds and eating out their eyeballs while they slept. No joke.

    So…cans of water? Plus mosquito netting draped over the bed? That is TOTALLY what I would do if I lived in Texas. You’re welcome.
    suburbancorrespondent recently posted..A Cry For Help

  48. Susan says:

    There might be something wrong with my sense of empathy, but that post made me laugh so darned hard that I couldn’t catch my breath or stop crying. Possibly because I don’t live in an area known for big yucky bugs (and can safely laugh at your distress) and also because I had an rough morning and needed the emotional release. But really I do sympathize with you and your young neighbor (I was terrified of spiders when I was young.) The post would have been complete even without the message about shadow beliefs, but you were right on about that. I guess that a writer who can combine hilarious with deep and insightful is pretty special. Thanks!

  49. I am never moving to Texas never never not ever.

    Side note:
    I love that this friendship has lasted YEARS. Can you do an update about the girls sometime?
    Emily Goldberg recently posted..lost in the right direction.

  50. big bugs??? scorpions?????? thanks for the nightmare ;)
    priest’s wife (@byzcathwife) recently posted..The Byzantine Catholic Inferiority Complex

  51. Having read of your fears of scorpions for some time, as soon as I read the words of your teenage neighbor friend, I was slapping my knee and horse laughing. And when she told you about her poor mother, I was laughing tears. OF COURSE you’d be hearing this story. I’m so sorry for the neighbor- that is something that’d haunt me probably for the rest of my life. But the way you’ve told the story is hilarious.

  52. You’re really makin’ me want to come to Austin.
    Karen Edmisten recently posted..Poetry Friday: This Moment

  53. Gina says:

    This is SO me. (Without the centipedes.) I confess I’ve actually had the thought, “Well, the last situation I prayed for turned out badly, so I’d better not pray for this one or I’ll jinx it.” How sad is that?? Thanks, Jen, for the reminder that shadow truths are NOT true!
    Gina recently posted..Dickens memorabilia at Harvard

  54. Tell your neighbor about “Harry the poisonous centipede”. A wonderful book series about Harry’s adventureS. I still don’t like bugs, but thinking about being a hoomin makes me laugh & slightly less inclined towards screeching

  55. Cally says:

    Try getting a bednet – I live in Ghana, and we’re supposed to use them so you don’t get bitten by mosquitos and get malaria and stuff, but what really got me to go find the hammer and nails and someone tall enough to set it up was a friend pointing out that if you tuck it under the mattress it will /also/ stop scorpions, cockroaches, mice and other crawlies-and-flyies. In the states, you can sometimes find them in outdoor/camping stores, or online. Plus it’s like a princess canopy!

  56. Anne says:

    Wait a minute. You lost me at your baby sleeps through the night. Mine is almost a year old and still gets up 4 or 5 times. Then again, it must be the crib sheets. She only sleeps well when the pink ones are on. :)

  57. This is a fabulous post. I won’t be sleeping tonight, however, so I’m going to need you to stay awake and chat with me on Facebook. You owe me.