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A Spider and a Hammock

From Lover, Mother, Seeker, Sage.

I lie in a hammock on the shores of the Mediterranean, far from home. I slide seamlessly between reading, resting, taking in the magnificent view, and holding back the flood of tears that threatens to drown me.

A scary, hairy, brown-striped spider descends from the olive tree above me. I freeze, then become absorbed in its movements. I study the spider’s trajectory and realize it could easily land on the hammock, which would bring me even greater discontent. The spider is close enough to the outside edge of the hammock that it could also bypass my perch altogether, making it to the ground where both of us will be much happier.

As I edge my body away from the furry creature, I notice that the hammock is actually rising up on the side closest to the spider. This is very troubling.

It dawns on me that in order to move the strings of the hammock away from the spider, I have to roll my body toward the creature, adding the extra weight that drops the side of the hammock down. I move slowly, never letting the spider out of my focus, watching for any shift in its direction. I roll, and watch, and wait.

I am in the midst of heartbreak, having come a long way for a romantic getaway. Upon my arrival, I am informed of my lover-to-be’s (newfound) lack of desire for me. Now I await the opportunity to get out, get home. Our location is so remote that it takes a series of arrangements to change my ten-day adventure to a four-day tragedy.

Although the relationship was embryonic, I still feel the sting of rejection like a hot sword through my chest. I had taken a chance embarking on this fanciful journey with a man I hardly knew. My heart said yes while my mind said no. Or maybe it was the other way around? It’s so confusing now.

Yet, I recognize the pattern from my recent past, one heartbreak after another. Leap and fall, or hesitate and regret. No middle ground, no fulfillment, no love.

I was not able to watch our own movements so closely that I understood the direction that he (or I) was taking, lost in my own fantastical projections. I could not figure out whether to move toward or away, for my best self-keeping. I barely saw him, too absorbed by the idea of him. So I allowed, maybe even invited in, this pain. Reason should have shown me which way to roll, to move my body, to avoid harm. I laughed at reason and embraced impulse, to my own detriment.

With my focus fixed and steady, the spider slides past me, landing easily on a nearby shrub, neither of us harmed. I lie in the hammock, putting together my broken thoughts and my broken heart into a theory about my part in the universe around me. I am strengthened by another test of my resilience, fortitude and commitment to a life fully lived. I choose this moment, in all of its painful perfection, and I pray not to have to learn this lesson again.

This essay is part of the upcoming compilation — Lover, Mother, Seeker, Sage by Pascale Kavanagh.

I’ve drawn my inspiration from the many flavors of my life experience. Once a sad, shy girl, I’ve also been an MIT-educated engineer, biotech executive, professional dancer, yoga teacher and business owner, school founder, spiritual counselor, and entrepreneur.

These days, my favorite titles are author, mother, and hot stuff.

And I own a magic wand that I’m certain will work one day.