Something really cool just happened to me. I was on a walk this morning and I happened upon a rattlesnake. I kind of knew I’d see a rattlesnake because I’d dreamed about rattlesnakes last night, but I wasn’t terrified enough to stay home.
So I took my walk and I’m coming around a corner when a woman yells, “Snake!” I look and I see this pretty nice-sized rattlesnake just spread across the path. It’s a beautiful sunny day out and its just soaking up the sun – like so many of us here in Boise will try to do sometime today.
I realized at that moment that I had an opportunity. And like so often opportunities are, there is part of it that is terrifying and part of it that is exciting. If you know me well, you know I’m pretty terrified of snakes. I could totally give into that and just get out of there and head home back the way I came.
But the exciting part is that it’s a rattlesnake! They’re pretty magnificent-looking and I’ve hardly ever seen them in real life. And also, there is a woman there who is throwing rocks and stones at it to startle it off the path. I’m curious about how the snake is going to feel about that and what it’s going to do.
So I decide that in spite of the fear and the terrifying part, I’m going to hang out and watch what happens with this snake. So I get closer. Eventually, the snake starts to coil but then decides it’s going to head out and go back into this hole on the side of the path.
Now the snake is gone.
And I have another opportunity. This time the opportunity is to decide what is going to lead me forward or take me backwards. And I realize that I’m totally wrapped up in my thinking.
The reality a moment before had been that there was a rattlesnake on the trail and I was on the trail and I needed to respond to that in someway. I needed to go back, wait for the woman to get rid of the snake, or get rid of the snake myself so that I could go forward.
But that is not the reality anymore. The reality is that there is no snake. It’s not there anymore. But this is the story I’m telling myself…
“That snake is probably hiding just waiting to come out and get me. There are probably going to be snakes all along this path. It’s such a nice day that they’re just going to be everywhere. In fact, they’re probably everywhere right now and I just can’t see them!”
I’m full Indiana Jones at the point. I start asking myself, “Why do I come on this trail this time of year?! This is crazy!!!” And I’m all wrapped up in this story I’m telling myself about what could happen. My fear.
And the reality is there is no snake.
I have to decide what I’m going to do. Am I going to respond and act based on the reality? Or am I going to respond and act based on my story?
My story is going to have me running back as fast as I can tripping and falling to get off that trail.
The reality is going to have me finishing that walk on this sunny gorgeous day.
We do this so often. We get so wrapped up in our story of what’s going on, our fears, our projections that we end up acting on those and running away when we’ve got opportunities in front of us – among other ways we don’t step into the life we’re supposed to have because we let the story run the show.
Or we can decide that we’re going to look at the facts and check out the reality and respond to that.
I’m happy to report that I did go forward past where the snake had been. I never saw another snake (but I was watching closely).
It’s just a good reminder that when we respond to our reality we can move forward in a bit of a fearless way, as opposed to responding to our story.