Spring has arrived. This means that the air is beginning to fill with the humming buzz of flying insects, especially bees. There’s a lot for bees to be doing now as new buds begin to bloom and tentatively open to the springtime sun and so these buzzy creatures are zooming about, in search of the next plant that needs pollenating. I’m actually really grateful for bees – many of the species of the plant kingdom could not survive without their steady tending – but my gratitude is tempered with a healthy dose of respect that has been learned through pain.
If you’ve ever had the opportunity to be stung by a bee, it’s not a pleasant experience. It’s startling and painful and, if you’re allergic, then possibly fatal. When my daughter was tiny, she was toddling through the high grasses while wearing sandals. A bee got lodged between her toes and the sandals and, in a panic, stung its prison master, my daughter. Her bloodcurdling scream was stunning and terrifying and, as her mother, I immediately ran toward her ready to stomp on whatever it was that had hurt my baby.
She was crying hard enough that she couldn’t talk, but just kept gesturing toward her foot between sobs. I took off her sandal and the limp, now dead, bee fell to the ground. Luckily, Miss Kait is not allergic to bees, but she was heartbroken that a creature of nature had hurt her. She was tiny enough that it was near to impossible to help her understand the reason for the bee’s sting. All she knew was something had hurt her.
For a long time afterward, she had a huge fear response if she even so much as heard a bee, let alone saw one or have it be near her. Her propensity to wave at them and scream, which startled them and made them angry, was not helpful, but she didn’t know how to respond differently and, no matter how I tried to teach her about the benefits of bees and how to give them their space, my message didn’t get across to her. Mostly because *I* was afraid of bees too.
One day, she and I were at the park with my dear friend, Kett. He was drumming while Kait played on the swings. She came running over to the table, at one point, as though the hounds of hell were nipping at her heels. She was stark white, eyes wide, and mouth gaping in a silent scream. Whatever had happened, she was utterly terrified.
“MOMMA!” She screamed as she charged into my arms, burying her face in my chest.
“What’s wrong, baby?” I felt concern charge through my veins with Momma Bear rage.
“There’s a bee!” It was a muffled declaration, but I understood her.
Kett looked at me and asked, “That was all because there was a bee?”
I nodded and Kaitlyn sniffled, peering out at Kett from the shelter of my arms. “It was chasing me,” she said.
“That’s because you startled it, Kait,” he said gently. Just then, the offender showed up and Kaitlyn screamed and buried her face.
“Kait,” Kett said quietly, his deep voice resonating through the space. “Look at me.”
She timidly looked up and Kett said, “There is no need to feel fear of bees. They are very magical creatures.”
Upon his use of the word, “magical,” Kait turned around to face him and watched in wonder as he held his hand out to the bee. I felt the horror rumble through her as the bee approached Kett’s outstretched hand. Then he moved his hand slowly and the bee followed it. He rolled his hand and the bee jumped over it.
Kait’s eyes grew wide and she wiped away the tears as she watched the dance.
“See,” Kett said, “All you have to do is dance with the bee and you’ll be fine.” He continued to slowly play with the bee, his energy inviting the dance. The bee playfully followed the movement and rhythm of the dance and I felt Kait pulling away from me, drawn into the play.
“Do you wanna try?” Kett asked her, his hand and the bee slowly coming into Kaitlyn’s space.
She nodded uncertainly all while slowly raising her hand into the space of the dance. And then the miracle happened… my baby danced with a bee.
This memory came to me the other day when I was out in an open area and a bee approached me, buzzing loudly in my ear. I jumped and waved at it instinctively and my friend said, “Don’t be afraid of the bee.”
In that moment, I remembered Kett’s gentle guidance with Kait. Never once did he tell her not to be afraid of something she innately feared. Instead, he showed her another way. He gave her a different way to look at it. Without dismissing her original experience or the resulting emotional trauma and repeating behavioral pattern, he gave her another option to choose from. He was able to do that because he didn’t have a reigning fear of bees – or, as I’ve often experienced with him, anything of the animal or insect kingdom – so he was a space of pure trust. He was able to teach her to release her fear because he was a safe space. He was able to help her dance with the bee because he could dance with a bee.
Sometimes, the only way through the fear, is to be led by someone who has released their own fears and knows the way back to the light. And, my experience has shown me, that can be a really beautiful dance.