When it comes to teaching lessons, life doesn’t seem interested in my schedule. I was twenty-one years old and coming home from my job as an office clerk. As soon as I walked through the doorway of the house I was sharing with two friends, I saw the wasp circling the ceiling light in the living room.
And the wasp saw me.
The insect came charging straight toward me and I swatted at it, smacking the little bugger away. It circled around and came back at me, its buzzing sounding more furious now, and I realized that I was in big trouble. Swatting at it again and again, I backed toward my bedroom, which was adjacent to the living room. I reached the doorway of my room, took one more swipe at the winged beast, and luckily connected with it, sending it far enough away so that I could jump back into my room and slam the door. Before fully closing it, I saw the wasp coming at me, and after getting it shut, I heard the little monster hit the door with an audible thump.
Leaning my ear against the door in order to discern where my adversary was, I tried hard to figure out my next move. Maybe one of my friends would come home and take care of the problem. Or maybe the problem would take care of my friend! Maybe the wasp would just get tired and find its way out. Or maybe…
Instinctively, I looked down at the floor.
The bastard was crawling under the door!
Frantically, I looked around the room and spotted a straw broom in one of the corners. I could have simply stepped on the beast, but clearly I was not thinking properly, so I grabbed the broom, raised it and slammed it down on the insect. I slammed down on it a number of times, and then paused to examine the result.
It was gone!
I looked about on the hardwood floor, but there was no sign of it. What kind of demonic presence was I dealing with?! Holding the broom with an achingly tight grip, ready to bring it down hard on my enemy, I suddenly became aware of an angry sound.
The broom was buzzing.
I brought the whisk part up and saw the wasp caught in the strands of straw, but still fighting to bust free and get at me! I swear, I thought I saw it trying to reach toward me with its tiny appendages, like a boxer being held back but still swinging at his opponent. I put the broom on the floor, brown-and-yellow insect facing downward, and frantically jumped up and down on it, wondering if I might have to call an exorcist to save me from this yellow jacket from hell. Finally, I stopped jumping.
My foe was vanquished.
I scraped the bug out of the broom and into the bush by the front steps, and then re-entered the house. And that’s when it dawned on me what had happened when I’d first walked in. Sunny day. Open door. Wasp was heading for the open air and I was standing in the doorway. If I had simply moved my head, the wasp would have flown by me. Instead, fear governed my perceptions and panic ruled my behavior.
The wasp was trying to teach me that problems are not my enemies. They come and go in life, each with its unique characteristics but sharing a common purpose—to help me grow. Once I perceive a problem as a personal adversary, I fuse with it in a frantic struggle, or attempt to run away from it. Either response creates an attachment to it and it becomes a burden and a threat, which seem to intensify, the more I try to push it away or avoid it.
Sometimes I merely have to move my head or duck and the situation passes by, returning to the quantum field from which it came. At other times I need only remain relaxed and still, so that I can see the purpose of the situation, and let the quiet voice of intuition guide my response or point me to the opportunity that the problem is disguising. Ultimately, I grow up and grow beyond the situation.
The wasp was my teacher. I wonder how many other teachers I have judged to be my enemy…