My Wednesday morning started like every other Wednesday morning. I drug myself out of the bed, stumbled into the kitchen and put the tea kettle on the stove to boil, cleaned out the litter box and let Cass (one of the cats) out the side door. Henry, his step-brother and mortal enemy, positioned himself at the back door, also wanting to exit but not in close proximity to Cass. So I opened the door—which swings in—and then the storm door—which swings out. And as I watched Henry scoot through the opening, something grayish-brown in color fell from parts unknown, registering in my peripheral vision as it hit my arm and landed with a light thud on the steps.
A frog was my first thought. We have a deceased 40 x 20 foot in ground pool in the back yard (which is hopefully disappearing sometime this month) that has morphed into a frog farm. In the summer the house is literally covered in frogs of all sizes and colors. Kinda like the movie “The Birds” but with frogs. Not wanting to have to chase one around the house, I quickly shut the storm door then peered through the glass to see if I could spot it.
It wasn’t a frog.
There on the second step was a snake. Not a huge snake. Maybe 14 to 16 inches, but a snake none the less. A very much alive snake. Evidently falls from seven feet or so will not faze them . . . but then my arm did slow its descent. My eyes immediately moved to its head which was rounded rather than rectangular, so non-poisonous. I thought it looked like a Rat Snake, and Google confirmed my original identification. As I watched it slither through the foundation vent—and under my house—I remember thinking Henry just better get used to going out the side door from now on.
I went about my morning routine, which was now far from routine, filling the tub with water and stepping in. That was when I noticed the jets inside the tub. The jets that are just the right size for a toddler Rat Snake to slither out. But those things are sealed off, right? There are lines that feed them and circulate the water, so a snake couldn’t possibly get in. But what about the overflow drain? That has to have a pipe; it can’t just dump water under the house, right? So a snake couldn’t possibly get in . . . unless there’s a break in the pipe . . . or in the duct work that feeds the cold air into the house . . . that’s not made of a continuous sheet of metal . . . so someone had to put it together . . . meaning it can come apart . . . meaning a snake could wander in . . . and out the heat and air vents . . .
The more I thought about the snake the worse it got. It could have fallen on my head; after all, I was leaning slightly forward. It could have gotten stuck on my clothes. It could have desperately grabbed at my sleeves with its little snake teeth to keep from hitting the ground. What if it had been poisonous? AND WHERE ARE ITS PARENTS?!?!?
Everything I did regarding the aftermath of my snake encounter is natural. It’s human nature to imagine the worst possible scenarios and then get all in a knot over what could have been—or what might be. If you’re dealing with an innocent event that caused no harm, like, say a snake falling on your arm, you’ll be wasting an enormous amount of mental and emotional energy making up stuff that could have been but fortunately was not. And if you’re struggling with factual, current events like a personal cancer diagnosis or a health crisis affecting someone you love, the negativity filling your noggin’ will accomplish nothing other than making the path harder than it already is or has to be. Negative thinking breeds negative actions and therefore, negative results.
We seem to like to borrow trouble and worry about the terrible what ifs without remembering that every cloud really does have that proverbial silver lining. We may have to work to find it and it may be slightly tarnished when we do, but not looking for it at all will doom us to failure before we even start—and sometimes that failure means loss or even death. As my father once yelled at me, under circumstances that I may someday retell, “Where there’s life, there’s hope.” The negative possibilities of our circumstances can’t take that hope away from us, but we can, and often do, surrender it.