10 – In the Company of Spiders









Dropped and bounced on a fine line
between fear and fortitude.
We have been interacting ever since —
she to my left while I lean ever so slight to my right;
she out of sight so I step to the kitchen for a spell;
she now along the wall and towards the window,
and I with a cautious eye.
I do not know how long we will play at this —
living in the company of our fears.
If I spoke spider, I would offer her quid pro quo
I will not murder you today if you stay





Photo: Long-bodied Cellar Spider, Pholcus phalangioides. Photo and Poem ©2018, Jen Payne. National Poetry Month 2018, #10. If you like this poem, then pick up a copy of my new book EVIDENCE OF FLOSSING: WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND today! CLICK HERE

Bear Thy Name Is Fear

If you asked me 15 years ago what my biggest fears were, I would have said 1. Spiders, 2. Public Speaking, 3. Flying.

If you asked me 10 years ago, I would have said 1. Spiders, 2. Public Speaking.

If you asked me last year, I would have told you that I love flying, had made peace with spiders, but that I would rather die than get up in front of an audience.

So, flash forward to this:

Yes. That’s me. On stage Wednesday night in a production of Thornton Wilder’s The Long Christmas Dinner by the Moses Gunn Play Company.

Now, if you’d seen me 15 years ago, in fetal-curled panic at the thought of giving a 3-minute presentation — you would understand the size of the bear that was wrestled on Wednesday.

But “a funny thing happened on the way to the theater,” as they say. There were grand moments of at-all-cost avoidance and embarrassing failures. Six months at Toastmasters and healing humor. More embarrassing failures, lots of baby steps, wise coaches, Rescue Remedy…and a few surprises. Like a 3-minute presentation. And then a 30-minute presentation. And then lines read in a play in front of a live audience.

Fear is a powerful opponent.

So is Perseverance.

©2018, Jen Payne. More of Jen Payne’s writing can be found in her new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, available online from Three Chairs Publishing.

Kiss Feeding


Before I knew,
I knew to fear
your leaving.
fed spoonfuls
of fear, and
braced for
your betrayal.

Even fledgling
romance carried
fear of loss
so heavy
I fell to
early demise,
and reinforced
her warning
that I would
surely drown.

How can I swim
with you, love,
if my wings
have been clipped
by the
sins of my mother?

Words ©2015, Jen Payne
Image: Bird and Its Nest, Georges Braque

Invention of Monsters


how does fear manifest itself for you — 
does it keep you from doing what you love?
from doing your best?
from putting yourself out in the world?

does your fear keep you clinging to things
which serve no purpose?
which offer false security?
which are familiar but fatal?

does your fear demand that you ignore
your inner voice?
your dreams and goals?
everything you know to be true about yourself?

or does your fear lie to you —
convince you that you can’t?
convince you that you shouldn’t?
convince you that you never will?

what if you learned that fear does not exist?
that fear is only thought?
that you make it all up?

what then would you manifest instead?

• • •

©2013, Jen Payne
Image: Invention of the Monsters, Salvador Dalí, 1937

When It Comes Around Again

It was one of my first major life lessons, from one of my first mentors. Her name was Janet, and she said to me: “The Universe is trying to teach you something.”

At the time, I was caught in a vortex of situations that were all very similar in nature. People were unhappy, people were angry, people were taking all of that out on me. And it was causing me a great deal of stress—at work, at home, in my heart.

That’s when Janet explained to me that when you keep facing the same predicament, the same situation, over and over, it’s a cosmic way of letting you know THIS IS SOMETHING YOU NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO.

You know this phenomenon yourself, right? A little message that comes in and you barely notice. Another passes by and you glance. You almost trip over the third. But by the time you walk head-on into the fourth reminder, you start to get it. MAYBE THIS IS SOMETHING I NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO.

If you’ve been at this — life — for while, you start to recognize how the Universe often brings back these lessons for you to learn again. They arrive as gentle reminders, and if you’re lucky, you recognize them right away. “Oh yeah! That’s right!”

Such was the case for me this week. I’m gearing up to tackle my New Year’s intention of getting my writing published, and alongside my preparations has walked my old friend Fear.

Fear is clever. It disguises itself as all sorts of things: Rational Concern, Distractions, Other Priorities. But I couldn’t understand why it was showing up again. Surely I have slayed this dragon enough.

Apparently not.

“What is holding me back?” I kept asking all week. In my head. Out loud. To dear friends. WHAT IS HOLDING ME BACK?

And then it arrived. A little reminder.

In yoga last week, the instructor began class with a short meditation and then read the following, familiar quote:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

And so it comes around again.

• • •

“When It Comes Around Again,” ©2012 Jen Payne, Branford, CT.

Quote by Marianne Williamson, from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, as quoted by Nelson Mandela in 1994.

France on Fridays: C’est La Vie

Such is Life • Wednesday, May 31

The weeks leading up to le grand voyage were a whirlwind — the kind that comes with the anticipation of leaving one life behind in order to discover another. But the usual excitement of vacation’s adventure was buried somewhere under all of the preparation, and I couldn’t find it for the life of me.

“Shouldn’t I be more excited by now?” I wondered the night before I left. “Shouldn’t I be wide-eyed and ready to race out the door in the morning?”

This trip, it seemed, was pushing me hard out of the comfort zone I’d created for myself. You could see the psychological fingernail marks in the door if you looked carefully.

Slowly, though, as I hauled my suitcase into the trunk of my friend Martha’s car, nervously sipped coffee at the limo station, then quietly rode along I-95, the fear began to fade. My last thoughts of work and the house, and what I hadn’t gotten done wandered off somewhere in the Bronx, and I didn’t miss them.

It occurred to me, as I crossed the George Washington Bridge, that my life, for the next 24 hours or so, was completely in the hands of other people. The ballsy Latino woman who maneuvered the New York City traffic like a pro, the pilot who would fly us 35,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, the escort we are relying on to meet us at the airport in Paris — in the hands of other people and completely out of my control.

Apparently, the big life lesson of the year was “letting go” and this trip was just another practice exercise.

As I sat there in the back seat of the limo, I thought to myself…I am going to France. I know the Universe wants me to go. I wouldn’t have gotten this far if she didn’t. So I will just let her take me. I will sit back and let these strangers lead me to this experience.

And then I closed my eyes and breathed…

• • •

Les Deux Amis En France, ©2011 Jen Payne. All rights reserved.

See also:
• L’introduction

Photo Crossing the GWB ©AnthonyMendezVO. Some rights reserved. Please click here for details.

She does not play small, why should I?

“Which causes me to wonder, my own purpose on so many days as humble as the spider’s, what is beautiful that I make? What is elegant? What feeds the world?”

— Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum

• • •

Orb Weaver. Doesn’t that conjure up an image of some great goddess weaving planetary trajectories through the paths of comets and falling stars?

She may as well be a goddess, this nimble and beautiful Orb weaver spider who marks times outside my bedroom window. Like Arachne of Greek myth, she weaves her magic in gestures more remarkable than Athena. Each night, offering up the gift of a newly constructed, perfectly elaborate orb-shaped web from which she gets her name.

I’ve watched for her weeks now, my lovely Orb weaver. During the day, she wraps herself into a corner of the window and rests out the sun. As shadows fall, she positions herself in the center of the web and waits with great and unmoving patience. Is she meditating, I wonder, as I pass her on my way to sleep. By morning, she is resting again, a new web sparkling in the morning sun.

This fascination is new for me—this great and unmoving observance. Fear has always gotten in the way. Fear, and a giant wad of paper towels!

But fear has a way of keeping us from things—new discoveries, new adventures, new connections. So, I’ve been pushing at its boundaries…with spiders. And elsewhere.

“Spider teaches you that everything you now do is weaving what you will encounter in the future,” writes Ted Andrews in Animal-Speak. “Spider reminds us that the world is woven around us. We are the keepers and the writers of our own destiny, weaving it like a web by our thoughts, feelings, and actions.”

“Let your light shine,” a friend keeps encouraging me. We are talking about being our authentic selves—being as great as we are, with no excuses.

It’s a bigger hat than I’m used to wearing. Like watching spiders—I do it tentatively.

He reminds me of a speech by Nelson Mandella, who quotes this passage from Mairanne Williamson’s book A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

As we are liberated from our fear…of spiders? I think I will start there.

“If spider has come into your life,” advises Ted Andrews, “ask yourself some important questions. Are you not weaving your dreams and imaginings into reality? Are you not using your creative opportunities? Are you feeling closed in or stuck as if in a web? Do you need to pay attention to your balance and where you are walking in life?”

• • •

Photo ©2011, by Jen Payne.

See these related links:
Orb Weaver Spider
Animal-Speak, Ted Andrews
Mairanne Williamson

Something More Important Than Fear

Fear Not

On a sunny afternoon in April 2001, I landed uneventfully at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Texas. I remember the moment vividly because I was supposed to be dead.

While I had flown before, that was the first flight I had taken by myself…and I was terrified. So much so, actually, that I had left a Will on my desk at home. So much so, I had not moved from my seat, had not moved at all, since the plane left the ground five hours earlier. I was so full of fear that the plane would crash, I had not even thought about what I would do when it landed.

So there I was, in Austin, on vacation, and I didn’t know what to do next. I was supposed to be dead.

It’s been 10 years since that flight. And while even I giggle at the thought of being SO afraid—I love flying now—it still serves as example of how fear can interfere.

– – – – –

Many of our fears are tissue-paper-thin, and a single courageous step would carry us clear through them. — Brendan Francis

– – – – –

On my most recent trip to Texas, I found myself face to face with fear again. Toe to toe, actually…

We were driving south on Route 166, on the back loop of a scenic drive through the Davis Mountains, when we came upon a herd of horses along the side of the road.

I’d been dreaming of horses for several months, and had been trying to find a way to connect with one. There are two beautiful horses near the nature trail I walk, but they are never roadside when I am. I had hoped to see some at the Big E fair this fall, but only saw goats. And then there they were—a dozen horses roaming in a wide-open field as we drove by.

Fear Not

We stopped, and DeLinda the Brave ventured over to the fence for a visit.

I did not.

Between me and them were ten feet of tall grass. And I was pretty sure there were some tarantulas and rattlesnakes hiding there in that tall grass. I’d seen the signs.

Granted the signs were at a nature center 100 miles ago, and included quail and roadrunner “crossings” as well as tarantulas. But like they say, “it’s the thought that counts.”

And really, when it comes to fear? It IS the thought that counts!

– – – – –

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. – Ambrose Redmoon

– – – – –

So there I was—a dream standing just feet away. A dream, and all that stood between me and it were a few feet of menacing grass.

“You’ve been wanting to see horses,” I reminded myself.
“You can’t miss this amazing chance!”
“You don’t know for sure that there are spiders, but you know there are horses.”
“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”
“Just DO IT!”

And then there I was…at the fence.

And then there I was…up close and personal with this wonderful gathering of majestic creatures. They were so tall, larger than I thought, and their eyes were as big as my fists. They felt strong, and warm from the sun. They made soft noises, talking amongst themselves with much curiosity. Like us, there were brave ones who came right up to the fence; and there were some timid ones who stood cautiously a few feet away.

DeLinda and I stayed with them for a while, then made our way back to the car. They watched us from the fence, all of them standing in a row as we drove away. I got the feeling they were as happy for the chance—the gift—as we were!

– – – – –

“Always do what you are afraid to do.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

– – – – –










Fear Not

• • •

Photos ©2010, by Jen Payne and DeLinda Fox.