I can’t determine via brief internet research whether that’s a real Mark Twain quotation or simply attributed to him. But it freaks me out, because I don’t want to think of frogs near my mouth.
In any case, I finally got this one over with. (Uh…without eating it.)
This is an incredibly big challenge for me, possibly one of the most difficult I can imagine [in the context of this project].
Frogs and lizards terrify the bejesus out of me. I have no satisfactory explanation. I grew up on the edge of the Everglades, so they’ve always been around. Wikipedia thinks that ranidophobia is caused by observing the violent death of a frog, but I’m fairly sure I’ve never seen anything super violent (squished by cars, maybe). I’ve read elsewhere that frog and lizard phobias stem from their unpredictable movements, which makes sense: I expect that if I walk toward a frog, it’s going to head in the other direction. But more often than not, they inexplicably leap toward the giant human figure instead. Same with lizards.
Weirdly enough, I am not afraid of snakes or spiders or alligators. I mean, I don’t love them, but they don’t cause the complete and utter loss of rational thought that frogs and geckos/lizards do.
I chose frogs for this challenge because I am fractionally more afraid of them than I am of lizards. Plus, lizards have a tail whipping around that could induce more trauma—if it breaks off, for instance. Then you have two moving parts to keep track of. *shudder*
A brief history of my life with amphibians and lizards:
- I distinctly remember sitting with my brother at a table under a tree in our front yard when I was three or four. I don’t know what we were doing. A brown anole lizard dropped out of the branches above us and somehow caught itself on my leg.
- When I was about 8, my family was staying at my grandfather’s house in Key West, and I was sleeping on the floor of the guest room. Not a problem…except that there were geckos in the house, and I could never sleep soundly knowing one could be inches away.
- Age 10: I got into my parents’ bed to watch TV with my mom. When I slid my feet down under the covers, I hit something rubbery and discovered a medium-sized frog. UNDER THE COVERS. Result: To this day I check out my bed thoroughly once or twice a week when I remember that.
- Age 12: I was showering in my parents’ large walk-in shower, when something crawled onto my foot. I looked down to see a huge black skink peering up at me. I ran out, soapy and screaming, managing to snag a towel on my way, and forced my brother to get rid of it. Result: Closing my eyes in the shower freaks me out.
- One night when I was still in high school, I leaned over my sink to finish brushing my teeth and spotted one of these in the overflow hole, staring back at me. Result: Sink overflow holes scare me.
- For some reason, the outdoor hallways of my parents’ condo is ground zero for geckos, frogs, and lizards. Leaving their house at night in the summer is like crossing a mine field: I take it very slowly and step carefully. But sometimes the house geckos on the ceiling get frightened, and instead of running away, unstick from the ceiling and plop down around me.
- These awful blobby things lumber along the downstairs hallway of my parents’ condo and sometimes hide in closets to give me a heart attack:
I could go on for pages and pages (oh wait, I already did). You get the idea, anyway.
So fear of frogs is something that I’ve never really thought about facing up to, because it’s possible to live a happy, fulfilling life without frog contact. The downside is that my nerves are shot from the constant sharp jolts of fear I have when I see one, or any object that my brain momentarily interprets as one.
I was at my parents’ pool with my dad when he found a teeny tiny frog breast-stroking desperately for the pool edge. I tried to get a picture of it, but due to the combination of my shaking hands, the brilliant sunlight, and the tininess of the frog (I didn’t want to get too close before I had to) all the pictures came out blurry. I’m pretty sure it was a little grass frog, though: tiny and coppery. Mine was somewhat bigger than the one pictured, although still mini.
I decided to bite the bullet and told my dad that I wanted him to put the frog on my hand.
What followed was about ten minutes of me screaming, running away, hyperventilating, and my dad laughing helplessly at all of this. In the meantime, the frog just chilled on my dad’s hand (although he kept an eye on me). At one point, my dad was trying to calm me down and said, “He’s not going to jump on you! He’ll just sit quietly on your hand like he is on mine. See?” And at that instant, the frog leapt into my dad’s face, essentially headbutting him, and then dropped back to a seated position on my dad’s fist. Which of course prompted more terror-breathing and squealing from me.
Eventually, though, I let it happen. The frog fell lightly onto the back of my hand, and my dad held my hand still while I made weird squealing-with-my-mouth-closed noises. After about ten seconds, the frog had had enough and took a giant leap off of me back into the water. I don’t think I can ever forget the feeling of those little toes brushing off my skin, the folded legs gathering to spring. I’m shuddering just thinking about it
I am completely on edge again, remembering the feeling of its little body on my hand, and looking at all these horrible pictures. Gah.
So what is the outcome? And what was the point? I’m not exactly ready to go around cuddling frogs after that experience. But what was important for me, and what is still really kind of glowing deep in my brain, is the knowledge that I faced down something that scared me so much, for so long. Even though it wasn’t much of an attempt, the fact that I went through with it at all makes me think that I’ve come even farther than I expected in my struggle to not let fear rule my life.
Every time I undertake a seemingly tiny challenge that has previously limited me in some way, I feel this surge of confidence. The warm glow of confidence inspired by this brief trial is even deeper and longer-lasting than what I’ve experienced before. Perhaps because this is such a deep-seated and long standing fear, or perhaps because the effect is cumulative.
Whatever, I highly recommend that you try something (small!) that terrifies you today.