Gardening: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dirt

When I was a kid people used to throw earthworms at me.

I know what you’re thinking “But Jess that must of only happened a few times?” To my memory? At least ten, which if I remember correctly is more than a few.

Kids, adults, friends, family.

It didn’t matter who it was, the moment they found out that I cried and ran away when worms were around it was open season. Now my family will say things like “We were just messing with you! It’s just a joke!” Sure, how about I take your fears and throw them AT YOU IN A DIRT FUCKING CLOD HUH?

Anyway, I’m not afraid of worms anymore for reasons I’m going to explain to you fine people.

A few years back I was given the “opportunity” to be the evening face of a show at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom called “The Wheel Of Fright” I was on a few times a day wearing pajama bottoms and a chefs jacket and hat. Oh yeah I was in the money. I spoke part of the time with a ridiculous french accent and the other part of the time without it. I wasn’t consistent because my bosses were assholes and when I wanted to let my assistant take the reigns they’d yell at me like they didn’t do the same thing. Anyway, the whole point of the “show” was that I was force people to eat bugs in order to win all access passes in to the haunted attractions.

Yea, bugs. I didn’t really know what I was getting in to at first until they brought me down to the trailer to see where we’d be taking our breaks. In that trailer was a fridge and in that fridge were thousands of crickets, meal worms and yes Earthworms. I guess I was lucky, the years previous had to deal with hissing cockroaches which won you a t-shirt. People were pissed we didn’t do the cockroaches for t-shirt thing that year, I don’t know why. I mean for god sakes did you spend 364 days eagerly waiting until you can munch down on a cockroach for a t-shirt? I hate to break it to you, but you coulda been munching on cockroaches all year round! Just find a dumpster and BOOM your meal has been served.

Luckily because I was the evening host I did have that assistant and she was not afraid of those bugs one god dang bit. The biggest problem came when she wasn’t there a few times, having been on loan from the Entertainment department. So I had to mosey my way down to the trailer and load up cups of bugs to make people eat.

I wish you could have seen my face, I was sweating as I tried desperately to find anything but my fingers to pick up those god damn worms. Crickets were nothing, I had a 4th grade TA that used to bring her snakes and lizards to class and meal worms? I mean they’re in birdseed! But those damn earthworms! I ended up finding someones left over chopsticks and that’s how I moved em.

After two months of this my body stopped having the same flight reaction, but I still couldn’t get myself to touch them.

Fast forward I don’t know five or six years and I’m helping my mom do some gardening and she finds a worm and I say, much to her surprise “Oh be careful, here let me take it over to the roses” and I stick out my gloved hands and she drops the little guy and I take him to the roses. I know my mother doesn’t remember this, it was a fleeting thing, but it pops out in my mind as the first time I ever willingly asked for, a bug really.

Fast forward again to me planting some flowers in my front yard and in the dirt I find just a shit ton of worms and moth caterpillars (they eat roots, they’re bad boys) and I’m grabbing the worms and putting them off to the side so that when I get the flowers in I can throw em back in and bury them.

Twenty years ago? Ten years ago? I would have still been planting those flowers trying to use my trowel to move them without hurting them. I can’t scream for mi esposo every time a bug finds its way in to the house, because my dudes if that was the case I’d be hoarse.

Some people might not find this as that big of a step “It’s just bugs Jess” yes, it’s just bugs; but those bugs were just as frightening to me as the monsters in your closet were to you.

If you’ve read my previous posts or have known me for more than a few minutes you’ll have probably come to the inescapable conclusion that I am in fact a coward; and you’d be right. Do I think I’d allow a man to drown? No, but cowardice in the face of danger is different than cowardice in the face of normal every day bullshit; my fight or flight has pretty much been stuck on flight since birth.

But experience (not just age) has given me more than just knowledge, it’s given me courage. I’ve found myself speaking up and speaking out and to people I never thought I could (my family, authorities, STRANGERS) and it’s made me a stronger, tougher person.

“What does this have to do with bugs you turd?” Well I’ll tell you! Overcoming fear requires courage, who would have thought? And before anyone says anything (if anyone made it this far) yes you can overcome a fear and still be terrified the whole time.

The first time I went on a roller coaster after being scared of them for years, my dear sweet mother looked down at my terrified face and locked us in. I tried to get out, I cried, I screamed and nobody helped. The people operating the ride just kinda giggled and told me to breathe and then they hit the start button. My mother through a very gentle grin (trust me it was a grin) told me just to scream the whole time, it would help.

Halfway through the ride I was laughing, but it wasn’t because I was necessarily having fun? But because I was still terrified and the only way out was to do the one thing my brain knew to make myself happy. Now I’m an adrenaline junkie and plan on skydiving and bungie jumping before my 50th birthday (Twenty years to plan kids).

I also used to get grossed out by dirt under my fingernails and would use pens to clean them out, my sister-in-law who has been my best friend for twenty years would freak out and throw a nail cleaner at me; I still use pens occasionally, she still hates it.

I bet by now you’re thinking, what in the hell does any of this shit really have to do with gardening? You sure ask a lotta questions disembodied voice in my head!

What this has to do with gardening is simple, before experience gave me the tools I would have never been able to garden in the first place. Bugs, dirt, the sun, mud. All things I was too scared to deal with, it’s silly, but it’s just part of who I was. Overtime with work anyone can accomplish anything, even if it’s as silly as being able to garden in their own garden without being terrified something might touch you.

-Jess