i heard it before i saw it. the thwack of a hefty insect touching down. it was Saturday morning and i sat in bed writing my morning pages. soon, the creature revealed itself.
at the risk of social ostracism and public shaming, i must confess: it was a cockroach. the gigantic, brown, flying variety. “cockroach” is too abhorrent, so i’m calling it “pest” for the rest of the post.
those punks can move but i killed it before he got far. then i panicked, but not for long. almost immediately, i’d titled a sheet of paper “plan of attack.”
i read a few online forums and made two decisions: seeing one was a fluke and since it was adult—any larger and it would’ve outweighed a kitten—it was probably operating alone.
when we think “pest problem,” we immediately think, “kill them all! spray’em to death with RAID!” but only if you hit it precisely. from point-blank range. before it scurries away. assuming it hasn’t laid eggs.
what you quickly learn from online searches, besides strangers’ horror stories, is that eradication is improbable. super antagonists of the insect world, pests consistently win against humans.
the battle is lost, forever.
i don’t know if the best defense is a good offense or if the opposite is more accurate. but we need to accept the truth: there are a million ways they can reach you.
“success” meant changing my orientation to the problem. by joining them a little i could outwit them.
pests became impervious to threats not by being set in their ways but through adaptation. their flexibility allows them to outlast nearly everything. so imitate them. stay nimble and keep pivoting, like on Silicon Valley.
adjust your definition of “win” from “annihilation” to “make the environment unappealing.”
my plan of attack meant tossing extra paper, cleaning obsessively, and giving them every reason to go elsewhere.
it’s like preventing crime—instead of catching and jailing every criminal, make yourself a less-appealing target.
in practical terms, you can’t eliminate all unhappy experiences. but you can, to various degrees, make them less likely to recur.
i even noticed some benefits from this encounter. i know, i can hear you groaning from here, how can she think anything positive about this gross situation?
look, i interpreted it as a message, a wake-up call: time to clean. as gut wrenching and nerve-racking as it was to search my possessions for evidence of baby pests…it was exciting to be on such a clear, defined, and critical mission.
wearing rubber gloves, i inspected all the paper in my room, in case it appealed to them. in the end, i whittled down what i don't need to a stack of four notebooks and a plastic file of papers. but i also i filled three trash bags with unnecessary paper and cardboard, so my minimalist credentials might be at stake.
it released the fanatical cleaner i knew lay mostly dormant inside me. as those of you who’ve seen my space can attest, there isn’t much going on in terms of objects. but in truth, i knew i could do better in terms of actual cleanness. if my neatness grade was an A, my cleanliness one was probably a C.
i worked until 10 p.m. Saturday and needed a long pour of white wine and an episode of Mr. Robot to calm down enough to sleep. because i knew the truth. the kitchen was the main event.
Sunday was spent cleaning my kitchen cabinets and transferring opened all opened bags of snacks, seeds, and quinoa to old Illy espresso cans and Mason jars.
there’s more to do. i’m still skittish. any noise that’s potentially a pest landing makes me jump. by day, my eyes are abnormally peeled. at night, i wake up several times to wait and watch, as though spotting one creature in daylight has awarded me night vision.
but it’s getting better. i ran into my property manager yesterday. he told me the type i saw is not the domestic infestation type, which was a relief. i’ve instituted a rigorous cleaning schedule and new rules. as i mentioned, i got rid of junk and finally Pinterest-ed my cupboard.
perhaps most importantly, i learned a new, transferable life strategy:
- accept and adapt to the truth, however undesirable
- respond accordingly, which is not the same as how you might want, or what feels reflexive and “right”
- edit habits and take preventative measures
is there anything in life you could use this for? let me know in the comments!
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