As the days passed before the extermination I experienced great fluctuations in my state of consciousness. There would be brief moments of clarity where I felt fine, peaceful, above my circumstance. Then I would soon despair again. I had to pack up my apartment as if I was moving, treat all my clothes. I had to live apart from my boyfriend who graciously stayed at the apartment, per instructions from the exterminator, while I fled to my parents’ house in the suburbs. We’ve lived together for years and now we were in separate places, both without any of our “stuff.”
My mind constantly tormented me with the fear that I was going to bring the bugs to my parents’ house. But as the days went by, my moments of clarity were able to shine through more and more. I was learning to bring acceptance to my outer circumstance. The negative thoughts were so obviously unwanted and unhelpful at this point that I made the choice to start letting them go, one by one, as they came up in my mind. And they came up all the time. So this was a lot of great practice at letting go of negative thoughts.
I then had to go back to the apartment to “test” the results of the extermination. Everything was fine. On my fifth day back I woke up and went to work. As I was typing on my computer I noticed one of my fingers was swollen. Then I felt something on my thigh, went to the bathroom, and saw it had swollen up the size of a large tomato. I had been bitten. I left that morning assuming I would see my boyfriend after work. But now I’d be driving back to the suburbs, living apart for another two weeks while the second round of treatment took effect. I emailed the exterminator. I called my boyfriend to tell him what had happened. I called my mom to tell her I was coming home. And I was okay. I had been through this once before, I was learning how to let go of the circumstance. I was learning to be okay with uncertainty. I was learning how to accept what happens, because to not accept what happens is to cause yourself unnecessary suffering.
The universe gave me a round two, another opportunity to try again. And this time it was easier not to freak out. It didn’t feel like a horrible struggle prepping my apartment for extermination, or commuting to work from the suburbs, or not knowing when I would live at my apartment again. I’m still learning to accept that bugs exist. But now, in comparison, the other ones don’t seem so bad. I’m now back at my apartment and haven’t had any bites again. Although that doesn’t mean they won’t come back. And I am okay with that now, I have learned to be comfortable with the not knowing. I really don’t know what is going to happen, where I’ll be living day to day, if the next apartment I get will be bed bug free. From experiencing the suffering I caused after having bed-bugs I have learned that it is much more helpful, peaceful, and joyful to let go of those fears and be in the moment I am in. After all, it is the only moment I will ever be in. So if I’m afraid and worried now, it is likely I’ll continue to be afraid and worried. But if I’m peaceful and accepting now, it is quite likely that my future moments will also be peaceful. After all, the future never happens, when it does it is called the “now.”
So what can you let go of now? What uncontrollable circumstances in your life can you bring acceptance to? What negative thoughts repeat in your head that you are ready to let go of? The bed bugs taught me many things; the universe always gives you the lesson that is most helpful for your state of consciousness at that moment (as Tolle puts it). And while I perceived the situation as suffering while in the midst of it, it was for my learning, for fostering greater peace, joy, love, and awareness in my life. What a gift.
PS- I also have a different relationship with things now. Although I don’t perceive “stuff” as a burden as I did after getting bed bugs, I am not as interested in having more “stuff.” I would rather have just a few things to tend to. It has actually stopped me from wanting to buy clothes and other things. All I wanted after having bed bugs was to be just me, to feel clean and untainted. While that is an extreme that would be detrimental to stay at, it pushed me more to the middle in terms of my desire for objects, another blessing in disguise!
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