Questioning Fears

This photo is from when my sweet porcupine friend Henry and I closed on our first house! Haha obviously I am kidding, but this photo totally looks like that to me. Henry is a North American porcupine that was taken from the wild, tamed, and unfortunately became sick and thin because a living room and human food does not match the clover, hemlock, aspen, and other wild plant nutrition, along with sunlight, airflow, etc that wildlife have evolved to need. He now serves as an ambassador for his species at my work, and teaches people about the ecology of porcupines, their role in tending forests and our local economy, along with the fact that they aren't roaming the forests, ready to aim and shoot their quills at any moment. He lives in a large outdoor enclosure with natural trees to climb and dens to sleep in, but he does love his human interaction and I'm honored and happy to oblige and consider him one of my best friends.

That's right, they can't shoot their quills! Helping people connect to wildlife I hear all sorts of crazy fears and myths, and some clang around in my head from stories I heard in childhood. I suppose some have beneficial roots "if you touch a baby bird Mom will reject it", this may help children leave them alone. But, most wild animals that have braved the elements, used precious energy and calories and taken risks to grow their babies from the egg or the womb, incubate or protect them against any predator will not give up that easily. When I've brought Henry out for programs, I hear "oh my goodness, aren't you afraid he's going to shoot his quills?!!" from all ages. And also "my dog got shot in the face with quills, I hate porcupines". True, porcupines are covered with 30,000 quills all over their bodies. BUT, they are strict herbivores, in the human world they would be the vegans (and not the ones that yell at everyone else about food choices!). If a dog gets quilled, it is because they were curious and sniffed their odor which I find to be a sweet but strong scent of pine and earth (yeah, with a little bit of hippy on a summer tour mixed in), or they bit the porcupine. Perhaps because an animal with spikes is scary, or perhaps because we can't think of our beloved dog biting something, the story that we tell ourselves is that the wild animal shot their quills (which are modified hairs) like bullets with some unknown mechanism. This gets me thinking of a story I told myself the other day. I hadn't heard back from someone for about a month, and my brain quickly went to a place of insecurity, I became like a 7th grader panicking and telling myself that I must have said something wrong, maybe the "person doesn't like me anymore". Work in therapy and with the Enneagram helps me to notice and tune in when my feelings have too much energy around them. I probably was in a regressed state, my inner 11 year old self triggered by something. But thankfully I paid attention, checked in and spoke directly, admitting that I was feeling insecure and a bit irrational. Turns out they've been busy like the rest of the world. And I tried not to feel too ashamed of making up a complete story, likely because I was tired or something else was bothering me. Porcupines can't shoot quills, and if someone is mad at you and can't honor you by directly communicating with you, you probably don't want that relationship anyway. What stories have you told yourself that weren't real? Feel free to share in the comments below!

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