Looking back at childhood pictures, I found a great one of me standing there with a five-foot boa constrictor named Rosy. I found another of my brother and I in a snake park in South Africa watching a two-headed spitting cobra. Growing up I remember collecting snake skins in the desert and canyons around our house. While I wouldn't say I was the kind of kid that loved snakes, I could tolerate them; although I didn't really want one as a pet. So it is all the more shocking that at some point, by the time my teenage years rolled around, I had entered a stage of serpent awareness/paranoia. I don't recall any specific snake-related incident that caused my fright, but something changed in me, and I can safely say that I am absolutely terrified of snakes.

For a long while, I would not allow the word "snake" to be spoken in my presence. If the subject became somehow unavoidable I would lift my feet off the ground until the conversation became "safer." I couldn't look at pictures, commercials, or magazines containing snake imagery without a distinctly unfeminine din and a swift change of scenery.

There was a snake in striking pose in my kitchen With the exception of semi-frequent snake nightmares, I've lived with this fear fairly uneventfully. That is until last week. Last Monday, while in my kitchen, I spied what I thought was a largish worm on the floor, about two yards from my foot. At closer inspection, it became frighteningly obvious that it was in fact a snake… in position to strike no less.

I backed away, not slowly like you're supposed to, but fast, like a Jackie Joyner Kersey want-to-be in reverse. I made two 911 calls. The first call was really more like a yelp, or a dying man's plead for mercy. That was to G‑d, and it went something along the lines of "G-D, G-D, G-D, G-D, G-D, G-D, G-D, G-D!" The second was to my husband's secretary saying, "I don't care how many patients he's seeing, get him here NOW!" Blessedly my husband works next door and does not share my fear, blessedly the serpent was small, blessedly it must have been hurt in some way, because it didn't move very fast, blessedly, it appeared to be of the non-poisonous variety.

All that perspective is good and fine, but the fact remains that there was a snake in striking pose in my kitchen! And now I'm in the thick of the post-traumatic fallout from that little face-off, and it isn't all that pretty.

In the days that followed my close encounter, when I wasn't hallucinating snakes out of wires and garden hoses, I tried to keep myself busy. I hired two different reptile specialists to come and evaluate our home and garden and make changes where necessary. I educated myself on local reptilian culture, under the auspices of "knowledge is power," but quickly remembered that, "ignorance is bliss." I bought a new rug for my kitchen to place at the scene of the crime, as a sort of retail therapy piece to soften the blow of that showdown between good and evil that took place there. I've spoken to my husband and friends ad nauseum in an attempt to leap over my fear.

But, after all the gardening, and educating, and talking, and shopping, there are still times in the day that I feel frightened to be in my house. I want desperately to get over this and get on with the business of living without fear of another sighting or, G‑d forbid, worse- but I find myself stuck at the "how to" part.

With each day that passes, I dig a little deeper inside of myself One tripping point for me is the knowledge that I've always been very good in crisis situations. I'm trained several times over in First Aid and CPR, I attend women in childbirth regularly, and I've dealt with my fair share of emergency room visits. I can say, with no intended arrogance, that I can handle some pretty scary stuff with a fairly level head. But this whole face-my-fears-in my-kitchen experience isn't a classic emergency situation with a quick fix. This is a process.

And I am discovering that I am not so much of a "process-person." I'm more of a goal-oriented, "just do it" kind of gal. I like to make lists and check things off, the faster the better. In general, I prefer to be there more then I like the actual getting there.

My lack of patience in the matter of the serpent fear has the added twist of my having actually experienced a violation of my space. That snake trespassed into my kitchen. He went where he did not belong. He crossed an unspoken line between man and beast and entered a domestic zone; ultimately, he went outside of his nature. Imust acknowledge that this is an experience that G‑d tailor made for me. As if He is saying, "There's a deeper message here sweetheart- you need to go outside of your nature and find it."

Try as I may, I have yet to find the internal switch to flip that will suddenly override this fear and break my nature. So, I must accept that I am not meant to "get over" this right away. As startled and frightened as I was, and as much as I want this to be over already, my fear is something I must simply move through.

I am seeing, with no small amount of gratitude, that time does heal. With each day that passes, I dig a little deeper inside of myself; I try to fasten my will to G‑d's will a bit tighter and as I do, I feel the fear lift a bit more. I am much less skittish and far more confident that I will not in fact find a viper curled up on my doormat when I get home. I am developing the tools, namely faith and calmness, to be able to handle it even if I did.

I am much more tuned into the growth potential in this story then I was when my emotional wound was so raw. I'm still standing, still cooking my heart out in my kitchen and playing with my kids in the garden from where my fear came. I am not immobilized. I am facing my fear head on and I'm still okay.

I'm not done being afraid of snakes, but I'm willing to take a good look at my fear and do what I need to do to move through it. It's a process, perhaps a long one, but when I'm patient enough to be where I am and not try to fast-forward to the next step, that's when the real growth and learning will come.

So, Mr. Snake, as much as I disapprove of your presence in my space, I recognize that you were sent with orders from Above to teach me. So for that, I thank you. I'm learning a lot. Let's just not make this a habit, okay?