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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What I Learned from a Cockroach

Like most people, I find cockroaches disgusting and repulsive, but one cockroach taught me a lesson just at the time I needed it.

I'm afraid of bugs...always have been. I remember them knocking and buzzing at the screen as I tried to sleep on a hot "unairconditioned" night in Chicago when I was a young girl. 

It was the mid '90s on a sultry afternoon in New Orleans. I just left our company's partner conference. I was in turmoil about whether to leave the company that was faltering; it was just a matter of time before it would go belly up. Layoffs were underway, and the high-tech giant was floundering.

I was burned out; and as the workers left, the rest of us shouldered more of the load. I had reached a fork in the road--stay or go before the end. I was offered a corporate position, but it was really too late for a turnaround. If I left, I had no idea what I would do next. I felt "stuck" by my responsibilities and could not see a way out.

On the way back to the hotel, I discovered an art glass studio where students were shaping lava-like, molten glass into beautiful, decorative vases and bowls.

I love art glass, so I couldn't pass up the chance to watch the amazing process of golden, liquid glass being fired. It was an old warehouse with a tall, arched glass skylight, a dramatic rooftop for the fiery ovens below where the glass was given its final form.

Suddenly a storm blew in, the sky blackened, and lightening streaked above the skylight putting nature's fireworks on display, a theatrical production of fire and rain clashing as the glass was creatively brought to life by the glassblowers.  It was a dramatic moment of blazing fire, pounding water and lashing wind.

A deluge struck the building and we were caught on foot in a flash flood. The street quickly filled up with rushing water. We took off our shoes, rolled up our slacks, and waded into thigh-high murky water, feeling the pavement under our feet, but unable to see what was beneath the quickening current.

We sought higher ground and saw an historic townhome nearby with a dozen steps up to its landing.  We climbed as quickly as we could to safety as the water continued to rise.

We were not the only ones seeking dry ground. Below us, we watched a giant roach instinctivelyly inch its way up each concrete step to avoid being swept away.

Once again I felt that familiar revulsion, but I was stuck in place.

As I observed the roach work its way to safety, I became fascinated by its behavior. It knew what to do and how to survive.

I realized in the storm that the roach moved forward to live. That was the sign I needed.

I, too, had to move on and flee the corporate storm that was destroying my spirit and future.

I still am squeamish when I see a cockroach but am grateful for the lesson it taught me that day when I needed to escape the murky turmoil around me and regain my footing on solid ground.

Sometimes life lessons come from the last place we would look for them.

Copyright © Erana Leiken, 2011 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

power of nature by nespresso
steps1 by vasantdave


  1. A beautifully written account of a lesson learned from nature.

  2. I can't agree more. We do learn a thing or two from the things (and pests) we consider trivial. This is such a nice post. I'm a first-time visitor, and I think I will check back on your site from time to time. Following you. :)


  3. It is quite interesting how signs come in many shapes, sizes or in the form of something we do not like... Connecting your queries with that of a cockroach .....

  4. It's amazing what we learn from the strangest places.