One warm day last spring, I found a ladybug in my bathtub.
It’s a large, jetted tub, infrequently used but perfect for soaking.
Also an unlikely home for a ladybug.
How did it get here? And more importantly, how would it get out?
A bathtub is not an ideal habitat for a ladybug.
It wasn’t hard for me to see the symbolism of the Ladybug in the Bathtub.
I was in a phase of my life when I felt similarly out of place. I had always done what I thought I was supposed to do and so was entirely unclear how I found myself somewhere I didn’t want to be.
I knew, deep down, that my Work Was No Longer Working for me. I was suffering from a bad case of Frowny Work Face.
And I had to find my way out.
Helping the actual ladybug that was in my bathtub suddenly became of utmost importance.
Sure, I could carefully pick it up and toss it out the window. But what if it was unable to fly? We were on the second floor of the house. That would be like ladybug slaughter.
Maybe I could care for it until it was well enough to be reintroduced to nature. I would keep it as a temporary pet.
But I am not very well versed in ladybug care. I don’t really like bugs, even ones that are supposed to symbolize good luck.
I texted a friend, one of those people who knows a lot about a lot of random things. This seemed one of those really random things.
“There’s a ladybug in my bathtub! I must save it!”
It turns out her son once had a bug terrarium. She advised putting a sugar-soaked sponge in a plastic container. That seemed a reasonable temporary home for my ladybug, a pretty sweet pad actually.
I went in search of the necessary items in the clutter under my kitchen sink, then cut a ladybug-sized portion of sponge, soaked it in a sugar-water solution, and spent a good 20 minutes unearthing a matching Tupperware container lid into which I carefully cut little ladybug air holes.
I added a few leaves and strands of grass from the yard for a natural effect, very pleased with myself.
And then I went upstairs to introduce the ladybug to her new home.
… And she wasn’t there.
The bathtub was empty.
Momentarily confused, I looked around.
Had she flown out the window? The screen was intact with no obvious holes.
Had she fallen down the drain?
Had I totally imagined the Ladybug in the Bathtub?
And then I saw my cat, sitting smugly nearby, washing her face with her paw and licking her chops.
She looked very satisfied with herself. Like, satiated kind of satisfied.
And I realized I had blown it. I had taken too long. I had missed the opportunity to save the ladybug.
I had failed.
This upset me more than it probably should have as a 40-something woman who had certainly seen bigger disappointments.
Because it’s not just about this one ladybug.
It’s the symbolism, stupid. Of course, it is.
You see it, don’t you?
Clearly, I am the Lady(bug) in the Bathtub.
Maybe you get it. Maybe you’ve found yourself somewhere that’s not quite where you’re meant to be. It doesn’t feel right. It’s cold and foreign.
You have no idea how you wound up there. Worse, you have no idea how to get out.
You cannot spread your wings. Even if you could, where would you go?
You’re out of your element. You need some help to find your sweet spot.
But maybe help never arrives. You have to save yourself. You need to take that first step, that first attempt at flight, even if you don’t yet know where you’re going to land.
Because if you stay put, in this place where you don’t belong, well… maybe the evil cat finds you first.
And that doesn’t work out too well.
Who’s the evil cat in your story?
It was around this time, of failing to save the ladybug in the bathtub, that I decided to spread my own wings and attempt to fly. I’ve crashed any number of times since. But every time I land in the “bathtub” – or wherever it is I know I’m not supposed to be – I work like heck to get myself out of there and find a better home.
Still seeking my sweet spot.
You can do the same, my ladybug.
Beware the evil cat.
Don’t just sit in the bathtub, warily looking down the drain, wondering how you got there, and waiting for someone to come save you.
Spread your wings and fly.
Valerie Gordon is the author of “Fire Your Narrator! A Storyteller’s Guide to Getting Out of Your Head and Into Your Life” and the founder of career and communication firm The Storytelling Strategist. She speaks at conferences and works with corporations to help high-achievers ascend the leadership ladder and build strong equitable teams. Find out about her “Got Goals?” webinar and “Big Excuse Bingo!” breakouts.