No roach's life is easy. The time a Periplaneta americana specimen such as myself is allotted on this earth is brief, yet how do we spend most of that time? In fear. We live our lives dreading the terrifying instant when that light is switched on and we must dart away if we wish to escape with our exoskeletons intact.
I believe life is about more than that. I believe life is about the moments between scurrying disgustingly across walls and silverware.
Dodging a flying broom or rolled-up newspaper, bolting from a box of Cheerios to go hide in the nearest crack—when I was young, these dangers thrilled me as much as the next larva. But as you start getting up there in months, it becomes important to appreciate those rare, quiet times when you're not skittering away in panic.
We cockroaches scavenge. We mate. We leave trails of pheromones from our nests behind the refrigerator to sinks full of dirty dishes, signaling to others the location of potential food sources. But how many of us truly enjoy these things free from the anxiety that our next trip across the kitchen floor may end between a shoe and the linoleum, the life all squished out of us?
The key is teaching ourselves to savor the "now." Each day, I like to stop what I'm doing, take some deep breaths with all 20 functioning spiracles, and clear my mind of all thoughts of Raid or roach motels or boric acid.
At its essence, life is about the moments of inner stillness, not the constant scurrying. When we're pausing at the edge of the bathroom sink, twitching our antennae to sense each drop of fetid moisture and fleck of fecal matter, that is exactly when we should pause, contemplate the really important things, and find serenity.
I realize now that these peaceful moments—standing on a piece of cake, laying 1,500 eggs in the frosting—are when each of us becomes a cockroach in the fullest sense.
But I had to make this discovery for myself. One night, as I scampered up on some guy's pillow and nibbled at the mites in his eyebrows, a thought struck me: You know what? This is really nice. I wasn't worried about being swatted at or anything like that. I was just experiencing the fullness of the moment, happy to be alive and to be licking at the open sore of a freshly pierced ear.
I was just being.
Because let's face it, you never know when that big light bulb on the ceiling will flicker on, or what will happen when it does. Perhaps today you'll flee to the safety of a drainpipe, perhaps tomorrow your entire nervous system will be wracked with painful spasms as you slowly die in an asphyxiating fog of pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide.
So why not stop and smell the chemical traces of rotting garbage while you still can? Take the time right now to enjoy that banana peel, that unwashed bowl of chili on the countertop, that quiet nook in the medicine cabinet where there's a toothbrush you like to defecate on.
You'll be glad you did.
Of course, I still skitter away the instant I sense light in one of the many photoreceptors forming my terrifyingly large compound eyes. So must we all. It's an unavoidable part of life. But learning to be still, even for just a few seconds, and ponder the miracle of one's short, shit-covered life—well, that's something truly special.
After all, the day will come when each of us must shed his carapace and depart this world, and when that happens, what do we truly leave behind? Apart from millions upon millions of descendants who will spread to every corner of the globe, adapt to every conceivable environment, and extend a legacy that began in the Paleozoic Era and will continue long after the last human being draws his final breath, not very much.