Monday, June 4, 2012

Of Mice and Me

I have mouse-magnet toes. Really. Don’t believe me? 
Read on.

I was poking around in the basement of the house I grew up in, looking for some long-lost thing or another, when all of a sudden, I knew that I was not alone down there. Maybe it was a sound, or a movement in the periphery of my vision. I’m still not sure. But I did know that I needed to get out and fast. I did a quick check of the area between the door and my spot on the floor. About 10 feet of space. I could cover that in a few seconds, no problem.
Except that as soon as I started walking, there certainly was a problem. A giant mouse shot out from seemingly nowhere and, seeing me, stopped dead in his tracks. So, there we both were, staring eye to eye, like a standoff scene in an old Western movie. The only things missing were the tumbleweeds skipping by and the townspeople cowering behind their curtained windows. I was silently planning my escape route when, without warning, the mouse decided to charge straight at me. I didn’t know what he had in mind. I just knew that I was terrified of making contact with the scary beast. So I did what any sane, logical person would do in the situation.

I screamed in octaves I had never before approached, waved my arms in the air, and sweated from pores I didn’t know existed. But that’s not all. I figured, since I couldn’t run out the door, I’d do the next best thing. I ran in place. On the tips of my toes. And in my bare feet. I ran until the hard cement under my feet became surprisingly soft and furry.

And that was the end of that mouse.

As soon as I felt the squish, I knew what I had done. Then I spent the next two hours crying my heart out for having taken the life of an innocent animal. Later, while I gave him a proper mouse burial, I saw that he wasn’t an enormous monster after all – he measured all of 3 inches from stem to stern. I learned my lesson about jumping to conclusions and letting my fears get the best of me.

Or so I thought.

Years later, I had an almost identical encounter. That one was in my kitchen, and I’m sorry to say that I once again did the Flashdance run and screeched my lungs sore, only to bring the life of another mouse to an untimely end.

And that second flattened mouse put the final nail on the coffin, so to speak – I knew then that I had deadly mouse-magnet toes. Once in a lifetime? Ok, that’s weird, but I guess it could happen. But twice? Oh, no, that was no coincidence. Everything happens for a reason, I’m told, and I’m still trying to sort out that particular sequence of events. Meanwhile, mice still freak me out.

In due time, my daughter reached the age when little girls are enamored with cute little furry things like mice and hamsters and gerbils. Last Friday, she brought home the class hamster to stay with us for the weekend. Lilly, as she was known, was a particular type of hamster, a “dwarf”. Now, I have no problem with hamsters, even had a few as pets when I was a little girl. So, I figured I could handle our little guest.

“Mama, Lilly likes to burrow under lots of bedding. She likes to play and she’s really cute!” Annie informed me, as we made the drive home from school. I told her I was looking forward to meeting Lilly. And I meant it.

We got home and Annie eagerly took Lilly out of her box. Lilly didn’t look like any hamster that I’d ever seen. Truth be known, she looked exactly like a mouse, only with a short tail. I felt the familiar hammering in my chest, as my heart began to race and my breath came out in short, desperate bursts. I managed to stammer out, “Oh, she is a cute little thing. Why don’t you put her away now and help me make dinner.” I congratulated myself on my clever maneuver and figured that was that.

But of course, it wasn’t.

Later that evening, my youngest son wanted to see the hamster and asked me to take Lilly out of her box. Oh, no, I thought, not me. No, no, no, no, no. But no one else was around. I checked. I called out. No answer. Then I tried to divert his attention, but Jayden’s mind was made up. He wanted to meet Lilly.

Was this going to somehow develop into Unfortunate Rodent Incident Number Three? I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

And then I saw my mother. She was telling me that some of life’s greatest rewards arise out of facing one’s fears. Of course, at the time she wasn’t referring to my mouse phobia. I had been struggling with the decision to partner with Michael and start our company, E3Live, and I had gone to her for guidance. She told me, “If you let your fears stop you, you will never fully live.” And she was right. Michael and I went into business and never looked back.

The same advice later saw me through the long, dark days of her illness. It would have been easy to let the terror and desperation I felt take me under, but as she lay in bed, struggling with every breath, I chose instead to face my fear of losing my mother. Since she could no longer go outside to watch the sunrise, as she had done every morning for as long as I could remember, I would bring the sun to her. I made sure that no matter what, I always entered her room with a smile on my face and fresh flowers to brighten her view. We reminisced and told each other funny stories and felt the warmth of our love envelop us in a safe cocoon.

My reward was that I got to know my mother more deeply than I could have ever before imagined. And we made memories that I will carry with me until I take my last breath.

Now, I was the mother and it was up to me to teach my children the wisdom my mother had given me. I often told them to face their fears. I had to take a stand in that moment with Lilly, or risk letting my fear get in the way of being a role model for my children.

I slowly took Lilly out of the box and held her while Jayden stroked her fuzzy little body. I’ll admit that it wasn’t easy. I wanted to drop her and run, but I decided to focus instead on the delight on my son’s face and the joy in his eyes. I saw how gentle he was with this tiny creature and how utterly engrossed he was in this special moment, and my heart felt that it would burst from happiness.

And that was my reward for facing this particular fear.

Often, we keep our lives small, letting our fears paralyze us, preventing us from experiencing new ideas or events. Rarely do these fears have real validity to them, as much as we may think they do.  And believe me, in my mind, my mouse phobia feels pretty darned real. But, I have to remember that fears are just made up in our minds. Take a look at the variety of fears people live with – what terrifies one, makes not a whit of difference to another. Some people are afraid of heights, others are afraid of driving on mountain roads. Some refuse to try new foods, others tremble at the unknown. Me, I’ll probably always have some fear of mice, but in the end, I know that they are truly sweet little creatures who are more afraid of me than I am of them.

The difference between mice and me?  I can understand the concept of overcoming my fear and I can choose to do so.   As for the mice, here’s to hoping that they stop running toward me. And that should we ever meet again, I will be wearing shoes on my feet.


  1. It is true want they say: "What you think of expands" & what you said: "that we must remember that fears are just made up in our minds" So the two together you can imagine what goes on in some people's minds.
    We are all captains of our own ships, it is only us that can do the thinking, whether good or bad, positive or negative, either way is it going to grow and develop just like planting a seed. You can decide if it is good fruit you want or bad fruit!

    1. Happy2, I am unable to email you. If you would like your special offer code as a gift for commenting on my blog, please email me.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly! That which we feed and nurture, grows.

  3. Why are we so afraid of tiny things that could never overpower us. Spiders go squish under our shoes but in our mind they are monsters...:)

    1. Good point, Pghsheep! Sometimes the biggest obstacles we face are in our own minds.

      I don't see a way to email you your special offer code as a gift for commenting on my blog. Please email me so that I can send it to you.

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