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February 21, 2013
This is Not a Stone
Of Mice and (Wo)men
by Hannah Bird

All my life I have hated mice. I hate them with a devotion that makes most “eek, a mouse” moments pale in comparison. I am more a “there’s a mouse, lets burn the house to the ground” kind of girl. It is a source of great amusement to my family that I am not afraid of public speaking, actual criminals, full grown bulls, threats, or just about anything else that a normal rational person would fear. In fact my courage would be quite impressive if I could stop weeping like an infant at the sounds (real or imagined) of scratching. I have been known to make my son sleep in my room to protect me from mice. I have made my husband wake up in the middle of the night to get something I needed out of the bathroom because I thought a kleenex that missed the trash can was a mouse.

This all makes perfect sense if you are me. When I was little, I would see mice running around at my grandparent’s farm. There was no faster animal in the world. They moved so quickly that they appeared to be disappearing and reappearing. More than once I ended up seriously misjudging the direction that one of these little magicians was heading and I ended up going towards them. One ran over my foot.

If a mouse got in the farmhouse, we were handed ice cream buckets and organized into a tactical perimeter. The idea was that we would quickly slam the buckets down, catching the mouse. I hated this. First, I was hindered by my cat (but not a live cat) -like reflexes. Second, the mice just moved so fast. They flashed across the floor like evil lightning. Eventually word in the mouse kingdom got out. It was inevitable. “If you are caught in the house, run towards Hannah”. I was the low-hanging fruit of the mouse catching world. Inevitably mouse trapping ended up with people yelling at me that the mouse was getting away. It was headed right to me. It was taking a nap on my shoe. It had passed away peacefully of old age at my feet. But never once did I catch it.

Then one day, I got glasses. I was by this point a mom. I had always been very proud of my excellent eyesight. It was genetic you see. We just had excellent eyes. I was explaining this to my husband and he pointed out that the majority of my family wore glasses. I thought that was a fairly low blow, but in a marriage sometimes you have to compromise so I agreed to get my eyes checked. I took my eldest daughter, since she was very interested in medical things at the time. About six seconds into the interview, the opthamologist asked, “Did you drive here?”. I said yes. He said, “How?” It turns out that my eyes were not good. In fact I was totally lacking in some new-fangled thing called depth perception.

Glasses were magic. The leaves went all the way to the top of trees. Grass had texture. Everything looked like a Disneyfied version of life.

Then a mouse ran across my living room floor. And I caught it. In an ice cream bucket. I was explaining to my husband how this mouse didn’t use any of the normal mouse tricks like super speed or disappearing when the look on his poor beleaguered face brought me to the painfully obvious truth. Mice never could do any of that. I just couldn’t see them.

I still hate mice. So much. But I live on a farm now and mice are a fact of life. I can turn over a board and watch mice scatter with what may resemble a calm face. When mice get in the house I make my son kill them rather than deciding to move. I am still gutless. I just have a more reasonable assessment of the situation.

And that is why I stopped worrying.

In addition to fearing mice, I grew up fearing What Would Happen. I worried. I worried with such skill that I once upbraided my beautiful mother for her inability to worry effectively. For a long time, I believed that worrying helped me be prepared for The Bad Thing That Would Happen. Surprisingly, it didn’t. It made me tired and scared and difficult. It even made Bad Things happen. But not once did it protect me.

Fear is the lack of perspective. The same perspective that let me see completely unmagical mice scurrying like the tiny-brained creatures that they are, applied to everything I was afraid of. Fear was one view. I feared. But looking only at the fear did not give me the depth to view my future. I thought only about Horrible Things. My field of vision was not expanded by optimism or hope or blessings or love.

Better vision taught me to let go. If The Bad Things Happen, I can deal with them. But the worrying that made tomorrow a obstacle course/death match faded away. And what was left was life. Some days are good. Some are bad. Sometimes there is money enough. But sometimes not. Sometimes you are healthy. Sometimes you are sick. Sometimes you feel loved. Sometimes you feel lonely. But always life is a gift. The leaves on the trees are lovely to see.

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