Pat me on the back.
I’ve really been good about calming my innumerable phobias during the one week when the shit truly hit the fan (Eeek! A mouse!).
People who went beyond the “I’m praying for you” platitudes to share their own experiences, even if it was, “You’ll be fine. It’s not personal.” (Said at an actual Home Depot in Everett.)
As I drove my son home from his soccer practice, both of us barely simmering with anxiety — hey, he’s the one who stared down the mouse in our family room — I took this moment to go over another life lesson, mostly to calm my own ass down.
“I know I say this a thousand times, but it bears repeating,” I began. “We learn from bad experiences, so that when others go through something similar, we can help them. Don’t ever forget that. I know it sucks right now to have a mouse in our home, or back when you didn’t make Premier tryouts. But I never want you keeping it to yourself if you have a chance to reassure someone else who maybe thinks the world is ending. Too many people keep things to themselves, or act like they got their shit together. You don’t be that person. Don’t waste what you went through.”
“Have I done any good in the world today? Have I helped anyone in need? Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad? If not, I have failed indeed. Has anyone’s burden been lighter today, because I was willing to share? Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way? When they needed my help was I there?” — Will L. Thompson (music and text)
If we’re too busy to help other people, we’ve missed the mark. Taking the time to spontaneously — as well as planned — helping other people is one of the greatest joys in life. Helping others opens you up to new sides of yourself. It helps you connect deeper with those you help and humanity in general. It clarifies what really matters in life.
—Benjamin P. Hardy, “50 Ways to Live On Your Own Terms,” Thrive Global
As Thomas Monson has said, “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.” That would truly be a failure.
This mouse situation has scared us all. But the people who extended themselves by sharing their own stories…it literally only takes a minute, honest to god… they helped the most. They gave me the courage, the confidence to plow through my fears.
Imagine what a better world this would be if we all did this. Our experiences are similar, the good and the bad, they bond us, really.
The worst feeling in the world is feeling alone, or worse, abandoned.
My inclination is to always reach out. Unfortunately, too many of my so-called friends and family choose to take the observer role, as if they’ve never ever been through anything negative like that — until it happens to them. They seem to perch on their thrones, issuing simulations of compassion (appropriate words) but little else, making sure I know that such a terrible situation has never happened to them.
That’s not helping. That’s certainly not being a friend or using our time here wisely.
If I acted like that, I’d end up in the funny farm real quick.
So after the mouse incident, I went about my day quietly freaking out, trying not to make a big outward display of it as to scare strangers. Alone.
My husband left for work, his day job and his musician gig. He would be gone all this weekend, leaving me to deal with Mickey Mouse and god knows how many cousins were running around in our family room, and a teenaged son who wanted to stay in his own hotel room (“Can they go upstairs?”).
The fate of the world depends on me? We’re fucked!
Oddly, strangers were the ones who helped me out the most…random strangers at a Walgreens, where I loaded up on mouse prevention contraptions and athletic tape for my soccer-playing teen, and Home Depot, more mouse contraptions and home-spun advice.
After weeks of getting four hours of sleep on average, now this, running around trying to get a handle on what’s going down at my house, wondering if I’ll ever focus long enough to prevent more shit from hitting the fan navigating invisible rodent minefields … I finally cracked in Aisle 1.
A few tears spilled out as I thanked a Home Depot lady for bothering with me. She’d carefully explained the various options of no-kill traps. Now, she was patiently listening to me as I blathered on about potential airborne dangers.
“You’re gonna be fine. It’s just a mouse, who probably strayed into your house and is just as eager to escape. Don’t take this personally.”
Two friends did stand out when I texted about my dilemma. Even though one was very sick with a cold after a hard week of working long hours, the first thing she told me was that she had plenty of mice come in and out of her home. Her cats would bring them in, and they’d humanely take them out, no problem.
Another friend today immediately texted back that her family had a mouse they called Houdini who lived in their home for a month before they found him with his hands on the back of a toilet and his little feet against the wall. A month! Can you believe it?
Their shared stories did more to help me than all the “Oh, that sucks!” “I’m sorry you’re going through that. It must be awful” well-meaning bullshit.
Btw, what’s with everyone recommending I get a *cat?
- I’m allergic to cats.
- Cats aren’t a guarantee against rodents wandering into the house. Haven’t you watched YouTube videos of cats farting around with mice already inside?
Here’s how it works, kids. You go through your own particular brand of shit. When someone else goes through something similar, you step up and let them know your story, including the part where you freaked out first.
You don’t leave them hanging. You don’t keep to yourself. You don’t talk around the problem. You don’t go around hand’s off. Any computer simulation can be programmed to do that.
*Fuck it. I’m getting a dog.