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Life Lessons From a Dead Rat
Work/Life Balance

Life Lessons From a Dead Rat 

I was so happy this past Friday morning as my housemate was going out of town for a few days. She’s lovely but this introvert has been dying for some alone time. I love people, but if I haven’t had sufficient time by myself, I start not liking them that much. If I do get enough time to myself, however, I am able to recharge and come back to the world of people rejuvenated and happy to be amongst others. But the whole “functioning introvert” is a story for another day. This story is about my recent life lessons from a dead rat. 

So, for a couple weeks, we had noticed that something was in the kitchen making little teeth marks in the fruits and veggies we had left in a bowl on the counter. It only ate organic fruits and veggies, btw; nothing else. We joked that the cute little mouse had a great diet. We didn’t want to harm him so we got a trap that would keep him alive and decided we would gently take it to a lovely field somewhere far away and set it free and leave it some snacks as a parting gift. But, each night, the mouse seemed to outsmart the trap. Then, we started getting worried he/she/it/they would multiply and we’d have a real problem. 

Luckily, I had made friends with the pest control guy, and it was time to call in reinforcements. He gave me one of those old school Tom and Jerry mouse traps that basically guillotines them. It wasn’t what we wanted to do but we felt like it was becoming a serious health hazard at this point. So, we put the deadly trap out, expecting to both wake up and deal with a very still little mousey in the morning. 

Darn thing outsmarted it again. “We have a really smart, vegetarian mouse,” we said to each other, laughing. We go on about our workdays and my housemate flies out of town. I forget all about the trap. At this point, it had been almost a week of putting various traps out with no success, so I assumed he was just too smart for our silly human antics. The next morning, laying in bed, I think about how happy I am to have the house to myself all weekend. I happily walk into the kitchen and put the kettle on, and as I turned to grab an apple, I screamed the type of scream you hear/see in the movies and ran to the other side of the house. You may not believe the following statement, but I’m typically not a squeamish, screaming, running type of person. I calmed myself down and said, “I can handle this. All I have to do is put it in a trash bag and take it outside to the big trashcan.” So, I go back in there, and good God, that thing was not a cute little mouse, but a large rat—larger than the trap even. I just wasn’t prepared for any of this. I had wanted alone time—not alone time with a dead rat. 

The next several hours consisted of me giving myself multiple pep talks about how I’d done so many hard, challenging, gut wrenching things in my life, and this was no big deal. This was simple. Tried again. Nope. Couldn’t do it. I even made a strategic plan of opening the outdoor trash can, opening the front door for a clear, quick exit, and getting a small trash can nearby to move him into. I tried, but I lost it again. I felt responsible for having taken his life. It sounds comical as I write this, but honestly, in the moment, it was quite traumatic. 

I called multiple family members to share my stress, but they all just kept saying “It’s not a big deal. Just pick it up and move it,” and I would totally agree with them, because it really was as simple as just moving the darn thing and then the whole unpleasant fiasco would be over. But I just felt completely unable to do that for some reason. Needless to say, I didn’t feel very understood by my family in those moments, because somehow, it did feel like a big deal to me. 

Eventually, I called my pest control buddy and asked if he would kindly come and remove this creature because I was lost in the land of judging myself as a ridiculous and stereotypically incapable female. Thankfully, he said he would be happy to help. He arrived hours later, quite happy to be my hero. And honestly, I was immensely grateful to call Ross, the pest control guy, my hero that afternoon. 

If you know me, you know that nothing happens in my world without me seeing it as an opportunity to learn something new about myself or the world. It’s a practice I highly recommend to everyone. Ask yourself throughout the various events in your daily life this simple question: “What is __________ trying to teach me?”  It will change your life. You will become a forever student who is constantly learning new things about yourself every moment. It’s one of the most accessible techniques to raise your level of personal awareness. 

So, what was my lesson? That I’m incapable? That women are stereotypically squeamish, and I now fall into that absurd category? That I can handle so many incredibly challenging things that grown men will literally run from but I crumble when faced with a dead rodent? 

Well, here are my personal lessons: 

  1. Sometimes, things feel traumatic and we don’t really understand why. I’m guessing this felt traumatic for me because I felt directly responsible for its death, and although I’m okay with the concept of death, I don’t want to be the cause of it. I had played a role in taking a life, and that felt traumatic for me. 
  2. The little girl in me wanted my dad to take care of it. She wanted to feel safe and protected by a strong, masculine archetype. (We don’t always like these shadow lessons, but it’s important to acknowledge them, whether you “like” them or not. That’s how shadow work works.) 
  3. I really could have disposed of it. I have a body and I am capable of doing that. If I had had no other choice, it certainly would have gotten done by me because it needed to be done. 
  4. I am grateful that I did have a choice and that I was fortunate enough to be able to call someone who specializes in this. Once I stopped beating myself up for “not being capable,” I graciously received assistance. He, in turn, received the gift of feeling powerful and helpful. I received the gift of being helped. This is what human beings are meant to do—we are meant to use our special talents to help one another.  
  5. We all have different skills. What was easy for Ross, was hard for me. What is easy for me, is likely hard for Ross. We are both incredibly capable, yet in different ways, and the world needs our varied skills. I’m best at helping people with their mental and emotional problems. He’s really great at removing and annihilating unwanted health hazards from people’s homes. We are both important and valuable.

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