People tell me all the time how brave I am. Sometimes, I believe it. I have to, otherwise I am not able to find the stamina to push through the day. It becomes a rallying cry, a motivator to keep me busy and moving. Otherwise, I am stalled and overwhelmed, and not even the simplest of tasks are accomplished.
People tell my husband, Jason, how brave and strong he is, too. This I cannot dispute, since he has proven time and again that he draws from wells of determination and fortitude that run rather deep. Not only that, but it is a brave person who will deal with my epic mood swings and flare for the dramatic.
Picture it: it is Saturday night, and the kids are tucked into bed. The house is tidy and neat, in anticipation of a large family gathering to take place the following day. Jason is upstairs snuggled up with Baby #3, who occasionally has trouble settling in for the night. I am sitting at the kitchen table, working on the laptop, while our 16 year-old cat, Gohan, is curled up asleep on the chair beside me. Everything and everyone is quiet, save for the clicking of my fingers on the keyboard. I’m debating pouring myself a glass of wine.
The cat leaps from his chair and his claws scuffle along the kitchen floor. I turn to see a mouse dangling from between his jaws. Like any brave person would do, I run full-speed upstairs to get Jason. I explain the situation as we race back down the steps, to be greeted by Gohan and his new-found squeak toy by the basement door. Gohan proudly trots into the family room, plops the mouse onto the carpet, and begins to playfully bat it around. It makes a break for the library book bag, and our geriatric cat loses interest. He heads back to the basement.
What follows is an almost two hour ordeal of us tearing apart our house to capture the mouse. Jason retrieves a hockey stick from the garage. He slides the library bag out from under the end table. After giving it a few whacks, I shake it around to be sure its only contents are books. I zip it up, and we move the end-table and couch. We find the mouse! We pick up Gohan and show it to him. He meows loudly, jumps down onto the couch, and then curls up to nap. We move the couch a little more and the mouse takes off to hide behind the recliner. We move that and it dives into the bin of kids’ dress-up clothes. I take a white board to hold as a shield while we attempt to direct the mouse towards the back door. It makes a break for the row of toy play-sets in the sun room and buries itself in plastic glory. Jason takes the hockey stick and pulls out each castle, Bat Cave, command central, and pirate ship we own. We shift the art desk. We start dumping out toy bins.
After effectively destroying what we spent all afternoon organizing, I find the mouse nestled in the corner of the room by a lamp. I, the woman lauded for her bravery, proceed to scream, turn tail, and run out of the room, hurtling over the 6 foot banquet table we had propped against a doorway to block off the mouse’s escape. We set up a box near the mouse, convincing ourselves we can encourage it to trap itself so it can be carried outside. I take the hockey stick, Jason practices folding the box’s top, and we brace ourselves. I even get the mouse into the box but then scream before Jason can pick it up, and our little intruder make another run for it. I stand outside, holding the screen door open and screeching while Jason chases it around. The hockey stick gets caught up in the doormat right before Jason can shoot the mouse out into the backyard, and I realize that my bladder is full and have to crouch down so as not to have an accident.
The interloper escapes us yet again. We put away the toys and clean up the chaos we created. We search for beady little eyes as Gohan follows us around the house meowing loudly to signal he is ready for us to go to bed. As I lay down, I am convinced that the mouse is under the covers somewhere, or nesting in my slipper, or will be waiting for me behind the shower curtain first thing in the morning.
A couple of days later, a mouse trap took care of the problem. Then we had to decide who would be responsible for disposing of it, which was a completely separate ordeal.
Maybe the shock, trauma, and course of cancer and its aftermath can make me feel brave, but analysis of my strength came in a big dose of humility wrapped in a small, furry rodent. Life makes sure I stay grounded, that I recognize challenges will come in all shapes and sizes. Day by day, minute by minute, I will deal with it all as best I can. Some days…not so much.