I was sitting down in the bathroom Saturday evening, and through the darkness, I sensed a shadow scuttle silently across the floor. I didn’t really see it, but I knew what it was by it’s size and the way it moved. Definitely mouse.
This mouse-ghost came at the end of what was an unusually vermin filled weekend. On Friday, I had my first battle with head lice. The school nurse called and left me this message, “Nora was itching her head today and she came to my office and yes…I did find some lice.” At home that afternoon, I washed everything in the house and invested way too much money on a small arsenal of beautifully packaged “natural” lice deterrents including one of those tiny-toothed combs. For the next few days, Nora and I kept score during each a.m. and p.m. comb-a-thon (10 points per louse and 1 per nit) and after 3 days, we finally zeroed out. During all of this, a colony of flies moved in and I came down with a sore-throat sickness. I also discovered some weird fungus on Hazel’s big toe.
I dedicated a lot of energy to ridding my children, my body and my home of other pests, so I didn’t give much thought to ridding my bathroom of the little mouse. I didn’t forget it though. It left it’s evidence on my bathroom counter. I sanitized the heck out of my bathroom, putting all my oils into cabinets and making sure there wasn’t a smudge of toothpaste left anywhere. By the third day, I knew I’d have to do something about the mouse. I told my friend, Katherine about my problem and she brought over a pack of two mouse traps. She guaranteed they’d work.
My house was incredibly clean when I sat to practice on Monday morning and during that time, I thought about the mouse. I was sorry that it ended up in my house. I was sad that we couldn’t live in peace with this small, quiet creature. I was sorry I would eventually use those mousetraps. I also noticed that I wasn’t angry. I didn’t enjoy what had to be done, but I wasn’t mad about it and I didn’t need to expend any energy against the mouse or the situation. This is kind of new for me. When things don’t go my way, frustration and anger are quick to move in. I thought about the first year Dave and I were separated. My feelings were really hurt and I was very angry. I knew that the anger could be relieved with forgiveness, but I thought I needed to see lots of evidence that he deserved forgiveness. I thought he needed to do something so I could forgive him.
I wondered, on Monday, if forgiveness might be closer to the feeling I had with the mouse.I sat for a long time and I started to see that forgiveness isn’t really earned by or done for the other party. It’s not something to be exchanged or earned. It all happens within me. It’s more of an attitude than an action (though actions may need to be taken to adopt the attitude). We aren’t holding out “ofering forgiveness” as a reward to the forsaken. Instead, it’s more of a gift we give ourselves. A gift that offers us more clarity. We can feel lighter.
It seems obvious that getting angry or demanding that a mouse, lice, flies, virus, or fungus earn my forgiveness won’t affect the behavior of any of those living things. It will only affect me as the angry person. These creatures are surviving as best they can, which isn’t all that different from the rest of us, doing our best.