My biggest teacher is a Rat. A literal rat.

Most people want to proclaim their spirit animals as something cool, like a hawk. Which if you follow me closely you know, the hawk is one of my guides, but we can’t forget the less cool Rat (and mouse).

I was born in the year of the rat, and have lived among rats and mice most of my life. Honestly more people do than they will admit. When the animals around me do something strange that make me pay attention to them, I usually refer to my favorite book, “Animal Speaks” by Ted Andrews. Just reading a few words about why an animal went out of it’s way to communicate with me, helps remind me that I’m not wandering lost in the world, I’m in fact being guided. (1).jpg

Rats are around to make me pay attention to how I deal with the “pests” in my life, which has plenty of room for improvement. It also may correlate with the many houses and apartments I’ve lived in surrounded by trees. I’m grateful for all the roofs that have sheltered me, even if they’ve included rats. Because they are teaching me, so much. So yeah, my little secret is out. While I’m confessing let me say one big one, I sometimes make Steve feel like a pest. Yes, gasp, and go on into judgement….or…

Why do we keep secrets? Mostly it’s for fear of how someone will react. For me I’m already very judged as a caregiver. Messages like, “Your husband is so sick, it must be your fault, you’re caring for him.” In fact I have had handfuls of nurses and doctors say these words to me, “If this gets infected, it’s on you.” How could I not feel some sense of ridiculous responsibility for Steve’s infections? I mean what bullshit to put on a caregiver. Let’s talk infection reality with Steve for a minute.

Steve was born premature and with a slew of health problems, he was an athlete who injured himself frequently requiring surgeries, and has lived with frequent infections even before ALS. Then you add the permanent pieces (trach, folley catheter, feeding tube) all a constant source for infections. Further more you add his anemia of chronic disease, and gastroparesis leading him to being only fed via IV food; which keeps him alive but only goes so far in terms of sustaining him.

Here I am explaining myself again. Instead of attaching some bullshit that I shouldn’t be doing that, i’ll just acknowledge that yes, I’m justifying myself. Because here’s what I’ve come to learn in my 34 years. We have to stop the judgment. I mean towards others of course, but recently I learned it’s towards ourselves that’s most important. My latest mantra has been, “Be so busy learning not to judge yourself, that you don’t have time to judge others.”

It’s interesting to put your life out there. Some people only see the inspired writings and pretty pictures and have put me on a pedestal, which I don’t belong there. Side note: No one does. I just like to remind those that there are days in which I can’t put one foot in front of the other, and the only thing I can muster to do is take care of Steve. So often I feel lost, and maybe it’s because I’m lost in Steve and caring for him. However, I realized recently I’m done trying to live my life in a way dictated by what will keep me from being judged by others. Instead I want to see where I’m judging others, which is a very large clue into where I’m judging myself. It should go without saying, but let me say it, STEVE IS NOT A PEST. Not one bit, and me treating him like one is not acceptable, but also let me add, people judging me on the internet isn’t the pest either. It’s me.

I can’t understand why we are conditioned to strive for perfection instead of being taught to be human. Being self aware in any way requires a certain level of acceptance and heaps of self love. Accepting yourself does not mean you excuse any bad behavior. That’s a dangerous lie we are told in the world of lies we are submerged in. Accepting yourself means you forgive yourself. It means not spending any of your energy self loathing when you make a mistake, and instead use the energy to grow and learn from it. Failures are nothing but teachable moments. Stepping stones on the path.

So as I found myself setting traps and catching the mice and rats, and crying my way through disposing of the animals, I was missing the ways I was trapping myself.

As I would loose my shit, screaming, “I’m sorry,” as I would smash the animal with a brick to kill it, because the trap didn’t, I was missing the lesson.

As I would sob for acceptable (to me) amounts of time to Steve about how my life isn’t worth more than rats, I would hear him say, “Mine is.” Which of course would help me cowgirl up, handle business, pour some literal bleach on it, and move on. I was missing how little I was valuing myself.

However, I was too in my “victim” of these rats not leaving us alone and our house having all of the problems an old house in the woods does, to fully see how much I was being taught. Boundaries aren’t to be shamed. Killing an animal who has taken residence in my house doesn’t make me awful (again I’m typing these words for me). Healthy boundaries aren’t just saying no when you don’t want to do something, it’s also not allowing anything potentially toxic in your space.

For the record the animals have nothing to do with Steve’s infections, and they have only come INSIDE the house when we are in the hospital because I leave our back door open for the dogs. They spend time in our attic, garage, and my shed; and I will forever be killing these poor animals who live among so many people, just trying to hide away from their predators and have a dry place to keep their 4 litters of babies a year. Seriously nature makes lots of rats and mice because they are major prey. Important to say, No I will not use rat poisoning, and risk poisoning my dogs who have caught the mice, the hawks who hunt them, the owls and eagles that make appearances, the neighborhood cats, and snakes. Yep, you’re damn right I’ve called in all the prey, and they show up for me non stop. THANK YOU animal friends. Also, our house has never been so clean. I clean non stop because of them. They taught me cleanliness in an act of self defense. I will catch them as they come, and carry on with this cycle, as we live in an old house in the woods. Because it’s what is best for me and Steve, and I no longer accept anyone’s shame about it, mostly my own.

There’s something liberating in facing your truths. It’s an act of taking your power back.

So I wanted to share my “dirty little secrets”, mainly because sharing my story heals me. Somehow even in all my mess, I am told often that it helps heal others too. It’s a reminder that nothing we go through is to hurt us, it’s to create us into a better version of ourselves than we were the day before, if we let it. If we are paying attention.

PS don’t send your animal professionals here, we’ve paid too much to too many people, it’s clear I have to handle this one on my own.