First, show no fear.
One day last week I return home from work to find “evidence” that a pest has invaded our house. A puddle on my desk and droppings here and there make that much clear. I presume a mouse, so buy an armful of mousetraps and, grumbling like a lunatic, patrol the house setting traps with peanut butter. I do not panic or overreact; I just go about the business of trap-setting, confident that the now-invisible creature will eventually show itself. I’m a little skeeved, but no sense in freaking out.
It has been six months since I decided to change my life and three months since I began SuddenWriteTurn. The emotions that led up to my decision were tinged with fearful questions: What’s my life going to be like? Will my husband resent me if I have no income and he is sole-breadwinner? Can I really do this? It is a twinge I still feel now and then as I putter along, blogging through this winter and giving myself a lot of space to think about the next phase toward my goal. The twinge must be acknowledged, and once dealt with I can move forward because there really is no going back. The mouse must be caught.
Put on the right uniform, unpack the right tools.
Two days of empty mousetraps, and further “evidence” accompanied by a late-night skirmish we hear between family dog and invisible interloper. Then, I look over my shoulder to see that the soft pattering in our upstairs hallway is NOT our cat, but a squirrel scampering into a spare bedroom. A full grown adult squirrel.
Somehow, I again do not panic but at lightning speed am across the hallway pulling closed the door to the squirrel-sanctuary while simultaneously advising the husband of the situation. As we are veterans of five indoor flying bat encounters, we begin our usual critter-catching preparation of donning our uniform and gathering our tools: hats, gloves, sweatshirts, boots, brooms, a baseball bat, a box and a quilt. Ready.
My life is already different. For six months I have spent every spare moment reading library books, e-books, and news articles all about two things: making a big life change, and about writing. I follow blogs (Cordelia Calls it Quits, Of Parchments and Inks, Morninglight Mama, Courage 2 Create) and exchange emails with friends who are doing what I want to do, savoring every word of encouragement and advice. I become a member at two local cultural-arts organizations (Writers and Books, and Genesee Center for the Arts and Education) where I take classes to stoke my creativity and sharpen my skills. I subscribe to Writer’s Digest magazine because, other than a firm grip on the English alphabet, I don’t know anything about “Writing,” as a career. I know that I want to write, and I would love it if eventually people paid me to do it for them. Getting from “here” to “there” is the journey. I’m still gathering my tools and dusting off my uniform.
Be patient, but vigilant.
Suited up, we quietly enter the squirrel sanctuary. It is a spare bedroom that we hope one day to convert to a master bathroom. We canvas the room looking under, over and behind everything, and finally approach the massive desk designed and constructed by the husband during our early days together. It is a wooden opus of upper and lower cabinets, drop front, ingenious cubby-holes, and a set of deep drawers. If I were the squirrel, I would hide here, too.
Some days I feel like I haven’t accomplished much toward my goal of changing my life, but I have given myself 3 years and I have started this blog. Of all the encouraging quotes I read over the past months, one by E.L. Doctorow stands out:
“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
I have to navigate what is right in front of me first. It is an exercise in patience and vigilance, because you can’t get there if you keep stopping. And a squirrel has to come out eventually.
Set it Free.
Welcome to our cartoon where the husband flushes our squirrel friend from his hiding place and it bounces unbelievably fast around the small room. He swings the broom and I hold the baseball bat out in front of me like a light saber. We are ineffective – neither of us can bear to hurt an animal, even if it has been hiding in our house for two days, taunting our pets and leaving a residue.
In the end, we use the Havahart trap to humanely capture the squirrel when it corners itself. After raging around the cage for a moment, undoubtedly terrified after being on the run from people, a good-sized dog and a cat, this squirrel actually settles down to munch on the apple the husband used for bait. He’s kinda cute. I take his picture, and then the husband releases him in the backyard. Mr. Squirrel climbs way up into the pine tree in no time.
This is my 19th blog post, one a week since mid-November. Some posts are fantastic (Letterpress, Block Printing), others sort of ho-hum, and others are a joy to write even if the site stats are unimpressive (Babysitting, Getting Crafty, Volunteering). This is an online portfolio if nothing else. Here I exercise my writing skills, connect with others, learn and grow. My life hasn’t yet changed completely; I still get up and go to work every day doing the work I have to do instead of the work I want to do. But I’m nibbling the apple and the trap is opening, and pretty soon I am going to be way up in that pine tree.