Eleanor Roosevelt said to do one thing each day that scares you. It is good advice, since doing something scary automatically gets you out of your comfort zones. Of course, the definition of scary varies from person to person and task to task. You might dive off a cliff without a second thought but almost cry when asked to give a speech. But no matter what our personal fears may be, we often deal with them by trying to ignore their existence or putting off doing them as long as we can.
Last week, I realized that I was not just being clumsy throwing things in my garbage pail under the sink; there was a mouse pulling out and gnawing on my discarded ice cream lids. Now I have a great fear of mice. This comes naturally to me. One of my earliest memories is of my mother pulling my sister and me onto a trunk and screaming as a mouse ran through the room. Also, as a child, a groggy, poisoned mouse once decided to spend its last hours in one of my warm knitted slippers. Let’s just say I’ve never worn slippers again.
So, a mouse in my home is the equivalent of a malevolent stalker. I was upset that I briefly considered going online to matchmaker sites with only one criterion for love: Will you kill my mouse? But instead, I bought a trap and set it.
The next morning, I woke, jumped out of bed, and then remembered there might be a mouse waiting for me downstairs. So I jumped back in bed and covered up until hunger got the best of me. In the kitchen, I gingerly opened the cabinet. And there it was: dead mouse in the trap.
Now at this point, you would think the hard part was over. But I discovered that I am scared of dead mice too. So I did what any reasonable person would do: walk around the condo looking out my windows hoping a neighbor would pass by. But then it occurred to me that there was no good way to ask someone to take a dead mouse out of your house. So I put on some work gloves, got out a garbage bag, held my breath, reached in, pulled out the mouse, tossed it in the bag, and then threw the bag out of my front door. (I did later take the bag to the dumpster.)
Still, it was a good fifteen minutes before I stopped shaking enough to make my cereal and coffee. And I’m not sure when I will be able to open my cabinet door again without flinching.
However, the experience was a good reminder that fear-busting is not getting rid of the fear; it’s proceeding though your hands are shaking and your knees are wobbling.
So this week, take one of your fears and conquer it, step by trembling step.