Anxiety · Grief · Life

Deer in squirrel’s clothing

 One look at me and it is easy to tell that I am not so much of an outdoorsy person. I wear t-shirts with sayings and pictures on them from movies like Star Wars, TV shows like Doctor Who, and books like Harry Potter. On my feet you will often see low top Converse, not really a hiking shoe. Jeans are my uniform. I am a nerd, and I am proud to be part of an accepting and diverse group of people. Still, I do not abhor the outside, and even choose to walk around in it from time to time. Husband is a big outdoors guy, so we hike together occasionally. I love the hush of the outdoors. My favorite sound on the planet not made by Daughter is the sound of leaves crunching beneath my feet. Add in the smell of the slightly rotting material on the forest floor, the crispness of autumn air, and the feel of Husband’s hand in mine and you’ve got a recipe for sheer pleasure. Absolutely great stuff, that is.

When we are out walking in the wild, Husband is always full of information. He delivers it in an almost whisper, constantly wary of disturbing the animals, and hoping to spot a beastie on our journey. It never ceases to frustrate him that, inevitably, I am the one who initially spots the deer or elk or, even once, evidence of mountain lion (we quickly began making lots of deep noise and headed back to camp). The first time it happened, I told him that I thought I was just going to see a chipmunk or squirrel, as there had been a bunch of noise in the trees. He told me then about an old hunter’s saying that if you hear a squirrel, it’s a deer, and if you hear a deer, it’s a squirrel. I was confused. “Squirrels,” he taught, “are noisy little things. They can’t help but rustle everything around them up. Deer know better. They walk almost silently, and make the smallest of sounds.” I thought this was neat. The next time I heard a “squirrel,” I found myself looking into the eyes of a small elk, and it was breathtaking. We held each other’s gaze for what felt like an eternity. The blackness of the eyes, you might think, is flat and without depth, but you’d be wrong. They were bottomless pits of tenderness. Never had I seen an animal look so wild and so peaceful all at once. I was mesmerized and it remains one of my favorite memories.

Lately I’ve been given the gift of time to think about whatever pops into my head and for reasons unbeknownst to me, the hunter’s adage keeps coming back to me. When I really poke around at why I’m thinking of it, I wind up at how I seem to handle what troubles me. In a very deer/squirrel way. I make so much noise about the small inconveniences in my life. I complain about the lack of Internet at my mother’s house and how she, somehow, lives nowhere near a Starbucks (which should help both my internet problem and my need for a really well made cup of chai). I moan about my sore legs from using the elliptical machine, or how I need to walk the dog more than I want to. I gripe about how Daughter isn’t practicing her lines enough, how she needs to clean her room, or about how much laundry I need to fold. When it comes to what’s really big, though, I have very little to say.

As we were falling asleep last night, I said to Husband, “I think about Mom all day long, and I’m really scared.” That’s all I said. I don’t talk about these big things much, and if I am pressed to do so, I am very matter of fact. I do not become too emotional, I state the business and I move on. This from the same person who might be brought to tears because I have to return a pair of pants or I overcooked the garlic on last night’s dinner. People who don’t know me might see me being overly emotional about the small things; they might judge me for being a squirrel, making so much noise with something so small. That’s just because they don’t know what I am keeping in and how many days the struggle to move forward with the feelings I have about my mother is almost unbearable. At the end of the day, we don’t know the inner battles, thoughts, feelings, fears, loves, of others, and we cannot ever assume. So do yourself and your fellow humans a favor and make the choice to not judge poor behavior you may see in others. It may very well be that what you’re hearing is not what is really there.

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