It's no secret that I don't like little critters that find their way into our homes when it gets cold, or any other time of year.
I know grown men that don't like spiders, so I guess I am not embarrassed to admit that I have a rodent phobia. It is the only thing I have in common with elephants.
The minute I tell someone this they immediately pull out their best rodent stories. It doesn't matter that I plug my ears and hum a tune from 1969 while they're prattling on; they seem to be eager to tell me how one of their friends once hurled a shoe and killed a mouse crawling up a curtain or that last week they saw a pack of rats storming a fast food parking lot in Buffalo.
Thanks for the visual imagery.
This morning my uncle called to tell me that he just watched a mouse crawl under a slit beneath his office door, and it was now running around his office. He immediately thought of me and decided to call.
"So, are you inviting me over for lunch?" I asked. "Shall I bring some cheese?"
It seems the things we fear the most have a way of showing up in our lives so we can face them and get on with it.
This seems to be my winter of the mouse.
Last week, I was having dinner at my in-laws' house near Albany, and I noticed my husband's mother seemed reluctant to let me in the kitchen. I offered to help cook, serve and clear the dishes, but she wouldn't have it.
While she was busy in the kitchen alone, my father-in-law declared that they were having a rather large mice infestation this winter, and he wasn't sure what to do about it. The little critters had been running around the kitchen for days.
That's when my dinner plate was put before me. I half expected to see a tail sticking out from beneath my salad bowl, and I lost my appetite.
I don't feel safe anywhere.
A friend I was having dinner with recently told me that she was sitting in her living room one evening and she had the feeling something was staring at her.
"Oh, how ridiculous," she thought. "What could possibly be staring at me?"
That's when she looked up and saw a mouse sitting on her curtain rod, his beady eyes intently looking down at her.
He might have also been watching TV, someone offered.
Another friend who was sitting at the table launched into a story about all the mice that have set up house in her car. They've scrambled about while she was driving, made nests in the engine, and were for all intents and purposes taking her for a ride.
It turns out there is a word for my phobia: It's called musophobia and it seems to be a common malady. Rather than getting a house cat for my car, I've learned there are several other ways to confront these fears.
Dealing with phobias involves getting a little exposure to the things that you're afraid of. Experts say I should hang pictures of mice or rats around the house to condition myself to seeing them. By the end of the day- if I am not standing on a chair and shrieking - I should be able to look at the pictures for an extended period of time.
Next, I should visit a pet store and observe pet mice in their cages while eating a candy bar. I'm not sure what the candy bar is for, but if its purpose is to associate pleasure with mice, I'd rather bring a glass of wine or a bowl of creme brulee.
Finally, I should allow a mouse at the pet store to crawl up my arm until the thought of it no longer provokes anxiety.
Should I need additional assistance, experts say, a trained hypnotherapist is recommended.
I can imagine myself lying on the therapist's couch and telling him the story of the time my daughter agreed to feed her friend's pet snake while he was away. She brought home a mouse in a cardboard box, and it immediately escaped and bit my husband.
There is no hope for me.
Isn't there a reason humans have such disdain for rodents?
I prefer to fill in holes in the foundation of my house with steel wool, let my dog go down the basement stairs first and keep the garage door closed at all times.
Just tonight, I heard some sort of a scratching sound in the wall behind my bed.
I just closed my eyes tightly and said, "I hope your name is Mickey."