I started this blog back in October with a story about a centipede. This week I have a mouse story. I think they’re related.

Let me begin by sharing my irrational fear of mice. I just can’t deal with the sight of them. Not even on TV. I don’t like to hear stories about them because then I have nightmares. It’s extreme, really.

A few months back, the minister at my church told a story about her irrational fear of mice. She saw them everywhere. One day, a day she remembers very clearly, she decided definitively that she would put the fear aside. That is the day she knew she would — despite her fierce resistance — start a church. I listened to this story with interest and, frankly, skepticism. What did the two have to do with each other?

Now back to this week. I’m doing some work at a local used bookstore. A few days ago I was watching the store while the manager took the afternoon off. A volunteer was in the back room. I was sitting at the register in the front of the store, helping customers and peacefully working on the computer as Abba entertained us on the stereo. At one point I saw the volunteer and another woman looking at the floor in the back room. I knew it was a mouse before I even heard them speak.

“Look, it’s convulsing. It must have eaten some of the poison.”

“Oh my God. Look. It’s thrashing.”

I got up and started talking to myself, “I don’t want to see it, I don’t want to see it, I really don’t want to see it.” There was a young couple sitting in the store reading. The guy, who appeared to be about 18, stood up and said he’d handle it. I almost kissed him, told him that his efforts would be much appreciated.

He attempted to pick it up with a plastic bag but it scurried away. Then it stopped again and died. I was still in the front of the store saying, “I don’t want to see it.” But lo and behold, my young hero decides the best thing to do is kick its dead body out the door like a soccer ball. Right by me. As I live and breathe. He kicked it all the way to the curb.

An hour or so later I went out to help a woman carry in boxes of books she was donating. There was the dead mouse lying in the street. I saw it on the first trip and then on the next as we unloaded her trunk. I saw that mouse, like it or not.

So are you getting the big picture yet? The more I said “I don’t want to see it” the more the universe said, “You need to see it. Right in front of you. It’s a harmless little thing. What is this really about? Look at it!”

OK, OK. The next day I was in the store again and needed to go into the basement. I was scared. I know I’m a ninny. But I was genuinely afraid to venture down the stairs. I finally gave in to my trepidation and went down there. Needless to say I’m alive to tell about it.

So now let’s go back to the centipede. Staring that fear down led to several breakthroughs, including this blog. This week, as I head into a new year, celebrate another birthday and work my way through a particularly challenging time, I think of the minister and her mouse story. She started a church which inspires me every week.

I can feel my own seismic shift happening. I strive to inspire others as well. The mouse is pushing me to go above and beyond my usual mettle and determination. It’s telling me I have to stretch like never before and stay the course. Stay in action. Keep pushing myself like crazy. Shed the fear like a layer of skin.

There’s no other way.