My husband recently made a decision, all on his own I might add, to purchase a couple of rats as pets for our daughter. I came home from work only to find two rats sitting on my daughter’s shoulders with my husband and daughter displaying oh so proud “look what we have” goofy grins. Word to the wise for any husbands out there: purchasing rats for pets, or anything involving rats for that matter, should definitely be a husband-wife conversation before any action is taken. This is especially true if your wife is from New York. Thankfully, I had enough exposure to yoga to allow me to stay grounded and breathe through the situation rather than lash out and question the development of my husband’s frontal lobe.
I don’t know about you, but I grew up with the story that rats were something to be avoided and not cuddled. They were a symbol of filth and disease, have been depicted in a number of horror films and certainly are not known for their cuteness. Somehow, my daughter and husband did not share this story and I was left struggling to find a way to coexist with a couple of rodents in my house.
Over time, my daughter worked diligently to desensitize me to my fear of her new pets. She showed me research explaining the cleanliness and intelligence of the animals. She taught them to sit on her shoulder and run down her arm and jump onto a target when she stretched out her arm while yelling “charge!” They learned to go to her at the command of a whistle. There are no words for the love my daughter feels for these rats. Where I would see beady eyes, she saw loving portals glancing back at her. Where I would see thick and scary tails, she saw God’s perfect design. Watching my daughter’s interactions with the rats soon led me to question the story I held on to for so long…the only story I had ever known when it came to rats.
I began to wonder if I could see the rats through her eyes…if I could let go of all my fear, or any past judgment, and just glance at them with love and appreciation and lose any preconceived notions. I took time each day to observe them with an open mind and eventually came to hold them. I saw that each rat had its very own distinct personality, that they preferred different toys and different treats. I watched them find comfort by snuggling close to each other when they were scared and scuffle as any sibling pair when they both wanted the same thing at the same time. I came to know them by their names Cookies and Cream. And I did come to see them as God’s perfect creation, not so much because I fell in love with them, but because I saw the joy they brought to the rest of my family’s hearts.
When I learned to embrace the rats rather than fear them, a new world opened up. My daughter grew closer to me and was eager to spend more time with me because it was a sign of accepting her as well as something she loved. We came together as a family to learn more about our newest additions and worked together to teach them new tricks. Letting go of my story also allowed me to look at my husband with gratitude rather than the “I can’t believe you did this” glare he received for quite some time (I do believe our lines of communication will be a little clearer as a result of this journey as well)!
If letting go of the story about rats could bring forth positivity and love into this world, I began to imagine what other stories I could let go of. I wondered just how much my world could change if I stopped attaching stories to myself or others…if every day I was able to glance upon everyone and everything with fresh eyes and an open heart to truly understand and know what I was looking at. Is this what it means to look at the world through the eyes of a child?
I realize now that my stories are just that – stories. They may or may not contain elements of truth but they certainly limit my ability to experience moments and people in their perfection.
Letting go of stories is not an easy process. It took time, dedication, and a willingness to see through a new lens to change my stories about rats. It also took a brave friend leading the way with an open heart and willingness to connect with my daughter to teach me that love is stronger than fear.
If letting go of my stories about rats was this time-consuming and difficult, how much harder are the stories we hold on to about others and ourselves! For years I have heard an internal voice telling me “you can’t do that” or “you shouldn’t do this” and “you’re this” or “you’re that.” I am guilty of associating past experiences, both positive and negative, with everyone in my life (including myself) and limiting them to that preconceived box. No one should be limited to a box or be defined by past experiences. Our life is a limitless one and when we release our stories and embrace the idea of everything being a new experience, we begin to play on a field of potentiality and we explore new depths of beauty, truth and love.
I have no doubt that letting go of stories will be a life-long journey. I like to think Cookies and Cream (and yes, even my husband) have given me the gift of the first step in this journey through awareness. Now that I have had a small glimpse into how much my stories limit me, I am empowered in making conscious choices to keep them or work on letting them go. Rats. Looks like I have a long haul ahead of me…