Set. Sprung.

So. Still living in the country. Still fighting to enforce a line between indoors and outdoors. New opponent, though: this time, it's a rodent.

Last week, a mouse made its way into my office. I am not a fan of rodents, so my inner alarm system shrieked to alert the household to the presence of the intruder. Just trying to keep everyone else safe. That's me.

After a quick trip to the little store for peanut butter, my husband set four traps. Meanwhile, I donned my "wellies" (wellington boots, similar to these, except mine have glitter flower stickers on them) and stood by, trying to keep my alarm system from tripping again.

Soon thereafter, the intruder reappeared but eventually made his way up the vacuum hose to heaven, where s/he frolicks with friends and enjoys the absence of shrieks.

It's been several days, now, and I have heard nothing in the way of further mouse activity. (Sadly, I am familiar with its scritchings and tappings.) However, the set traps remain. I have wondered whether it's time to spring them and put them away. But that's as far as it's gone so far: wondering.

Last December, I first heard from my brother that his cancer was unaffected by chemotherapy and his future would include more aggressive treatments and a stem cell transplant. Since then, I have been set, much like those traps, waiting to spring into action, waiting for the next news, waiting to learn how I can be of service. Just plain waiting. Sometimes on edge, sometimes tired, always preoccupied. When would there be something I could do? When would my presence be necessary?

Last night, I realized that for the first time in about nine months, I'm almost completely relaxed again. Bit by bit, starting in late April, I've forced myself to let go of the alarm. I've taken a brief vacation, allowed myself to schedule events throughout the summer, and hosted my sister for a longer vacation. I have a work plan for August and am scheduling September projects. Best of all, I can think deeply about creative projects -- I again have the mental space to carry them around with me.

It helps that my brother has responded well to his latest chemotherapy. His donor is ready. A fall transplant looks probable, and his wife has a more-freeing work assignment than she anticipated. All this reassuring news helps me relax.

But really, the process started because I decided it could. And my creative spirit, which has been waiting patiently, is happy to have some room to play again.

Yet the experience of being wound up, of waiting, has of course changed me. Internally, I'm no longer at Security Level Red or DefCon 4 or whatever military metaphor you want to use. I'm relaxed -- but I'm no longer innocent of my brother's needs. He's on a difficult journey. I may have the opportunity to be of direct use to them this fall, and I'm still ready to do that. But I recognize that I don't have to be wound so tightly to be ready.

So, back to the mundane world. Maybe it's time to spring the mousetraps, wipe off the unsampled peanut butter, and put the traps away.


But just as I know my brother's cancer is not (yet?) cured, I know that I live in the country. I am not innocent of the vagueness between indoors and outdoors. So for now, I'm still wearing my wellies in my office.