When a choice must be made now, it becomes very easy for me to whittle down the many options available to what makes sense for the situation. I can do this with ruthless, some would call “cold”, logic and reason because that has been my “safe space” for as long as I can recall. This is precisely why my mother chose me as her medical power of attorney. When something very important needs to be decided, I can eject most emotions and focus with laser-like precision on the issue at hand.
Funny thing is, on a day-to-day basis I struggle with making choices. I can be sent down a never-ending labyrinthine thought tunnel by simply asking me what I want for dinner. There’s no urgency, so all options are viable and there are many. My mind short-circuits from the input and becomes extremely difficult to function coherently. Apparently this shows pretty clearly in my face as my wife has become quite adept at identifying those situations.
Last week I was faced with a situation that brought this all into focus. We’ve had a bit of a critter problem this year, with chipmunks being the most annoying and concerning. They may be one of nature’s cutest damn things, but they are prolific tunnelers that can cause serious issues if they decide the area around your hose is a good place to set up shop. They are also highly territorial and constantly scream, with mind-boggling volume for something so goddamn tiny, that THIS is their home and and they are damn ready to kick your ass if you step foot in it!
In the past we’ve tried live-trapping these little buggers, with some success. The problem, however, is if you really want to solve the problem, you need to release the chipmunk at least 10 miles from where you trapped it. Then, even if you do that, and we have, there’s always another fuzzy punk ready to take over the newly emptied territory.
For the past few years, we’ve set mouse traps around the house to keep mice away. That’s been successful as we haven’t had a single mouse in our house since living here. Mice and voles are what were always caught in the traps, but never a chipmunk. If you’ve ever seen those little bastards move, you wouldn’t be surprised. That was true until last week.
One time while performing my daily trap check, I noticed one was missing. I thought little of it as that does occasionally happen. Our neighborhood has many frequent wild visitors, so I figure a fox/cat/whatever just grabbed itself a “snackie” it round in a trap. As I was moving on to the next trap, I happen to notice the “missing” trap was really about six feet away.
I had caught myself a rather unlucky chipmunk. The trap snapped on one of it’s hind quarters and the poor thing had dragged itself, trap attached, all that distance! For an animal I cared little for, I found myself both impressed and concerned. This living, suffering thing was caught in a trap I set. Figuring there was no way it would survive in the wild with a mangled leg (assuming I could release it without getting bitten), I knew I had to put it out of it’s misery.
Finding a decently sized stick, I used it to dispatch the suffering creature. Sadly, whack #1 didn’t quite do the job as its good leg was now twitching. A couple more whacks put that leg to rest. When my wife later asked how I felt about it, I told her I was fine, which I was. This was something unpleasant that had to be done and I did it.
What I was reminded of later is that all actions have a price. It can be energy, money, materials, or in my case, emotions. While fine with it initially, I kept going back to that moment over the next few days, experiencing a “sad” feeling each time. “Sad” isn’t entirely accurate, but it’s very difficult expressing more specifically than “not positive”.
I don’t quite feel “sad” any longer, but that memory still exists fully within the “not great” folder and I don’t think that will ever change. In my mind, it may be just “a fucking rodent,” it was still a living thing, and that still has meaning.
Silver lining: It’s nice to know I’m not a complete monster.