There’s a mouse somewhere in our house.
We can hear it scratching and scurrying in the roof late at night when everything else is quiet.
While we sleep, it comes out and explores.
There were others. Two more that we caught and then released far away. But this one, this one we’ve been trying to catch for weeks. It’s too clever for our traps.
At night when it scratches, I hold still. I silence my breathing.
And I start to think.
What if I’m not good enough?
What if I’ve forgotten how?
What if that 1 star review was right? ‘Dreadful,’ she said. ‘I begrudge the time wasted on this. Horrible, just horrible.’
I tell a story on Facebook. A story of my life. Of cover reveals and book release days and options for film and blow-dried hair for interviews and cute kids who say cute things and perfection and love and success and happiness.
But half the time, it’s just a story. It’s a carefully curated image of how I want the world to perceive me.
Half the time it’s mice in the walls.
It’s hours spent in front of a computer with not a single word typed.
It’s wine in the afternoon when they won’t stop arguing or won’t do their homework.
It’s going back to bed after the kids have left for school and letting sleep drag me down into the mattress.
It’s bad choices and terrible mistakes and secrets I can’t share because they’re not always only mine to share.
It’s tears over a scathing review followed by self-hatred that it could matter so much when there are so many more important things in the world that deserve my tears.
It’s fear and anger that shoves a fist deep into my gut.
It’s worry that the anti-depressants aren’t working for me anymore.
It’s a trembling lip of embarrassment.
It’s the pressure of expectations. And it’s the shame in knowing that others would kill to have the opportunities I’ve been given.
It’s cold skin and hot cheeks and tight shoulders and an aching jaw from clenching my teeth while I sleep.
And I wonder. When we catch the mouse. When the scratching stops.
Will the thoughts fade away?
Or will they be amplified?