Hi, my name is Tomi and I do not like rats. Or mice. Or any of their cousins, associates and acquaintances.
Wait, did I say ‘do not like’? I meant to say ‘can not stand’. And when I say ‘can not stand,’ I mean I detest them. And as you read ‘detest,’ may I suggest that words like ‘despise,’ ‘loathe,’ ‘execrate,’ and ‘shun’ should come to your mind? And I’m deliberate about specifying those words because I don’t want the real thing – ‘fear’ – to come to your mind. I detest rats in the purest way possible. I’m an equal opportunity ‘detester’. That means I detest big rats and little ones, five legged ones and three legged ones, mommy rats and baby rats, dark skinned ones and light skinned ones, overweight rats and underweight rats, living ones and dead ones, real ones and plastic ones, even the cute ones that they draw in the creation story in pictures bibles – all the rats. I detest rats. No one is left out. And by association, I dislike all their friends – that’s self explanatory.
When I see a rat, I always have a reaction. Even when I think about a rat, I have a reaction. A while back, someone pointed out a dead rat in a public place and I went into a mild frenzy. Then she picked up the rat corpse and put it in the trash. This is a reasonable thing to do, considering that no one else should have to be confronted with the mortality of rats. I get that logically, but what happened next was like an out of body experience. I don’t know how it happened, I just know I jumped over a counter. In a room full of people. In a professional environment. Leave the room full of people, how did I jump over a whole counter? This counter is at least waist-height for me and I am not at all athletic, but I jumped over it without thinking.
Oh, the things I could do if I would just do them. But that’s an entirely different blog post, a future one.
Around the same time, I saw a rat – a living one – and he (or she – I don’t know, they’re all the same to me. I’m an equal opportunity detester, remember?) became my teacher. I was minding my business, doing some yard work and he scurried past – doing his own work, I guess. For some reason, I was the only one who saw him, but I went into what Christine Caine calls ‘a Pentecostal Frenzy’. I mean, I was hollering, my arms were flapping, my feet were doing a crazy dance, my glasses were askew, even my clothes may have been impacted. I feel like this is what the Prophets of Baal must have looked like when they were trying to wake their god up so he could send fire down. The sky didn’t fall, the rat kept scurrying and eventually, I calmed down. Again, I was not alone.
This is what I noticed when I calmed down: everyone around me stopped what they were doing to stare at me. And to wonder what was doing this one. Everyone but the rat. Some people even joined the frenzy when they realized that I’d seen a rat, but the rat kept on going. Some people cared nothing about rats, but they were amused by the drama and they stopped to be entertained. The rat ignored all of us and kept it moving. It was like he had on noise cancellation headphones and tunnel vision glasses. Or maybe hearing problems and no peripheral vision, I don’t know. But it worked out for his best – stopping to stare or joining the frenzy would have meant a sure death because no one does catch and release in Nigeria.
A lot of times, when things happen to us or around us and we go into a frenzy or we allow ourselves to be distracted by a display we take the focus off of where we are supposed to be going or what we are supposed to be doing and if we’re not careful that can hurt us in the end. If Teacher Rat had waited around to see the girl that was behaving as if she had never seen ‘fine rat’ before, Teacher Rat will be another piece of trash in the dumpster now. He wouldn’t have gotten to where he was headed and his little family will probably be doing the three or four month anniversary of his death.
It’s the same with us: we cannot afford to get distracted by the things we see around us or the things that happen to us. We cannot afford to be the ones that take our attention off of traffic and stare at a car accident or a burning car or even a beautiful car while driving at 80mph. Sometimes, we need to be like Teacher Rat and put on our headphones and face our focus. People are saying hurtful things to you or treating you badly, do something about it. If you’re not going to do something about it or can’t do something about it, keep it moving. Don’t sit and lament and buffer and then wake up two weeks later in the same place.
Oh, and we have to be willing to take lessons from people we detest. But that too is a whole ‘nother blog post. A future one.
PS. I’m not talking about Mr. Floyd or Tina or Uwa or Breonna Taylor or Ahmaud Arbery or David McAtee or the girl who was raped in Nassarawa State. I have no words. I’m not happy about recent events, but I’m not shocked by them. I’m not shocked because there’s an insidious cultural orientation that we must all be cured of if we want to move forward in any meaningful way. I’m still trying to figure out how I feel. Another future post, I guess…