When the noises above my bedroom ceiling started back in November, the exterminator was convinced I had a rat. I was overwhelmed, frantic – ready to do anything to get rid of this rodent that had invaded my home. Several hundred dollars later, the exterminator was history but the “rat” remained.
Next came Bill the Roofer who was convinced it was a mouse. Several hundred dollars later my entire 1920’s cottage was mouse-proofed top to bottom – it was so well insulated I was able to drop my thermostat a degree. However, the “mouse” still visited every morning and evening.
Next I called in the big guns, Glenn, one of those magical friends who knows everything house-related. “It’s a squirrel” Glen said, “and it’s getting in here, over your front door.” We duct taped plastic over the openings in the tiled overhang above my front door and waited to see if it was disturbed. The next morning I heard the “squirrel” right on schedule but when I checked, the plastic was untouched.
Now I have an appointment with a wildlife expert. “It’s almost certainly a mother squirrel with babies up there,” she told me on the phone. Five months ago the thought of having a nest of rodents (yes, squirrels might be cute but they’re still rodents) over my bed would have pushed me over the edge. Now, I shrug.
One thing I’ve learned through all of this is that no matter how certain someone is, even if they’re the ultimate expert in their area, they aren’t necessarily right. Each person who’s investigated my problem was absolutely certain that their assessment was correct. And, aside from the exterminator (who was a rip-off), I trust and respect each of them.
All my experts were certain that they had the answer, and I was certain that they could solve my problem. But in spite of all that certainty, the solution remains a mystery, still out there beyond all the certainty and easy answers.
Certainty is a funny thing. As soon as we lock into a firm opinion our options narrow and possibilities are excluded. When we’re correct, this narrow focus works well, we can quickly home in on possible solutions without the distraction of irrelevant information. But it only works well when we’re right. When we’re wrong our constricted focus can easily take us in the wrong direction, eliminating possibilities that might actually be our solution.
A few days after my conversation with the wildlife expert I received a follow up email from her. She told me that she’d checked with her “squirrel whisperer” and the animal I described doesn’t sound like a squirrel. Apparently November is too early for a squirrel to start nesting and the fact that it sometimes enters at night is contrary to typical squirrel behavior.
So I find myself back where I started, with a mystery on my hands and an animal in my attic. But this time I have new information. While my information doesn’t tell me if my visitor is a rat, or a mouse, or a squirrel, or where it’s getting in, it does tell me that it can be anything, any size, and can be getting in anywhere. Sounds overwhelming but it isn’t. Not only does this knowledge open up broader possibilities for where to look for solutions, I can also be certain that this information is right.
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