Of Mice & Angels

“I need some distraction, oh beautiful release
Memory seeps from my veins…”

–Sarah McLachlan, “Angel”

There is a mouse in my house.

I was sitting in the middle of my living room floor, surrounded by obsessive compulsive piles of papers as I go through long-procrastinated boxes of junk and watch the movies that John has been piling up on my doorstep. A subtle movement caught my eye, and I looked over to see a darkish brownish-grayish mouse poking his head out from under the couch and sniffing at the pile containing clean notebooks, convention schedules, and magazines containing book reviews.

And something inside me snapped.

Not snapped in the sense that I freaked out standing on chairs and decrying my filthy, terminally cluttered existence (which I didn’t, and it’s really not) — I got angry. Really, really angry. Here I am, trying to carefully glue the shattered pieces of my life together in a magnificent stained-glass masterpiece, and here comes another bleedin’ freeloader who won’t be doing the dishes or paying the rent or picking up fresh milk at the store to replace the old, spoiled carton.

So I’m a bit on The Warpath right now; I’m calling it the Lee Takes Her Life Back, Dammit! movement. I spent all weekend cleaning and organizing like a woman possessed…after going to Home Depot and buying a variety of Mouse Countermeasures (and a beautiful, exotic orange lily because I deserve it).

I plunked down my armful of caution-taped theme boxes on the checkout counter and looked the cashier in the eye. “I have a mouse,” I said seriously.

He stared at the pile a moment. “Maybe you should get a cat,” he offered.

“I don’t like cats,” I said.

“Hmmm.” He started scanning the barcodes. “How about an owl?”

“Fantastic!” I smiled. “When you guys start carrying owls, I’ll be back.”

The excessive organization of course means that every inch of my house is bearing the brunt of the process. You have to make a mess to clean the mess, break eggs to make an omelet and all those good clichés.

In the middle of this, I’m making Greek cookies and baklava and walnut cake to bring to Mo*Con this weekend, which means multiple trips to the grocery store. I’ve got to pack, which means I have to do my laundry. I have four interviews, two essays, three short stories, and a novel begging to be written. I need to get my oil changed. I’ll be lucky if I can get to the gym one night this week.

But what I really want to do is go home and rearrange the dining room. I know exactly how I want to do it, too. And if I had a sledgehammer, I could be ready to take out that stupid shelf in the utility room tomorrow…


So I’m a bit scattered. It’s not a new feeling. At least I finally have the energy and the motivation to actually DO it. It feels GREAT.

All due to — as much as I hate to admit this — that curious little still-at-large mouse.

I need to make some CDs for the Indianapolis road trip too, because I don’t think an audiobook’s going to hold my attention. Some peppy stuff. Some sing-along stuff. Some Foo Fighters, for sure.

Back at the beginning of the nervous breakdown, Sharon Shinn told me I had to stop listening to music, because it would be too painful. It was the only advice from my Guardian Angels that I knew I wouldn’t be able to follow. I can’t live this movie-like life without a soundtrack. It just doesn’t happen.

But there were songs I skipped when they came up on the shuffled playlist — there are songs I still forward past, but only a couple now. I’m waiting for the inevitable days to pass by, for fresh memories to come and replace the old, spoiled ones.

One of the songs I haven’t been able to listen to for a while is Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel.” (Heck — most normal people can’t listen to that song without breaking into tears.) Hearing that song transports me back to the driver’s seat of the car making my way back up my parents’ driveway in the Tennessee woods, Blair Witch country, coming home from yet another fabulous job interview that undoubtedly meant I wouldn’t get the position. That song came on the radio and I wondered what people did who didn’t believe in angels — how lonely an existence that would be when they had nothing to depend on but themselves. And then I remembered how little faith I had and how lonely *I* was and it crushed me.

I cried all the way back to the house.

Thanks to that memory, that song’s been tainted for me for the past 10 years.

Last month, on a peaceful, lazy Saturday, Bear played some songs for me over the telephone. He strummed the guitar and I knew the lyrics as he started singing but couldn’t place them…when I recognized “Angel” I knew it would be exceptionally rude of me to scream at him to stop. So I yelled at my own brain to shut up and let myself be serenaded. It *is* a terribly beautiful song. It was being sung to me by one of my own Guardian Angels. I wasn’t alone. And I did have faith; I knew with perfect certainty that everything was going to be okay.

Best of all, I have a new memory to be transported back to the next time I hear that once-forbidden tune.

Mom is the family authority on guardian angels. She says you don’t get to pick your own angels — they pick you, and if you ask they’ll even tell you their names. I may have been cursed with Murphy, but I’ve been very, very lucky to be surrounded by the angels that I have, the angels who held me in my old life and walk beside me in my new one. Angels who guided me and sang to me and rung me at twilight and daybreak to dry my tears and kicked me in the butt when necessary and never let me give up.

I’m even thankful for darkish brownish-grayish angels who poke their heads out from under the couch and motivate me to set my life back in motion.

But he’s still not allowed to live in my house.