What a Raccoon In My Hallway Taught Me About Myself
It’s 4:30 am.
The house is quiet, sound asleep.
And then… a noise outside our bedroom. We call to the kids, assuming (ie hoping) it’s them.
No response. Not a peep. Crickets.
Eyes wide, now in FULL alarm mode, I turn to my husband Dave and gently and lovingly encourage him to find out what made the noise.
First thought is obviously a murderer. Second is a robber. Both options far from ideal.
Dave, as only he could do in a ‘late night noise emergency’, is not moving quickly enough for me. I jump up and peek around the door wishing to see a small child sleepwalking from the bathroom.
No such luck.
Instead, much to my horror, it’s an actual live RACCOON perched on the banister right outside our (wide open) bedroom doors.
He looks at me, I look at him. He blinks. I blink.
A swift U Turn brings me back to our bedroom where I update Dave. I let him know that NOW is the time to GET UP and DEAL WITH THIS SITUATION.
To his credit, he kicks into high gear. Goes out, gives the raccoon a major stare down and the big guy (why so big?!) slinks upstairs to a storage closet.
As anyone would do in this situation, I immediately take to Google.
* “Can raccoons open doors” (yes!)
* "Do raccoons attack small dogs” (maybe)
* “Will raccoons kill you in the night” (unlikely)
While I'm researching 'the facts', Dave is in problem solving mode and gets an animal specialist to come and see if he can coax the raccoon out of his hiding place.
The raccoon is sleeping soundly in our hvac system and now LIVES WITH US.
The specialist leaves and promises to return when the raccoon is more active that night.
So, it’s now 7 am and the kids are waking up for school. The excitement is palpable.
What do you mean…. a raccoon?!
It was right there outside our bedrooms?!
Omg - I thought I heard a noise upstairs…..
It’s….. still here??
There is bed head, wide eyes, disbelief, laughter, many reenactments… more laughter. And all the love this heart can take, because we’re ok and all my people (and my puppy) are safe and giggling in my bed.
And then… it’s time to get going.
Time for breakfast, and dishes, and rushing, and threats about brushing teeth, and “Yes, you have to wear a jacket because it’s FREEZING out” and, “Leave your sister alone”, and “Get in the car WE'RE LATE!”...
I drop them off at school, laugh with friends about our new roommate, and joke about selling the house. I plan a full family sleepover and a locked bedroom door.
And then… I don’t google it anymore. I don’t obsess about it. I don’t lose my mind.
By mid-morning, I’m sort of…. over it.
And it’s weird.
Because it doesn’t throw me completely like it would have in the past.
And just to be very clear ~
* Did I check the backseat for raccoons before I got in the car? YES.
* Was I excited to have a raccoon slumber party? NO.
* Was I wandering around upstairs where the big fella was ‘sleeping’? ALSO, NO.
BUT, the presence of this large wild animal in my house didn’t shake me to my core.
It didn’t preoccupy my every thought.
I was able to go about my day and be productive and laugh and focus and think about non-raccoon related things.
“Five years ago Carolyn” would have been UNHINGED if there was a raccoon living upstairs.
She would have had the house up for sale and been in a hotel by 4:35 am.
And so I spent the day wondering…. “Why so calm Carolyn?”
It certainly wasn’t because I wanted to have a raccoon in the house.
It wasn’t because I didn’t care or that I became an overnight wild animal lover.
So…. again, why so calm?
“Peace - It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”
And it occurred to me that I was ok with this situation because I was ok on the inside.
And because I felt safe and secure on the inside, the external events didn’t have as much pull on me.
I wasn’t in my head projecting out all my fears and worries, catastrophizing all the ways this could go wrong.
I could relax into my internal safety and stability.
I was at home in my own body.
There was already security and trust there, so I was able to tap into peace and and calm regardless of what was happening around.
It’s so much of what I teach, but always a brilliant Aha! moment, when you watch it play out in your own life.
I have been building the foundation for stability, safety, and trust for years with various pursuits like my studies in psychology and education, yoga, journaling, breath work, and even just sitting quietly.
We work on these practices when we might not necessarily need them (like in a yoga class, relaxing in bed, sitting in meditation etc…), so that they are available and familiar when we do.
And we can fall easily into their comfort.
Scientific research and our lived experience show us that these practices work.
This sense of safety and security is inside all of us already.
But we don’t know how to tap into it.
We forget it’s there.
But it’s always available.
It’s a matter of dropping into your body and getting quiet enough to hear the messages.
You don’t need to have a specific background, previous training, the 'right' clothes, or even any equipment.
You can do it in your own way.
Any time, any place.
Work now to build inner trust so you can better handle the inevitable stress that life (and apparently raccoons...) have in store.
LET’S PRACTICE TOGETHER
“An anxious mind cannot exist in a calm body”
- Edmond Jacobson
STEP 1: FEEL THE GROUND BELOW YOU
Grounding helps you get your attention out of your busy mind and into your body.
There are many benefits to grounding down (including during a panic attack and moments of great worry or stress), but a main goal is to sense and connect to the support underneath you.
Feel each distinct part of your body and it’s connection to the earth and to the foundation below.
When you know where your foundation is, it’s much easier to sink into it’s support.
** PRO TIP! You can ground down in any posture. Seated, standing, lying down et… Just bring intentional awareness to the parts of your body that touch the floor or prop.
STEP 2: GET QUIET & LISTEN
Our lives are a blur of constant movement and action.
If we’re not physically moving, then our brains are active and racing around for us.
There is so much value in creating time to be quiet and still.
It doesn’t need to be long, even the space of a few mindful breaths can have enormous benefits.
You are establishing the habit of checking in.
Do it when things are calm, so it’s available to you when things are not.
Come back often throughout the day. Notice the ground below and take a deep cleansing breath as you do, exhaling fully with the intention to feel connected to whatever is below.
* Before you get out of bed in the morning, take three full breaths and with each exhale sink into the softness of the mattress below you
* Notice the feel of your feet on the floor as you get out of bed
* Wet toes on your shower floor
* Your sit bones, hips and thighs in your desk chair
* Heaviness of your hands in your lap or on the steering wheel of your car
* Hands and feet connected to the mat in a down dog
* Your body letting go in a child’s pose or savasana
* Your feet in your shoes as you go outside for a walk
* Final release of work and effort as you lay down in bed at night
These (and countless other opportunities) present themselves throughout your day to give you a chance to come back to yourself.
Our work is to bring awareness to these quieter moments and focus on dropping in to them.
Remind yourself, you are grounded, present and safe.
This is how you create stability within and cultivate deep inner trust.
And so, gigantic raccoon in my hallway, thank you for showing me that I can be ok in any situation.
I can tap into the deep reserve of inner trust I work to cultivate on a regular basis.
Thank you for an unexpected life lesson.
And, while I’m glad you were here, I’m also not super sorry to see you go.
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