Yesterday, I saved a squirrel’s life. And the truth is, while I am glad the little baby is going to make it, the process of doing so pretty much ruined my beautifully planned Easter.
My children have just returned from two weeks spent in Ecuador. The day dawned perfect and bright. We had an egg hunt and set up two surprise playdates so both children would get to see their friends. I planned to take an 8-mile run and spend the rest of the day basking in the sun with my family.
The squirrel had other plans. In the last quarter mile of my 8 mile sprint, he crawled off a grassy patch and on to the road in front of me. His left hind leg was swollen so he couldn’t walk. He was crying. And crying. I knew I couldn’t leave him. So I called my husband and told him to bring a box.
This week my entire focus of class is around Anahata. The heart chakra. It’s all about love. Compassion. Self-care. Empathy. The affirmation for the chakra speaks to nature. To our unity with nature. It’s the only way to open the heart. And yet, I didn’t want to deal with this squirrel. I didn’t want to have him in my path. I wanted to sit in the sun and eat chocolate and drink passionfruit cider.
So why did I have to be the one to find him?
I could have left him. I could have run on by. I posted his photo on social media and asked for help and people were so grateful. They told me how wonderful I was for saving him. But I wasn’t wonderful. I was resentful as hell.
I googled and searched. I called animal control. I knew they would just put him to sleep. I called our vet who said they don’t deal with wildlife, but they have a rescue place that does. In a town 90 minutes away from my home.
I truly debated. What I wanted most of all was for this squirrel to be out of pain. If that meant he was put to sleep, maybe that would be OK. But my husband asked me the question:
“Could you live with yourself if you chose to let him die because you didn’t want to drive three hours?”
I had my answer. I can’t spend the week asking my students to practice self love and self compassion while not having any for this poor little squirrel. So I put him in a box and I got in the car.
Now is the point in the story where I should tell you: I hate squirrels. Honestly, they terrify me. One jumped on me once in a park in Boston and I have harbored a not-so-secret phobia of them ever since. Their fuzzy tails and claws and weird jerky movements fill me with fear and they are ubiquitous in New Jersey. On the drive to Blairstown (the site of the animal rescue) alone, I saw four dead ones on the side of the road. What was one more?
Also, I eat meat. Why was I willing to drive 80 miles out and back to a town I’d never heard of to save the life of an animal I don’t even like when I would just go home and eat chicken that night?
Sometimes compassion really sucks.
I got to the rescue and was told she could save him. He would live to eat another nut. He will be released into the wild and be free. He will grow a fuzzy tail and probably terrify me if I see him on the street. When I got home, my house was a mess, the laundry undone and the kids resentful of the time I spent away.
Sometimes having compassion sucks. There are no karma points for doing a good deed. It didn’t save me from a potential speeding ticket or from my daughter having a fit that night. It didn’t magically help my son finish his book for the battle of books or mean that the universe owed me any favors.
But I do believe that squirrel was meant to live. Because he crawled in front of a person who couldn’t let him die. Because he crawled in front of me at a time where compassion and care was at the forefront of my mind, when every ache and pain this little being felt was too much for me to bear.
I saved a life. I had compassion. And it was hard. Sometimes doing the right thing ruins your day. Sometimes it means trying to resolve bizarre hypocrisies in your mind. Sometimes it means going out of your way for something you normally try to avoid. You should do it anyway.