“I saw a mouse!”
“There on the stair!”
“Where on the stair?”
This exchange was lobbied back and forth between my grandparents when three mice, to be precise, came to visit them. My cousins and I would play school on the wooden staircase, an upper step used as a desk, the lower as a seat, three pairs of legs dangling through the gaps. Tracing, colouring, drawing and writing... All assignments were marked by our nan, who simultaneously played the strict headmistress, the kind school teacher and the cook replenishing us with snacks. This childish act was where I first said to myself, 'Well I declare! I'm a mouse!' My sentiment echoed by feet going clip-clippety-clop on the stairs.
How do you define being mouse-like? Quiet, unobtrusive and reflective. Preferring to observe than be observed, to express themselves in the written word or in a tête-a-tête than formally address a large group of people. The most commonly used descriptive word is: introverted. We wrongly assume this word denotes shyness; it doesn't, not always. Yes, I might blush speaking aloud in front of my peers or around someone I want to impress, but introversion is more complex than that. For introverts, the real world, putting yourself out there, makes you feel anxious, nervous and sick. Even a minor gathering or an unfamiliar situation can cause distress. In public, introverts feel they're stuck in a permanent interview where their every move is being assessed. Friends, foes, people you do or don't know, it makes no difference. You feel on show - unable to relax into apt ocular behaviour.
A mouse is overwhelmed by too much stimuli. They're high reactors to external stress like background noise or visual images. The whiskers bristle, the noses twitch, they skirt the walls and scurry back to their self-contained flats. A mouse can easily get drunk on these disturbances. In this sociable world, it's hard to be sensitively introverted. You apologise or make lame excuses for your nature. It's presumed there must be something wrong with you if you're comfy with solitude or would rather be at home in your pyjamas. The world needs thinkers, people behind-the-scenes; in other words, a mouse.