The mouse and the amygdala

Yes, I was in the kitchen.

Yes, I was barefoot.

And yes, I was pregnant,

When the little mouse crawled up my skirt and I shrieked.

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To be fair, I was up at the crack of dawn studying for my Doctor of Ministry degree, (aka my “d.min” pronounced, yes, as “demon.”  Go figure.)  wedging in precious moments before the official start of the day.  At 5 am, there was a good chance I could crank out an hour or two of reading deep theological tomes, or write profound papers, undisturbed by the “Why, Mommy?  But why?” that pummel me as soon as our 20 month old woke up.

My husband was awake as well, making coffee, and witnessed the embarrassing and shocking sight of his 6 month pregnant feminist wife leaping upon a wooden folding chair, flapping her skirts, and screeching.  Ah, yes, a proud moment for feminists everywhere.

But here’s the question:  Why did I do that?  What is so frightening about a little mouse crawling up the inside of your skirt?  Okay, I agree, it is disconcerting, but what was going on in my brain that without any weighing of pros and cons, balancing the dangers inherent in a mouse versus toppling off a folding chair, I found myself choosing the worst of two evils.

Honestly?  I might as well have been a cartoon caricature of a 1950 housewife.

Our brains are always on alert, always scanning the environment, always watchful:  What moved?  What changed?  Did a wooly mammoth just hide behind the couch?  Obviously, we are not aware of this; otherwise, we wouldn’t even have brain cells left for the simple task of sending a text.  But also, it’s a good thing our brains know to do this; otherwise our kind would have been wiped out by wooly mammoths long before we got to this stage of texting.  So, it’s served us well, for the most part.

So when I jumped in a single bound onto the wobbly wooden folding chair?  My brain had kicked into gear before I even registered a strange tickling on my leg.  The fight or flight amygdala, buried deep inside our skulls, kept me alive one more day, protecting me against the harms of a little mouse.  Who knows?  To the amygdala, it could have been a wooly mammoth!

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