Feeling Relief Instead of Grief?

You are not alone in this.

I was talking to a friend about her mixed emotions after the death of one of her relatives. This guy had made her life a living hell when he was alive. He was an abusive alcoholic who created nothing but drama in the family. He left financial devastation in his wake, and he was quite adept at dishing out emotional abuse. The man was toxic. I found him to be a horrible human being.

Since his passing, my friend’s life has improved substantially. Her stress levels have decreased and her health has increased. She gets more sleep. Her self-confidence is much more evident now. I’m really happy for her.

Sadly, she feels a little guilty for being relieved that the guy is finally gone. He was, after all, a relative, and she did love him to a certain extent. But she doesn’t miss him at all.

I can totally relate to this. When my stepfather died, I wanted to throw a party. But of course I didn’t. People would have been horrified. They would have thought I was callous. They have no idea what the man had put me through. The world is a much better place without him in it.

Relationships are complicated, and therefore the subsequent grief is bound to be complicated. There are many scenarios in which it would be quite understandable to feel relief and/or a complex mix of emotions at someone’s passing. You would definitely not be alone in this.

For example, if your loved one had been suffering for years, it’s natural to be relieved that that suffering is over. And if you were the primary caregiver for that person for what feels like an eternity, and that care has left you exhausted and depleted and stressed out, it’s okay to be relieved to have your life back again. If you have lost someone due to an easily preventable death, or due to suicide, you may have a lot of anger and/or guilt to process.

I’ve had several people broach this subject with me over the years. They tend to speak in hushed tones and look over their shoulders to make sure no one is listening. It’s as if they’ve committed a crime. I seem to be one of those people who silently signal that if you feel the need to confess this particular offense, then guuuurl… come sit by me.

Our culture causes us to have really strange ideas about what grief is supposed to look like and feel like. It’s supposed to be pure, sincere, and it should last for a year. (Longer than that, and people lose patience. Shorter than that, and something is wrong with you.) And if other family members are experiencing what looks like a more wholesome form of grief for the person you are thrilled to be rid of, then you are expected to suppress your feelings so as not to ruffle feathers. But make no mistake: you are grieving, too, in your own way.

Grief can’t be pigeonholed. Each person’s experience is different. In fact, your grief experience will most likely change over time, and it will be different for each person you grieve. Grief can manifest as depression or sadness or anger or numbness or an inability to concentrate, and yes, it can also include relief and even joy and a sense of freedom and release.

It’s not uncommon to encounter insensitive people as you work to process and adapt to this monumental change in your life. They often don’t realize they’re passing judgment by showing their confusion, impatience, or shock at the way you are feeling or behaving. Please remember that they don’t get to decide if you’re getting it right. There is no “right” way to grieve.

At the same time, it’s important to remember that not passing judgment should be a two way street. It does you no good at all to try to force your brand of grief down the throats of those around you, who may, in fact, not be feeling grief at all, or may be so devastated that they struggle to function. You can erect a shrine, but you shouldn’t expect others to worship at it. You can throw your own party, but no one should be forced to attend. You can wear all black for the rest of your life, or cover yourself in bright, shiny colors, but please don’t dictate anyone else’s physical or emotional wardrobe.

Another thing to consider is that you’re not only grieving a person. You are also grieving change. You may be grieving the life you never had because of the life you were forced to live while you were in a toxic person’s orbit. You may be grieving the fact that you were unable to improve your relationship with that person while he or she was still alive. You may be experiencing confusion and/or resentment and/or excitement because now you have to figure out what your life will look like moving forward.

A good rule of thumb is this: you do you. Feel what you feel and allow others to feel what they feel. Give yourself and others that gift.

And if you wish to support someone who is grieving, ask that person what they want or need. Don’t assume you know. Some people, like my friend, want nothing more than someone to listen to them express their relief without criticism. I’m glad she came and sat by me.


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What He Saw, What I Saw

Viewing life through the lens of abuse.

Warning: This post may be very triggering for childhood abuse survivors, and is not suitable for children. It was very uncomfortable to write, and I’m sure it will be equally uncomfortable to read.

A friend and I went to the YMCA to do aqua aerobics. It’s great exercise. The Y limits attendance by appointment only and there are very few people in the building, all of whom wear masks until they enter the pool. We are definitely socially distanced, and they are constantly cleaning all surfaces.

We weren’t attending a class. We have worked out our own routine based on classes we attended pre-pandemic. It’s usually a wonderful experience, and I leave there feeling refreshed, relaxed, and very glad that I had made the effort. But not on this day. Oh, no.

My friend and I were sharing a pool lane, and in the next lane was a boy, about 12 years old, with a man that one assumes was his father, although they looked nothing alike. That is all my friend and I can agree on about the situation. We both were looking at it through our very own lenses, based on past experience and a general trust (or lack thereof) of humanity. My friend never experienced sexual abuse. I did, at right about the same age as this boy. I had a visceral reaction, and to be fair, I’ve seen several father/son swimmers in this pool, and I didn’t have that reaction with any of them.

What my friend saw: A father and son, rough-housing in the pool. Both seemed to be laughing and having a wonderful time. The father was most likely trying to get the kid comfortable with swimming.

What I saw: A pedophile grooming a child. He kept chasing the kid around the shallow end of the pool, growling, with a little plastic shark in his hand. The child was nervously screaming and laughing the whole time. It lasted 45 exhausting minutes. Occasionally, the father would playfully use the shark to bite the son’s thighs. Then he would come up behind the boy, wrap his arms around his torso, and pull him back against his chest, as he rested his chin on the boy’s shoulder. He’d tickle him, and the kid would scream and laugh nervously, and struggle. Once, while pressing the kid against his chest, he lifted up the boy’s legs so that he was almost in the fetal position, with the boy’s feet against the edge of the pool, all while the man growled in his ear. That was the only time the boy was quiet. Sometimes he would throw the kid in the air, and then pull him back toward him.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to punch the guy in the throat. I wanted to call child protective services. I was losing my mind. But did I do anything? No. Because I couldn’t be sure how much of what I was seeing was through the very biased lens of my past.

I kept thinking, “Yeah, great idea, man. Train the kid to think that if he screams, no one will come to help. Train him to get used to this nervous, uncomfortable feeling. Teach him that this is all a game and he’s supposed to think it’s fun. Do this in front of strangers so that he can believe that if other adults are seeing it and doing nothing about it, it must be okay. Make us all complicit. It takes a village to abuse a child. Get him all used to being in the fetal position with you behind him, your head on his shoulder. That’s how it’s done. That’s how it’s always done.”

Maybe, like my mother once told me (to my horror), I was “making too much of it.” Maybe I was imagining things. Maybe it’s my fault for thinking that a lot of people in this world are creepy and don’t have people’s best interests at heart. Maybe I was crazy. After all, sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar.

I didn’t know what to do. I could intervene and humiliate the child with no concrete proof. I could beat the hell out of the man, further traumatizing the kid and winding up with an arrest record. I could tell the staff, but what could they do about it? I could try really hard to see things the way my friend did, but I was having no luck there.

I cried a little. I swam to the other end of the pool and stayed there as much as possible. But the child’s screams (of delight? of fear?) were echoing off the ceiling. I wanted to rescue that kid. But I didn’t know how. I thought of all the adults (and there were many) who didn’t rescue me. Did they feel similarly conflicted, or were they just incompetent and indifferent? It had never occurred to me before this that they might have been conflicted.

I felt guilty. I felt angry that I was being made to feel guilty. I felt envious of the people around me who didn’t seem to think this was a big deal. I felt victimized all over again. I felt an insane desire to protect my genital area at all costs. No. You have no right to touch me. NO!

Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. I probably should have kept this to myself. But I can’t be the only one who goes through this. Thank God it doesn’t happen often. I felt alone at that moment, but I doubt I am. Maybe this will make someone else feel less alone. The bottom line is I hope that I’m wrong and that that child has a loving, decent, protective father who makes him feel safe and that they create a lifetime of happy memories together.

This was definitely not my best swimming experience. Ugh. Excuse me while I go boil myself in bleach.

If you are an adult survivor of sexual abuse, please know that it was not your fault, and visit the RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) website for support and information, or call them 24/7 at 800-656-HOPE.


If the golden rule is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” then the platinum rule ought to be, “Be kind to yourself.” Because let’s face it: there’s no guarantee that anyone else is going to play by the golden rule. The only real power you have is within you. Why do we seem to ration out that power as if we were in the midst of some sort of happiness famine? It makes no sense.

But who am I to talk? I tend to treat others much better than I do myself. When I splurge (using money I earned myself, it should be noted) I’m hard-pressed not to feel guilty about it. “You shouldn’t be spending your money and/or time and/or energy in this way,” I’ll say to myself.

This year, I intend to make more of an effort to say, “Shaddup, self! I deserve this!”

I deserve naps. I deserve nice meals. I deserve to relax. I deserve to explore the world. I deserve to read good books while cuddling with my good dog. I deserve adventures. I deserve new experiences. I deserve to spend time with people I enjoy. I deserve time to myself. I deserve celebrations, and don’t need to come up with excuses for them. I deserve long hot baths.

Self-decency doesn’t necessarily have to cost a fortune. But it does take effort. This will probably never come naturally to me. That’s a shame. But I genuinely believe I’ll be presenting a better me to the world if I take the time to appreciate myself.

Be kind to yourself, dear reader. You deserve it, too.


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Justifying Grief

I’ve written a lot of posts about my late boyfriend, Chuck, about how much I miss him, about coping with my grief, about how I think about him all the time, and also about how complicated our relationship was, due to his Traumatic Brain Injury. Well, the other day, I was contacted by one of his former schoolmates, who said, “I have read your articles about Chuck. I also read his posts about living in his pick-up truck in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Which is true?”

I immediately responded, “Both. With his brain injury he’d lose his temper, storm out of the house and stay in his truck for a few days. Then come back. His brain injury had a kind of Jekyll and Hyde effect on him.”

It’s true. He knew when he wasn’t acting right in the head, and he wanted to protect me from that. He was never physically abusive toward me, not once. But he certainly could shout. So his solution was to leave. Quite often while he was gone, we’d be texting back and forth.

He once told me that I was the only person he could rely on to tell him when he wasn’t acting rational. It wasn’t the easiest relationship in the world to have, but when it was good, it was phenomenal. Chuck was the most generous, decent, intelligent, passionate and funny man I have ever known in my life. I therefore have no regrets.

But here’s what’s interesting. When his friend asked me that question, I didn’t hesitate to respond. Basically, I was being asked to justify my grief and prove I wasn’t lying. My first response should have been to be offended. I could have simply said eff you and been done with it. That would have been a reasonable reaction to have. But that didn’t even cross my mind. And I find that kind of sad. I’m glad I didn’t do it, but I think it should have crossed my mind, at the very least. What does that say about me?

The fact is, I’ve been expected to justify my grief for Chuck from the very start. After 4 years together, some of his family members still view me as less legitimate than his ex-wife. Those who had the pleasure of only seeing his good side are uncomfortable hearing about the bad. Those who witnessed the bad cannot understand why I grieve for him at all.

Our relationship wasn’t cut and dried. It was complicated. But it was still priceless to me. No one should have to justify their grief. You don’t have to agree with it. It does not require your seal of approval. In fact, I think under the circumstances you might want to cut me a tiny bit of slack.

But as it turns out, I was glad I responded to his friend. I genuinely think she meant well. It turns out that she had been nursing a lot of guilt, because she lived near that Wal-Mart parking lot, and was unable to help him. So I learned how much she cared. I learned that I wasn’t the only one who worried about him. And she learned that Chuck was never completely alone. So we both, I think, got some comfort from the conversation. It all turned out for the best.

Life certainly can be complex. But what I took away from this experience is that it’s better to talk things out than to go on the defensive. You might learn something.

clouds and sun
It’s possible to have clouds and sunshine in the very same sky.

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Good Help

Sometimes it’s hard for me to maintain my liberal perspective. Oh, my day started off well. I was at my rental place for the very last time, having moved all my stuff out. I was eagerly awaiting the cleaners I had hired, in hopes of getting more of my rental deposits back.

Yeah, I guess I could have done it myself, but did I feel like it, after all this packing and moving and all the unpacking still in my future? Heck no. And since the company owner said it would be a ballpark figure of $200, I was thinking of it as money well spent. I’d be helping put money into the economy, and giving business to a mom and pop company. It’s all good.

I had no idea what a nightmare this day would become.

Since it was to be a cleaning crew, I was guessing maybe 4 hours work. That seemed reasonable. All the furniture was gone. The carpet had already been professionally cleaned the previous day, and I had done a cursory vacuuming of all the non-carpeted rooms. So I figured I’d hang out in my beloved back yard one last time, maybe take a few cuttings from some of my favorite plants, in hopes they’d take root in my new home. And I’d bring a book. The time should pass by quickly.

But then the “crew” arrived. It was one tiny little woman, who couldn’t have weighed more than 90 pounds, soaking wet. She said her boss couldn’t come that day, so he sent her. Well… if the boss trusted her, then I would, I suppose.

I asked her how long she thought it would take, and she said it would be hard to say at this point. Fair enough. No doubt she would tell me once she got a better sense of the place.

But now the liberal guilt set in. I never had a maid in my life, and now here I was, lounging in the back yard, while this poor little woman toiled away. I wondered how much of the money she would get. What a thankless, hard, boring job. I felt as if I were exploiting her.

When I expressed my concerns to a friend, he suggested I give her a big fat tip in cash at the end of the job. What a great idea. That’s what I would do.

She started off by vacuuming the cobwebs. And as I was hypnotized by the sound of the vacuum, I came to realize that I was developing a really bad sinus headache. Not good. I had no meds with me. And this was the worst possible kind of sinus headache– the kind where the stuff drains down the back of your throat and makes you nauseous. I spent the next couple hours vomiting in the bushes. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty miserable. I didn’t want to wake my neighbors, so I sat there feeling like death until I saw them put their dogs out, and then I went over and begged for meds, which they kindly provided. I started feeling better again after that.

During all of that, my focus had naturally shifted away from the house and toward the bushes. But once I was on the mend I realized that no sounds were coming from the house. When I walked in, she was standing in the middle of the room, with no cleaning supplies nearby, eating a snack. Well, everyone is entitled to a break, right? So I just asked how it was going, and she said fine. I didn’t press her for a timeframe. I didn’t want to disturb her break. Stupid me.

I went out and lay on a big patch of soft moss, and promptly fell asleep. (I’m really going to miss that yard.)

What woke me up was her coming out into the yard with her lunch. I think she was really surprised to see me there. She explained she needed a break. I said, “Of course.” I left her alone.

From the looks of it, in the 4 hours she had been there, she had yet to touch the kitchen or the bathroom. I was kind of shocked, but she had assured me that she had been cleaning houses for this property manager for many years, and knew exactly what he expected, so I supposed she was being thorough. The other rooms did look good, but I didn’t think they had looked particularly bad in the first place.

After she finished her lunch, I asked if I had time to go down the street and get something to eat myself. I was starting to get the shakes. I hadn’t expected to be there that long. She said yes, of course. That would have been a good time to tell me how much longer it would be, but she didn’t. Okay, fine. I was hungry. I left.

When I came back, she was cleaning the bathroom. Yay! Progress! I went back into the yard and had my lunch.

From where I sat I could see the kitchen. I kept expecting to see her in there. But no. I read my book. But by now 5 hours had passed. I was getting irritated, and bored.

By hour 7 I was afraid I was going to shout at her. I was feeling really ripped off. But I don’t want to be one of those people. You know, the kind who talk down to people. The kind who are rude to waitresses and bell boys and the like. That is not who I am. I’m one of the good guys! I’m a liberal!

But I would be damned if she was going to get that tip now. She was milking this job for all it was worth, as far as I was concerned.

I needed to get away from this woman, so I asked her if I had time to go grocery shopping. She said it would probably be 2 more hours. She also said it would be $315, which is so far from that $200 ballpark that you probably couldn’t even hear the cheering crowds from there. My jaw dropped. Then she told me that she could give me a discount. If I paid in cash, it would be $290. That seemed a little sketchy to me, but it’s a moot point. I had no way to get my hands on that kind of money that late in the freakin’ day, and I hadn’t used my ATM card in about a billion years, and could no longer remember the code.

At hour 9, I got back from the grocery store to find her eating a cookie and staring vacantly at the washing machine, which she had accidentally filled with water. She said she couldn’t figure out how to empty it. So I turned it on. She thanked me.

By now I was so frustrated that I was on the verge of tears. I was tired. I just wanted to go home. By hour 10, after watching her slowly move throughout the kitchen, the dam broke. I started to cry. I don’t cry when I’m sad. I cry when I’m pissed off. I was pissed off.

I wrote the check. I walked next door. I told my neighbor that I couldn’t take it anymore. I was going to pay the bitch the $315, and would she see that the house was locked up after she left? She said yes she would.

So I went in with the check, tears streaming down my face, and handed it to her. And she had the nerve to say that it had taken longer than she anticipated, so she was running the dishwasher to let it clean itself. I had my doubts about the efficacy of this, but I had to leave there right that second to avoid getting arrested. So I handed her the check and she said that since it took so long, it would cost even more.

I said, through gritted teeth, “No. No. I’ve already written the check. Do you want it?” She took the damned check.

And then she had the nerve to say, “Do you have any questions before I go?”

I was tempted to say, “How the f*** do you sleep at night?” But I just said “No.”

And off she went, after 10 hours.

I swear to you, I never thought these words would ever pass my lips, and I know they don’t make me look pretty, but you really can’t get good help these days.

cleaning lady

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Keeping Score

A friend of mine apologized recently. She said, “A couple of months ago, you told me you loved me, and I didn’t respond in kind. I’ve felt guilty ever since. I’m just not good at being open like that.”

Now I feel guilty, because I hadn’t even noticed that she hadn’t responded in kind. And here she had been agonizing over it.

To be perfectly frank, I don’t tend to keep score like that. I can’t be bothered. That, and my memory gets shorter by the day.

I know so many people who think that way. “I don’t come in early to relieve my coworker because he never does it for me.” “I don’t text/tweet/call/write/comment as often as I once did because the person in question doesn’t.” “I don’t send birthday cards to x, y, or z because they never send any to me.”

Living that way must be exhausting. It must be hard to keep track of what level of resentment vs. generosity you are going to display from one person to the next. I’d be reduced to gazing at a list of bitterness. That doesn’t sound like much fun.

It’s much more pleasant, and ultimately more rewarding, to bestow your gifts on the world with an open heart and an open mind, expecting nothing in return. That way you don’t get disappointed. It also means that your actions are more pure.

But I have to admit that this is not always an easy habit to maintain. For example, if I tell a significant other that I love him for the first time and I’m met with silence, that makes me nervous. And I’m no saint. If someone consistently treats me badly, I have a hard time approaching that person with an air of sincere generosity. I’m a work in progress. But at least I’m trying.

The bottom line is that you can only control what you put out in the world. You have no control over what you get back. So don’t let the sentiments that come toward you be your sole reason for changing your attitude toward someone.

Don’t be a doormat, of course, but at the same time, allow yourself to feel what you feel and do what you do without obsessing over the score. Life’s too short.


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The Betrayer of Anne Frank

I “discovered” Anne Frank and her famous diary at the age of 12, so for me she felt like a contemporary. It seemed as if we went through puberty together. We discovered boys together. We were age-appropriately bratty and self-absorbed together. We had issues with our mothers together. (The fact that she was actually born just two years after my mother added another whole layer of complexity for me.)

Because of this, for a long time I was obsessed with the Holocaust. I read everything I could on the subject, and watched every movie. I educated myself into a deep dark depression about it. I wanted to save Anne, but of course I couldn’t. And it frustrated me even more because she came so close to making it—just a few more weeks and she’d have been liberated.

When I was 19 I lived in the Netherlands for a few months and had the opportunity to visit the secret annex. I walked where she walked. But it was a disappointing experience because it was so jam packed with tourists that you really couldn’t get the sense of what it had been like. I couldn’t feel Anne there.

I have also spent a great deal of time wondering about Anne’s betrayer. Who sent 7 out of 8 of them to their deaths? How did that person live with himself? When Anne’s diary was published and became the second most read book in the world, did the person in question feel more guilty?

We will most likely never know for sure who the betrayer was. But there are several theories. You can read more about them on Miep Gies’ website. The one I tend to believe most was further detailed in an article in The Guardian back in 2002. The man they put forth as the likely culprit is Tonny Ahlers. By all accounts he was a despicable human being who was a violent anti-semite, and a member of the NSB (the Dutch National Socialists, allied to the Nazis). There is also proof that he hated Otto Frank, Anne’s father, even to the extent of bribing him.

If it was Ahlers, I’m even more disappointed, because those who knew him say that even after the war he was violent, criminal, and unrepentant. He didn’t feel guilty then, so he certainly didn’t feel “more guilty” afterwards. In other words, he learned nothing. He went to his death a hateful man.

So my desire for some form of redemption coming from this tragedy is thwarted yet again. My inner 12-year-old is bitterly disappointed. My jaded adult whispers, “Figures. People suck.”


So Happy for You! Sort of.

I have six friends who have always had some combination of the following: Good looks. Happy marriages. Dream jobs. The ability to travel extensively. Plenty of money. Gorgeous houses. Excellent health. A secure retirement nest egg. And I’m happy for them. Really I am. It couldn’t happen to nicer people.

But I have to admit that sometimes when I hear of their latest success or incredible run of good luck, I get a little irritated as well. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m jealous as hell. Because mine has not been a life full of those attributes, and at my age, the ship has sailed on most of those things. That’s just a simple fact. Most of us were not born with the Midas touch. Lord knows I wasn’t.

It’s not that I wish them divorce or unemployment or illness. I don’t wish that on anyone, especially on someone I love. It’s just that when I congratulate them, at the same time my inner child is wailing, “Why not meeeeeeeee?” If that makes me seem a little less sincere, I can’t seem to help it.

That’s a really putrid feeling to have, because I can also look over my shoulder and see millions, if not billions, of people who are much worse off than I’ll ever be. I seem to have hit that sweet spot where I feel bitter, and simultaneously feel guilty about that bitterness. Great.

The advice I give myself, which I seem to struggle to take, is to stop comparing myself to others and just live my life, warts and all. What can I say? I’m a work in progress.


[Image credit: pinterest.com]

The Secret Lives of my Dogs

I came home from work today to the smell of pee and saw a look of utter shame on both my dogs’ faces. The worst part about it is I can’t find where they did it. I’ve been crawling around on my hands and knees sniffing away, with no luck. Disgusting.

I wish I could afford to install a hidden camera in the house so I could see what my boys do when I’m not around. Peeing only takes a few seconds. What do they do the rest of the time? Play poker? Throw wild parties? Watch kitty porn? They definitely don’t do housework. And as often as I’ve told them to get a job, the suggestion seems to have fallen on deaf ears. I’m such an enabler.

It’s disconcerting to think that my dogs have lives that I know nothing about. They have secrets. They know more about each other than I do about either one of them.

If they could speak, I wonder what they’d say to me? I wonder what they think about me? It’s a safe bet that they inwardly laugh when they see me crawling around sniffing for pee.

Cough. Gag. Found it! The bath mat. Well, at least it wasn’t the carpet. But still, yuck.


[Image credit: toplowridersites.com]



Killer Instinct

I have a confession to make. I’m a killer. And I don’t feel the least bit of shame. I’ll do it again, I guarantee you. If a cockroach or a brown recluse spider stupidly breeches my line of chemical defense and enters my house, there to potentially bite me and rot my flesh or ruin my food or spread disease, that sucker is going down.

Upon first sighting, my mind goes all primal. The only thought I have is, “Kill it, kill it, kill it!” I used to then scream for my boyfriend, but the last two I’ve had have been absolutely worthless in this bloodthirsty realm, so now I just try to get above my panic and then go into heartless hunter mode until the deed is done.

And woe be unto the flea who makes the mistake of trying to feed off one of my dogs. There’s nothing more satisfying than hearing a flea’s little body snap between my finger nails. Take that, you blood sucker!

I don’t get people like my boyfriend who find it morally wrong to kill cockroaches. I think nature trumps morality every single time. If you encountered a hungry mountain lion in the wild, do you think he’d feel the least bit guilty about feasting upon your entrails? Most assuredly not. And then the vultures would come and nibble on the less desirable bits, and the worms would devour what’s left.

Rats will even eat their own, leaving hantavirus in their wake, so I have no problem with deadly rat traps. I also don’t mind those who humanely trap and relocate higher mammals, even though many of them spread disease, too. This is partly because I know deep down that this territory I inhabit used to be theirs, and partly because I know if I were locked in mortal combat with a raccoon, I’d most likely lose.

I’m not all bad, though. I have been known to pull my car over on the side of the road to let a lizard hop off my windshield, and I’ve helped more than one turtle cross a highway. I’ll put out birdseed in the winter, and I get heartily annoyed with people who let their cats outside, thus depleting the songbird population. I also let ladybugs fly away home.

And I think people who abuse animals should be locked away forever, in conditions identical to the ones they imposed upon their innocent victims.

So where is the line that I draw? If you will intentionally kill me or make me sick, then you are fair game. I’ll kill you every day of the week and twice on Sunday. If, on the other hand, you are simply trying to live your furry or scaly or slithery little life, and we’ve crossed paths merely by chance, I’ll do my best to help you on your way.

So yes, I’ll kill, and feel no remorse. I think those who refuse to do so would be much better served feeling guilty about doing the things that animals do not do themselves, such as polluting or embezzling or pedophilia.