The Incredibly Shrinking Tick

David in a yellow slide 1999

“The only time you really live fully is from thirty to sixty. The young are slaves to dreams; the old servants of regrets. Only the middle-aged have all their five senses in the keeping of their wits.” — Theodore Roosevelt

Once when my older boy was small, I tousled his hair and felt a tick lurking behind his ear. Black and swollen with my son’s blood, it sat there dumbly.

Revulsion washed over me, and I summoned my husband, who calmly pulled it out with a pair of tweezers. I put it in a plastic bag in case a doctor needed to know the type of tick. A quick Internet search assured me it was harmless, and I thought that was the end of it, a routine part of raising boys who play in the woods.

Then a funny thing happened. My son carried the bag around with him and called the tick his pet. The little tick would walk around on the bag’s slippery walls, searching for a next victim that it would never find. Day by day, Ticky got smaller and smaller, digesting the blood it had stolen from my child.

My son reported to us at twelve-hour intervals how his little pal was doing. And it was clear to us that it wasn’t doing well.

When the tick died, my son’s sadness reached me, and I felt compassion for the little creature stuck starving in a bag, the same creature I had felt revulsion for a few days before.

As I approach my 50s, I have my own little shrinking tics. Problems that sucked the life out of me in my 20s — insecurity, pettiness, timidity, a junk food diet and couch potato lifestyle — have all shrunk in the last two decades. I am discovering the beauty of something I had heard and not believed when I was young, that life gets better as you mature and grow into yourself.

ziplining Costa RicaAs my faults lessen and my confidence grows, though, I realize I’ll always have those old inclinations. I might have traveled alone and ziplined like Superman, but I’ll always hesitate before I enter a room filled with people. Adventure mixed with fear. It’s a permanent part of me. And that’s okay.

My tics are shrinking, but they’ll never disappear, and if they did, would I be sad to see them go?

About Marcy

I blog about trying to get out of my comfort zone, completing 101 things in 1001 days (and beyond), and writing my memoirs. My book: Timid No More.

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32 Responses to The Incredibly Shrinking Tick

  1. I love the analogy between the tick and your tics. I’ve grown up with so many ticks in my life that I don’t hesitate to rip those suckers out by their nasty little heads. Um. Maybe that says something about me … hmmm…

  2. Karen says:

    Beautiful post, Marcy. You are so right, life gets much better as you mature and grow into yourself.

  3. I love how you make the seamless connection between ticks and tics. When it seems effortless, you know you’re reading great writing! Well done.

  4. nataliedeyoung says:

    I love the analogy, too. At first I was wondering where you were going with the tick-in-a-bag thing (I even felt a little sorry for the guy, or thought maybe a Lyme disease story was imminent). I love how you pulled it together in the end. And I feel the same way about my thirties – I was terrified all through my twenties, until about twenty-nine. Then, I started dismissing my fears and embracing life more. 🙂

  5. Cheryl T says:

    This was a timely post for me – I love the analogy of the tick shrinking, and as I age, I can feel the same things happening to me as I look back on my life experiences so far. Thank you for sharing such a powerful story 🙂

  6. Katie Jane says:

    Analogies are my fave, and this is a great one! Menatl note for Yeah Write votes.;)

  7. I also do, and always will, hesitate before I walk into a room full of people. I love the idea of adventure mixed with a little fear. Not a bad way to live life.

  8. Adventure mixed with fear. Tics versus ticks. So many great ideas and details here. I’m a late bloomer so I’ve been using my 40s to grow into myself. Great post@

  9. iasoupmama says:

    What an interesting study of language between tick and tic. And I’m glad you’re letting go of the tics that bother you and that you understand that they are all part of you just the same.

  10. mamarific says:

    I love this analogy and have observed the same thing as I’ve grown older about my own issues.

  11. tvonzalez says:

    Popped by from the 31dbbb sign up list. Great tick story! That is a new one on me – having one as a pet. So cute ~

    • Marcy says:

      I found it pretty gross at the time, but it’s so fascinating to be able to see things from a child’s point of view.

  12. dorothyadele says:

    Life does get better as you mature because you concentrate on what is important in life. I enjoyed the analogy and your post.

  13. Marcy says:

    Yes, I do think that’s it.

  14. zoe says:

    nicely drawn analogy!

  15. i love that quote. never heard it. so believe to be true. we really do lose the tics and just learn to feel comfortable and live. great post.

  16. Rae Hilhorst says:

    I love that as you get older what was once so important isn’t so anymore. The goal posts have shifted and I am happily shifting with them. Love the Tick story and your post. xx

  17. erin graves says:

    Adventure mixed with fear — love this approach. As for the tick? It gave me the heebie jeebies, but loved the analogy.

  18. Cindy Reed says:

    I love the quote at the beginning of the post – but I think if you live fully in middle age, the regrets are less. I’m looking forward to fully living the rest of my time.Or else I only have 12 years left and that can’t be 🙂

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