Last week, I worked particularly hard one day. Hard for one not accustomed to fast-paced, public work anyway. And I walked home. And it was hotter than the breath of a devil. I collapsed on my couch, curled up in the fetal position and just wanted to be left alone. Ironic since being alone is so manifestly available to me lately—and resented. Yet there I was. Ever the ingrate. Ever self-seeking. And my beautiful seven babies were restless. They did not see the grueling pace of what I had been doing for the past several hours. They could not understand why I didn’t want to bounce right up and devise infinite avenues of fun to be had in the heat of this evening’s devil breath. And they begged. Bordering just enough on whining but still able to stay on the side of rational where I would hear them. “Mama, mama! Come play!” “We need to do something!”
And I resented them. And my body screamed “Go away! I love you to pieces but I want you all to just snuggle here with me and fall into blissful slumber. But you want to actually be active right now?! You want my attention right now?! Dear God, say it ain’t so!” But—to my surprised horror– I heard my mouth utter a “Fine, go load up in the truck and we’ll take the kayak out”… granted, it was spoken with a few extra pounds of resignation, and not nearly the levity of cheerfulnesss that I wished I could’ve mustered.
And we went. And we made the best of it. There were a few minor scuffles about who sat where in the truck and who got to be first on the water but by and large, a solidarity is usually found at the water’s edge for my family. Hermit crabs were poked and prodded and captured. Baby bums were soaked at unbalanced tottering along the rocks. And so on. The older children loved being in the kayak. They loved the freedom and independence of paddling out there alone. The little ones loved going out for rides with Mama. I loved… well, pretty much only that they loved it. And the fantasy that I could potentially love kayaking someday if only it came dressed up in peace and solitude.
Then the fight to get everyone loaded back up and home. The ill-timed bathroom needs. The smell of seaweed and the grit of sand in the folds of skin. And it was hard. And my patience had run out. So we bumbled our way home and ate some cheese and crackers called dinner and tottered into bed, with protests and resistance.
Then I cried. And I let exhausted tears wash my cheeks and then my valiant mind tried to war with my bitter heart for being such a weakling… but my heart won. And my “Yes” to the present moment was nullified since it decided to show up heavily saddled with all the baggage of qualifications and conditions of my will that a selfish woman like me likes to carry around. So I rebuked myself and fell asleep.
It’s true. There was no happy ending that day. When I wrote this initially, I wanted to be able to weave in a tidy, little lesson of virtue here. I’ll even share with you what I drafted out:
Then, I leaned into my weakness by clutching my miraculous medal and recited my favorite 3-word prayer (“God have mercy”) and allowed myself to fully feel my littleness. My reluctant will. My incomplete surrender. My heart empty of virtue. And instead of turning in on myself and filling this vacancy with thoughts of shame and disgust and irritation… I offered it to Him. My baby Jesus to come fill this filthy-barnyard, smelly, manger of a soul with His presence. And my pride died a mini-death. And what I then said “Yes” to… was my very inadequacy to do or be any good outside of Him. And I nearly smiled in being nothing—yet everything— because I was simply His tiny, pathetic daughter. My ramshackle soul presented so much space for HIM to transform and heal and fill…. I imagine like those fixer-uppers on TV who get so excited transforming homes when they have a generous amount of money with which to work. How excited must my Jesus be to fix-up my heart when His budget and energy are inexhaustible?! I am His perfect project.
And I found some freedom in that. And peace. And God. What else could I possibly want?!
I know. It sounds so meaningful and heartfelt, right?! And it was. But it wasn’t very honest. I didn’t end that day with holy, peaceful inspirations. I fell asleep on a pillowcase wet with tears and drool and completely devoid of sanctifying thoughts. (And if, through writing, I am anything other than honest, I have no business saying anything at all.) As it is, I wrote that little paragraph as an editor would like to revise a script that she just read. “Well, everything seemed to be going smoothly, with a moderate amount of interest… but your ending was just really, really crappy. So let me fix that up here…” That’s the ending I wish I would’ve had to that night.
But I have to believe there is some merit in retrospective goodwill. I have to trust that the desire to revise my life script counts for something… and further, that it inspires something for future chapters. Sometimes writers or bloggers seem to have the pretense of authority or “figured-it-out-iveness” that has always bothered me. (Pride hates pride, see…) And I never want to be like that. The intention of this little corner of cyberspace isn’t to preach anything to anyone about how I’ve mastered my vocation, my faith, or life. I am here as a fellow sojourner… pointing out interesting sights along my path… offering to share a bench with others as needed… chattering about beautiful books to read along the way… running out of fuel sometimes… and wiping off my face, just like anyone else who bites the dust often. I’m little and foolish, that much is true. But that much does indeed purchase a liberty in which I will be delighted to end my life’s story.