This isn’t the direction I expected to take in my series about digging up the treasure in our backyards. What I wanted was to encourage you to start dreaming again, and recognizing the little sparks of divine creativity that are yours and have always been yours. I still have every intention to do this. However.
For some reason, it has become critical that I show you what combing through dinosaur feces looks like in living color. So, welcome to the jungle.
This lockdown is all my fault
“This pandemic is all my fault;” said Gigi, my chronically self-absorbed, deeply broken grandmother.
Wait no, that was me. I was the one who said that. Sometimes I get confused. But let’s be honest, it could have been Gigi. It just sounds like something she could have said. Had she lived through the umpteenth COVID lockdown with a four year-old and a five year-old, she definitely would have said that.
It’s a hall-mark of the chronically insecure: the feeling like anything bad that happens is somehow related back to me. Anything bad that happens, it’s my fault. The flipside is the inability to take credit for the good things that happen. As if we are constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. “Oh. Things are going well? Then something must be wrong!”
The Plague on My House
I remember when I was a child, my family had a flea infestation. We had cats, have always had cats. Around that time I had gotten mixed up with some people I probably shouldn’t have been with at my age. I knew that all my sneaking around wasn’t a brilliant idea, but it didn’t hit home until we got fleas. I became certain that the plague on our house was due to my behavior. Those fleas were all my fault.
It was enough to calm my ardors. I tried to be good, thinking that if I could just stop misbehaving that the fleas would go away. They did eventually go away, but my heart didn’t really buy into the whole change thing.
Later, I lived alone in a cute little studio apartment which I relished in decorating and keeping neat and tidy. During another period of wishy-washy virtuousness, a random thing happened in my tidy little apartment: a silverfish infestation. Yet again, a wakeup call.
My downstairs neighbor in Orlando, Russ-Ross, got fleas in his apartment and I couldn’t help but secretly wonder what unvirtuousness he was up to late at night. (None, it turns out. He was just starting a company in his spare time and worked on it at odd hours.) He wore a flea collar around his ankle to keep the fleas from biting. Our landlords never did believe that he didn’t have a cat.
It was easy for me to believe that the fleas were not Russ-Ross’ fault, in spite of my curiosity about his late night activities. I somehow even managed to wonder if they were my fault.
If you’ve been following my adventure for any length of time, you’ll remember that the year my first child was born began a moth infestation among my clothes which still plagues us to this day.
Given what you know about my attempts to draw a one-to-one relationship between unpleasant things like little plagues to my errors, you can imagine the soul-searching I tried to do to trace back the origin of the moths.
What do you know about fractals? Probably more than me. Up until about two years ago, they were just frozen things that Elsa sang about in “Let it Go!”
But let’s pretend you don’t know, and that I can educate you on something I fully researched and became an expert on by reading an article on Wikipedia. Fractals are repeating shapes that in their largest iteration take on the shape of of their smallest element. Think: seashells, mountain ranges, broccoli, piles of poop.
Fractals are the reason for one of my favorite life philosophies: “Life is stepping in increasingly large piles of poop until you die.”
There are things I know I should do, but they seem too hard and I’m too tired or lazy to do them. Then there are things I know I shouldn’t do, but are just too easy and I don’t have the willpower to say no. These twin realities are what keep finding me putting on waders in my back yard.
At some point, I realized that I have to stop doing the same things and expecting different results. Fractals are the reason I developed my Ideal Life Exercises, a daily five-minute routine where I look at the major areas of my life and consider how they are going.
If I don’t keep track of the treasures that make up my life and the distance I have yet to travel in order to achieve my goals, what decisions are to be made and what I want to see happen in my life, then I will inevitably end up doing the easy things I shouldn’t do and not doing the hard things I should be doing.
So this, my friends, is why the pandemic, and particularly, this pandemic lockdown right here, is all my fault. I am very, very sorry.
Neon flashing sign over my head…
Oh, I came up with a reason for my moth infestation all right. The reason was that I was a miserable, unworthy, unloving, incapable mother. The writing was literally on the wall
Enter stage left: Global pandemic.
I have always said, and I will maintain until my dying day, that the great pandemic lockdown in the Spring of 2020 was the best possible thing that could have happened to my family. I was sick and tired of being a parent. I was eager to let the French education system, which requires children attend school starting at age three, start raising my children. Besides! I had dreams! I was going to be a novelist!
But no. Instead of becoming a novelist, my family got two and a half months of intensive togetherness therapy. My indulgent husband tried to maintain his teaching schedule online in the morning in the bedroom while I entertained the scalawags in the living room so he could work. I wrote in the afternoons, switching off the overseeing of our scalawags in the other room.
There was no one else to raise our boys for us. We had to start taking things in hand, and we did. We had zero choice.
The greatest accomplishment of the first lockdown in our house was to solidify the brotherhood of my little boys. They became one another’s best playmate, best friend, best interpreter of moods. They played for hours, taking apart our couches and turning them into imaginary dump trucks, food trucks, school buses…each yes, and-ing the other.
They presented a united front in defending themselves against unjust chastisement, often the little one stepping in front of his brother saying, “He didn’t break it! I know he didn’t because I did!”
Their brotherhood needed that lockdown. (I’m getting choked up just thinking about it.)
But, mercifully, life went back to normal for a while, until two weeks ago. And here we are again, face to face with these ungrateful, insufferable, disrespectful monsters (who I love with all my heart, blah blah blah.)
Lean into it
In the thick of my exhaustion, frustration and their demanding four and five year-oldness, I have been forced to start dealing with those flashing neon signs which appeared over my head. Perhaps somewhat symbolically, this is happening just as I start to feel like I’m outsmarting those stupid moths.
Shoveling through my feelings of inadequacy and anger, I have been hearing that quiet voice of my shoveling partner (whose black suit and sunglasses remain impeccable, no matter how deep in the doodoo he gets) whisper, “Lean into it.”
When the wind is to our back, we feel carried by it. Everything is easy. Smiling is easy. Progress is easy. When we are walking into the wind, it’s unpleasant. We barely advance. We seethe curses under our breath. Our hat flies away. Our umbrella gets all busted. If we are determined to walk against the wind, the most effective way is to lean into it.
I am determined to lean into this lockdown. Determined to face the wind and to come out on the other side with a changed heart regarding my role as a parent. This time, my heart is ready to learn its lesson. This time, whether or not the pandemic is truly my fault.
Failing means you tried
I promise, we are going to get back to the bags of gold shortly. But I really felt it necessary to take this detour through my treacherous mine-ridden back yard.
Do not be ashamed that you have baggage. Do not be ashamed that you aren’t perfect. You aren’t, you will never be. You can try…there is great honor to be found in doing our very best work. But then don’t be ashamed when you fail.
It is entirely possible to dust off your bags of gold and deal with the poop problem at the same time, when you have the Creator of the Universe at your side. What I am learning is that the more delight I take in exploring who I was made to be and what I was meant to do, the more I feel rich in grace. The more I explore the possibilities of what was entrusted to me, the more gratitude I feel.
My only responsibility is to “boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV
This article is part of a series called Bags of Gold. If you want to get caught up:
Part One: The Shame of Plenty
Part Two: My Bags of Gold
Part Three: What’s in a Name?
Part Four: On Heaven and Dinosaur Poop
Part Five; Just Blame Me, Okay? (You are here.)
Part Six: You used to Sparkle
Part Seven: She Sparkles: an interview with Izabela Rabehanta
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