Wednesday, November 20, 2013

On dishwashers, snake-sniffing, and superfluous language

Some snippets that are unworthy of a post of their own but that need to be freed from the clutter of my mind:


I've been playing this game lately with a steak knife that someone (to whom I'm married) used to open a package.  It is now covered in sticky tape gunk that won't come off in the dishwasher, so every time I unload the dishwasher I place said knife next to the sink so that I can scrub it by hand later.  I inexplicably forget that the next time I load the dishwasher, and I stick it back in without thinking.  Of course, upon unloading, I discover it anew.  Rinse and repeat.  I've been playing this game for at least two weeks now, and I don't seem to be winning.

On a related note, I usually set our dishwasher on a four-hour delay so it will run at night while we're sleeping.  If, however, someone opens it the door to put something else in it and forgets to press Start again, I will awaken to a dishwasher full of still-dirty dishes in the morning. 

A few mornings ago I commented to David that this was why there were no clean spoons.  I said, "I'm not accusing you, but someone put something in the dishwasher last night and didn't press start." 

His response: "What are the odds that someone other than you put something in the dishwasher?" 

Me: What were the odds that your laziness would someday serve you so well?


I'm convinced Joshua will have his own television show someday.  "The Snake Sniffer."  He loves to hunt snakes in the summertime, and I am always amazed at how many he finds.  I go outside all the time and return home snake-free, so where does he find all these snakes?  How does he find all these snakes.

I asked him.

"I can smell them," says he.

You're joking, I replied, you can't possibly walk through the woods and smell snakes. Yes, I can, he says.  He claims that he gets down close to the rocks (because that's what they usually hide under) and can smell when there are snakes under the rocks.  Given the number of snakes he finds, I have no choice but to assume this is true.

Now, if only this olfactory gift could be put to some better use than finding snakes.  Like sniffing out gold.  Or oil.  Heck, I'd settle for dirty socks.  Those, he can't seem to smell at all.


Lastly, I just want to share a pet peeve.  (Which, in case you didn't know is something that really annoys you.  The other day I was speaking with a fellow attorney who used the phrase to refer to something she cared passionately about in a positive way.  I heroically refrained from telling her that people using phrases incorrectly is one of my pet peeves.  Unless you're my friend, C, in which case it's endearing.  But ONLY her.)

Sooooo,  my pet peeve du jour:  the phrases "I'd just like to say . . ." or "I want to say . . . " 

There is no need to tell me that you WANT to say something.  Just say it.  No more, "I want to say thanks to everyone who helped me . . .."  or "I'd just like to wish so-and-so a happy birthday."

Just say it already! No need to be superfluous about it.

And, while we're at it, could you change the recording on your voice mail if it says that I've reached you when clearly the fact that I am listening to your voice mail recording means that I have most assuredly NOT reached you? 

Thanks to my brother's pointing this one out years ago, it has driven me bananas since.  (Note I didn't say "ever since" because that is another redundant phrase; eliminate it, too, while you're making all these positive changes.  You'll thank me someday.  And when you do, don't preface it by telling me that you'd like to.)


Okay, so I couldn't let my last one be all ranty and negative.  So, I'll add one more.

I have cute puppies.

There, much better.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

On Being Broken

I’ve been broken.  For a while now.

It didn’t happen all at once.  It happened slowly like the changing of the leaves in the Fall from green to yellow to orange to gone.  If you pay close enough attention, you can see the slight changes, but mostly you just look one day and notice they’ve changed, and then you look again and they’re gone.

That’s what happened to me.  One day I was Me, and then when I looked again, I was a little less Me.  Not wanting to inspect the situation too closely for fear of what I might find, I carried on with the Not Looking until one day there was no escaping the absence of Me. 

If you don’t live near me, or if you don’t know me well enough to see it, you may not even have known.  Maybe you thought my leaves were always an orangy-yellow, or maybe you were mistaken about my having had leaves at all.  But the truth is my leaves were once full and bright and green. 

Until they started dying.

I don’t know how it started.  Our bodies are mysterious things.  People talk about physical pain and emotional distress and mental illness as if there are many separate parts of a person, but the truth is I have only one body, and all the parts of it make up just one Me. 

There has been physical pain in the last few years.  A lot of different kinds and for a lot of different reasons.  They say that chronic pain can lead to depression, but it’s hard for me to trace the exact path that took me from, “The scar tissue on my kidney won’t stop flaring up” or “My painful digestive disorder is incapacitating me” to “I want to hide under my covers for the rest of my life.”  Yet that’s where I ended up.

The thing about being broken is we always want to hide it.  When my leaves were bright and green, I didn’t mind showing them to the world.  I loved being a part of the world.  I participated in it fully, welcomed it, welcomed you.  But when I began to break, I began to hide.  It’s exhausting to try to make those ugly brown dying leaves look green, and let’s face it, who wants to look at brown leaves?  It’s easier just to tuck them away so no one can see.  But it’s in the tucking that the disappearing begins.

At some point I begin to notice that I was spending too much time in my bed.  Too much time in the cozy cocoon of cotton and down.  But I liked it there.  When I was in that safe place of my own making, I could drown out the Voice.  The one that said, “You’re failing everyone.”  Because if I let myself listen, that Voice had a lot to say. 

“You’re not a good mom.  What a lousy example your setting for your children.” 
“You’re not working hard enough at your job.” 
“You’re failing your husband.” 
"You're not praying or reading your Bible. What kind of Christian are you?"
“Your house is falling apart.” 
“You’re failing at everything.”

And that’s not the half of it.  I bet you know the Voice.  Maybe it hasn’t broken you, but I bet you’ve heard it whispering nonetheless.  It’s never content to limit its quiver of arrows to the present either.  As if being a failure right now isn’t bad enough, The Voice likes to fashion arrows from the mistakes and the pain of yesterday and to sharpen their points on fears of tomorrow.

So for quite some time now, I’ve been trying to hide from the Voice.  I’ve hidden in my bed.  I’ve hidden in my house.  I’ve hidden from my family and my friends and from the world because surely if I could hear it, you could hear it, too.  So, instead of trying to make my leaves look all pretty and green and alive, I just let them fall off altogether.

There was a day when I noticed my leaves were gone.  Noticed I was broken.  That was about a year ago.  But it was just too hard to try to put them back.  To grow leaves again is not easy.  To fix the brokenness requires so much doing.  So I stayed broken.

Until recently.  A few months ago I decided that maybe it wasn’t all or nothing.  The idea of trying to put back all my leaves – all my pieces – was just too daunting.  But what if I could find just one?  Just one piece of Me that might still be there?  One green leaf?

So, I made plans.  I don’t mean A Plan.  Not a plan to fix me, but plans with someone to do something.  Because the old Me did things.  Lots of things.  The broken me did nothing.  Just do something, I thought.  

And I did.

And it didn’t kill me.  So I did another thing. 

I’ve been gradually doing more of the Things until I’ve recently begun to remember what my leaves used to look like.  They’re not all back, but the hope of them is.  And that’s almost enough.

I’ve been hesitant to share this because people – not unlike myself – can be so judgmental about depression and brokenness.  But, I decided I didn’t care.  One of my favorite leaves on the old Me was the writer leaf.  It’s been dead for a long time, but maybe this is what I need to write about to bring that leaf back to life.   

Besides, I suspect we’re all a little broken anyway.  If your broken doesn’t strip you bare and leave you hopeless, then praise God and pray for the rest of us.  If it does, then know you’re not alone, and maybe if all of us with no leaves stopped hiding from each other, the broken wouldn’t hurt quite so bad.  Because the comfort we get from hiding in bed in our pajamas or from eating food or not eating food or from self-medicating is that it drowns out The Voice.  But, if we could all speak loudly enough to each other from our brokenness, maybe we could do that, too.