My Beautiful Ooops
Below are photos from my home office (I’ve discovered that you can see them a bit more clearly if you click on them.)
I like to think of my little space as bright and cheery. It features a dog, and trinkets from my late mama, and an antique desk and a chair that, ostensibly, even belonged to South Dakota Governor Norbeck.
The walls were painted by my father, and I’ve decorated the space with some bright green plants, must-read books, selected art by my children, and a bird curtain for the closet door that is small homage to my (former) ENFP prayer type: “Dear God, thank you for…Look! A bird!”
I couldn’t bear the thought of a grey steel file cabinet, and so I improvised. On the whatever-that-piece-of-furniture could be called are pictures of my children, a garland of gold doo-dads that remind me of Epiphany in all times, a small token from Germany, and, on each wall, an attempt at art I’ve made.
I’m no artist, but I want to be. To the left there, that’s my latest oeuvre.
What, um, what is it, you ask?
Let’s take a closer look.
You know, I like to think that I’m sharper than a marble.
But I’m not, so much, at least not consistently. I actually roll–careen, really–through life most days.
See, that–let’s call it “hanging textile” art–was once the rug by my kitchen sink. I loved that rug.
And look what I just found! Here, the middle one in the photo below? That’s what it once looked like.
As it turns out, two weeks ago, the toilet just off of the kitchen overflowed. I mean it really overflowed. Naturally, I was madly dashing for a meeting with my bishop. It felt a bit like “My dog ate my homework” when I had to text him to tell him that I was late because my toilet overflowed, and this tale was admittedly a bit more embarrassing than a hound eating my math.
But I sopped up the (mostly benign) flood with every available towel and rag and apron I had in sight, and called it good.
It was not good.
Not even a little bit.
Because when I got home, Else and I had to grab something from downstairs, and as we went into the laundry room…right under the bathroom that flooded…the be-stocking-footed Else screeched, “YUUUCCCCKKKKKK!”
And she was right. The carpet was sopped, and the ceiling was dripping, and my first thought was, frankly, “Scheisse,” which thankfully it was not, and my second thought was that I must be doing something right because the day before, my new and better home insurance with improved flood and sewer coverage had gone into effect.
I called the plumber. He was very helpful, and assured me that it wasn’t anything serious (“Oh, reeeally,” I said to myself) and that I could now confidently flush with flair even.
All of this is backdrop to my art, you see, because if you recall, this rug was right by my kitchen sink. And I noticed, after the plumber had left, that the mat had gotten wet.
Did I mention that my rug was (operative tense there) made mostly out of recycled candy wrappers and newsprint?
So what did I do?
Why, I washed it, naturally.
Yes, I put that rug right on in my washing machine, along with everything else that I’d used to sop up the mess, and I sanitized the recycled rug right on out of it.
What you see hanging above, there? That’s what my hand found as I slowly, and with a low moan, pulled it out of the washing machine drum.
And I just stood there, looking at this dangling orange and bedraggled blob in front of me, and I laughed. All by myself, in my basement, I laughed at this limp specimen of my latest boneheaded feat.
But who am I to keep this ridiculous move all to myself?
So I went upstairs, and tucked the…whatever it is now…around the corner and told Else and Karl that I was about to show them something IF AND ONLY IF they referred to it only when they had done something so positively stupid, so ridiculously numbskulled, so mouth-gapingly, shockingly foolish, and they saw me about ready to unleash my fury.
I held up our former kitchen rug.
Else and Karl both stared, and then Karl burst out laughing, and Else, shrewdly, saw that she had just been handed a get-out-of-jail free card, and stewarded that knowledge well, at least in that moment.
I decided to hang it up by the door in my home office.
It’s a reminder that I am so very human, so astonishingly able to make mistakes that are so bad that they are admirably so.
It’s a reminder that although circumstances can push someone to making choices that are externally not not not wise, sometimes in life, in point of fact one has few choices and none of them good. I challenge you: how, exactly, do you wash a favorite rug that happens to be made out of paper? Rather than just throwing it out, isn’t it worth, well, sanitizing it?
And if I had just pitched my recycled rug, I would not have this Beautiful Oops hanging on my wall.
The fact is that it is an oops. I can’t get it back. No amount of face palms, no amount of apologies to myself, no amount of scrounging the internet to find a replacement is going to do the trick.
That sucker is gone, gone, gone.
And I really can’t blame it on anyone. God for sure isn’t going to take the rap for this one.
Nope. I did that all. by. my. self.
And yet out of the mental lunacy that made me think I could clean it up, well, I got art, and I got a blog.
Ash Wednesday is this week. It begins Lent, my favorite season of the year (well, that and Advent. I really like Advent. And Epiphany too. Wait. I digress).
There’s a great little video out, all of two minutes, that illustrates in a pithy way the importance of this time of the liturgical year. It emphasizes repentance, humility, renewal, and community.
I repent of my decision to wash my rug. It was witless to the nth degree.
I am humbled that I could have thought it would actually have worked to wash that thing at a gazillion degrees. In water.
Hanging this transformed mistake in my office, though, my rug and I are renewed. My rug can now claim to have been recycled twice! and I get art, and a laugh, and a promise every time I look at it.
And by sharing my Beautiful Oops with the community of my kids, they know that it is safe to make mistakes themselves, to own it, and that together we can move beyond it.
They aren’t their mistakes.
Perhaps by sharing my Beautiful Oops with the community of readers, I can make a Lenten point, at this Advent of Lent:
We are all sinners. We are also in baptism all washed. That washing is transformative, sometimes in unwanted and unexpected ways. Sometimes, actually, we become more brilliantly, uniquely, broken-but-beautiful than before the transformation.
Lent is often so morose. I understand this: we have all made mistakes far more awful than washing a rug, and all of us have consequently irreparably lost, and taken from others, far more than a kitchen mat.
But we begin the season of Lent with the words “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.”
Your wise moves and your stupid ones; your thoughtful and thoughtless ones; your reasoned and your desperate ones; your sane and your insane; you are more than all of them, both the admirable and the despicable.
Because they, and your dust, belong to God.
Lent is a time, of course, to repent from what moves us to sin, namely what moves us to betray God’s agenda for us and our communities and creation.
It’s also a time to identify what that agenda actually is, and move closer to it.
As a community, Lent is a time to consider that rarely do people mess up in isolation. Usually there are any number of contributing circumstances, circumstances that might not absolve people involved, but might mitigate their decisions. Compassion, not condemnation, is found in these words about dust.
Sometimes, though, sometimes, we all just screw up, plain and simple.
On this Ash Wednesday, and in Lent, it’s a word of promise and hope and grace and renewal to be reminded that that you are dust, and to dust you shall return…or, in the case of my rug, to be reminded that you are a slurry of paper pulp, and to this slurry you will return.