Snow on Car Ports: A Bad Dream, and a Pattern, Transfigured (Again)
I woke up to a rare bad dream the other night.
To be clear, it wasn’t a nightmare, per se; hardly the stuff worthy of even a B-movie plot.
What shook me awake rather was simply two women berating me—like, with well-honed contempt delivered with a master-class facial and verbal derision—for, get this:
I hadn’t yet shoveled the snow off our ugly tarpy car ports.
I mean, how northern Minnesotan can you get.
But wow did the women in this dream rattle me, both in my dream and when I woke up.
I felt so appropriately indicted there was a bona fide lump in my throat, working its way up to a lip tremble and a cry.
To make it weirder:
a) there isn’t snow on the car ports;
b) of all the things about which I’m (consciously, anyway) feeling somewhere between sheepish and ashamed, snow on the car ports is not one of them;
c) I can’t shake the dream. I never remember dreams, but here we are, days later, and (were I to have any artistic capacities at all), I bet I could draw to perfection the (unfamiliar, for the record) face of one of these two women. Her voice was harsh and disdainful, and it still echoes in my mind, making me wince when I think back to that blame dream.
So a couple of things make me go hmmm.
First, I’m simply not motivated by guilt or shame.
Both really torque me off.
Truly, if you want me to do or feel something and, to that end, employ either guilt or shame, I guarantee I will budge in no direction other than the opposite one.
So there’s that.
Still, contrary to that consciously cultivated and practiced healthy-boundaries/rejection of passive aggressiveness/I-am-saved-by-grace-anyway-so-bring-it-on approach to relationships, it seems guilt and shame do work in my dreams.
Second, women (women!) were scolding me.
Like, women of all people should know how often and how many Really Important Tasks don’t get done in a Day In The Life.
Instead of raised eyebrows at my snow-sagged car ports, a raised glass with a “Solidarity, sister!” would have been the absolute appropriate Woman Code of Conduct.
The dream represented a betrayal, of sorts.
We women are supposed to have each other’s backs, and they only had my kiester in a sling.
Third, can I just say, my husband…there is no word yet invented for my husband.
David ups the communal ante on the collective meaning of ‘partner’ and ‘supportive’; he is generous in every regard and assuredly to a fault; patient with my numerous—countless, really—idiosyncrasies; good-natured and good-humored; deeply dedicated to his children and mine; thoroughly committed to Karl’s well-being; and he cooks, fixes stuff, creates stuff, can mix a very fine drink and deliver it unbidden too, and is so very ruggedly handsome [sigh] that I can’t even.
It’s not, then, that the dream surfaced stuffed resentment about being some conscripted contemporary Enjoli spokeswoman, and yes I’m dating myself.
So. What gave?
Any number of things, just in the last couple of weeks, I’ve decided.
First, Marie Kondo told us of her metanoia, thanks to her third baby arriving on the scene.
Most important is to congratulate her and her family on the advent of this new baby. Everything pales to that.
The birth of this new one served as the catalyst to Ms. Kondo’s revelation that actually, it turns out that it is really hard to keep everything tidy and together all the time when you are a stay-at-home mom, or a working mom, or a working woman, or a woman with a partner, or a chronic caregiving woman to an aging parent or loved one in need, or…an ordinary human being.
Add in the legit claims of the legit callings of activism, self-care, volunteering, worshipping, and daily adulting tasks of grocery shopping, laundry, taxes, paying bills, taking care of pet scheisse, reading about children in politics during the day and then reading to actual children at night…I’m here to say that folding the clothes, let alone folding them into quaint pockets, let alone caring enough to make that a Life Goal asks too much.
Martha Stewart got under my skin for exactly the same reasons (though I’ll admit that some of her recipes weren’t bad).
To be clear, I am all about apologies—I welcome them, actually.
It’s all too rare when someone admits, privately let alone publicly, that they were wrong.
So I’m impressed that she went there, and I thank her for that.
But part of the courage and the risk it takes to acknowledge a screw-up is that you know two things are about to happen: you validate others’ experiences of your wrong, and you validate their right to tell you about them.
So wow, did her teachings and her influence establish not just unrealistic but unreasonable, not to mention unhealthy, expectations, especially on women.
They caused harm.
Ms. Kondo strove for perfection, and made a convincing case that Perfection is desirable, attainable, and corresponded with her definition of it.
Instead, as for me and my house, I’ve come to believe that Perfection is far more akin to My Beautiful Oops, a tale from several years back of my flooded toilet and a rug that inadvertently and relatedly became and still hangs as a Work of Art on my wall and a Symbol of My Life because I messed up.
Second, and third and fourth and on, so many Things, a cascade of Things:
~the vicious beating of Tyre Nichols;
~intransigently violent police culture which confuses authority with abuse of power;
~4530 instances of gun related deaths in 2023 alone (that shot up from 3718, just since February 4, when I began sketching out this blog);
~60 mass shootings in 2023 alone (shooting up from 52 in the same time frame);
~politicians that eagerly ban books but not guns;
~persistent violence and injustice against Palestinians in the Holy Land, escalated by right-wing extremist Netanyahu’s election.
~anti-trans legislation rooted in bigotry and allergies to science and compassion;
~racist and, in fact, fascist legislation regarding what someone may or may not teach about our country’s history and present;
~World Holocaust Day made all the more poignant because of rise of anti-semitism and increasing tolerance of it.
~the devastating earthquake in Türkiye and Syria.
~persistent climate violence and ignorance;
And the list could continue to unroll.
In our little world, we were rocked by the revelation of further sexual, spiritual, and emotional abuse by Jean Vanier.
He was the founder of L’Arche, a beautiful world-wide movement which establishes home communities for people with and without disabilities to live and work together.
It’s an unwelcome discovery that hits particularly close to home for our family, as David and I have made our primary pursuit this year is to identify safe, stable, and joyful long-term living circumstances for Karl which honor both those with disabilities and their caregivers. We have found none that meet our expectations, though L’Arche has been, and still might be, a beacon of possibility.
And in my little world, my beloved ELCA is breaking my heart.
~Entrenched racism is baked into our constitutions, and yes, every sense of the word is intended here;
~Our structure roots itself in exploitative capitalism more than our liberating theology, and while those on the margins suffer thereby the most, we all do and will suffer too;
~My colleagues are burned and burning out, with very few clear internal or external vocational options forward;
~And I’m not convinced that, to the church-at-large, we are calling a thing what it is, namely that institutionally, our long-term viability is sincerely in question.
It’s a lot. So much.
Especially as a person of privilege, there are countless reasons to speak about and into these grave circumstances.
Silence is violence, and when it is a pattern, that is true.
Which adds to the internal pressure to constantly engage.
The pull and the push can be overwhelming.
Moreover, as People of the Word—and for rostered leaders, as those called to proclaim it—we’re supposed to have words when times call for them.
We should post more, agitate more, meet more, write more.
But I confess that lately, I’ve been left without words, able to muster only those deep sighs of which Paul speaks.
I’m not depressed, though all that is swirling around can be and is valid grounding for depression.
I’m certainly not apathetic.
I’ve been feeling, rather, tired.
A bit uninspired.
Irritated and impatient with the power of white supremacy and white supremacists.
Restless with and within my denomination.
It’s led me to wonder whether it’s possible that the constant urge to do something say something be somewhere could be a form of violence too: violence most especially to one’s spirit, which is the very thing that everyone, including your own self, needs.
Sometimes, quiet is about all that one can muster.
To be clear, I can’t consistently shake the sense that retreat and silence feels a bit like an abdication of duty and an embracing of privilege.
But, certainly since this dream caught my attention, I’m coming to terms with the notion that retreat and silence can be rather an abdication of hubris and an embracing of finitude.
In measured doses, or when your spirit is being nagged by The Spirit to stop for a spell, silence is holy and both initiates and represents self-extended grace and self-love for one’s limits.
The dream, I think, was a fusion of both a recognition that there is so much to do, and that no matter what the world tells you, what ex-and-internal expectations tell you, what your dreams tell you, a person can’t, actually, do it all.
For that matter, just when you get that snow shoveled off those roofs, you look up at those grey skies, and you know exactly what they are bringing more of, you know you do.
It’s not the first time that I’ve (temporarily) come to terms with this concept.
So, it smacks a bit like Christians who make it a liturgical practice to confess their sins week after week…because despite having done it the week before, and receiving absolution the week before, and being exhorted to go and sin no more the week before…week after week, these same Christians keep right on sinning.
That is, I know this knack of mine, this capacity to take on too much, to set and aspire to unrealistic expectations for myself, to assume that if I don’t do it then it will never be done, and to feel just plain old badly about myself when I can’t Do It All.
And I know not to do it.
But I keep on doing it.
I’m betting I’m not alone.
So, albeit yet again, I’ve come to the same conclusion as I have so many times before: that it’s actually freeing—liberating, even—to know that you can’t do it all.
In fact, once one realizes that to be true, one finds that it’s easier to give time to building yourself up, not to do more (though that can be a collateral effect, let’s be honest), but because you are worth more than to live a harried, stressed out, anxious, self-justifying and therefore self-depleting life.
For example, I’ve decided that I’m worth 30 minutes every day of exercise, even if that means that all told, I get a later start on my day.
For six weeks now, I’ve kept up a morning routine, which is something, because I really really hate exercise.
But I have to (and hate to) admit I’m more fit, I have more energy, I move better, I feel better, and my blood pressure is down significantly (is it due to the cardio or to the exercise as an antidote to stress? Both, probably).
And rather than grudgingly thinking of it as losing an hour of work, which I have and to be fair is true, I’m reframing it as that I’m gaining an hour for my well-being.
That’s a win.
We’re coming up on Lent (I was struck by how many of my Lenten blogs have to do with Limits, as an aside).
But before there, we encounter the Transfiguration, this next Sunday.
It’s a text that has been used, though not exclusively so, to encourage people to not settle into comfort, to come down from the mountain vistas, to get out from the tents, and then re-enter the world in service.
As Jesus was transfigured, so too should we be transfigured from complacency into engagement with the world.
These interpretations are not wrong.
But I wonder if, given this last…decade or so…it might be worth thinking of being transfigured in a different way.
Maybe we can be transfigured in the traditional ways—I’m nothing if not bent on the relationship between justice and justification—but also to do two other things:
~Surround one another with encouragement and accolades not only for what they do, but for when they don’t or can’t do it.
~Give ourselves encouragement and accolades for the very same.
There will always be proverbial snow on your proverbial car ports.
Perhaps the weight of the heavy snow on your spirits can be transformed—transfigured, if you will—into a glowing affirmation that others can (and, ideally, anyway, thanks to the Communion of the Saints, will), shovel it off for you.
It can wait.
Your well-being can’t.