You know those weeks where the Universe throws a message at you again and again? And, in case you missed it, yet again? We’re having one of those in my house.
We have a saying in my home: “We do life.” Meaning, we are fully human, we make mistakes, we figure it out. Rather than hiding behind closed doors and pretending to have it all figured out. We’re here to participate in this thing called life. And in my book, that means learning and experiencing.
But for each one of us that “does” life, there are many more who try to play it safe. They usually come with long, lengthy lists of rules, of “shoulds.”And they seem to have appointed themselves judge and jury.
What brings this to mind today is a middle-aged man walking his dogs. As I walked my rescue across the street from him, I stopped her and made her sit. Even after having her for several years, I cannot train the instinct and fear out of her. Abandoned in the South in a box, she went through some nasty bits before she came to us. And she is very protective of us, her forever family. So, as she barked and strained at her leash because she thought this man meant potential harm, from across the street he gave me a withering stare and said to his dogs, “WE don’t do that.”
First off, I am so happy for the royal “WE” of you. But guess what? My dog does that. Plain and simple. After training and training and training, she still does that. She probably will always do that. And now that I’ve gotten a glimpse of who you are, sir, I don’t necessarily think she was wrong not to like you.
But the bigger point, far beyond the tiny little man across the street, is this: When we appoint ourselves judge and jury, it’s beyond ugly.
I remember writing a scathing letter to a woman I had known in college. She had come to visit me after I moved to Chicago—and let’s just stay her lifestyle was not mine. Instead of knowing how to firmly set my own boundaries, I wrote her after she left to tell her she was not welcome again. The truth is—she was not welcome again, no matter how I said it. But, I regret now the way in which I expressed it. I was ridiculous in my righteousness.
As was the man across the street, sneering at a dog that was physically abused and has not yet gotten over it.
When my older son screwed up royally in junior high, he did so at a time his father was doing the same. I walked through the cafeteria to meet with his teacher and fetch him. I was discouraged, deeply so. And one of his female classmates walked by, giving me a look as if I was the most unfit mother on earth. She oozed self-righteousness. I remember thinking, very clearly, this: “I hope, honey, that you never have to marry or raise a man who acts out. Truly. I hope you never have to feel what I’m feeling now, holding my head up when it is the last thing I want to do. But that look on your face tells me you have lessons yet to learn. And this may well be one of them.”
We are ridiculous in our righteousness. All of us.
Maybe because my family’s life has been so off the beaten track, my view has changed. God, I hope so. Because I am sure we are not done screwing up. Any of us.
But that is life. I prefer to learn through joy, but pain is sometimes a better teacher. So I tell my boys that we do life. And I pray they learn as we do it.
I choose it over hiding behind a façade, doors closed to the big wide world.