Friday, January 13, 2012

Responding to Mishaps

It all started at a fish market.
I ordered what I wanted to eat, washed my hands, and went to find a table for six.
The girls and my sister-in-law Rachel came with me.
Curt stayed with Keith to bring the styrofoam containers which held our supper.

We girls filled six large styrofoam cups with ice and water, numerous paper cups for tarter sauce and ketchup and sat down at the table placing paper napkins on our laps.

My chair was nestled up snugly against the walls both behind me and on my right, and Rachel was to my left. We enjoyed a bit of conversation, chatted about how hungry we were, how chilly it was-- considering we were in southern California--and waited patiently for the guys to bring the anticipated authentic fresh seafood.

Before long they came, and we all smiled as we breathed in the aroma wafting our way. They arrived, and just as Curt started to set the stack of styrofoam containers on the table (directly across from me) the top container began a slow slide, a dreadful descent; it slipped off--ever-so-gently--as I stared at it--mouth open--unable to move. It flopped onto the table, knocking over two 20-ounce cups of ice water and two or three cups of tarter sauce, the contents of which splashed onto my paper-napkin covered lap, the whole greasy mess soaking me to the bone.

Pause for a little background:

I am an extreme preventionist.
I go out of my way to plan ahead, to avoid messes, to keep order in my life.
I do not wing much of anything if I can help it.
Growing up, I had a dear friend who was an accident-waiting-to-happen... well, actually, it wasn't waiting, it WAS ALWAYS happening!  (What is it with so many metaphors? They defy logic!)
After many years, I realized that my friend didn't improve at all, and it was because she had the attitude, "Oh, that's just the way I am." (Since then, she has realized this and worked hard to exert diligence in this area. When accidents happen to people who are trying to be careful, it's a lot easier to deal with, and that's how she is now.) But, as I was training my girls (Curt was right with me on it) I didn't want them to be lazy and careless, and I had a tough time figuring out when it was carelessness and when it was an unavoidable accident. In the early days of parenting, I probably erred on the harsh side of this issue. I have continually tried to be more perceptive and gracious, but for many years my habitual response, deeply imprinted on my brain as it was repeated, has not been what it should be. I've realized lately that some people are just born more accident-prone--there are two in my house! ; ) I am wondering if God allowed this to help teach me His kind of love, but it has been a long hard lesson, and up until this week, I hadn't figured out just how to go about it.

But, back to the fish market...

I had packed three skirts for the trip. Just three.  When this happened, I was shocked, wet, cold, miserable, my paper napkin stuck to my black skirt in tiny pieces when I tried to get it off. The tarter sauce was oily and left stains. It was a silly little accident that should have been immediately smiled at and released. When I look back, I know Curt did not do it carelessly or on purpose, but due to my long-term pattern of thinking, I couldn't seem to get past my discomfort and look through his eyes immediately, in a loving Christ-like way.

Oh, by the way, there were three more mishaps within the week which I won't go in to presently, but let it suffice, I concluded, after four such mishaps, it was time for me to do some digging.

Now, in case you are thinking I blew up, yelled at Curt, was mad and insensitive to everyone around, it wasn't exactly like that. I learned long ago that I had to control what came out of my mouth in situations like this. I really do care how I make other people feel. When it first happened, I exclaimed, "Ah!" The girls tell me (for it's easy to forget what you say at times like that) that I really didn't say much of anything. I just exclaimed the sound of  "Ah!" several times, sort of "hyper ventilating"--LaRae's says. ; )

I went to the bathroom and did my best to get the pieces of paper napkin off my skirt and wiped the tarter sauce off the best I could with brown paper towels. I actually remember praying, "Father, you've got to help me. I'm upset. I cannot believe this happened. I know Curt did not mean to, but I'm still so miserable and I don't want to make him feel worse. Please help me have your sweet spirit." I came back to the table, sat down, and looked my dear husband in the eye. He had the most pitiful look on his face. I said, "I'm not mad at you. I'm just still in shock."

It took a while for things to get back to normal. We all began eating in relative silence. I thought as I ate, this is so ridiculous to be so stressed about something so trivial; and then I'd feel the cold wet greasy stuff all over my skirt (which had of course soaked through everything and would be a long time drying) and I'd have to swallow and silently continue eating. Finally, I was able to laugh and say something pleasant to break the silence.

The incident got me to thinking, but it wasn't until church Wednesday night back home in IL that things started falling into place in my mind as to how habits like this are changed.

I'll share more in my next post.