Nothing like a big ole dose of humility shoved in your face to choke down the ego. Sure enough, like milk squirting out of my nose, I had made a mess of myself, a reminder that I was so much of a work in progress, that it wasn’t even funny.
It had started out good enough, I suppose. I had felt myself feeling constricted by time as I drove alone to the grocery store. I always went to the grocery store solo lately. I would rush through the aisles quickly and uncomfortably, with a ripple of unintentional nervousness running below the surface. I would wear a hot covering over my face in the 92 degree, sunny weather of Florida, and I would hope for things like paper towels and toilet paper. But even though grocery shopping had changed, that wasn’t what was making me feel harried, not all of it, at least.
I looked at the clock. I had one hour. I calculated the trip there, the trip back, and guesstimated how much time I’d allow myself to sprint through the aisles. The pool opened at 2pm, and it was 1:03. I’d have to hurry.
See, this had never been a thing before, but like most things we took for granted (like breathing easily and being ok with running out of hand sanitizer), the new pool rules were just another straw on the haggard camel’s back of new regulations status post the corona virus.
Look, I’m a nurse, so I totally got it. I supported it, in fact. I had championed flattening the curve, and I still voted yes on wearing face masks in public. I understood the “why” of the way things were, but that didn’t mean I hated them any less than the next guy. I hated that I couldn’t go to the pool when I wanted. I hated that there were now set blocks, in two hour increments, complete with a maximum number of allowed people at one time. But mostly, I hated being in a hurry. I hated feeling like I needed to rush. I had spent the past few years building a slow, relaxing life, and I hated that the past few months had upset my balance. I did not feel chill.
But more than I hated the inconvenience, I hated feeling anything but peace. So, I centered myself in Jesus. I said, “Brie, you will not feel angry or rushed today.”
Then I drove slowly over the speed bumps out of my neighborhood, quite content with my amazing knack for being so cool, calm, and collected, even when things weren’t going my way. I even told myself, “so what, if you don’t get to go to the pool. It’s just one day of swimming.”
Yes, that sounded good.
So, I did my shopping, even though I couldn’t slowly peruse that amazing aisle of stuff you never knew you needed at Aldi (and that was really annoying). A lady sat parked by the rubber rain boots for $9.99, not understanding I couldn’t look at those boots too at a safe social distance, but I thought I held my chill quite fabulously.
I drove home with sweat on my face, even though I shed my face mask as soon as the sun and stale air hit me, and I looked at the clock. 2:01pm. The pool had just opened, for what I might add was the last block of the day, and I tried not to be concerned.
“It’s fine,” I said. “I’ll just grab the girls when I get home, and we’ll go. After I put the groceries away. It won’t be full.”
Thirty minutes, or so, later I walked to the pool gate with my three daughters in tow, and I approached the “guard shack” at the gate.
The older man who had watched me approach from a sweltering journey of 50 yards away managed to look at his clipboard (and not my eyes) while he commented, “sorry, I only got room for one.”
I watched the jolly group of nineteen tan bodies bobbing in the cool, crisp, chlorinated water, and I said with as much joyful inflection as I could muster, “sorry, girls, we can’t go swimming. There’s no room for us.”
The grumbles began as we made the trek back to the already hot truck interior, and my eldest stomped ahead of us all with passionate disdain.
Suddenly, surprising even myself, I directed this comment to my angry middle schooler, “you know, this sucks for me too! I wanted to relax before I go to work tomorrow and wear a mask I can’t breathe in all day, but nope, not happening!”
I could have stopped there, but I didn’t. I’d like to say my raging rant didn’t continue after the truck doors closed, but that just wouldn’t be true. I’d like to forget that my raised voice, directed at the powers that be, made my four year old burst into tears, like I had projected them towards her, but I can’t seem to sweep it under the rug that easily. You could cut the tension with a knife as my nine year old messaged her neighborhood friend who planned on meeting us there, and I decided I was ready to cry right about the time the tears fell down my face.
“I have no right to be anyone’s parent,” I confessed to my husband at home, detailing the uncontrollable fit I had thrown in the vehicle. “How can I tell the girls not to overreact when I can’t even control my own self?!”
Want to hear the worst part? The message from my daughter to her friend read, “my mom is mad. I think it’s my fault cause I got mad.”
Insert knife in heart.
I read the message to my spouse, ready to burst into new tears. Bless his heart, my husband knew my hormones at the time weren’t helping matters, and he knew the stress that I (and all of us) had been under, but above all I think he understood my humanness. In all his calm understanding he tried to console me, and he tried to convince me not to be too hard on myself.
“Everyone has feelings,” he said. “We all get angry sometimes.”
Then he suggested I go back to the pool as the “one” allowed still to enter. I did say bless his heart, already, right?!
Five minutes later I sat by the water, and I texted my husband that more people might leave soon. I was having trouble getting over myself, and I still felt guilt for being a pot who tries to raise kettles not to be black. I mean, I could barely see the screen on my phone for the plank in my eye, or at least that’s how I felt. I texted that they could all join me soon, I was sure.
But he replied back, “maybe you just needed to hang out with Jesus today.”
I laughed back that, “I must need it.😆”
He replied quite simply, “we all do.”
And that was the truth of it. I needed Jesus. Every minute of every day, I needed Him, cause on my own, I was a hot mess!
Y’all, I confessed pride. It was easy sometimes to think you had it all together. Like, I thought I knew what was important in life, and I scoffed at people who didn’t. I rolled my eyes at people who got upset over trivial matters. First World Problems, I called it, and over the last month or two, I had gotten pretty fed up with listening to people gripe about theirs. Just being honest. I had floated along through all the turmoil, and while it had been hard on me too, for the most part I tried to maintain. I knew that things could always be worse, and I tried to react to inconvenience with that in mind. In fact, I realized (or God revealed) sitting by the pool, that I had been pretty proud of myself for rolling with the punches. That is, until my emotions punched me right in the gut.
I had gotten upset over the very kind of thing I had chastised people for getting upset about! I had reacted poorly to personal inconvenience, and I wanted to slap me for it. How dare I stand and tell anyone to calm down when I couldn’t maintain my own feelings. How could I lecture my children when I acted like a child sometimes? And that was when I knew it even more than I did before. That’s when Jesus reminded me just how much I need Him. Without Him, I’m a mess, and I was humbled to remember that I fall so easy. I need Jesus. We all do.
This hasn’t been an easy year for any of us, and today I am reminded how fragile human emotions can be. I’m reminded of our need for the Rock of Salvation, that strong tower that keeps us steady in all of life’s storms. I don’t have it all together, and I shouldn’t expect more of anyone than I do of myself. Today may we all be reminded to lead with kindness. You never know how close another person is to losing their chill.