There’s a lot of big stuff going on in the world lately. By the world, obviously, I mean the United States. I’m not proud of this; I’m just trying to be honest. I have five small children. Most days it’s a miracle if I make it out the front door to the mailbox.
I try to be a world citizen. I listen to the news, I read (online) newspapers, I read books about current events. But honestly, when I decide to take a break from trying to figure out how to pay our mortgage this month and sit down to read an article about mass genocide, or epidemics, or drought, or, most recently, hateful 21-year-old white boys gunning down a church full of black parishioners during a prayer meeting, it doesn’t have the effect of putting everything into perspective for me. I’m not suddenly overcome by gratitude, thinking, “Oh God, why am I even concerned about keeping my house when there are people in the world facing far worse disasters?”
What I think is, “Oh shit. I thought I was screwed trying to figure out how to pay the electric bill and the water bill at the same time… How on earth am I going to figure out how to end genocide/global infection/climate change/institutionalized racism?” Because, you hear about these things and it kills you, right? You want to DO something. But what can you do? You feel more powerless than ever.
There are people who study these problems like it’s their job. Because It.Is.Their.Job. And still, they haven’t figured it out. Little writery me doesn’t stand a chance. Every question I pose just opens a Pandora’s box of further questions. And I’m not sure about any of the answers.
But today, there is one thing I know for sure.
Putting a pull-up in the washing machine (even accidentally) is a VERY bad idea. This afternoon I spent two hours in the bathroom, shaking little gel beads out of a GIANT load of baby clothes that I really should’ve dealt with two days ago, before it became a mountain of laundry. I spent another 45 minutes wiping down the inside of my washing machine. To add insult to injury, I did all of this upstairs, in my house that has been without air-conditioning for THREE WEEKS. I am not exaggerating when I say it was 93 degrees up there, or when I say I had five children pawing at the door like zombies from The Walking Dead.
I know these are first-world problems. I know that I’m ridiculously fortunate to live in a country with abundant clean water, let alone water that is pumped into my house and into an outrageously extravagant machine that actually washes clothes for me. Moreover, I’m lucky that I’m washing clothes (and pull-ups) in preparation for an ordinary couple days of summer and not some mass memorial service. I’m even lucky that those moaning zombies outside the bathroom door are all healthy – both mentally and physically.
But really, that didn’t make it suck any less. It didn’t make the sweat pouring into my eyes, or the tiny silicone gel beads flying into my mouth any less uncomfortable. This is the reality I live in. A reality of privilege and comfort, where things go wrong, as they do everywhere. A reality where I lack the control to keep bad things from happening, in my washing machine and in the world around me. A reality where maybe the only thing I can do to make it better is to do the thing before me as gratefully and gracefully as possible, understanding that none of us really have the all the answers. We just do the best we can with what we know, recognizing that it is pitifully little. Grateful for what, as Dorothy Allison said, “The Two or Three Things I Know for Sure.”