The other day Levi and I stood on the street in the middle of Abbotsford, killing time until the department store we needed to shop at opened its doors for business. We did some people watching as one by one they passed us by. Some hurrying, some looking at their phone, some meandering/window shopping but most not making eye contact with two strangers on the street.
The doors opened and we walked in. I knew exactly what I needed: new sheets for our bed. Steve’s attempt to kick the blankets into a comfortable position with his rough farmer feet, had left him with one foot inside the sheet while the other was protruding through a large tear in the middle of our sheets.
Just pick one Mom!
Finding a new set of sheets should have taken me no time at all but as Levi and I wandered through the aisles looking at all the options for thread count, material, size, and colour, I was unable to make a decision. My mind was consumed with thoughts too heavy, too overwhelming, too out of my control to leave room for me to make the simple decisions I’m accustomed to making with ease. Levi’s tug on my hand and pleading to “just pick one” brought me back to reality. As I carried my boring gray sheet set to the checkout I noticed how it suited my mood. Nothing bright and sunny or warm and cozy, just cold and unfeeling gray.
In a fog
I thank the Lord I don’t live under this cloud of gloom routinely, but there are times when life really is that hard. Times when you feel like you can’t see your way to the other side because there are some problems in life that just can’t be fixed. There are some hurts that are not mended. There are some struggles that our children walk through that we can’t put right or undo for them, and those are the days when we walk in a bit of a fog. Our mind is consumed.
As my nephew, Marcus said to his mom the other day when she was overly distracted, “Mom, are there thoughts in your head that you don’t need? Just don’t think about them.”
How sweet. How practical. How impossible.
And so we carry on, we do the daily chores that need to be done. From all outward appearances we look good, but our mind is somewhere else, mulling over things we probably can’t fix…we are the walking wounded.
As I handed my sheets to the lady at the till, I smiled; the kind of polite smile that avoids rudeness but doesn’t invite conversation. I knew that I was teetering on the edge of a dangerous precipice, that if she said something kind or was overly thoughtful in any way, it would be my undoing. I’d go careening over the edge of that cliff, down a waterfall of tears with no foreseeable way to climb back up. It could, no it would, get messy and there was no one available for “clean up on Aisle 1.” I paid for my purchases and headed for my car, avoiding eye contact with anyone and looking very busy and focused. Abbotsford is a small town on days like this and I needed to get in my car before running into someone I knew.
Avoiding eye contact
As I pondered the morning on my drive home, I thought about my falseness. It’s one thing to keep it all neat and tidy with a stranger at the checkout but what if I had run into someone I know? Unless the cork accidentally popped off the top, my intention was to keep it bottled up.
When someone asks how I’m doing, I answer, “Good.” Does that make me false? Deceptive? A phony? Perhaps, but we can’t go walking around with all our wounds exposed either. It’s a matter of self-preservation and of laying our burdens down at the appropriate feet.
I remembered the people Levi and I had watched on the street, most avoiding eye contact. I thought back to the fellow parents driving through the school drop off lane this morning. Perhaps they’re walking, hair combed and teeth brushed, looking the part. But perhaps some days, like me, they are in the fog, bearing wounds hidden just beneath the surface. And though I have judged them as having it all together and even been jealous of what appears to be their “perfect” lives, no one walks through life unscathed.
We’ve all been the walking wounded.
So, I resolved to give more grace; grace to strangers on the street, to unfriendly drivers on the highway, to acquaintances at school, to friends who seem distant lately.
And grace to my husband for kicking a hole through my sheets!!!