Stuck in the Ditch
Once I met a very nice lady who lived out in the country, and she told me a funny story. She was driving into the city from her acreage and the falling snow caused her to slide into the ditch. Standing at the side of the road, a fellow female motorist stopped and kindly called her father. He had a 3/4 ton truck, and could pull the car out. When he arrived, she recounted laughing, he hopped in the drivers seat, and proceeded to drive the car out of the ditch. She was never stranded at the side of the road at all.
That’s how I’ve been feeling lately — like I wanted someone to come along and shout “just drive yourself out!”
You see, I’m a “great big plan” kind of girl. I liked school because I could accumulate credits. I liked work because I could add completed projects to my resume. My favourite vacation was hiking because I could mark off completed trails on the map. I like to get things done, and then stand back and admire what I had completed. I like feel like I’m making progress, and to have something concrete to show for that progress. I like to accomplish something.
That’s one thing about the Mommy-life that drives me crazy. Go ahead — cook a great meal. It’ll be history in 20 minutes. Bathroom spotless? Wait until after the bedtime routine. The counter will be covered in toothpaste, and the towels will be on the floor. Again. So you tell your kids to pick up after themselves. Yeah, and then tell them again, and again, and again….you get the picture. Everything with being a Mom right now seems to be get up in the morning and spend the day re-doing everything you did yesterday. Then get up and do it all again tomorrow. I was feeling stuck in the ditch.
I was whining to my husband about this. “I used to have a narrative in my head as to what I was doing with my life. When I worked, I wanted to get promoted. When we homeschooled, I had to get the kids to the next grade level. But now I don’t have a plan.”
“That’s because you can’t have a plan, right now.” He said. “You have to live in the moment.”
In other words, just drive yourself out of the ditch.
So, while I now ironically have a plan to just live in the moment, it struck me how much I kept returning to this theme. The challenge to not just live in the moment, but live my faith in the moment. When I first returned to the Church, I was keen to start racking up the Good Catholic Credits. I joined study groups, read lots of books, attended all sorts of retreats and started joining any ministry that would have me. Before long I was a Reader at Mass, a Eucharistic Minister, a Catechist at RCIA, in charge of scheduling for all the readers for Mass, and running both a Children’s Liturgy and a Mom’s Bible Study Group. All this with three kids under 5. Then we moved to a new Parish, and I vowed I would never sign up for anything again. (I kid — but I did massive prune my volunteer commitments to something more manageable.)
Perhaps part of the reason Jesus warns us so much about the danger of material riches to the fate of our soul, is in part because of what those riches represent in the world at large — wealth is usually associated with accomplishment. Our bank accounts correspond with the esteem with which others hold us. Usually when people advance in their careers, they do so with a growing paycheque. No one says, “I’ve done so well at my job, I now work for nothing.” The higher you get, the more they pay you, the more you are admired. At least, that’s the way of the world.
But to grow in virtue, is mostly an interior struggle, unnoticed by the world at large. How many Saints have passed from this earth completely anonymously? And how does the world notice that instead of secretly fuming inside at your relative’s dig, you decide to forgive and let it go? Or instead of coveting the huge houses you see on the way to pre-school drop off, you decide to look away and be content with what you have? That’s what makes the Christian life so hard — all the hard work that no one sees.
Have I given up on my goals? No, not at all. My “great big plan” right now is to live each moment the best I can. This of course is completely lacking in milestones, certificates and general external validation. And being a sinful creature, pretty darn hard. (Mea culpa — I just finished snapping at my kid. But I burnt my hand on a hot pan from the oven so I plead the pain defence. 😉 But I’ve realized that this is my way out of the ditch — work so hard and accomplish so much that no one can notice.