One in the Cuckoo’s Nest

Sometimes, life imitates art imitating life.

Every once in a while, when the world seems to be spinning at a billion miles an hour and the circumstances of my life seem more than I can bear, I have this little ritual I do that helps me slow things down and take them in stride. It’s nothing fancy, really; it’s not even a ritual per se, more of an awareness that I call to mind and own and immediately feel comforted by.

I sit in my office, or my car, or wherever I may be, and I tell myself I’m crazy.

Good old fashioned Looney Tunes. Grab the straight jackets and the butterfly nets because one flew over the cuckoo’s nest, so send in the men in their little white coats because they’re coming to take me away C-R-A-Z-Y.

I admit this, and I feel better. It’s crazy. But that’s the point.

I’m all about logic and reason, normally, but sometimes I have to stop and admit that the world doesn’t really function that way. If it did, some of the stuff that goes on wouldn’t; and if you don’t believe me, go read the Freeh Report on Penn State and tell me where the logic and reason is in that situation. If, at heart, the world functioned in a way that made complete sense and fit rationally and logically in neat categories, things would be a lot different.

But things don’t fit neatly into categories. Heck, they don’t even fit neatly into generalizations. The world, despite our careful attempts at a logical and orderly veneer, is chaotic. A mess. A swirling, raging storm of illness and nonsense.

We struggle mightily to deny this, of course. We use words and trains of thought to attempt to bring order to the madness. We soothe ourselves with compassionate action and well-intentioned service. We seek the balm of Gilead in our sensitive lives, but eventually we grow tired of the pretending, we grow raw from the chafing of our attempts to force chaos into logic’s little box, and we give in.

We lose hope.

We declare that nothing has any meaning and there’s no way forward. Chaos wins. Madness reigns. And we just have to accept that reality.

On our darkest days, we are Randall Patrick McMurphy, and the world is our asylum. You can pick your own Nurse Ratched.

That’s why it helps for me to admit that, if the world is crazy, then I’m crazy too. I didn’t come into existence independent of the universe – I am exactly what the universe produces and could never hope to become different. I am crazy. Broken. Twisted. Insane. And by owning that fact, I am relieved of my guilt for not being able to change it. My burden becomes lighter because I know that I cannot do the impossible.

Someone greater than me has to do it. Someone beyond the madness. Someone who can understand it but transcend it at the same time. Point me to that person and let me put my trust in him/her; let me throw myself at his/her feet and ask to be rescued from the madness, from the darkness, from the asylum and Ratched’s too-powerful established madness of her own. I will gladly confess my insanity, my brokenness, my lack of utter ability to do anything for myself and seek refuge within the one who can bring order to bear on chaos. Let me fall on the one who said, “Come to me if you’re tired of your burden, and I will give you complete rest.”

I often forget all of this, but it doesn’t take life long to remind me that sometimes the sanest person in the asylum is the one who admits he’s insane.

Two Kids, Much Destruction

Choose the form of the Destructor: Ella, Jon or both?

I think any parent would say, with the uttermost conviction, that while they love their child (or in my case, children) there are times when the presence of the little tyke is more than overwhelming and not the least bit helpful.

This was one of those mornings.

It began innocently enough – after tossing and turning most of the night (mostly because Rachel’s gone, but the 2:00 AM alarm screech didn’t help; special thanks to last night’s storm for that), I finally settled into a nice, deep sleep. My dreams were pleasant. I was cozy.

And that’s when the presence appeared.

I was only aware of this ominous presence through my sub-conscious; I wasn’t awake or aware of my surroundings in any real sense of the term, but somehow, through closed eyes, I could see a spectral figure hovering near my face, lingering as if it desired something from me. I opened my eyes.

It was Ella. “Daddy,” she said, “I can’t get Polly Pocket’s boots on her. Can you do it for me?”

A quick glance at the clock: 7 AM. I’d gotten maybe four and a half hours of sleep. Polly Pocket’s bare feet begged for my assistance beneath the pleading eyes of my daughter. Sigh.

It took me five minutes to get the stupid boots on the doll. My daughter chirped with delight, leaned forward, and kissed me on the head. She chirped a heartfelt “Thanks daddy!” and skipped away with the doll. I rolled back over.

Thirty minutes later, I was awakened again by the plaintive cries of my son. I could hear his little voice drifting down the hallway, calling for his Mama like a kitten mewing for its mother. I tried to cover my eyes, but when I heard him cry out, “Where Mama? Daddy come!” I knew I needed to drag my butt out of bed. I staggered into his room, where he cheerfully greeted me with a “Yay! Daddy!” followed by the cold command for his morning repast: “Milk. Want milk.”

I changed his diaper and hustled into the kitchen, where I poured milk into an old bottle that had crap floating in it. Strike One. I poured a new bottle and put it in the microwave to heat. Strike Two. (For those that don’t know, you’re not supposed to heat anything in a plastic container in the microwave, under penalty of instant death.) I took the bottle out, poured the milk into a glass, got it heated, and then spilled half of it in the sink while trying to pour it into the bottle. Strike Three.

Jon got half a bottle and looked at me funny. He turned his back on me slowly, as if to say, “I despise you, you pitiful little man, you.”

Meanwhile, Ella had pulled out all of her Polly Pockets toys (another special thanks to the sadistic friends who gave her those blamed things as presents), which effectively meant that my living room went from clean to hurricane debris in under thirty-five seconds. I felt like I was looking at an aerial view of some post-apocalyptic event: tiny clothes, accessories, and bodies were strewn all over the floor at random. Jon added to the surrealism by tromping through and smashing dolls underfoot, sometimes stooping to pick one up and shove it in his nose – Snotzilla on the loose, I suppose.

I waded through the rubble and attempted to administer their morning medicines without event, and actually managed. Breakfast, however, would not be so easily conquered. Ella didn’t want to eat anything (“I’m not hungry,” she said. “But I would like some ice cream.” Apparently the kid thinks I’m an idiot.) and Jon wanted something he pronounced as “KSoehwrhcldr,” whatever that is. I popped open a can of biscuits. Jon immediately pointed at the fridge and said, “Bacon?” My kind of kid.

So I got the biscuits and bacon underway, got some coffee made, managed to get a few of the Polly Pocket survivors picked up and put away, when Ella decided she wanted a yogurt smoothie. I pulled a tiny bottle out of the fridge (we have a pre-packaged yogurt smoothie stash), poked a hole in the top, inserted a colorful bendy straw and handed it to her. She made a face as if I’d handed her a bottle of rancid animal waste.

“What’s wrong now?” I asked. “Isn’t this what you wanted?”

Her little lips went into full-power pout mode, and a tear materialized in her left eye.

“Yes,” she said, her voice quavering, “but you gave me an orange straw, and I only like pink straws.”

Those lips. That tear. Her face.

“Suck it up, sister,” I said, breezing past her, “we all have burdens to bear.”

She sniffed, rolled her eyes, and walked into the living room to victimize some more Polly Pockets. Meanwhile, my son was doing chin-ups on the oven door handle, shouting out “Hot! Hot! Hot!” I peeled him off the door and stuck him in his booster seat at the table, neglecting to buckle the belt. By the time I turned around, he was standing atop the table, dancing to silent music. Badly.

The oven dinged at this point, so I pulled out the biscuits, tossed a piece of perfectly cooked (read: nearly burned) bacon onto his plate, added a piping hot biscuit, and slid it in front of his chair. He climbed down and seated himself. Then he said “Uh-oh, daddy.” The biscuit had melted through the styrofoam plate. Jon looked at me and smiled.

“Bi-kit. Hot,” he said.

I would say so.

Anyway, the rest of the morning was a blur – Jon let me dress him, but drew the line at his shoes. He wanted his tennis shoes with the laces. I was in no position to argue. Ella wanted to wear flip-flops that didn’t match her sundress. Again, no argument from me. I essentially hustled my kids out the door looking very much as if they had been dressed by a person lacking in good vision or brains.

And if you know me, you know both are actually true. But we got out the door and to the church without incident, unless you count the three separate times I pulled away from the house only to back up and check to see if I’d shut the garage door. For whatever reason, I become completely OCD about very silly, stupid small things when I’m stressed.

So I’m in the office now, and am just about to leave to mail some birthday invitations to my son’s second birthday party, an RSVP for a May wedding, and drop off some prescriptions for Ella’s heinous sinus infection. Overall, an eventful morning.

Now if I could just remember where I left my keys…