Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Martha & Mary

Sometimes I carry the weight of everything with me at once. Instead of worrying about today's problems today & leaving tomorrow to worry about itself, I take the entire laundry list of possible problems from now until a generation after me, & I worry.

It's like student loans. I worry about the entire 5-figure sum that my husband and I owe, as if a loan shark were after our children, threatening to take them if we don't pay the entire sum by the end of the week.

Instead of just worrying about what to teach this year, this grade level, this week, today, I worry about my kids' whole education, k-12, as if I only have this week to finish educating them. (The big ones are only in the 1st & 3rd grades.)

I worry about housework, too, as if the secret police will show up at my back door with white gloves at any moment. But the computer got a Windows-eating virus last week, the toilet backed up, the keyboard got fried, the car broke down, & I got sick. It was a bad week all around, and the house shows it. When the dishes piled up so badly that I couldn't squeeze the coffee pot under the faucet, we stopped & washed dishes. When the laundry piled up so badly, kids were foraging for socks in the dirty clothes, well... When the laundry piled up so badly, the smell nearly knocked you down, we stopped & washed clothes. And washed clothes. And washed clothes. We still haven't found the smell, & the toilet's fixed & cleaned, so I guess we'll keep washing clothes.

And now I have a new problem: the sofa's piled high with clean laundry to fold & put away. The kids ate...everywhere...while I was sick. There are pizza crusts & cheerios on the carpet in the school room, yogurt on the art table & in the doll house, & bits of ham, cheese, & bread from a rejected sandwich trailed from the dining table to the living room, I guess in case the baby forgets his way to his high chair.

But wait. This isn't supposed to be a confession. Let me start over.

Sometimes I worry about a lot of stuff all at once. These problems remind me of Jesus' words: "The poor you will have with you always." There are some problems, like student loans & laundry, that won't be solved by a silver bullet or a magic plan. They're long-term problems, & when we realize & accept that, they become a little more manageable.

Jesus might just as easily have said, "The laundry you will have with you always."

I realized this today when the odor from the laundry room forced me to pause & start a load. Walking back to the school room where the bigs were sweating over math while the baby tried to grab their pencils instead of his lunch, I saw the 2 loads piled on the sofa to be folded & put away, & I began to feel hopeless, the way I do when I look at debt or curriculum decisions. Sometimes these important tasks, like laundry & dishes, tempt me away from essential ones, the Martha in me complaining to the Mary.

Sometimes I listen to Martha. I gripe at my kids, sweep my floors, & miss all the reasons I chose this life. On those days, I look behind me, & all my work was for naught, a trail of debris following the paths I just cleared.

Sometimes I listen to Mary. My house is still a mess, but I can hear the smallness of their voices, feel their innocence, see their tooth-mottled grins—everybody in our house has teeth either coming or going. Most of all, I can hear the still, small voice, who says that this is the better part.

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