Train Wreck

You guys, confession time: I did an awful thing.

We went to this gorgeous wedding. The venue was a beaten-up sports arena, and the decorators had done wonders. Draped in fabric, dim lighting, and simple, elegant decorations transformed the locale into a fancy dance hall. In our little backwater, it was just magic.

Magic has a way of not lasting long when you have a toddler. My daughter’s diaper suffered a blow-out, and I found myself changing a child behind a photo booth, cleaning up spots of poop around our table with diaper wipes and and tiptoeing barefoot–did I mention that my heels broke a strap on the way to the car to get the changing pad?–to the trashcan in a bathroom that had started the night as Slightly Dodgy and was rapidly downgrading itself to Seriously Sketchy (sadly, draped cloth and mood lighting can only take you so far).

Magic has a way of not lasting long when you have a toddler….I found myself tiptoeing barefoot to the trashcan in a bathroom that had started the night as Slightly Dodgy and was rapidly downgrading itself to Seriously Sketchy.

Whew. Mommy Warrior merit badge earned. And then as I waited by the door at 2 a.m., waiting for Mr. Crônicas to return from the car with the pair of flip-flops that were stashed there, I had the misfortune of looking down at the floor.

What was that in that dark corner? Chipped paint? Or was it… My daughter had been running all over this stadium with that diaper.. She had been playing in that corner.  Was it…?  It couldn’t be. I stood there by the door, barefoot, with no paper towels at hand (Sketchy Bathroom had been out of them by 11p.m.), armed only with the diaper wipes in my bag, I contemplated looking closer at what that might have been… just in case. I contemplated getting down on my knees and cleaning that floor, walking all the way across that hall with handfuls of poopy diaper wipes to brave that sketchy bathroom again barefoot… And I turned my head and walked out the door.

I’m not proud of what I did. Maybe it was nothing. Maybe I literally left someone else shit to clean up.

To compound the guilt, the bride had this lovely, long, flowing train on her dress that she insisted on dragging all over the place to greet everyone. What if…? Oh, I don’t even want to know the answer. I’ll never forgive myself.

I closed my eyes and turned my head. YOU GUYS. Last night I had a nightmare about hiding a dead body! I think all this shitty guilt is getting to me.

Because here’s the thing: Courage is a muscle. You start small. You do something bigger the next day. And then next. Until you can brave things that you never thought imaginable.

Courage is a muscle. You start small. You do something bigger the next day. And then next. Until you can brave things that you never thought imaginable.

Staring life in the face has got to be a correlary of that. And so much of our world these days requires this flavor of courage. From Syria, to South Sudan, to Flint, Michigan, to the Dakota Access Pipeline, to Black Lives Matter, to our current American president. It would be so easy to just close our eyes and look away. But can we live with ourselves? Someone is going to have to clean up that shit. Maybe not you, but somebody. And we’re all in this together.

Sure, facing life as it is will probably make you uncomfortable. In fact, if it doesn’t, then I’m pretty sure you’re not doing it right. Change requires discomfort. No one ever changed the world watching Netflix re-runs in their PJs and munching Doritos. You gotta get uncomfortable to move ahead. 

And I think in addition to training our courage muscles, we have to identify our kryptonite, that thing that makes us weak in the knees and robs all the gusto from our forward-charge. I just found some of mine–public humiliation–that kept me from doing the Right Thing. I want people to like me, or at least not stare at and ridicule me. Turns out I’ll go pretty far to avoid that. But my old kryptonite has me up at nights. It’s time for it to go.

Sadly life doesn’t have a reverse button. I can’t go back and do that moment over. So for me for the next few weeks I’m going to keep reminding myself that I’m a good person (good, not great, just run-of-the-mill-good) in incredibly trying circumstances, doing the best she can and sometimes–because she’s only human–she goofs. I’m going to keep saying that until I believe it. And I’m going to practice being courageous in the face of ridicule until I can take it every time. Because I don’t enjoy disliking myself, and I don’t want to reach that day where it truly matters and not have the strength to face things head-on. I’m pretty sure those days are coming. Lord knows, this isn’t the time to be backing down from life.

So for me for the next few weeks I’m going to keep reminding myself that I’m a good person in incredibly trying circumstances, doing the best she can and sometimes–because she’s only human–she goofs.

So, my friends, what’s your kryptonite? What’s your thing that keeps you from being your courageous self? How do you plan to stretch that muscle?

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