Have you ever noticed how we allow our present circumstances to define us? No? Just me? Well then, indulge me for a moment or two. This week, I am a mother struggling to defend our fortress against the mighty, mighty invasion of a cruel and relentless enemy known as head lice. How it infiltrated our home, MY precious cargo, and our every waking moment is insignificant. What matters is that it did. It’s here. It’s mortifying. And it is holding on for dear life with it’s 6 tiny legs and it’s uncanny ability to hold it’s breath for an ungodly amount of time. I have never fancied myself a germophobe, but this week and for the rest of my life, I find myself obsessed with all things unclean, unsavory and unwanted.
The first night kicked my ass. We discovered the little buggers at 10pm on a Friday night when the hubs was away surfing on a two-day excursion...yay! Flying solo in the hard times once again, I sent the ever-attentive and slightly grossed out mother out to find the mother load, a pharmacy still open AND in possession of a lice removal kit. We fared as well as can be expected...one kit. That meant one child. So while I diligently shampooed, oiled and strand-by-strand stroked the princesses tresses with a fine-toothed comb for three straight hours, the boy waited patiently on the couch, whereupon he eventually fell asleep. Being the ever-attentive mom, I whispered a silent “Good call” to myself as I remembered he was not entirely ready for bed and grabbed a Pull Up from his room. Riddled with frustration over the tedious task of removing tiny pests from our heads, let’s just say discovering that I was ten minutes too late did not add to my bragging rights. So I may have uttered a not-so-pleasant phrase or two as I proceeded to remove the cushions from the couch we purchased less than a year ago and was temporarily pleased to find that they didn’t appear to be beyond repair. And so as I carried them downstairs to the patio to air them out, I felt relief for the first time that night. Goooo me! And then I went back inside to continue the arduous process of debugging our home and our babies and myself and that is when I discovered the super welcome trail of pee leading from our patio throughout the condo back to it’s point of origin. You see, the cushions are actually covered with an insulation that doesn’t allow liquid to absorb into the actual cushion. It just drips off the covering...yay! So I began to clean up that mess and was met with the sweet, sweet sound of our washing machine, which I refer to as “the death of me,” not because I do a lot of laundry, but because the locking mechanism has been broken for almost a year and emits a very loud buzzing noise every ten minutes when the door loosens. And though the Angry Birds duct tape certainly adds a whimsical flair to the ordinary, I do not find it at all amusing when I have to remove it approximately 19 times an hour to complete One.Load.Of.Laundry. Now mind you, when you are attempting to remove lice from your home, you must wash every article of clothing worn for the last two to three days, every towel, every sheet, every pillow case and every blanket. In our home, this amounts to approximately 917, 322 loads of laundry. And then you must seal every stuffed animal, pillow and item that cannot be machine-washed in a garbage bag and tie it off for two weeks to allow the little suckers to suffocate and die, thus preventing them from multiplying. And then, you have to soak every comb, brush, hair clip, barrette, and headband in steaming hot water for 15 minutes. This was the point in the evening when I gave up. I threw them all away. I surrendered. The little buggers had won. This had officially become the worst night of my life since I had given birth. The next day, or week, I should say, was not much better. I thought I was a slave to the laundry before this little incident! I became obsessed...with everything! I prodded heads every two seconds like a mother chimp picking at the fur of her littles, washed everything that touched the carpet for even a fraction of a second (the five-second rule does NOT apply when you have a lice infestation), covered the furniture in sheets and freaked out when they budged even an inch. Oh, I was super fun to live with for approximately 16 seconds. My poor babies. And so it is that on this, the sixth night of our infestation, I have come to the realization that I often allow my circumstances to define my life at any given moment and ultimately, to drown me in a sea of my own self-pity and negativity. Simply stated, I allow them to overwhelm me.
It’s like living with an alcoholic (trust me, I have experience with this one). You wake up in the morning unsure of how you feel, how your day is going to go until you determine their mood. How they feel dictates how you feel. And I do this with everything in my life. If my kiddos are happy and joyful, playing well together (like, for once in their lives), I am happy and joyful. If I have no pressing, urgent matter to address, no catastrophe to surmount, life is copacetic. I am productive, at peace, mother-of-the-year. Life is great. I am living in the moment. Everything is as it should be. Even the songs on the radio are predestined and every streetlight seems to be green. But if, by chance, life throws a teensy tiny wrench in the program, all is lost! Suddenly, I am a failure as a mother. I can do no right. The world is against me. And I allow myself to slip slowly back into the depression that I war against on a daily basis. Yes, I’m not afraid to admit it. I struggle daily with depression and it’s no fun. I’ve been free of my seven-year run with anti-depressants for several months now and though I’m terribly proud of that feat, I’m also terribly aware of my on-and-off again love affair with depression. It doesn’t take much to send me spiraling. And so it is that I find myself wrestling with the realization that I have allowed a tiny little obstacle such as head lice to nearly break me down to the point of defeat. No, really. I have actually felt defeated this week, physically and mentally exhausted, questioning whether I will every truly find peace in the midst of chaos. So here’s the thing. They say (or at least I believe) once you’ve been confronted with a weakness or the realization of a pattern of behavior, you no longer have an excuse to allow it to control you, to suffocate you, to define you, or to break your spirit for even a second. You see, I have a choice. I can allow my present circumstances to drag me down, define me, and carry me to a dark, pitiful place. Or I can choose to see them for what they are, fleeting and temporal, a bump in the road that may slow me down, but will not render me immobile, a bug on the windshield that I can wash off at the next service station (seemed appropriate). I can choose to rise above and view my life from the heights. I can recognize that who I am and how I feel is not dependent on what is happening to me, within me and around me. I can rise above and overcome, as God intended. “He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights.” ~2 Samuel 22:34
So where do I go from here? Well, tomorrow it’s to the salon to shorten this monstrosity to a manageable length should the enemy ever decide to grace these halls again. And then, to the shower. But eventually, to the depths of my being. To the core of my existence. To the heart of the matter and the deepest recesses of my soul where my sweet savior speaks, as He always does when I choose to listen. To the truth that’s been there all along. To the truth of who I am and who He is. To the part of me that knows that even when the going gets tough, I am tougher. He built me to withstand and to stand with Him. He formed me in His image and though that image may appear scarred and bruised and tattered at times, it remains so incredibly beautiful that He could not love me less and He could not love me more. And in that moment when I allow that truth to settle in and settle the restless, obsessive spirit within me that wants nothing more than to scream at the top of my lungs, “All is lost! All is lost!” I can see clearly that the little things will nearly always fade into the background of the big picture. What matters most when life is dragging me down is that I continue to look up, to the heights, to the author and perfecter of my faith.