I’ve read a few religious blogs in my time, which is why I’m such a good person. It’s also why I know the routine: You’re doing some unpleasant task, and you hates it, you just hates it. It’s hard, it’s boring, if only you had some money you could hire someone, and why did you go to college if you were just going to end up thisaway, and you bet Julia Roberts doesn’t have to do it, and she’s not even very talented! And so on.
You go on, you go on, you’re pouting and grousing and making the whole world dark and angry, when suddenly . . . LIGHT DAWNS. Right in the middle of your lousy attitude, the sun comes out and suffuses the workaday haze with a glow straight out of Zeffirelli. Or maybe your chubby little toddler toddles up and says, “You wook bootiful wike Our Wady wiv dat smudge on your cheek, Mommy.” Or a triple amputee you happen to know calls to thank you kindly for the used tea bag you sent him for Christmas.
Everything comes into focus. Right there on the bathroom floor (or whatever), you get on your knees and thank God, or repent, or just generally get a new outlook on it all. The rest of the day is sanctified, and as you drift off to sleep that evening, you murmur a sleepy prayer of thanksgiving for the lesson in grace.
Well, me too! Why just today, I
—oh ha ha, no, just kidding. Not me.
Here’s what I do.
I start off really great. Say, for instance, that it’s snowing, and let’s pretend I’m shoveling the driveway. (It is, but I’m not. Just play along, would you?) I’m shoveling away, and in the first four minutes alone, I thank God for: the fact that I have a home with a driveway; the fact that I’m strong and healthy; the fact that it’s not icy snow; the fact that it’s so beautiful out here; the fact that my husband cheerfully got up early to do as much shovelling as he could before heading off to work; the fact that the older kids can watch the baby and keep her safe while I work; the fact that my husband gave me a lovely warm scarf just yesterday; and the fact that we found the shovel and the kids hadn’t stomped on it too bad.
Hallelujah! That goes on for a good half hour. I am a thanking fool. I’m Corrie ten Boom, thanking God for the fleas. I’m the Pilgrims. I’m Padre Pio and St. Francis in an ecstasy of gratitude that only increases with my physical pain! (At a certain point, I tell myself to relax—it’s just clearing out the driveway, after all, and the canonization process can be extremely slow even in these lax times.)
After another twenty minutes, the industrious glow cools a bit, and my mind is more or less a blank as I chug along. To pass the time, I advance to myself certain theories for increased efficiency, such as:
—Probably this will get easier if I switch hands and start tossing the loads of snow forwards, like a discus thrower, rather than slinging it backwards over my shoulder. Ow; no.
—Probably I will be more encouraged at the magnitude of the job still undone if I go ahead and make little chops in the snow to deliniate my immediate goal. There, isn’t that—ugh, no.
—Probably the driveway would get cleared faster if you wouldn’t dump the loads of snow in the spot you’re going to shovel next, yuh idiot.
—Ditto for flinging a giant boulder of snow on top of a peaked heap of snow, from which it will tumble down and land on your feet.
—“Hey, Eddie, Can you Catch Us A Ride,” while probably underrated in the Springsteen canon, loses some of its frisson of urban despair after about minute 46 of the mental loop that it’s playing on.
I spend a certain amount of time “neatening up” what I’ve already cleared. I get a drink of water. I check on the kids. Reassured that they’re all happily trying to claw each other’s eyes out over whose turn it is to use the toaster, I head back outside.
I make another stab at being of good cheer. “Thank you, Lord,” I begin, “forrrr . . . um, well, I certainly thank You that I’m not in a concentration camp in Siberia. Because I know that some people were, and that was way worse than this.”
Then I think, If I don’t get mail tomorrow after expending 4,600 calories digging out the mailbox alone, I am going to assassinate that delicate genius of a mailman, who doesn’t even have to get out of his car seat, but only to stick his precious little paddy paw out the window and put the Netflix in the little box, see?
At this point, even Springsteen flees, and a song from Annie starts playing in my head. Figuring it for divine retribution for the provisional curse I put on the mailman’s head, I submit to the will of God and just dig, dig, dig. Don’t really care, as long as they’re miiiiiiiiiine . . . how long, o Lord?
Well, it’s done now. And thank God for that.