More than anything, it means that I regain some sense of control. And that’s important.
People are famously nasty in airports and on airplanes. And a common hypothesis is that it’s the result of surrendering control. When you travel, you expose yourself to all kinds of factors beyond your control. How long will the lines be? Whom will I have to sit next to on the plane? Will my flight leave on time? Will I be allowed to get up and go to the bathroom? Will my bags make it to me?
None of that should matter. But it really does have some cumulative effect when you travel every week. Especially on weeks with a lot going on at work or at home. I sincerely hate having to tell a colleague that “I can’t address it right now because my flight is about to take off.” And there is nothing worse than when the family needs me and I’m traveling. That’s a total loss of control. (Like two years ago when the water line burst in our house just as the flight attendants were all asking us to power off our cell phones.)
So I’m grateful for my new TSA status and the little control it gives back to me. On Tuesday this week, when I flew to Portland, I walked straight through the line without even coming to a full stop. When I missed my flight on the way home two days later, I wasn’t even devastated by it. Even if the highway traffic had been unbearable and I’d now get home two hours late, at least I didn’t have to take my shoes and belt off.
Little did I know the loss of control that awaited me once I did get home.
Wendy is sick. And not cute sick like she sometimes gets where it’s just rosy cheeks, a whispy voice, and lots of snuggling.
This is full-blown stay-in-bed-all-day, cough-all-night, can’t-eat, can’t-enjoy-life, can’t-think-straight, can’t-remember-where-she-left-stuff, accidentally-microwaves-her-shoes sick. (Wendy will want me to clarify that she didn’t actually microwave her shoes this weekend. That’s an exaggeration).
And now Liv is sick. Ike also thinks he’s sick, but I think he’s just feeling left out.
At any rate, everyone is miserable. The house is an absolute disaster. And no one is playing with the dog, so he’s hanging out two inches away from me every second of the day. I realized by Friday evening that, just like the 2,500 weekends before it, this would not be the weekend that I got my desk cleared off or got ahead in school or got a bunch of work done on the book I’m trying to write.
I tried to make up for my lack of control by spending the whole weekend subduing my back yard. That kept me out of the house and gave me some sense of control in my life. I cut down what was left of two dead trees, built a fire pit, and planted an apple tree sapling. In all, I think I put 12 hours into pretty strenuous yard work—much of it in the rain.
It was so much work and so much rain and wind that I wore myself out. I didn’t get out of bed until noon today and then made lots of additional stops there through the rest of the day.
I stayed home from church. I wasn’t sick, of course. But I did feel lousy. And anyway, Wendy needed me. Liv needed me. Ike kind of (but not really) needed me. Plus, who knows…maybe I was sick too.
I tried not to think about Kevin Hamilton’s 2013 talk in LDS General Conference about how his extended family’s decision to skip church just once had ultimately led them to leave the faith all together. Instead I focused on how crummy I felt physically, and I fantasized about how much I’d enjoy the day. I’d read, clean, watch movies, go for a walk, organize my desk. It would be great!
But of course it never goes that way when I shirk my duties. I felt empty and irritable all day. No amount of laundry or dishes sufficed to cheer me up. I didn’t read much. I didn’t rest much. I wasn’t pleasant. I just spent the day reiterating to myself how badly I needed a day off and how much I deserved one.
Then I noticed I’d missed a phone call from a woman in our congregation. I listened to the voice mail: “Hi, Rick. I know that you weren’t in church today and I’m just hoping that you’re not really sick. We have the Easter fireside this evening. Deb is sick and Cindy is out of town, and so I’m directing. We had a practice after church and there were only three men. If it’s at all possible, it would be awesome if you could join us tonight. Even if you can’t make the sound check, if you can make it to the performance that would be great. Hopefully you’ll be able to make it and bring your son with you too. Thank you.”
I was so bugged. How dare someone interrupt my sorely needed day off? Didn’t they know how sick my family was? And how sick I maybe was?
Or at least my back hurts and I scraped my leg.
And anyway, I’m really tired. I work hard.
I put the phone down and thought, “no way.”
But I kept hearing the message over and over in my head. Finally, two hours later, just before the program started, I called Ike upstairs and told him to get dressed so that we could go sing with the choir in the Easter fireside. He was not happy about it (just think of how little control a kid has!). But he grudgingly got dressed and we went together.
We got there just as the program was starting and enjoyed two hours of beautiful, well-rehearsed, and uplifting music. We sang along in the congregational hymns. And, near the end of the program, our group sang this hymn to the rest of the audience.
I’m sure we didn’t sound as polished as a professional choir. I know I missed some notes and some words. Plus, even with me and Ike there, we still only had five male voices.
But it was still beautiful. And it was miraculous to be there.
We closed with everyone singing the Easter Hymn, Christ the Lord is Risen Today:
Lives again, our glorious King.
Where oh death, is now thy sting?
Once he died our souls to save.
Where thy victory, oh grave?
Oh how I love singing hymns. My spirit was lifted. And, after got back home, I winked at my troubles still waiting for me there.
No, I don’t have much control of my life. Yes, that is frustrating. But that’s also life.
After we put the kids down to bed, I thought fondly of a quote that Gordon Hinckley used to share:
“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just ordinary people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise….
"Life is like an old-time rail journey — delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed.
“The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride."