Most of the big lessons I have learned in life, I have learned the hard way. I was the kid who had to touch the hot plate to make sure it was really hot. I tried time and time again to get my face to freeze "that way." I looked for my gifts from Santa to prove that he wasn't real, and I found them. You get the idea. As an adult, not much has changed. I don't take subtle cues about anything. This story is an example of this character defect of mine and what happens when God or the universe or whatever you choose to believe in, has a sense of humor.
I have a dog named Maggie. She's a Great Pyrenees, Newfoundland mix. She's a big girl. I used to take Maggie with me everywhere I went, including work. I was a therapist at a substance abuse treatment facility and she was a therapy dog until she started getting overly protective of me, and then she was grounded to the house. Maggie was strong-willed as a puppy. Well, I guess she still is, nothing has changed in that department. Like every other living being in this house, she does exactly what she wants. when and where she wants, no matter how much yelling I do. She's getting old now and I have grown more tolerant of her attitude. Or perhaps I am just too old to fight with her anymore.
This story takes place a few years back when Maggie was still a puppy. We live in this two-story, old farmhouse. Anyone familiar with old farm houses knows that the heating and cooling systems are either non-existent or leave much to be desired. At our house, the upstairs is heated through open vents in the floors. The first floor has duct work under the floor, but the second floor only gets heat from the first floor that rises through those open vents. Not very efficient or handy, but, as it turns out, this design was perfect to teach me a lesson I will never forget.
I had the week from hell that week. Work was horrible. We were going through a statewide audit and my program was being hit hard. I was under terrible stress. That same week, my car decided to quit and stranded me alongside the road on my way to work. I borrowed my mother's van, and it also broke down on my way to work. We had five kids at home and four of the five had been infected with a stomach virus and were doing some synchronized puking that week. As a mom, I have seen cuts, bruises, broken bones, and blood. The ONE thing I cannot tolerate is vomit. I am a sympathetic puker. If I see someone praying to the porcelain God I will bow my head and join in the chorus. Needless to say, it was not a fun time at my house.
This particular day, with all of the aforementioned stressors weighing down on me, I got home from work to a mess. I was greeted at the door by four sick children, two dogs, and a husband who was holding the youngest child who had recently joined the band of barfers. Hubby handed me the baby and said, "Here. YOU take her." She was obviously sick and the other four children were whining and clawing at me. I felt like the one normal person left in a world full of hungry zombies and they were closing in fast.
My usual routine was to retire to my recliner and watch TV when I got home from work. As a therapist, the last thing I wanted to do was hear one more person's problems. I used to tell my family, "Mommy's listening ears shut off at 5:30." As usual, I kicked back in my recliner with the newly ill baby on my lap. I was thinking about all of the things that had gone wrong that week and was silently lamenting my situation. My mother used to tell me that if I thought things could not get worse, they inevitably would. Here's the part where I have to learn the hard way.
As I was sitting in the chair stewing about the past week from hell, my newly ill baby, who was on my lap, started heaving and then managed to spew at least a gallon of some unidentifiable liquid all over me and the chair. She was bawling, and I was on the verge of reciprocating her generous gift. My husband took her from my hands, knowing that all hell was about to break loose. I had reached my breaking point. This was the final straw. My last nerve dwindled into nothing. I threw my hands up in the air, looked up, and started yelling at God. I said, "Come on, God. Bring it on. Is that the best you can do? Take your best shot." At precisely that moment, I started feeling droplets of another unidentified liquid hitting my face. It seemed like rain, but that was impossible since I was inside, right? I looked back up and directly above my head was the open vent in the floor upstairs. On top of the open vent was Maggie. She was not yet housebroken and had picked that very spot to potty at that exact time.
You know when you get so angry and/or scared that the world around you moves in slow motion? When I looked around, the faces of my husband and children were frozen in a state of complete and utter terror. They had seen what had transpired and were sure that Armageddon was upon our household.
I was so angry that I just broke. Right in half. I had no energy to fight any more. I let my arms down to my sides and hanged my head in utter defeat. That was it. There was nothing left. I said nothing and walked up the stairs to my room, gathered my night clothes and some towels and went to take a shower. While washing off the stink of the day, I thought about how many other things could have happened at that moment when I was daring the Powers That Be to "Bring it on." The house could have caved in. A tornado could have taken us all out. A meteor could have landed on us. Nope. My God has a wicked sense of humor. I still imagine Him snickering to Himself about what He did, thinking, "That'll teach her." But, then again, he knows me better that that.
I still have Maggie. I still have my husband. I still have all five children. We all survived. I have yet to tell God to "bring it on" again.