My refrigerator may be broken. I have said this a few times in the last handful of months, with that stomach-sinking, cold-fingered dread I seem to manifest when thinking about repairing things, replacing them and money. Or, more specifically, my lack thereof.
When I was growing up, Mom used to insist that we had an anti-Semitic refrigerator. Every holiday, she would begin to cook. And cook. And cook some more, stuffing everything into an already over-stuffed refrigerator, performing some kabbalistic ritual that seemed to suspend the laws of physics. Having worked her magic, whether or not the ritual actually succeeded, whether or not anything else could fit, she would shove One. More. Thing. into the waiting maw: all of it, from oven to refrigerator in the blink of an eye.
And then the refrigerator would die.
With the last gurgle and a final consumptive gasp made before a sharp and sudden silence that signified its demise, the mad scramble would begin: neighbors would be called, words would be said (mostly with the immediate admonition that these particular words should never be said by us kids, and certainly never ever said outside the house), repairmen would be summoned, money would be spent (time-and-a-half money). Fingers would be crossed and prayers would be mumbled.
Every holiday. Without fail.
It wasn't until years later (when the holidays weren't so frenetic, weren't so crowded with extended family, fourth cousins twice removed, the best friends of the in-laws and those random holiday orphans-- friends and acquaintances who had nowhere to go, no family to be with, and how in the world can you let anybody spend a holiday alone?) that we realized that the refrigerator died because it couldn't handle the sudden influx of hot food onto it's cold, cold shelves. Too much, all at once. The refrigerator didn't die so much as go into shock.
Not anti-Semitic at all; rather, too delicate to survive the onslaught of our excess.
My refrigerator does not seem to suffer from that particular ailment. I'd love to be able to say that it is my excess causing its slow but inevitable death. Oh sure, I can keep the door open way too long while I put away the groceries, and apparently, the coils need to be cleaned more than once in, oh, ever. But when all is said and done, my dependable workhorse of a refrigerator is getting old. It may linger for a while, but really, it's just time.
I think I could take the whole refrigerator situation if it weren't for the dishwasher issue. It is less a dishwasher and more a dishrinser at this point. Sad to think that I have to wash the dishes before the dishes get washed by machine.
And don't get me started on the plumbing. Bad pipes. Bad water. It seeps and gurgles way too slowly down the drain, lingering and swirling a bit malevolently, teasing me. It lets me think that this time it may prefer, in fact, to stand at watery opaque attention rather than join its brother and sister hydrogen and oxygen molecules that go racing through drains and sewers and whatnot, racing through a complex underground network on its way to wherever it is that water drains.
What else? Given world enough and time, I could find a thousand grievances and glitches, all those minor annoyances that set my teeth on edge and my blood to simmer and make me twitch just a bit. I can forget to breathe, because it's always just one more thing. One more thing in an endless procession of things that tumble end over end and gather all together, piling in a tangled jumble of One-More-Thingness, an insurmountable, overwhelming mass of Mess.
Lack of money.
Did I mention bills?
The list is endless. Eternal. There is always one more thing that needs attention. Every petty and not so petty thing on my list fights for supremacy--- notice me! fix me! I am drowning in this clamoring sea of minor demons.
I know, I know--- it's not as if this were an apocalypse of woe. It's a garden-variety list. It's the stuff of life. No klaxon-call, no cacophony of noise, just the constant murmur, like the tide: a steady in and out, back and forth motion without rest or pause. I tell myself I cannot breathe. I don't know where to start, which to start. In the immortal words of Roseanne Roseannadanna: "It's always something!"
And just when it threatens to consume me, this List of all Lists, just when I think I have reached the edge and feel the vertigo pull before toppling into the chasm of tedium and pettiness, a whisper: "You have some pretty high class problems there."
It stops me cold.
I want to argue with that voice (and I suspect it is my own, an echo of some wisdom heard in the hallowed halls of AA. Dammit). I want to rail against the sentiment, and wallow in the pure drama of my litany. It's bad! Yes it is! My life is hard! I have issues! I have problems!
What I have is a roof over my head. Heat in the winter, food on the table.
I have a son I love, a job I adore, a life that is immensely and wonderfully full.
I have people in my life who give me the courage to soar.
I have a God in whose I hand I can rest when I let myself.
My mother's favorite saying comes back to me: I used to cry because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.
I have blessings beyond measure. Family. Love. Life. Yeah, it's been a tough year or three. I have mourned much, lost much. I still miss my brother more than I can say. It's been a couple years of tough, sure: but there's been a lot of good, too. There has been sweetness and celebration woven into the the corners, inching toward the center. There have been sudden moments of grace.
I am surrounded by light, when I remember. I can live my life as a prayer, when I remember. I can share the blessings I have been given, when I remember.
And so, as Thanksgiving approaches, I remember that I am grateful for all the gifts that are part of my life. The good stuff and the bad. The people, the problems, the glitches and all the glittery, dancing hidden blessings that flit like butterflies and fill me with wonder. All the delight, all the amazement and awe: it is there for the asking. Even without asking, those blessings are there, waiting for me to catch up.
A final thought, as we enter this season of hope and thanks: of all the things I've been given, all the things I have, I am astoundingly grateful that I have a sky filled with sky, not bombs and missiles. The world now is quite broken, and the bridges are all so narrow. May we find the courage to join hands and hearts wherever we can, to find peace and shine a light into the darkness.
Happy Thanksgiving to all I hold dear. I am grateful for the lessons you have brought me, the gifts you have given, and the grace you have shown is possible, even for me. You have made my life richer and my heart more full.