I accidentally drove to Cranberry this past weekend. I’d meant to drive 2 hours east to Harrisburg but somehow drove 2 hours west to Cranberry instead. I called my husband Poobah and said, “I have to tell you something but you have to promise not to get mad at me.” Not the words he was hoping to hear I am sure. He agreed to the fairly absurd request (one can’t choose to not have at least an initial angry impulse if that’s what’s stirred in them after all) and I told him where I was. He didn’t get angry but he was certainly confused. How is it I had driven for two hours on the Pennsylvania Turnpike the wrong way? Hadn’t I noticed all the signs for the exits that lead to Pittsburgh? I really didn’t know how to explain it and simply told him I’d done it before and that we would try to make the best time we could over to Harrisburg now.
How it happened is not really so complex or mysterious. I’m not on my way to early onset Alzheimer’s or Lewy body dementia. I didn’t have a psychotic break and lose touch with reality. I was just really stressed out with life in general and then climbed into a Honda Civic with three young kids for a three and a half hour drive.
Still, it scared me. It didn’t seem like something a normal person would do. I’d done it before. I’d probably do it again. And it just isn’t normal. Therefore, I’m not normal.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve never been a big fan of normal. I’ve always wanted to be unique, to be myself exactly as I am. I’ve taught my kids the same thing. Truth is, I love my oddball patients the most. I’ve always been a fan of the underdog.
What was scaring me now was the fear that I’m not just unique or special, that I’m somehow… wrong. There lies in me a fear I think we all have to one extent or another: the fear that I’m a fraud. In me, I suspect, it runs deeper and wider than it does in most.
I feel sometimes that my whole life is a house of cards precariously standing by the grace of so many cards all pushing against one another with just the right amount of force, positioned just so for balance. And at any moment, it might just collapse. It all just might fall apart and I will be left with nothing more than a pile of scattered cards. I could just lose it all, just like that, in an instant. I could lose it all because I am not who we all think I am, me included.
It all feels so fragile to me at times. The thing I have to remind myself is that it is. It is fragile. All of it. Everything any of us thinks we have. Anyone’s house of cards could come crashing down. And yes, maybe it would be my fault if it happened. Maybe I would make a mistake and cause it all to fall.
It’s already fallen. The world. Nothing’s owed us. We’re all broken, all imperfect, all sick. Any one of us could knock it all down on any given day. I tend to think that those of us that know how broken we are, are maybe actually the wise ones. I sat in on a drug rehab group recently and listened to a beautiful group of people trying to get their lives back in order after addiction. They laid themselves bare to one another, talking about the wounds of their past, of those who’d loved them and those who hadn’t, of those they’d hurt and betrayed and deceived along the way. Their cards lie scattered and they knew it and they knew it was their own doing. They knew even if they could begin to build again, it would still be a fragile thing and that it very well might fall into chaos again. I hated to leave the group to return to the real world, full of the superficial interactions that make up the day to day of life. I have felt the fragility of it all since I was a little girl and have found so many either don’t know yet, or wish to ignore it or pretend it away. I suppose for many of us, it’s a necessary lie.
Like the woman at Jesus’s feet, cleaning them with her tears and drying them with her hair, breaking open her alabaster jar to anoint him with perfume, we are all but whores at the feet of the Lord. A pile of cards that will one day be made whole again when we leave this broken world for something so much better.