The last couple of weeks have felt kind of like a test. So many things have gone awry, so many little and medium-sized challenges and annoyances and unexpected expenses and repairs and things not working as they should. I have taken some of them in stride, and others, not so much.
By coincidence, the movie that made its way to the top of my Netflix queue recently was Bruce Almighty, in which I watched Jim Carrey make an ungrateful ass of himself railing at God about all the things that were going wrong in his life before the predictable, but still moving, character arc.
The other day, as I dealt calmly with yet another medium-sized domestic dysfunction, the connection between the movie and my life came to me in an epiphany of sorts, and I could almost see Morgan Freeman smiling benevolently at me. As I was congratulating myself for keeping it together during all this, and wondering if locusts were next, but if they were, I was ready, bring it on, it occurred to me that I was turning forbearance and patience into yet another perfectionistic quest, feeling a little too proud of my conquest of the drama queen within.
The point of the Book of Job, which I hated and didn’t understand for decades, was submission. As long as Job kept fighting, and thinking he was in control, God kept messing with him, in order to show him he wasn’t. I am never going to be in control, no matter hard I try. God or the Furies or the random accidents of life are going to keep on messing with me, and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it except try to deal with things as best I can.
If I work at it, I will take most of them in stride, but I won’t always. There will be times when those locusts catch me in moments of weakness and I will melt down, though I hope I don’t act like quite as big a jackass as Bruce screaming at God in a lunatic meltdown of self-pity and rage. The real test is not dealing with the crisis of the moment, but after I’ve dealt with a problem less than calmly, it is in avoiding the futile and destructive emotional self-flagellation we perfectionists seem to get off on. It is in showing self-compassion once the frustration has passed, accepting that we all act like jackasses sometimes, and moving on.