Monday, August 2, 2010
The Perfect Excuse
Sailing makes me sick…so does navigating windy roads, breathing diesel exhaust, reading in a car, or facing backwards in a moving vehicle. These activities top my Urp List. Anyone who has ever experienced nausea or motion sickness can empathetically gag with me.
I married 35 years ago romanticizing sailing as effortless gliding through calm waters. Then, I did not fully grasp that my husband was genetically predisposed to sail. For example, when he was a little boy he put two big blocks of Styrofoam between the legs of a bench, clamped an umbrella to the contraption, drug along an old oar for the rudder, and sailed along the shoreline. Over the years, the idealistic sail was rocked by shifting winds and rough waters in the boat…and out of the boat.
As soon as I could rule out pregnancy (which also made me sick), I used my motion sickness to redirect my family from any twisty-turny activities on land or water. Mother vampire guilt kicked in, “I’m sucking the life out of my family.” Thus was born my perfect excuse for sending the others off without me, “Who wants a green-faced, life-less person along spoiling everyone else’s excursion?” Whoo-hoo! I had the whole house to myself. I stayed in my pajamas till noon, snacked in bed, took use-up-all-the-hot-water showers, ate dessert instead of dinner, read till midnight, and didn’t do the dishes until the sink and counter were fully stacked with dirty ones. Pull-eeez, tell me I’m not the only woman to have perpetrated such crimes in private against her own house rules.
As in pregnancy, I eventually allowed the special indulgences afforded an impaired mother. Again, the perfect excuse was exploited when I accepted priority seating in the cockpit or the front seat of the car. I was excused from galley duty while under way or attending to children in the back seat. Uh-hum, turning around triggers nausea. And when we anchored overnight, I got the open side of the bunk opposite the claustrophobic hull.
But something was not quite shipshape…and queasiness gave way to uneasiness. Like that of a perfect storm where a “rare combination of circumstances aggravate a situation drastically”, my perfect excuse had its own collision course undercurrents. Oh good, more turbulent water stuff.
The currents underneath the perfect excuse were just as unattractive as burping up nausea. Unaware, I had “should” all over myself. I should like sailing because that’s what a supportive wife does. I shouldn’t stay at home without my family because good moms don’t do that. I should be more outgoing. I shouldn’t be so self-absorbed. I should have known better.
I could have easily been sucked into the undercurrent of shoulds with my perfect excuse had not a lifeline—in the form of a question—been tossed my way. In his book, the me I want to be, John Ortberg asks: If I walk down this road, where will it lead in the long run—toward or away from the me I want to be?
What if I didn’t need to create a perfect excuse to mask my honest preferences, dislikes, insecurities, or foibles? Sometimes, I like solitude. I love special attention from my husband and my family. I don’t like Eggs Benedict. There are actually things I love about sailing, but that’s a whole other story for another time. I can go to anxious measures to avoid hurting someone else’s feeling, or when insulating myself from others stinging me. Regret can overwhelm me when I recognize having been preoccupied with the guarding of MY time, MY talents or MY energy. Without hiding behind a perfect excuse, I am exposed and liberated for becoming God’s best version of [me], which is the rest of the title of John Ortberg’s book.