The other morning, as I poured my coffee and mixed up my daughter’s breakfast shake, I heard a rustling behind me. Our cat, Sebastian, was poking around on the floor of our pantry, messing with the plastic grocery bags that mysteriously multiply there. I shook my head and asked him, as I always do, what, exactly, he was expecting to find there, and resumed what I was doing. In just a moment, though, the rustling amplified and on top of that, I heard a crash…paws scrambling…claws desperately scratching at the floor… I turned around in time to see an orange and brown blur dart out of the kitchen.
Sebastian had gotten the handle of one of the bags caught around his neck, and was running around the house like an Olympic track star using a parachute to train.
As I ran into the living room, I saw the blur whizzing around the room – behind the couch, on the couch, across the coffee table, behind the couch again, and then up the stairs. Jennifer and I were laughing so hard we could hardly breathe as we heard him crashing around upstairs: badunkadunkadunkadunka, with the simultaneous swishing of the plastic as he ran.
It was seriously the funniest thing I have ever seen, and I believe with all my heart that our money worries would be over if I had been quicker on the draw and had managed to get this whole scene on video.
Jennifer and I ran upstairs to try to help poor Sebo. We looked and looked and finally found him huddled under her bed, plastic bag smooshed next to his face and his eyes as big as Volkswagens. Poor little guy was petrified, but in his terror he had trapped himself in an even smaller space with the cause of his fear.
I couldn’t reach him to get the bag off, and Jennifer devised a plan of luring him out from under the bed with kitty treats. We got up and began our way downstairs to get the treats from the pantry when ****WHOOSH**** The blur flashed by. Badunkadunkadunka, swishswishswish.
Hysterical laughter on the stairs.
“There he goes, Mama! Get him!”
Badunkadunkadunka, swishswishswish… Laps around and around the family room, and then back upstairs under the bed. ***WHOOSH***
Back upstairs we went, too, treats in hand, to try to save the poor fella from the mean old baggie. He was closer to the edge this time, and fortunately, finally, I was able to slip the handle back over his head and lure him out into daylight.
I have laughed and laughed and laughed at the memory of it all. Sebastian running, ears back, low to the ground so as to get optimum speed, tail poofed up to up the intimidation factor. Badunkadunkadunka, swishswishswish. HILARIOUS. I’m laughing out loud, now, in the middle of Panera Bread. I’m quite a sight.
As often as I have thought about this whole occurrence, it’s not really surprising that I’ve realized a profound spiritual parallel.
See, this past weekend, I felt like I had a grocery bag around my neck. It wasn’t plastic, or really anything anyone could see. No, my grocery bag parachute is unseen, largely because I have learned how to cover it up. For me, the bag around my neck is ANXIETY. Fear. That crippling, nagging, worrisome thought pattern that says just how awful things are and will always be. It’s that overwhelmed feeling that reminds me of how much I have to do…but rather than motivating me to move onward with it all, it paralyzes me. I can’t do anything but run and hide from it all.
Like a poor little kitty terrified by a bag gone wild, I run from my fears – my worries – my own mind until I find a dark spot where I can hide. My hiding, though, only isolates me from the world, traps me alone with the thing I fear most. The hiding…it is the illusion of a remedy. It does nothing to make things better. In smaller spaces, the threat is even closer. In seclusion, the danger is more real.
I am fully aware that to other people – people with different parachutes of their own – the whole running and retreating and hiding ritual seems pretty ridiculous. The threat, to them, doesn’t seem so bad. They can see it clearly because they are at a distance. They can see how ridiculous it seems to run from something so harmless. They may raise their eyebrows and snicker a little when they see how severely I react. To me, though……oh, yes. It is real. It is scary.
And then……something happens. I call out for help. To call to God has, thankfully, become my default reaction. I do that, even, before I retreat and run and panic and hide. Calling to God is not the issue. The issue, for me, is in asking other people to help. They’re there (hopefully not laughing hysterically as I did at poor Sebastian) but I don’t invite them into my struggle. I don’t let them help me. More and more these days, I am remembering to do it, though I’d prefer if it happened before I retreated. I’m getting there.
It is often as it was this past weekend. A short text to a couple of friends: Having a bad day today. Please pray for me.
And then, just like the threat was gone for Sebastian once I removed the silly plastic bag, the light begins to come back in for me. It’s not all better. I’ll likely still huddle under the blankets for awhile, and may cry a few more tears. It’s not all over, and the thoughts still spin around in my mind. Letting someone into the struggle, though……letting someone reach under the bed and gently remove the threat……it makes it manageable.
I’m learning that that’s what community is about. As I grow in community with the girls I meet with every week, I’m understanding the power of really letting someone into my struggles. Life’s problems are real, and if relationships are going to be real, too, then the two must intersect. It’s up to us to let other people in, though. We have to inch toward the edge of our hiding place so someone can reach in and help us.
To all who have removed the proverbial grocery bag from around my neck at different times: Thank you. And I’m sorry I didn’t let you help sooner. When you’re in a similar position, please give me the privilege of helping. I’ll work on doing the same.
Blessings for the Journey,