A Moving Violation

An organized household, office, car, and bank account seem unattainable for people like me. People who not only have children and a full-time job, but also find right-brained, type-A sorts of tasks tantamount to learning Chinese…meaning, it could be done, but life is too short.

However, I have learned time and again that being unorganized has its price. Much as I hate chores, errands, paper work and basically being a grown-up, letting these things go will ultimately amount to even MORE administrative unpleasantness…For instance, you put off weeding the yard (because really, life is short) until you wind up with an HOA fine, and a yard that you could not possibly tackle in a single afternoon. So you pay the hoa fee AND a maintenance crew. Or you forget to pay the water bill because it got buried in the pile of paper that you were going to deal with eventually–which means your water gets turned off, and you have to dash downtown and make payment IN PERSON before the end of the day, costing you an hour of your life and a $50 admin fee to get your service back on the same day. (Both of these things have happened to me before. Maybe more than once). Or the everyday simple…you don’t match the socks when they come out of the laundry, so you spend 10 minutes of every morning hunting down a matching pair. Some of you are nodding in understanding, while others (my brother) are cringing in horrified disbelief–How do you LIVE like that??? he is saying right now.

Suffice it to say that, when my headlight burned out a few weeks ago, i had every intention of getting it replaced. But you know… it’s one of those things you don’t think about until after dark. At which time the places that sell such things are either closed or just out of the way home, and well, I’ve been driving around for 2 weeks watching for those flashing blue lights to come up behind me.

Today they did.

Though i was fully prepared to show the officer that i had the replacement bulb in the car (i did) and just hadn’t gotten around to putting it in yet, my first thought was damn…wish i was wearing my clergy name tag right about now. Closely followed by wait–it is broad daylight. This is not about the headlight.

“Ma’am, [i hate that “ma’am” business] do you know why i pulled you over?”

I honestly did not. Am i under arrest for smoking? Being smoking hot, that is.

No, i didn’t try that…had the kids in the car. “Are you aware that your tags are expired?”

Ah, the tags…Changed the oil, fixed check engine light (about 4 times) ordered replacement gas cap (again), learned to live with a ding i got in a parking lot, hauled several trips of stuff to new house over the summer… no, the tags had not crossed my mind for a fraction of a second–in over 5 months. I was in trouble.

It would always be so much easier if the guys who pulled you over for this stuff were jerks. Not that it would get you out of trouble, but you could at least feel self-righteous about it. But no, this guy was super nice.

Did i have my insurance card with me? Well you see, officer… i can picture exactly where it is, in the box of junk in the laundry room, on top of the dryer, stuck between an Elmo dvd and some old Christmas cards, and probably the camera charger i lost about 4 months ago…Yes, that’s where that charger is! I will look when i get home. Right after i clean the rest of the house, pay the bills, and clean out the laundry room. then i will charge the camera and upload the pictures from last Christmas, and order some prints for the grandparents… Oh wait.

“No, I don’t have my new card with me.”

Short story, i can take proof of insurance and my paid registration to the court house and get most, if not all of my fine waived. Which will probably take 2 hours of my life instead of the 2 clicks it would have taken, had i remembered in a timely fashion.

I took my shaming like a big girl, because he was nice and i deserved it. But what i wanted to say was, do i not get some grace points for the happy, well-fed and (reasonably) clean children in the back seat? Children who are properly fastened in regulation 4-point harness car seats?? And who were just taken for their vaccinations less than a week after their birthdays? That i further have a car full of groceries, containing the perfect balance of  ice cream and veggies (multi-colored and organic, or course) to render me the perfect parent?

Do i not get further points for having breast fed both of those children for the first year of their respective lives, while working full time and getting back to pre-baby weight? And that in the meantime i run a church that feeds poor people and works to rid the world of homophobia?

No? Did I mention that yesterday i preached a sermon, made a hospital call, did 3 loads of laundry, AND spent time with my family? Alright, i’ll stop. You get the point.

Anyway, no bonus points there. When you come right down to it, i don’t do any more good or bad in a day than anyone else. And we, all of us, have to still be grown-ups in the meantime. Let’s be honest–with or without kids, it can be utterly overwhelming.

I think this must be the way lots of people feel about their spiritual lives. Between the bill paying, errand-running, child-rearing, wage-earning, yard-weeding and housekeeping, it falls through the cracks. Before you know it, it’s been 6 weeks, 6 months, or 6 years since you prayed or thought about going to worship. Impossible to know where to start, how to carve it in, who to ask, what to say…so it gets dropped in favor of yard work and soccer practice, and other things that call us with more urgency.

Easy enough to let it happen, but what is the price you pay? I’m not talking in a “you are busted by Jesus and you are sooooo going to hell” kind of sense. I’m talking about the costliness to your soul when there is no room left for community, for service to others, for the divine. We can fill that space with any number of tasks, chores, errands and activities, but nothing can take the place of seeking the holy. Nothing else will fill the void in us that longs to know our creator.

I don’t have an easy answer for how to better order my life, time and space (other than to fly my brother out here and let him clean, organize, and take over the details–indefinitely) but I do know there is a price to pay for piecing it together the way we all do when we get too busy. The key is to start somewhere–ANYWHERE–even if it feels like we’re picking up a single blade of grass to mow the whole of the Kentucky Horse Park.

For that holy longing–the one that nags and pulls, sometimes as a still small voice, and sometimes an anguished cry in the wilderness–start somewhere. ANYWHERE. Even if there are more questions than answers, even if you don’t have time, even if it seems a blasted inconvenience to find a place or person to help you get going…find that single blade of grass and start pulling somewhere. Once you’ve started the forward motion, you may find that even the grass itself takes on the hue of the sacred. And from there, the rest is details.

And you know what? It may not count for much at the courthouse, but i do plan to give myself some grace points. Because i baked my kids birthday cakes from scratch  last week, and still managed to save the world a little bit. And because, let’s face it…the rest is details, and life is short.

from IMBA, via flickr
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  • It makes me happy that other people are a disorganized as I am. And I so share your sense of going back and forth between feeling ashamed of that fact to feeling like, “Hey, look, I have lots of possitives that balance it out.”

  • Brandi Larkey

    I recently attended Madison Co, KY district court for expired tags. Unfortunately, this was after a so called “warrant,” for my arrest was issued. To make a VERY long story short, I missed two court dates for showing my tags to the judge because of all that stuff you mentioned– AKA endless minutia of daily life with children. I am a GOOD PERSON, truly, in my opinion, one of the best, but no one, I mean, no one, is above the L_A_W. This was a major reality check for me, not to mention, that I will never live this down with the Spouse.

    • you are being modest when you say you’re a good person. you’re fabulous! and this is scary because could so easily have been me!! the details fall through the cracks so, so easily. i’m realizing why so many people seem “low functioning,” falling into these patterns continually and just getting in more and more trouble they can’t get out of. you’ve got to have money, time, and the emotional strength to cope when you fall into this kind of mess, and alot of people just never break the cycle. thanks for sharing!