It all started more than a year ago with my need for iced tea. I was certain that a beautiful glass pitcher of homemade iced tea was going to solve all of my problems. When life feels out of control, I surround myself with simple things, controllable things with precise and beautiful outcomes. These desires sometimes don't make a whole lot of logical sense, but I've learned not to question or criticize myself for my whims because the silly little things do bring me peace in the chaos.
Except for this time.
This time Joe was hundreds of miles away on a business trip. This time I had a toddler who had just come to our home a few weeks before and was still struggling. This time I poured an entire tea kettle of boiling water into a glass pitcher, not thinking of the potential repercussions until the whole thing exploded in a shower of glass shards and water hot enough to scald your skin off. And boy, did it ever. The water and glass storm broke right over my legs and feet soaking my running shorts and burning its way down my thighs. I screamed, one short scream, and said a whole bunch of monosyllables that probably would have been curse words except that my two kids were in the next room. I heard little feet headed toward me and a new kind of panic made me forget my pain for a second. "STOP! Don't come in here," I shouted at them. There were glass shards everywhere. I gritted my teeth, grabbed my phone off of the counter, and herded the boys in front of me down the hall until I managed to corral us all in the master bathroom.
By this time my whole body was shaking from shock and adrenaline and pain. I started the water running into the bathtub and frantically splashed it over my legs. My running shorts had taken the worst of the explosion and had mostly deflected the boiling water away from my skin protecting my upper thighs. I had two perfect lines where the shorts had ended and the water had burned its way down the rest of my legs. When the bath filled up, I lowered myself into it fully-clothed, gasping and sputtering when it hit my burns. I was a hyperventilating mess trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do with two little ones who were barely keeping it together while I was trapped in the tub. I called Joe, even though he was in Seattle, because there is no one like my husband to keep my head on straight in an emergency. Within a few minutes we had his mom on the way to take care of the kids and I was mentally going through other people who might be able to help while trying to comfort the my 16-month old who had devolved into full-blown hysteria.
I'm ashamed to say that the list of people I was willing to call for help was painfully small. Life had been crazy in the last few weeks. The house was a mess, the kids were dirty and hadn't eaten dinner, I couldn't remember the last time I'd showered, and I could see dog hair floating in my bath water (most likely because I hadn't vacuumed in more days than I'm willing to admit and the stuff was everywhere). It was the dog hair that really put me over the edge from embarrassment to deep mortification. There were simply not that many people in my life who I was willing to see me sitting in pain, dirty and disheveled, waist deep in bathwater with floating dog hair. It was too much!
When I finally did reach for my phone, it was only to find it missing. After looking around the small bathroom space, I asked my 4 year-old if he knew where it was and he promptly and politely told me that my screaming toddler had put it in the toilet. I didn't believe him, but opened the toilet anyway and lo and behold there was my phone sitting at the very bottom. This was the point that comes in many mild crises when your options are to panic or laugh. I laughed. I was sitting in my bathtub with blistering burns on both thighs, a hysterical toddler, about to reach my hand into the depths of my not-too-clean toilet and I had felt that it was necessary to consider my dignity before calling someone for help. What a joke. In that moment, it seemed very clear how ludicrous I had been in putting off the hard work of building a community for myself and my family. How stupid it was to hold off on connecting in real and vulnerable ways with the people in our circles because I wasn't sure our lives were presenting quite the right picture - the house not updated enough for entertaining, the kids not well-behaved enough for guests. How shallow it had been to be so concerned about how others might perceive me as needy or overbearing if I asked them to share their time with me and my family. I'm not naturally a community-builder or a people-gatherer. I don't connect easily with new groups in new places, but as I sat there in the bathwater I knew that all of my reasons for choosing not to LEARN how to do these things better were flimsy at best and at worst revealed a dangerous pride that would only end in my being isolated. Like I was now...with my hand down the toilet.
Fortunately, Joe's mom arrived a few minutes later with a friend in tow and between the three of us we got the boys fed and in bed. I still consider it one of my crowning achievements as a mother that I got out of my tepid bath, half-swore in my monosyllabic way, and hobbled down the hall to rock my baby to sleep. Joe managed to get a hold of some friends who came over with all of the medical supplies I would need to survive the next few days, as well as two kinds of chocolate for which I was especially grateful. I spent most of the rest of the night alternately taking Ibuprofen and applying burn gel to my legs. My burns took a few weeks to heal and I still have a discolored scar on each thigh, but I find that I don't mind them as much as I thought I might. They remind me not to value my dignity more than I value my friendships, to invest my time and energy in building a community around my family, and to take chances that may leave me vulnerable in reaching out to others and connecting. I'm still not very good at it, but I'm getting better and being intentional about practicing hospitality, friendship, and openness is bringing me progress.
I'd like to wrap this up with a quick tribute to my phone which survived its dunking and stayed in use for another year (after 24 hours in a bag of rice). I also want to be sure to mention that I learned my lesson well about the dangers of tea-making and these days I stick to making sun tea out in the vegetable garden - more idyllic, less chance of shrapnel.