Saturday, March 15, 2008
squirrels in my attic, a hole in my bedroom and God.
squirrels in my attic, a hole in my bedroom and God.
I must warn you, this story contains just about all the key components of a good story:
a weapon from Kenya
and a discount haircut
But that might not be enough for you, so here is where I am headed:
"You can't fix you with you."
That is the going to be the conclusion of this piece, the moral of the story so to speak. So if you've got a busy Saturday planned and can't read the whole thing, there it is.
But if you want to hear what happened last night at about midnight at my house, sit back, relax and be glad you're not married to me.
We have squirrels in our attic. This is worse than having birds in your attic but better than having say cobras in your attic. I saw one the other night when I went up there and of all his character traits, it was his arrogance that bothered me most. When I shined the flashlight on him he just kind of looked at me like, "what are you doing in my attic?" There was no fear, no trembling little tail or cute animal anxiety. It was like I was interrupting a teenager trying to text message his friends. After a few seconds he crawled into the insulation and disappeared.
Our friend Todd came and nailed the hole in our roof shut at a point in the day we believed the squirrels were out running some errands. Here, by the way, are two sentences you never want to hear from a handyman that is standing on your roof:
1. "Jon, I don't know why I'm able to stick my foot all the way through this hole."
2. "Your roof is just like wet cardboard up here."
We're getting that fixed soon. That's what happens when you become an adult, you have to spend your money on adult things. For instance, last Christmas our in-laws gave us a dryer. It's a nice dryer I'm sure, but those are the kind of no fun, all seriousness kind of things you spend your money on as an adult. I digress.
Apparently we have lazy squirrels because instead of being outside gathering nuts when we nailed the hole shut, they were inside our attic. Which means that for the last five days, they've been locked up in there without any water. I'm sure they stored some food but I have to believe that at this point they're getting a little desperate. Which is why last night we could hear them frantically trying to chew and claw their way through the wood in our roof.
That's why, on what would otherwise have been a sleepy Friday night, I decided to invite my two friends, Roscoe and Hucklebuck over to help me catch the squirrels. Those are not their real names but given the events to follow I felt it was wise to subtly disguise their true identities.
Things started out well. Roscoe is a missionary kid and was thrilled that I had a Masai warrior club from Kenya. He believed it would help us knock out the squirrels so that we could give them to a nice family out in the country with a farm so that they had plenty of land to run around on. You know the place, it's where your parents sent your dog to live after it bit the paperboy.
At around 11 at night we went into the thickly-insulated attic searching for the squirrels. They must have gone ninja quiet because for 20 minutes we didn't see or hear them. Suddenly though I saw a furry tail and an arrogant tail poking up over a clump of yellow insulation.
Roscoe dove in between the boards supporting the roof and began to swing the club. The squirrel got away prompting Roscoe to declare, "We have to sweep this entire area, cell by cell." I asked, "what's a cell?" He responded, "These little blocks of insulation between the boards. Lets call them 'cells,' it sounds better."
Meanwhile, Hucklebuck was anxiously texting a girl he wishes was in love with him. She's a cool girl with cool tattoos and one of those haircuts that looks bad on 99.99% of people but looks cool on her. She loves God, but not Hucklebuck. Suddenly I heard a loud ripping sound and Hucklebuck exclaimed, "Oh no." I looked down and could see into my bedroom.
As I did not previously remember being able to see directly into the attic from my bedroom I realized something was amiss. Hucklebuck's leg had slipped through. In a moment of distraction, brought on in part by an unrequited love, he had stepped right through my bedroom ceiling.
My wife did not see the humor in the moment.
We left the attic quickly, quietly announcing the squirrel as the champion of the evening. Well played squirrel, well played indeed. And downstairs in the kitchen, my frustrated wife stood against the sink with her arms crossed. I apologized and told her I would get my haircut.
At last once a year I think I should grow my hair long. I guess I believe it will make me look cool or smart or interesting or something. So for the last few months I have not gotten a haircut and my wife has started to barter with me. "Hey, don't you want some new Puma shoes? Why don't you get a haircut and buy those?" But I've held strong. Only last night, I knew I had to concede something. It's not like I could say, "Fine, I'll pay for it." Her money is my money is our money. So I did what I could and agreed to get a haircut. At Sports Clips, which costs about a nickel and feels good enough for my simple head. Meanwhile, my mom was in a tornado.
She was at a dental convention in downtown Atlanta, insert your own dentist joke here, and got caught up in a tornado. She was in the Omni Hotel and had to wait for hours inside while 130mph winds tore up the streets. I mention this because having her involved in the tornado helped take some of the heat off the "foot ceiling" incident which gave me enough time to realize where the whole night had gone wrong. Where, I had bought into one of the biggest lives of all time.
The lie is that, "I can fix me with me."
This is essentially the lie that tells you, you got into this mess, you get yourself out of it. You made your bed now sleep in it. It's the idea that when we cause a problem we are in charge of coming up with a solution.
And I don't think it's by nature a bad idea. I mean it's easy to see how the idea of being accountable and responsible for your actions and facing the consequences could get twisted into this idea. I believe all those things are good, but I believe we corrupt those ideas with our desire to be in control. To steer our own cars so to be. We really like that. That's part of the reason if you search "self help" on Amazon you'll get 151, 679 books. We dig the idea of fixing ourselves, of having a Rocky training in the snow with logs on our backs as we run alone and get in shape. We like to reinvent ourselves.
The challenge though, is that when we go it alone, when we try to fix ourselves with ourselves, we fail. Always. The problem is that we're standing too close to the painting of our lives to really see what it is. We need someone objective and honest that can really help us identify the things that need our attention and our effort. That's why when you get out of a bad relationship you'll say, "I didn't realize how bad things were" and your friends might say, "we did." They could see what was wrong. They weren't wrapped up tight in the middle of the drama and the emotion, they were off to the side, able to realistically look at what was going on.
And, we never do this in other areas of our life. You never get in a serious car accident and tell the ambulance driver, "Just take me home, not to the hospital. I got myself into this mess, I need to get myself out." No, you go to the doctor, you go to the emergency room. You ask for help from people that can help you.
That's what I did wrong with the squirrels. Our friend Todd is coming to do some work on our house and has animal traps. In about a week he could have caught the squirrels. But I couldn't wait. They had gotten in the attic because I let a small hole turn into a large hole. So I wanted to fix it. I wanted to be in control. I wanted to fix me with me.
But the biggest issue of all, is that ultimately, without God, I don't think long term change is possible. I don't mean you can't lose weight for the rest of your life or quit smoking or anything like that. Those are "this life" changes. I'm talking about eternal changes. Changes that extend further than just the 70 plus years the average American gets on the planet. I'm not talking about bandaging wounds, I'm talking about healing. I'm not talking about reinventing yourself, I'm talking about dying to self and living again as someone new and fresh and so clean.
I have a duct tape covered hole in the corner of my bedroom to remind me that I can't fix me with me. I hope it won't take a friend's foot and a gang of cocky squirrels to help you remember this simple truth.