Wednesday, September 11, 2013


There is a spiderweb stretching across the outside entryway of our new home. Between the steps and the front door, several long threads go from ceiling to floor, barely visible. I have locked myself in and am doing my best to out-survive them. This is a siege, but I am smarter than they are. I have lots of food stocked up.

Because we moved from less than 500 square feet to something over three times larger, there are a lot of things we need--washer and dryer being one of them. (Though by no means the most urgent: I am currently writing perched on the bed with my laptop on a stack of boxes because I have no desk, and we watch movies propped up on pillows because we have no couch.)

The lack of washer and dryer coincided the other day with the proliferation of dirty linens used to pack dishes, and I decided it was Laundry Day and I was going to the laundromat. All of my independent existence has been lived out in apartment complexes with laundry rooms on site, so I have been to a laundromat three times, but they're not one of life's difficult things to learn. There's a fun sort of feeling in going to the laundromat, surrounded by everyone else and their underthings, and everyone is washing and waiting and drying and waiting and folding, together.

I packed up both big baskets with whites and darks. I bleached the grey cover of what used to be a white chair (and hopefully will be again) for a couple hours and shoved it, still wet, in a trash bag to bring along. I paused at the front door checking for webs, then dashed out quickly with all my burdens and loaded up my car.

Off to the laundromat. I don't know town very well yet, but I remembered the directions perfectly and arrived safely at the laundromat. As I removed the baskets from the car, I realized I can only carry one at a time, so I'd have to come back and get the darks in a minute when the whites were in the wash. But where's the detergent?

I left it at home, of course. Sigh. Sitting in front of a glass-fronted laundromat wondering what the attendant is thinking, I repacked my baskets overflowing with laundry and approached my car door. (Later I realized she probably could have sold me some--oh well.)

This is where I stopped. Stared. There was a large (but not huge: dime-size, not quarter-size like the ones in the garden) spider moving in skittish circles across my door. His movements were jerky, and as I stared at him, I feel like the DVD of my life has a scratch and keeps skipping. He's fast and sudden.

But I'm bigger, right? I'm faster, surely. My shoe has larger surface area than he can cover in the amount of time it takes for him to notice and react. I could do it. I could.

If I had the nerve. I took my shoe off and got a good grip on it. Now the laundry attendant was really getting a laugh, I'm sure: there's a lady outside with her shoe off staring panic-stricken at her car.

I couldn't get in and drive off because it was my driver-side door. The spider and I were at an impasse. Finally when I worked up the nerve to smack him (spider guts on my car! agh!), he lunged in unison with me and I smacked the car while he glided gracefully to the ground.

I was too nervous to jump over him into the car, so I ran around to the passenger side and hopped in, hoping that he stayed on the ground and didn't jump back on my car before I drove away. I pulled out into the road, trying not to hit cars, accidentally putting my automatic into Neutral then into Drive-3 before I get it into Drive and zoom off. Phew. I made it. I hope.

I got home and opened the garage door with the clicker. I'd rather brave the spiders in there than the spiders by the front door, because the ones in the garage have so far been smaller-bodied. Eventually I worked up my courage and jumped out of the car, slamming it shut and stepping back quickly just in case--but there is no spider on my door. Thank God.

I grabbed my laundry and ran under the daddy-long-legs above the door into the house. Originally I was going to get the detergent and go back to the laundromat, but I was too traumatized by the spider on my car and too humiliated by the whole ordeal to go back now. I locked myself inside and sat down to eat dried apricots and read.

Reading is my go-to stress-release. I've been listening through the Harry Potter series on CD,* first on the drive across country and now while unpacking. I remembered that I liked those books, but I forgot how much I love them. They've kept me so engaged that I spent 7 hours on my feet unpacking the kitchen (20+ boxes). Never spend 7 hours standing barefoot on tile: your feet will NOT thank you. But if you have to stand on tile flooring for 7 hours, listen to a book-on-tape while you do it.

Despite the soul-stilling pursuits, or maybe because of them, I am aware of a little ball of stress way deep down inside of me. It is hidden down there very well and I can only catch glimpses of it. I am that sort of person: the person who stuffs it down. I don't do it on purpose; in fact, the only reason I'm aware of my stress-stuffing is that I'm also one of those people who are constantly gazing inward inspecting themselves in close detail. I do this too much, and then I write about it, which is probably not a good thing, but people keep reading it anyway. I glimpse the little ball of stress I've stuffed down there, and I know that either I will manage it and eventually wear it down or at some point it will come up to the surface.

There's really not much I can do. Stress is a natural state of life sometimes. You just can't avoid it. Like when you move. This is not a sob story. This is life. This is what moving is like. We've been here a grand total of 7 days and there are so many things to do and spiders apparently in the way of every one. When I flushed the toilet my first day here, a spider suddenly appeared riding the water down the drain flailing his little legs helplessly; he had apparently been hiding under the rim and got taken by surprise.

We're at the beginning of a move-in, and nothing is ever right during that time because you have a house but it's not home yet. Stressed doesn't mean you don't have good things in life; it means you don't have a routine. You can be happy and still be stressed. It just means you haven't found equilibrium. It's the mind and body's way of helping us slow down enough to find that routine we need.

Maybe that's why I stuff the stress. Because it's not important in the long-term. It's not what defines my life right now. I may have a meltdown or two, because I believe in letting your emotions out and sometimes emotions just peak over the "frustration" indicator. The sooner those little bumps in the road are dealt with, the sooner we can get back to the essential point: adjustment. We are getting used to spiders and having a bigger house. We're getting used to new people and a new culture and a new town. This isn't a shocking experience for me; I went 500 miles from home to go to college. I'm not worried that things won't turn out, because God's already proved himself. I'm just worried about inconsequential details that aren't to my liking and which appear to my wide eyes like omens of doom--Beware, Shelob Cometh.**

Stress is about the little things. Stress happens when we lose sight of the big picture and focus on the details that aren't working out. It's like drawing a picture and fidgeting about how one of the lines isn't straight. The best pictures aren't perfect; it's their imperfections that make them beautiful. It's the things you don't draw, the things you don't say, the things you can't express--those things are the most amazing. The big picture--now that is amazing.

After a spider-filled, stressful day, I needed the break and the book. The next day, there were no spiders in the entryway, no spiders on my car--in fact, only one spider that I saw all day, and he and I kept out of each other's way, so I didn't mind him too much. That next day I watched the sun rise into a blotchily fogged morning while I did my morning rituals. I went to the laundromat and had my laundry done by 9am. I got errands done. No spiders.

Stress is something temporal, here today and gone tomorrow. The things we fear are as ever-changing and unpredictable as the rest of the natural world. Something like 87% of things people worry about don't actually happen. All stress does is distract us from what God is doing and the beautiful things He's placed in the world.

*If you're ever able to, you have to listen to at least one of the Harry Potter books on CD/tape recording. The reader, Jim Dale, is superb. He makes the story come to life more than the movies do.
**I would be more afraid of Ungoliant than Shelob, but they're both pretty bad.