It started with the clothes washer.
Life with seven people in a house gets pretty crazy with the washer broken. If it had stopped outright, it might have even been easier, but instead it decided to work sporadically until I found myself in the ridiculous state of pleading, begging the washer to function. "Mom, you do know that it's a machine and it can't hear you." The hope that it was just teasing me, being fussy or pouting was kind of evidence of being a mom, I'm thinking.
But see, the thing is, I hate laundry. It is constant, and annoying, and BORING! Of all household tasks, it is on my list of least favorite. However, when my washer broke, suddenly I learned there was something I could hate more than laundry - no laundry.
And the greek tragedy curse on my house was only beginning.
By the day after Christmas, the dishwasher had broken and flooded the kitchen, my iPad mini had been shattered to oblivion, our computer crashed, and finally our garage door broke, stranding my car inside (luckily my husband was at work so his car was free).
Throughout it all I have been reminded of the folktale of the unhappy man and the wise woman:
Once there was a man who was poor and unhappy because he felt that his little cottage was too crowded with poor relatives and his own family. Overwhelmed, he sought advice from the local wise woman who told him to bring his goat into the house. He was frustrated by this bizarre instruction, but he complied. Still he was unhappy. Returning to the wise woman, he was told to bring the chickens into the house. This pattern continued until all of his livestock was living crammed into the house along with the people, and life became intolerable. Then, one by one, the wise woman had the man take each animal out of the house until he was left exactly where he started. And he was happy.
While I wasn't exactly miserable like the man in the folktale, 2013 was a really rough year around here. Our generally upbeat optimism had, admittedly turned defeatist spiked with a healthy dose of self pity. It happens. Even when we realize it's all first world problems. And even though we find regular enjoyment in abandoning tech to go backcountry in our beautiful mountains, living contemporary life without some of those conveniences is a WAY different experience and is very similar to the analogy of bringing the livestock into the house.
Since this all happened at Christmas, we couldn't afford to fix everything. We had to live with much of it for quite a while. Then, one at a time, we got to take the chickens out of the house. Then the sheep. Then the pigs. My husband watched Youtube videos, bought the part & fixed my washer. With 5 kids, after not being able to do laundry, suddenly my previously complained about mountain of clean laundry was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen! Every time my garage door opens, I feel like shouting "FREEDOM!" like I'm in Braveheart. And here I finally sit, blogging it all on my repaired computer, which had its very first task of typing up a 5th grade science fair project as soon as it was plugged in.
The dishwasher is still broken. The goat is still hanging out in the house. Oddly enough, I'm not in a huge rush about it. It probably would have made me SO angry and unhappy to be washing dishes all day long just a few months ago. I would have been all, weeping and wailing and whoa is me about the frustration of it. But now, it is such a minor inconvenience.
Like the man in the folktale, I'm only back to the place we started (not quite, with the dishwasher still out, but close!) - the place where I was frustrated and borderline depressed with my life - and yet in some bizarre way, having so many things go wrong, and life get complicated - that same starting place becomes a blessing. It's the classic "taking things for granted," or "don't know what you've got until it's gone" that there are so many platitudes for. And I plan on remembering. And being grateful.