One thing I do not miss about high school is taking a perfectly good classic novel, reading a diced up version of it printed in the lit textbook, and then listening to teachers drone about the protagonist, antagonist, rising conflict, denouement, symbolism, blah blah blah. I get that literature has levels and meanings and significance, but I am of the persuasion that good books should be more like experiencing the theater and less like watching a grueling surgery. Oh, the details! Oh, the intended meanings! Oh, the headache!
I was thinking about this as I prepared dinner this evening. I recall that every story falls into a central conflict: man vs. man, man vs. society, man vs. nature, or man vs. self. As I think about the novel of my life, the tale that is spinning out effortlessly each day and is only recorded in glimpses of my blog and pleasant memories of my children, I come to think that there is a conflict that has not been written. Oh, yes, the conflict of my life is woman vs. house.
Take my kitchen floor, for example. I sweep it faithfully after each meal. I swiff it weekly, hand wiping the sticky spots. I mop it occasionally. And despite the fact that I feel as though that broom is attached to my hip, my kitchen floor usually seems to resemble the bottom of a hamster cage. (I have actually contemplated the idea of going with more of hamster cage look, spread some wood chips around, change them out every few weeks, maybe a newspaper lining? Spills are soaked up, no sweeping, though the possible side effect of flies and rodents has deterred me from taking the plunge.) Why can’t it stay clean? I think it’s because it’s my enemy, the protagonist that is seeking to conquer me.
Oh, it is a sneaky enemy. At times, it will stay clean for weeks, causing me to sing with delight and do crazy things like volunteer to host play dates…and dinner parties…and game nights…all on the same day. It (this tricky house) lures me into a false sense of control, peace, stability, and then suddenly I walk into the living room to find every toy dumped out, the bookshelf emptied, dust accruing like grains of sand, strange sticky spots on the floor that I cannot ID, and raisins…everywhere. And faintly I hear a laughter, it starts quietly and crescendos to a sinister “Bwa-ha-ha-ha!” It is my house, mocking me.
It does have allies, namely my children, who seek to undo all that is done. Instantly. And they are good at it.
Still, I love my crazy house. It is daily proof that I am fallible. It is a constant reminder that I do not have things together. It is my shining example of God’s grace to bring order to my chaos and joy in the tumult. And, no matter how it hates me, it cannot deny that I picked some fine colors for it’s walls.
Perhaps it is a metaphor for myself: so much I like about me, so much I loathe about me. If I could just get it all pulled together I know I could make it spotless…oh wait, that is not true. (Metaphors???? Oh sheesh, the novel isn’t even written and I am exposing it to literary criticism. I apologize to you, possible-future-novel, and also to you, possible-future-high school students forced to read it and attempt to sympathize with the prosaic plight of the modern housewife.)
So laugh away, little house. Maybe someday I will write my novel and astound the critics with this new conflict. Though I would guess for many of you it is not a new conflict but the story of the ages.