Pull Up Your Pants and Answer

You whine about how busy and fine and underappreciated you are. Then you look in the Book of Job where he’s sadly scratching his scabs, everything gone but Missus Job who only drops by to offer some lemony advice, if you can even call “Curse God and Die”  a piece of advice.

Anyway he’s whining  like we all do until THE LORD shows up and puts a few questions to him.

“Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?” he begins. Then you picture him thinking “this little pipsqueak?

“Gird up now thy loins like a man,” God says – pull your pants up in other words – “for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me:

“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? Or who hath stretched the line upon it?  Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened, or who laid the cornerstone thereof when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? (What an image! ah!)

“When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddling band for it, and brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors and said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?

“Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days, and caused the dayspring to know his place that it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it? … Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? Or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?  Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? Or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?  Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? Declare if thou knowest it all.

“Where is the way where light dwelleth? And as for darkness, where is the place thereof, that thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, and that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof?  Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? Or because the number of thy days is great?

Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? Or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?

By what way is the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth?  Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder to cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man; to satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth?

“Hath the rain a father? Or who hath begotten the drops of dew? Out of whose womb came the ice? And the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?  The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen…. Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart? Who can number the clouds in wisdom? Or who can stay the bottles of heaven, when the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together?…”

Well, there’s more. We all know there’s more. I just thought it might be nice to quote it maybe because I didn’t get to church yesterday. 🙂

Anyway I love it. 

I also totally identify with what Job says in response, which is “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee, Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”  

Been THERE all right, haven’t  you? I know I have!

Stupid Stupid Person

Most regrettable thing I ever wrote? Easy. Summer of ‘93, a column about self help meetings. It started this way:

“Once, only old guys with thinning hair and pinstripe suits went to meetings,” it said in paragraph two. “Or fat ladies in hats. Or members of Alcoholics Anonymous.”

I positively cringe now at the sight of this glib targeting. I mean Old guys with thinning hair? Fat ladies? People in recovery, for Heaven’s sake? 

Here’s how this gem of a column started:

“You know the TV ad where the dressed-up woman says she’s too busy for a yeast infection? Well “What is she so busy WITH?” you might ask. Meetings of course! These days everyone goes to them. Pick up your local paper and turned to the community calenda,r as I am doing now…..”

I then went on to list some actual meetings, adding my own supposedly humorous details: For the Mothers and Sons Group, for example I wrote, “Thursday night’s topic: “Should You Still Be Making His Bed” and “How About With Him Still In It?” For the Body Image Group: “This week’s theme: I’m Okay (But Your Head Is Growing.”) And for the Women in Menopause Group I had two topics: “There’s No Flash like a Hot Flash” and “Making Rage Work for You.” 

I even made light of people with compulsions, as when I had an OCD support Group taking on both the topics (1) “DID I Turn off the Stove? and (2) “Counting Cars”.

But my real low point came when I got to the meeting of the Mild Head Injury Group, joking “What meeting?” “Is there a door to this room?” and, almost unbelievably “Duh.” 

Well THAT DID IT for one reader who having seen the column in her local paper, called the Editor to demand I be fired, and then sent a long denunciation of all my work to the Publisher. She called the piece “toxic tripe” and ridiculed especially the fact that I said “no offense intended” near the beginning: “It takes an irresponsible hypocrite to say ‘no offense’ before dishing out abuse about those suffering loss and crisis, and victims of crippling accidents.”

She also she led by calling me “Jabba the Hutt in espadrilles” which really threw me. 

Still, as stung as I felt, I knew I had to sit down and write a letter of an apology, which I did. Then, “Case closed.” I told myself. “Move on.”

Tick tick tick….

Then three years passed and one day a letter appeared in my mailbox complimenting me on a column I’d done about Cosmo the fashion magazine. The letter was signed only with the writer’s initials but I recognized them; and the return address; and even the type-face.

When I wrote back to say thanks for the kind words I added a spur-of-the-moment postscript: “I know this is you, M.” I said. “And I’m still sorry for what I did.”

And then and there this stranger and I began walking down a new road together. I changed and she changed and we became friends.

This story served as my column last week. I promised there to tell the rest of the tale in seven days so stop by again on October 11th for the rest of the story as Paul Harvey used to say,