It was wrong
We had decided to stain the diminutive cedar fence Minwax 203 — Early American. Two months into Covid-19. We conscript the kiddos into “family time backyard improvement project.”
We parents have, at the very least, a different opinion as to the right way projects should be done, if only in the categories of attitude, efficiency, and quality.
At least a half-hour after we told them they would be done, but still at least a half-hour more, before any reasonable estimate that we might be done, we dismiss the kids.
I ponder Emmett and Annie’s future memories of their childhoods.
Five minutes later we discover a display of their displeasure—the middle picket of their row. Unstained.
“They knew it would annoy us.”
“The unresolved completeness.”
We continue staining.
I enjoy playing house with Jane.
“What do you think? We’ll have enough for the rest of these ones, but not enough for the backs that still need it?”
“Yeah. About that.”
“Get some more?”
“I’ll call around.”
One local hardware store tells me they are not taking orders. The phone is for contactless pick-up of prior orders only. No new business. ACE is open, and they go the extra mile and look on the shelves. They have only two 8-ounce cans in stock. We are a quart or more shy.
My local Kroger market app advises that they have quarts in stock. $8.59. Minwax 203 — Early American.
I find my mask and gloves and bike to my guess as to the least-trafficked entrance—the one next to the garden department.
My mother introduced me to the phrase ethical fatigue—a combination of ethical exhaustion and decision fatigue.
Ethical exhaustion—related to decision fatigue—is the tiredness caused by all of these micro-decisions that didn’t used to be moral queries and now are. Choosing to wear gloves and deciding if it is moral to go to the supermarket when I don’t really need to didn’t used to be issues of morality.
Compassion fatigue—the diminishment of compassion for others—arises after feeling empathy for suffering for so long.
Doing the right thing isn’t fun.
Not doing what I want when I want is tiring.
Something wasn’t right
I enter carefully avoiding a stray toddler on my way to hardware.
The app was wrong. They don’t have Minwax 203 — Early American on their somewhat-empty shelf of varnishes.
I think to myself as I crest the hill coming home.
“Something here just isn’t right.”
“The supermarket has empty shelves where the peanut butter used to be.”
“I have to keep track of when we need toilet paper so I can buy it when it’s available.”
Something is wrong. But, what is wrong isn’t what is wrong.
There is nothing wrong with empty shelves and prioritizing the safety of the larger whole. It might not be super fun to wait for things and the litany of ethical decision exhausts.
What is wrong is thinking it was right
It was wrong!
It’s not wrong that I can’t get Minwax 203 — Early American on any day that I want it.
Wrong is expecting I should be able to get everything when I might want it.
The Quieter Lesson
Maybe the birds in my neighborhood are louder.
Or maybe I’m noticing them because everything has become quieter: me, my family, my neighborhood, my city, my state, my country, and my world.
I chide spiritual seekers, “Perhaps the answer is not going to be found by shouting, God, what should I be doing? Perhaps you’ll hear better if you get quieter.” (They always already know what (the) God (of their understanding) thinks they should be doing.)
So, as all of us have had some time to listen, let me ask you a question:
- Were the pandemic to end right now, what lesson do you fear you might not remember?
What I’ve learned in this pandemic and am afraid that I might not remember were it to end today is only related to what I touched on in this article.
The lesson that I’ve learned—and I worry that I might not incorporate into my life—is to not rush.
“There is more to life than increasing its speed” – Mahatma Gandhi
When we do get that quart of Minwax 203 — Early American, I endeavor to leave one of that pickets unstained.
Hopefully, when I’m in the yard listening to the birds, it will serve to remind me this lesson of Covid-19: rushing needlessly; it was wrong.
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