Dirty Work

Dirty feet
Dirty feet

“Don’t be ridiculous, Charlie, people love the parents who beat their kids in department stores. It’s the ones who just let their kids wreak havoc that everybody hates.”
― Christopher MooreA Dirty Job

When I was young, I married a right-smart looking young man that I met at a NA (sigh, the idiocy of youth) meeting in Athens, Alabama.  That cobalt long hair hanging over those sleepy Elvis eyes did me in–and I paid for it, in spades.  From eighteen to twenty-three, we played this game:

1.  I breathed wrong.
2. He busted me whop-side the head/neck/stomach/back/whatever
3.  I swore to leave and never come back.
4.  He showed up (occasionally, to the Emergency Room) with flowers, sugar-dusted promises and I agreed to give him another chance (to beat the immortal shit out of me).

Now, this ramshod dance through Alabama brimstone went too far one Christmas Eve wherein he crushed all my sweet almost-three-year-old baby’s toys with his Wrangler boot.  As she clung to his leg, begging him to stop cuz “Santy bought it to me,” something in my chest finally wrestled loose from its mores and steadied itself for some dirty work. That next morning, as he whistled in the shower, I ran a’fire into the woods and snow with a picture album, my daughter and (for reasons I will never fathom) the brand new microwave my momma had sent for Christmas.  We all survived the shotgun blasts, the threats and the unholy loss of community for leaving a marriage in the Christian South–but I am still learning that steps one through four lead to that same cold woods, ‘ary time.

I reckon this is NOT what Gran meant by putting your foot in it, but it’s close.

As a witch, I damn straight sense when some soul is poison, broken or just sick enough to infect all who love them.  But, like any civilian, that old I can change/save/love them outa that mess raises its blighted head just the same–worse, perhaps, on account of my knowledge of magic.  Now, I’ve taken steps to deal with this weakness.  What once was a “three strikes you’re out” rule has shortened to two . . . then one . . . but ‘nary a moment have I properly fooled myself.  I reckon I’ve finally figured the truth behind the truth of this redundant, life-sucking performance of steps one through four:

Political correctness.  And a smudge of Jewish-like guilt.  You see, iffin I’m sitting here on this rocker chatting with some soul on my porch and they outright lie to me: I wanna end it, then.  Oh, yes’m.  Right then and there.  Or if a good gather fire is spitting and humming and some soul hollers out some gay-bashing hate juice, I wanna get my gun and chase them all the way down County Road 158.  Or if someone (even close to me) hurts my family, destroys our community or commences to invoke any form of outright unsacred asshattery, I wanna ex-communicate the sorry dawg fast before any other damage can be done.  What stops me?

Political correctness and guilt.  And so, I enact steps one through four to prove to myself and the world that there existed no other way but to end the relationship.  About as redundant as as wiping manure off yor’ shoes before stomping in a chicken house, ain’t it?

Now, I’m not talking about a verbal slight, a perceived innuendo, or an incidence of common, reckless rudeness.  Those matters can be the unthinking result of exhaustion or misunderstanding and I fully support efforts to mend and maintain community fences.  Yet again, I reckon I’m talking about the very driving force behind the dissemination of healthy families, Pagan tribes and covens and personal relationships: the inability to stomach the “dirty job.”

Septic Maintenance, Beardo Style
Septic Maintenance, Beardo Style

Seems to be, we are too often complacent when the only one being hurt is ourselves–which is a fallacy, all day.  You ever notice what makes a salty dawg salty?  Wisdom, experience, time on the planet.  Been there, took that, not going through it again, right? Most salty dawgs have seen the err in allowing their own complacency in bad relationships play out: their children/community/career are damaged in permanent, unholy ways that do not justify their refusal to do “dirty work” early in the game.  My tribe has an interesting take on this: It’s all Love and Light until someone ends up in a cone.  My little girl is now working on twenty-seven and is forever haunted by snow and the sound of a paternal shotgun.  I’d call that a cone.

I have a dear friend, let’s call him Alan, who has struggled through steps one through four with a younger man.  Alan has supported his dreams, his habits and his hot little ass through more tomfoolery than any man should.  He has enacted kind forgiveness, examined his own soul, considered the situation from a fair and loving perspective only to end up on the singed end of the talking stick more than once.  And yes.  He loves the tomfool.  You all know this story, yes?  I mean, y’all this one could be your friend, your brother, the neighbor–sex has little truck in the party at the end of the day.  We are forever hung on our own cross . . . but if it is our own, we can climb off that bugger.  Make firewood.  Have a barbecue.  Hotdiggitydamn.

But it’s dirty, filthy work, ain’t it?

Yupper.  And that’s just what makes it worth doing.

You see, the question is: how much shit are you willing to climb through to “become” your truer self?  Are you really that tired?  Tired enough to miss that moment?  Mayhap. I know, for myownself, this moment has been one of outright anguish.  Loving someone, watching them shit all over the periphery of my friendships, my children, my faith and my hearth and home.  Knowing that the moment had come–and nearly passed–in which I could minimize the damage to everything I hold sacred.  Knowing that, in doing the “dirty job” that I had been called to do, my family would still suffer damage untold.  And knowing that Granma didn’t raise no fool, nor a coward, and chicken is only good fried.  My guilt was in letting the shit pile up, but how much more would I sit back and allow before the septic tank backed up?  Yes.  Everything comes home to roost.  I wanted that one to be a weight I could bear.

It was.  Still is.

You know, on Christmas Day we had a torrential storm and the tank did, in fact, back up.  Here we were, my three grown babes, a son-in-law-to-be, my three sisters (cackly witches, they are) and my hot-ass hubby all hunkered down under a tin roof porch with little sleep and too much fudge and no potty in sight.  Now, I’d like to tell you that I speculated on the universe, or sang carols, or was any kind of awesome.  But I wasn’t, ain’t gonna lie.  I was all butt-hurt over the ambiance and one spoilt chile not loving his gift.  And a nasty hangover.  And a righteous case of the runs.  (Um hum.)  So, somewhere around midnight, I whined to my two still-standing sisters  that this was the worst Christmas eva.

Ahem.  As my daughter likes to note: “First World Problems,” much?

There you have it.  Shit everywhere.  And my friend turned and said to me: Really?  Cuz it was my best.  

Yup.  I’m an asshat.  Seems that I was wallowing in shit, quite on purpose, and not swimming towards clean waters.  Small story, I know, but here’s the thing: I had carved out all the rotten, septic, foul places in my life but forgot to swim.  What if Andy (my personal hero in Shawshank Redemption) had stopped halfway down?  Laid down and made bubbles in that putrid journey?  Well.  We wouldn’t have had a sailboat, would we? Naw.  I needed a good spanking that night.  And not the fun kind, either.

So.  My New Year’s resolution?  Hmmmm.

Stop enacting steps one through four.  If it’s smells rank, flush it before it backs up all over family.  Get yor’ dirty job gloves on and get ‘er done.  Keep a little bacteria in the tank to eat that mess when it builds up.  And if all else fails: pump the tank.

Life is too short and sharp to blow bubbles in shit.  Swim.

16 Comments on “Dirty Work

  1. Just as I was considering the heavy weight of my looming “dirty work”. Thank you for inspiration and clarity! Time to flush…

  2. ‘You see, the question is: how much shit are you willing to climb through to “become” your truer self? Are you really that tired?’

    Word.

    Or, as Mike Ditka once said, “In life you get what you tolerate.” If you tolerate it in your life, you’ll get it.

    Best wishes for 2013 to you and your nearest and dearest.

  3. I learned (in a relatively short period of time) to no longer hear words that don’t cause my very acute instincts to tingle. I only pay attention to deed and action. That approach to dealing with humanity in all of its arrogant, precarious, fragile beauty has really helped prevent shit swimming on my part. Well, that and my absolute need for sunlight on my face at all times. Either way, absolutely amazing what we are willing to put ourselves through when we’ve accepted the ridiculous notion we deserved our damnation. My daughters were the only lights that made realize the sun was indeed beckoning for me to follow.

  4. The 1-4 comes in so many forms… may we continue to believe in our true self so the shit just becomes good manure…

  5. Wow, I know just the person who needs to read this! Somehow, your posts are timed perfectly for me, or people I know. All the best to you in 2013 and beyond, Seba.

  6. I am finding it helpful to remember that there are always at least 3 people who need to be considered when we`re talking about the receiving end of asshattery. There`s the person who came before. If that person had a bit more backbone then the asshattery could have stopped with them. I have found that most small time dealers of shit fold once confronted by either truth or a superior force.
    The second person is me, the guy about to feel the effects of what continued to roll downhill and slam into folks below person #1. The question now is will I sidestep this ongoing problem or stand my ground and push back?. You don`t really think the crap that`s about to land on you is a single isolated event do you? The sources of this shit only continue to produce it because nobody up to this point had the intestinal fortitude to say “ENOUGH !” and back it up.
    The third person to be considered is the one who will be forced to feel the consequences if you do nothing. Chances are they will be feeling something even worse than what you are feeling now because these sewer rats are all about escalation and making the people around them pay for their shortcomings.
    So grab you favorite tune up tool, get your mind right, put on your game face, and let the asshats know that as long as you`re around the game will be nothing but real from now on. The trick is to convince both yourself and them that you know how to swing that “clue by four” and when it connects it`ll hit nothing but the sweet spots.
    I believe you`ll be amazed how quickly they get on down the road.

  7. What a great post. I’ve been thinking a lot on these issues, particularly in terms of Pagan community building but also just in terms of my own life. My steps 1-4 seem to have a half-life, every time I go through the wringer on this, my steps to cutting it out of my life get cut in half. I suppose there are some places where I’ve found I’m willing to put up with more shit because of the potential benefit. Case in point being, I put up with a tremendous amount of emotionally abusive behavior from a former partner because he and I were also partners in community building work, and I saw that he genuinely wanted to serve. I thought if he could get out of the way of his own shadow, if he could actually heal his issues, he would be an amazing community leader, and a powerful force to help others out there who were going through some of the same issues he had. I have seen powerful wounded healers before.

    But truthfully, if I’m going to make a guilty admission, all my high-minded ideals and values around giving him a second chance are great, but at the end of the day, it was my fear of being lonely that was the ultimate kicker every time. That’s the shadow that lurks in my corner, and why I put up with a lot of the asshatery that’s not good for me.

    I will say that the experiences of betrayal I’ve experienced in the past years have finely honed my radar. I now have a pretty good ping on someone becoming involved with my community. Or, on a more personal note, someone that I’m considering dating. People in general, I suppose. I’m not qualified to diagnose personality disorders, but I can get a pretty good hit on whether someone’s going to be that minor annoying nuisance in the group who won’t change their behaviors, or someone who’s just going to cause major problems over and over.

    Given that I’m clergy, after a fashion, I do feel some obligation to help the less fortunate. I don’t really have a “three strikes” specific policy, it’s more like, I’m willing to let someone screw up once and see what happens. I’m not going to kick someone out of a group just because I think they might be a problem. And I suppose I need to see the nature of the screw up in order to derive a proper response. If it’s someone who I think is perhaps just really shy or unsocialized, I am going to work with them a little bit, see if I can help them out. Chances are it isn’t going to work, but I’ll put a little bit of my energy into it. Gods know I was shy and awkward when I first started attending Pagan events.

    But I’m a lot faster to identify when someone is going to be a problem in the group. And yeah, it is dirty work excommunicating someone from a group. And it is often shit rolling downhill; that person’s just going to join someone else’s group. And there are local group leaders I have a good relationship with that I can send along a “red flag,” and there are other group leaders who would perceive that as malicious gossip.

    Having the direct conversation with someone is really hard, and I guess I don’t need step 1-4, but I do need the .5 to prove that it’s not just me overreacting/being too judgmental, but that there is a clear problem. I suppose that’s the boundary I’m willing to negotiate, because while I’m ultimately prepared to do the dirty work, it’s still important that the people I’m working with understand the necessity of that kind of dirty work. The example I’ve often used is, do you want to cut the cancer off when it’s in a toe, or when we have to cut off a whole leg? No matter what, there’s always an impact asking someone to leave your group or full-on kicking them out. I think that there’s ways to mitigate it, but it sure as hell is never clean.

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