I’m sporting an enormous bruise on my right butt cheek after gracefully slipping in my bunny slippers down the stairs on Sunday. Of course, I yelled, “OH, SHIT” during the THUMP BOOM CRASH, and of course all my children heard me, even the littles, and of course they all thought I was HILARIOUS except the lone child who wanted to know if I was OK and who is now my Official Favorite. I’d like to get t-shirts made for occasions like these – Official Favorite Child t-shirts – which I can distribute with pomp and circumstance and a huge ceremony and cake so I can mock the rest of my children better, since they never, ever believe me when I make mere verbal pronouncements of favoritism. “He’s not your favorite, Mom,” they say, sing-songy and puffed up with misplaced confidence. “We’re all your favorites,” they insist. Which… whatever.
I was 18 years old and headed back to college when I first learned my last words on Earth will be OH, SHIT.
I was driving my snazzy, navy blue Toyota Tercel hatchback alone from Colorado to Idaho, petal to the metal, man, when I drove off the left side of the road and over-corrected which sent me careening to the right and spinning out of control on the sandy right margin where I came to rest within a few feet of a cliff with no barrier, at which point I noticed the narrator in my car, coming off a prolonged and rather loud OH SSSHHhhhiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittTT, started in on the shit staccato: shit *breathe* shit *breathe* shit *breathe* shit *breathe*, followed by a whole lot of shaking.
Please understand, as soon as I caught my breath I was mortified by this entire situation because I was a nice Christian girl – a missionary kid, for God’s sake (literally) – and I attended a nice, small, conservative Christian college where I’m sure – positive – it’s written somewhere in the lifestyle agreement that our Last Words on Earth are not allowed to be Oh Shit or any derivative thereof. Yet there I was, about to approach the Pearly Gates with shit on my lips instead of a prayer or a confession or praise or thanksgiving or something – anything at all – more triumphant or sweet or … quotable… than an expletive, you know? And I couldn’t think of any way to prove myself less suitable for entrance to Heaven than bringing the shits with me.
This is not how I thought I’d give up the ghost, so unladylike and crass and gauche, and so I waited until I was in my late 30’s to confess to my father that I’ve spent more than 20 years coming to spiritual terms – and getting my explanation ready for St. Peter – for what will surely leave my mouth should I come to a sudden, accidental end. Which is when my dad – my former Marine / retired pilot / missionary father – said, “Ah, yes. Of course those will be your last words, sweetheart. In the aviation business, we call it the Shit Trilogy.”
“The what?” I asked.
“The Shit Trilogy,” he said. “We say it when there’s trouble in the air. Ah, shit… Oh, SHIT… HOLY SHIT and we hope to have a resolution by the end of the litany.”
And, I don’t know how to explain it, exactly, but the Shit Trilogy made me feel better. The idea that this is a common experience, yes, but especially the idea that even the most well trained and best prepared of us, well, sort of shit ourselves when we’re on the way down. Like, everything’s just falling apart and we’ve slipped on the stairs and we know we’re going to crash and burn and we’re not entirely sure we’re going to make it out of this one alive.
Like life, you know?
Like life with all the slipping and falling and crashing and burning.
My friend Abbie says crapballs a lot. My sister-in-law Kim just says balls. I usually try to keep my shits to myself but we can all see how well that works when I’m falling. And I used to spend a lot of time embarrassed – maybe ashamed – of how I acted and the ways I flailed and the things I said on my way down. But I’ve had a lot of time these 20+ years to think about my Oh Shits in the heat of the moment, and to catch my breath at the almost-crashes, and to feel the bruises on my butt when I fall all the way down, and to watch my kids giggle at their mommy and to see that her mistakes and slips of the feet and the tongue are just part of it. And I don’t know; I guess I’ve come to think that God, who I call Love, accepts the cries of our heart. Even – perhaps especially – the shits.