Is it time for a virus scan?
Several weeks ago, our computer caught a nasty case of the flu. The CD roms coughed. The keyboard wheezed. The internet connection ran a high fever and no amount of cool compresses, soothing words, or repeated rebootings brought any relief. Finally I was forced to call in a computer doctor, one of those guys that earns his $75 per hour by calming down the parents of the ill apparatus while quietly diagnosing, treating, and inoculating the victim of the virus assault. I watched in awe as Bob, the computer guy, pulled pieces off his key ring – literally – that he injected into the card slots, some of which I didn’t even know existed, and bring my computer back from the brink of death. I thanked him, clapped him on the back, and if my husband hadn’t been in the room, I might have kissed him full on the mouth. But the subsequent act of writing the payment check could arguably have made the aforementioned kiss an act of prostitution. Bob showed me the two new virus protection programs he had installed and said that I should run system scans on a regular basis to clean out the adware, the malware, and all the other parasites that stealthily worm their way into my hard drive and make the software turn into pudding. One of those programs is called Spy Sweeper and the other is called Ad-Aware. That day when Bob ran those two programs, they discovered over 500 various little invaders, all of which were making life in the Fast Lane of the Virtual Superhighway slow to nearly a standstill. Once he quarantined and deleted those little rascals, I was up and running again. Every couple of weeks since then I have run those programs and nodded my head in pride as a mere 8 or 10 additional attackers are laid to rest in the junk heap of would-be computer killers. But last week I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. The Ad Aware program offers various types of computer scans. The default setting is for surface scans. The next one on the list refers to a deep scan. Always looking for an adventure, a chance to push myself to a higher level, I decided to go for a deep scan to see what might surface. There were 283 enemy soldiers who had infiltrated my fortress and were ready to synchronize their watches and attack my poor unsuspecting and unprepared files, folders, and beloved first drafts of various writings I’m working on. Two hundred and eighty three of them! I was shocked, horrified, angered, and enormously grateful for having gotten below the surface and done a deep scan. That got me to thinking: it’s easy to go through life with the occasional surface scan. I go through a few carefully selected commandments and check off the boxes: Nope, haven’t killed anyone today. Nope, no stealing either. I’ve told a few lies but those were related to the kids and whether or not I’ve bought all their Christmas presents, so those don’t really matter. No idols on the mantle in the family room, and no acts of adultery to report this week. I love my house, so there isn’t much coveting of the neighbor’s houses, wives, husbands, or asses of late. Whew! I did pretty well this week. But when it’s time for a deeper scan, that’s when the real dirt floats to the surface. Have I loved my husband, my children, my annoying neighbor with the weird tic, my neighbor’s son who teases my son mercilessly, and the woman I know whose claim to fame is complaining about everything – am I loving them as I love myself? Am I extending a helping hand to those who are in need even when I would rather be helping myself to a warm bath? When I have been slapped in the face by critical family members, by complaining children, and demanding friends, when I am ignored, insulted, and silenced, do I turn the other cheek or prepare to make use of the Tae Bo kickboxing drills I have so religiously practiced for the past two years? How often do I bother to do these more probing, painful, revelatory deep scans? Not often enough, that much I know for sure. Sometimes I need to call in experts (who can be described as anyone flown in from out of town…) to do the work for me. There are a few people in my life whose honest critique both stings and stimulates. Amy pushes me to find new perspectives on old controversies and encourages me to keep writing in the silences and thinking out loud. Karen gently nudges me in the direction of reality when I am unreasonable in my familial demands and stands behind me when I am falling backwards in my marriage and in parenting, pushing me along the road less traveled: perseverance. Antonio listens to me recount the times in my life when I want to pull the parachute cord and escape from the battle altogether. He reminds me that the road is long, el camino dura toda la vida. Struggle, la lucha, is expected. Without the struggle to break free of the cocoon, the butterfly’s wings would never be strong enough for flight. Maria always prays blessings over me, not that I am blessed for she knows that I am richly blessed, but that I will bless others in all I do, say, and think. Others fill my email box with journaling prompts, reading suggestions, and pointed questions that prevent me from getting stale and telling the same tales over and over. It’s much easier to live on the down low: to live a double life where what appears on the surface is fine and upstanding and noble. But when the sun goes down, when the night is dark and no is watching, all kinds of bad things happen. Thoughts are dark. Deeds are darker still. Fears surface. Random acts of sarcasm, selfishness, and superiority become the modus operandi. But when the sun rises again, when those deeds of darkness are brought into the light, when the fears and lies and broken promises are exposed, then I see who I really am, what I’m really capable of, and I run that deep scan, that attic sweeping, basement organizing, extermination program of introspection, quiet reflection, contemplation, and prayer yet again. I quarantine the culprits, eliminate them, and start with a newly repaired, cleaned, and rebooted hard drive. As I continue to meditate on what this Thursday is supposed to represent, I continue to discover reasons to give thanks. Today, I am thankful for Bob, the computer guy, Ad Aware, Spy Sweeper, and for the new ways in which I see my life, my faith, and my friends in the light of a nearly fatal computer crash.