by Rebecca Lynne Fullan
I’m waiting. This winter, I submitted nine PhD applications. Six schools have said no. The other three—I’m waiting. Every day I go through a little ritual of nerves. I make a special effort to check the mail before I am actually going out the door, so I don’t have to carry around a rejection letter in my purse the whole day, should one come. Then I’m in the clear ’til I get home at night, at which point I check my email, wade through the offers to enlarge my mythical penis, and, if so directed by some school, click on various links, enter pins and passwords, and hunt around for the letter that will tell me whether to brush away my good and bad fantasies of that school from my mind, like lint from pants. Then it’s time to move on. And I often do. Charlotte and I watch TV, and I usually have to write blog posts or one-act plays or various hypothetical stories.
But I’m waiting.
I’m waiting for Lent to get off the ground. I usually like Lent. I like having an ash cross-smudge on my forehead and looking around for the other people who have one too. I like remembering not to eat meat on Fridays. I like coming up with righteously healthful things to give up: one year it was “procrastination.” When I’m particularly lucky, I like doing a Passion Play with fellow students—but this year I’m not a student. I haven’t gotten my Lenten cross with candles down from the closet. I put together a rice bowl, a pretty box you fill with money and then bring back to church at Easter, but I haven’t put a single coin in.
I’m waiting to find out if the health care bill passes, and who is coming to visit for Easter. I’m waiting for the day when I am not afraid that I am not good enough or that my future will be a parade of large ambitions transforming themselves into small failures. I’m waiting to figure out what I’m doing with my life—my academic life, my work life, my writing life, my giving life, my spiritual life, my whole life.
“Just a little longer,” Charlotte tells me, “have faith.”
On my way to work today, I found my inner voice calling on God as I have not in some time. “God,” I said, “I trust you. Show me your path for me.” My mental voice fell flat. “Give me the courage,” I tried again, “to choose one of the many, many paths I see.” At work, I went into my classroom and opened all the windows. I looked around the room, and began to see more ladybugs than I have ever seen in my life. There were ladybugs all over the floor. There were ladybugs on the windowsills. There were ladybugs perched on the blinds and ladybugs on top of each other in weird little piles and ladybugs flying through the air to hurl themselves repeatedly against the florescent lights.
What the hell? I thought. I saw one crushed ladybug over by the side of the table—I must have stepped on it before I noticed them all. Movement around the room became a little dance. Yes, my foot can go here, no, there is a ladybug there, yes, no, no, yes. I forced my two students to sit on the same side of the table so we wouldn’t all be constantly dragging our roll-y chairs over prime ladybug territory. In the middle of explaining parallel structure or misplaced modifiers, I would take this slightly panicked, bizarrely maternal inventory of the rug—there was that ladybug and that ladybug, but where was the other ladybug?
“Stop,” I said to one boy as we went over the Spanish subjunctive and conditional tenses, “if you move your chair an inch more, you will kill a ladybug!”
At some point it occurred to me that these ladybugs were God’s to take care of, and this was a very pleasing thought, lending me courage in my ladybug-preserving efforts.
At the end of the evening, I was waiting for a bus. As is my wont, I pulled out a book to read by the light of illuminated advertisement on the side of the bus shelter. Right on top of Crime and Punishment, there was a ladybug. I opened the book very carefully. The ladybug crawled about on the pages. I carried it all the way home, and then sat the book next to me on the couch, and the ladybug sat on top of it.
When Charlotte came home, she saw it right away.
“I don’t think it’s doing so well,” she said. “It’s not moving.”
“It’s fine,” I said, urgently sharing my new-found observational knowledge of ladybugs. “They like to just sit in one spot for a long time. It’s content. It came home with me.”
I volunteered to deposit my ladybug on the window ledge, since we were unsure of our abilities as ladybug keepers. I carried Crime and Punishment to the window, and coaxed the ladybug onto my thumb. Then I lay my hand carefully on the ledge and waited, and waited, and waited. I was determined not to give it a rough ride by shaking it or shoving it. Finally, slowly, it took delicate steps onto the ledge, and walked on, like ladybugs do, and I waved and said goodbye, like humans do, even when we know the other party cannot really understand.
“You’re a good steward of ladybugs,” Charlotte said.
But I’m waiting with ladybugs, now. And, like all the ladybugs, everywhere, I am God’s.
Maybe that is enough.
Rebecca Lynne Fullan is so tired, tired of waiting, tired of waiting for yooooouuuuu. She hopes all ladybugs and people are safe in the city tonight.