It was a great idea born out of not being able to leave the house safely. We had been warned that the worst blast of cold air was coming, and if you stepped one foot outside, you better have your funeral arrangements in order.
You don’t take your chances with a windchill forecast at almost 60 below. We were making history, they said. With that announcement, the frantic rush to the grocery store always comes, and as I don’t panic, I watch others who do. I just happen to pop in, and I forget we are on the verge of the world coming to an end. Again.
If it’s not a meteor ready to scrape up against the globe, sending us spinning off the axis, it’s the ice age resurrecting itself that will for sure this time put us into deathly hypothermia and kill us all.
I have seen things in stores that I often do not understand when we are on red alert, like the lady in the spaghetti aisle grabbing every jar of sauce while wearing multiple black trash bags. This was to ward off the virus when it first began.
I think there may have been some time spent on the internet researching what germs may or may not adhere to. She was on the cutting edge of an unknown scientific fact, I’m sure. It definitely wasn’t to create a fashion statement.
I felt guilty taking the one I did. She wasn’t in the organic section, but she eyed me from afar as if I was stealing, with sweat on her brow.
I walked away from Darth Vader, hearing the sound of her plastic wardrobe crunch with every move she made. I wanted to tell her to hang on to that for when we experienced a cold snap again. Make it versatile for pandemics and artic freezes.
Once you get past the hunting and gathering portion of the impending doom, and you know you will be inside, you start to think of those chores you have not gotten around to. Tasks that you push aside because no one will ever know if you did it or not, except the people who live there.
I used the oven, and someone, probably me, had the unfortunate mishap of a piece of food falling on the burner below. Every time it got hot, smoke would start to roll out. It caused me to look further and see that not one of us had taken the time to attend to it.
With it being so cold, I figured why not turn on the self-clean cycle and let it do the work while I buried myself under a million blankets?
I had to look online to find the instructions as the owner’s manual was long gone. Once I shut the door and set it at the highest setting, I walked away to live a life of polar vortex luxury.
As long as the furnace kept up, we were secure. I figured with the stove going at its highest heat, it would help the house stay warm. I had done this in the summer one time, and it caused the air conditioner to be on the whole time it went through the process.
I thought I was being so bright this time.
Until we all couldn’t see each other over the black haze that suddenly started filling the entire upstairs, and the smoke alarm went off.
My first inclination was to open the oven door, but it has that safety feature where it locks until it cools down, so a crazy person trying to open it can’t. Someone at a drawing board had thought this through. I guess it was so that I wouldn’t burn off important parts of myself.
There will be a person who needs to open this, and we have to make it so they cannot do that for their own good. Let them inhale the smoke instead. That’s much safer.
The next thing to do was grab a dishtowel and try to get the loud blaring sound to quit. If this was going off in the dead of night, that is one thing. But, this was not an emergency that warranted the alarm. So this life-saving device was now just annoying. Once I got it under control, I knew I would have to open up windows.
“I cannot believe I am doing this!” I said to the two people who already think my ways are a little off.
One of them puts tags on my Christmas presents that say: To: Danny Tanner.
The dad from Full House who has this weird cleaning obsession on the show.
There are crucial moments with your kids where you just know they live their lives trying to just get past your dumb ideas. And, it was so apparent in their eyes as they watched me frantically claw to get fresh air in. The air that most wanted to keep out and we had been warned about to avoid.
I heard the furnace click on, and the smoke alarm went off again. We were freezing, breathing in cough-inducing fumes. But, the oven was the cleanest it had been in a long time. Whatever had been burnt to a crisp in there was long gone. Looking back now, I probably wouldn’t make that same decision.
There are other situations such as that one that I would not ever repeat, like being in the sun with no protection on my skin. When I was younger, I gave it no thought. You learn as you go, and when you fall asleep on your stomach while floating on a lake, it helps you to understand why that was not a good life choice. Food isn’t the only substance that can become scorched.
It wasn’t so bad right after I woke up and went back inside. It was that night when I was unable to move without a billion needles going through my whole back. Just moving my toothbrush across my teeth was volcanic.
My mom had a lotion that she attempted to rub into the area. With her hands. On my skin. Not a spray from halfway across the room. No, it had to be applied by her rough, calloused hands all over me.
“Chris, just stand still. I need to put this on you. Why did you stay out there so long?”
These were the questions that I never understood when she asked me. My lips were too cracked to even answer.
“My face hurts,” I said, barely able to speak.
“It hurts me more,” my dad said as he came whipping by, laughing. Never helpful.
The worst part of the healing process was when that area was accidentally exposed to sunlight too soon after. It was instant pain. Or if any type of noun touched it. Like bed sheets, clothing, anything. It all was excruciating.
The next part was gross as my body shed off all the dead skin. I flaked everywhere I went as a reminder that I had made a bad mistake.
Years later, I had a few moles removed because they claimed they were precancerous.
“It must be from that time you spent too much time in the sun,” she said.
I had taken sunblock seriously after that. To the point of getting the highest SPF possible. Still, I have always had this slight paranoia that it might happen again when I least expect it. You just don’t forget the experience of a charring session like that.
I have found that the same can be said for an emotional torching as well. When you have been through a situation that has been difficult, but you make it, anything that comes close to reminding you of that time makes you want to run away, just like finding shade to not inflict more hurt.
I cannot go through life avoiding the sun completely. And, really, it’s not the light’s fault. It was the amount of time I spent in it which caused the damage. I then had to learn how to handle it differently and not let history repeat itself.
That is what boundaries are for. You know those things that you put down to make it clear that you won’t put up with certain things happening in your life anymore. Maybe you figure out your value, so you don’t want to be around people who don’t see you as God does.
Another thing that happens is you start to see those pieces of yourself where you still struggle and need God’s help. They are there to remind you that you spent too much time being fried. And when you feel that familiar uncomfortable feeling, it is time to acknowledge it and address it. It’s better to bring it into the daylight.
When something triggers a bad memory, that is not the time to run and hide, but to give it to God so it can be taken care of. Like this from Psalm 34:18:
If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;
if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath. (Message)
I slept through my sunburn. The difficult part came later when I had to let my skin re-establish itself. I had to take precautions, be more mindful and let myself regenerate to live without suffering.
Whether it is physical or mental, this same treatment can be applied after the burn.