Happy Eggs & Bunnies Day.
2014 marks my year of celebrating the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ with the coloring of hard-boiled eggs and an exchange of plush wildlife.
In my childhood, the family celebrated the this occasion by donning whimsical hats, bickering over wardrobe choices, and taking awkward photos while holding stuffed animals in garish plastic baskets filled with plastic grass. We children then proceeded to eat ourselves sick on jelly beans, marshmallow rabbits coated in carob, and sugar-covered gelatin chicks. (PEEPS!) No chocolate bunnies for us. Allergies. We never ate the hard-boiled eggs, either. We colored them, we decorated them, and our father, the only one in the family who could safely ingest them, enjoyed a week of hard-boiled artificially-colored tastiness. I have never forgotten how delicious those eggs looked: glistening white, marbled with pastel lines where the dye had seeped inside during the soaking process. Beautiful.
My mother painted blown eggshells with enamel, and I always marveled at how she could create delicate flower shapes in festive spring colors with only a few dots of paint. Every year we picked a new branch from the yard to serve as the egg display. The combination of dead wood and colored shells from dead baby chickens somehow symbolized the return of life to the world. (No, really. Don’t judge. Is a male rabbit laying eggs any less confusing?)
It’s funny, the things you remember, and the things you forget.
The Easter rituals listed above were either followed or preceded by the excitement of the Family Egg Hunt. I can’t remember which came first, the baskets or the eggs, but I vividly remember the lecture I received when I located too many eggs and did not let my siblings have a chance. Or else I didn’t find enough, and tantrums occurred. Possibly both, in separate years. Egg hunts were traumatic. I had to play by rules, and I had to play nice, and even if I won, I had to give up my winnings.
To this day, I remain uncomfortable with my own competitive drive. Friend and opponent are mutually exclusive emotional niches in my psyche. Anything that involves a score is a war. To paraphrase Yoda: “Win or die. There is no fun.” Even if the activity is not, strictly speaking, competitive, I will make it so. Working in a group to plant a bunch of flowers is not competitive, to use a random example. I’ll still catch myself comparing speed, trying to accomplish more than anyone else. Breathing, blinking, out-doing. It’s reflexive.
The years have given me a better understanding of the worser angels of my nature. Experience has taught me to embrace the passion that accompanies the will to win. It leads to accomplishment. I finish what I start, and I’m not afraid to start new things. Failure motivates me to hit harder, dig deeper, climb higher. To fight. I love a challenge. I love the rush of success for its own sake. The trick is keeping a leash on the monster.
I draw the line at games. Watching other people compete soothes the savage streak without feeding the beast. Give me a card game, and I will sit fascinated by the intricacy of strategies and odds as the cards fall, and I will love every minute of banter and bidding. Deal me a hand, and I become a surly, snarly hyper-focused bristling all-out antagonist.The choice is easy.
There’s comfort in remembering, now and then, that this is not a new struggle. I am fighting a good fight that began in my formative years; I have always been a pit-bull perfectionist with hair-trigger attack reflexes and no sense of proportion. Even when it came to eggs and candy.
Is it a warning sign that I refer to my own personal development as a fight, with a potential for victory or defeat? Yeah, probably. What can I say? This is going to be a lifelong fight.
(Psst! Let me tell you a secret. I’m going to win.)