Situation Normal…

Thorne Taylor Kinsey, c. 1942

There are phrases in the English language that have come into such common usage that we don’t even think about them as representing anything but their current meaning , but they started out as obscene, racist, or just vulgar:

  • That sucks. Used across the social board. My daughter and her friends frequently employ this one. She’s 13 now, and might have some sense of its origins–her class is a dirty-minded lot–but she started using it at the age of eight.
  • S/he’s a jerk. I looked it up, and it doesn’t seem to be where I thought it was from. It’s a railroad term, from the phrase “jerkwater town,” meaning a small town where you have to pour the water for the engine yourself. I guess a jerk is someone from a jerkwater town.

And then there’s the military acronyms:

  • FUBAR: Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition

And the one I’ve been working my way around to. It works as a mantra when I let it, reminding me not to grasp, to hold onto things lightly, to not be attached to outcomes:

  • SNAFU: Situation Normal, All Fucked Up

My dad was a scout in the Marines, in the Pacific in WWII, and my sense from the stories he told me was that what was normal–in battle, in training, even on leave, with the crowds of men under 30 under the influence of large amounts of alcohol–what was normal was chaos. For better or worse, Dad seemed, in retrospect anyway, to hold it all with what ranged between resignation, to humor, to wonder. He did not come out of the war unscathed, physically or emotionally, but it’s my sense that it was SNAFU–the acceptance and even expectation of things turning out contrary to any plan–that allowed him to come out of all of that hell as undamaged as he was.

My week has been SNAFU, and I feel fine. Turned down by the last of the CPE programs that I applied to, no current work with my consulting practice, an accumulation of small technical struggles, and some family stuff. But on the other end of the Scale of Unexpected Things, I had a great connection with someone in the palliative care field, and that could turn into an out-of-the-box pathway to chaplaincy. There is paid work on the horizon, and I still have invoices outstanding from reputable clients. The family struggles are annoying, but we’re okay. I saw my first client as a hospice volunteer this week. And Thus Passes the Glory of the World.

I am blessed. My spirit is whole at this moment. It would be good for me to get back in the habit of prayer. Because, you know, SNAFU.


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