Warning Signs

If you were a warning sign, what sign would you be?

I’d most definitely be spontaneously combustible. Spontaneous combustion occurs when substances with low ignition temperatures begin to release heat through oxidation, fermentation, or some other means.

(I definitely am at higher risk of combusting when fermentation is involved. Any sort of alcohol will do, for “wine is a mocker and strong drink a brawler,” as it says in Proverbs.)

When a low-ignition temperature substance begins to heat up and the heat can’t escape quickly enough, the temperature continues to rise, eventually reaching the ignition point. If enough oxygen is present, BOOM! Houston, we have liftoff!

Besides spontaneously combusting humans, other materials most likely to spontaneously combust include haystacks, grain dust inside metal silos, coal, boiled linseed oil, and pistachio nuts.

Clearly, giving me pistachio nuts for Christmas would not be a good idea.

I never was combustible when I was younger. I clearly remember the first time I ever lost my temper: I was 21 years old.

Since then, I’ve spontaneously combusted on numerous occasions. My particular brand of combustibility doesn’t always involve anger, but it does involve passion. I combust most predictably upon moral provocation, a crusader at heart. This sort of combustibility makes me a good public speaker, an excellent advocate, an above-average writer with cause, and a mother not to be trifled with. Astrologers have told me that my combustibility has something to do with how Mars, the war-like planet, is placed in my natal chart. One told me that shocking things won’t happen to me; I’ll initiate them or draw them to myself.

In other words, I’m no victim.

My combustibility, my passion about principles, irritates even me sometimes. I’m big on principles until I’m the one violating them, and then I like to look the other way and not notice myself acting so abominably. Like a baby who disappears under a blanket in a game of peek-a-boo, I think that because I can’t see, I cannot be seen.

I’d like to be perfect. Failing that, I’d like to be flawed in an artistic or mystical way, like Van Gogh with his missing ear, or like some saint whose stigmata require constant bandaging. Instead, I’m flawed in a bitchy way and cannot imagine myself being less bitchy as an old woman.

I’ve regularly asked God, “Why didst thou make me thus?” for I would not create a person as passionate as I unless she had some Great Calling, such as leading France to victory in the Hundred Years’ War, or refusing to stand up and move when told to go sit with the colored folks, or sewing the first American flag. I’ve had no such calling, so find myself pretty useless as a personality. Like one of my favorite bloggers who remonstrates with herself for her relational forgetfulness and lack of interpersonal connectivity, I find myself fatally flawed in the most inconvenient way.

Now that I’m all grown up and have suffered enough to have some perspective, I do see some merit in being myself, though. My personality is one of the best I can imagine for handling the sorts of things I’ve had to handle as a mother and a wife. I’ve done a good job in those roles, although I doubt I’ve endeared myself to anyone as I’ve done them. I’m no Olivia Walton, that’s for sure.

When I see myself at my worst and most inconvenient, I want to apologize to my loved ones for being me. If I were a nicer person, I probably would seem saintly. As it is, I’m a confusing mix of big-hearted and pig-headed, hearth-warmer and arsonist. I wonder what people will say about me at my memorial service? What, in all honesty, could be said?

She was passionate, she was pig-headed, she was a true Taurus, charging her way through life. She did everything she wanted to do but wasn’t proud of it. She was good and kind, but she wasn’t very nice.

She was spontaneously combustible, dangerous around alcohol, haystacks, and pistachio nuts.

I think that would about cover it.

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