verb, plural -bos, -bing: to consciously alter the truth or personal destiny.

Adjective, Informal: to make the best of a situation, to change reality through positive thinking.

Pronoun -bology, formal: the study of Wumbo and the human condition.

09 February 2010

He-She-Me, Wumbo.

My toddler was laying on the couch, a fraying afghan pulled up to her shoulders. She banged her head as she sang her own version of the "SpongeBob Square Pants" theme song. She sounded more like a drunken sailor than a sweet, toe-headed little girl child, but she happily garbled the words around her soft pink thumb and smiled at me. "SpongeBob" keeps her busy for a half-hour at a time. 

Although I felt a pang of guilt, the kind that chides me for babysitting my child with a television set, the overpowering need to get something productive done around the house overrides the nagging voice. I have made peace with sacrificing a handful of my child's synapses in return for a cabinet full of clean dishes or a pile of neatly folded laundry. 

As long as she's not watching "Paranomal Activity" or "Girls Gone Wild", I figure she'll be okay. I'll balance out my woefully inept mothering later with some A-B-C flashcards.

The chorus of the opening sequence fades away as the title of the SpongeBob episode flashes on the TV screen. Even though I'm fairly certain she can't read yet, my daughter still kicks her feet in delighted excitement, burrowing deeper into the couch as she laughs manically with her hand over her mouth. 

I tune out the cartoon easily enough, busying myself with hunting down and banishing every tiny choking hazard I can  find on my hands and knees. There is no more effective way to find all the fascinating albeit inedible bits of junk on my floor than to do it from a crawler's point of view. I've been meaning to do it sooner, since in the last few days I have dug leaves, cat food, toilet paper (unused, thankfully), gift wrapping ribbon, corners of diaper wipes (also, thankfully, unused) and cardboard out of my youngest child's mouth.

As I scoot around on the floor, half-listening for the happy sounds my 10-month-old baby makes when waking up in her crib, the dialogue on the TV catches my attention.

Patrick (a starfish wearing hawaiian shorts) and SpongeBob (a sponge with a snappy collared shirt and necktie combo) are trying to figure out how to work a superhero belt. A closeup of the belt shows hundreds of tiny switches and knobs, and a large blue "M" that serves for a buckle. SpongeBob has been inadvertantly shrinking his friends with one of the buttons on the belt. He's trying to figure out how to un-shrink them.

Patrick: "You've got it set to 'M' for 'mini' when it should be set to 'W' for 'wumbo'". Patrick turns the 'M' upside down so that it looks like a 'W'.

SpongBob: "Patrick, I don't think 'wumbo' is a real word."

Patrick: "Come on, you know. I wumbo. You wumbo. He, she, me wumbo. Wumbo. Wumboing. Wumbology, the study of Wumbo! It's first grade, SpongeBob!"

SpongeBob: "Patrick, I'm sorry I doubted you."

Patrick: "Well, alright then. Let her rip!"

SpongeBob aims the belt, now upside down, at his friend. Green and yellow lights engulf Patrick, shrinking him to the size of a pickle. I guess Wumbo didn't work out for the now miniaturized starfish.

That doesn't mean it won't work for me.

The art of Wumbo is a simple one: when the answer is unclear, in the face of uncomfortable truth, at the mouth of the yawning chasm of the unknown---find a way to make it work for you. When it starts working, believe it with every fiber of your being. Even if your quest to find the silver lining means denying the fact that it's raining, Wumbology requires a Pollyanna outlook on life. The downpour may leave you cold and wet, but you just got your clothes washed without any effort and absolutely free of charge!

I find myself practicing Wumbology in my everyday existence. In fact, we all use some degree of Wumbo in order to survive. It's a skill that enables the user to tailor the facts of their life to fit into their expectations of it. 

In the study of Wumbo, I have declared myself a doctor of Wumbology, a practitioner of Wumboing. I've developed a self-preservational denial of the things that I don't want to intrude into my own carefully crafted reality.  It works so well that I can take the unexpected (sometimes unchosen) paths in my life with a smile on my face. 

When life gives the Wumbologist lemons, we make orange juice. 

When you Wumbo yourself into a corner, there's nothing left to do but wrap your feet with sticky-side-out packing tape, make like SpiderMan,  and go but up.

Wumbo is wonderful.

Sometimes, however, things can't be Wumbo-ed. A carefully strung together web of Wumbo can tangle, the wisps of half-truths and out-right lies weaving themselves into knots that can't be undone no matter how nimble the fingers or how dedicated the effort. It is at this juncture that lemons become sour, a sudden rainstorm leaves you with pneumonia  or your spouse gets orders to a new Navy Base less than two years after you arrived at the first. 

It's the moment that the Wumbologist realizes that she really is the size of a pickle.

My attention drifts back to SpongeBob. He has realized the folly of Wumbo and panicked, shrinking every single inhabitant of his small town and putting them all into a pickle jar. The Non-Wumboers in the jar stage an uprising, literally exploding out of the jar to attack SpongeBob with tiny fists and feet. 

A moment of clarity strikes, SpongeBob exclaims, "I've got it!" and holds the super hero belt out in front of him. With the "W" aimed at the town, he shrinks all of the buildings that make up Bikini Bottom. Then he turns the Wumbo towards his face and smiles, saying "Cheese!" and pressing the button to shrink the last "normal" sized inhabitant. He immediately drops to the ground, the same pickle-size as the rest of his friends. 

"What's the difference, right?" one of the townspeople is overheard saying.

It was the truest moment of Wombo, the  purest definition of Wumbology: even the physical intrusion of reality could not damper a sunny disposition. When the limitations of the situation no longer supported SpongeBob's reality, he simply altered the definition of normal until he could resume his happy, wholesome, undersea life. 

Now, faced with all the possibilities of the unknown, I choose to make like a sponge and Wumbo. I will take the boundaries that define my life as a woman, wife, mother, Doula and writer and rearrange them as need be, until I can be satisfied with my work. 

I will Wumbo 'til I thrive.

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