Monthly Archives: October 2020
I’m 83 and a widow living alone. I’ve recently had some health issues and had become depressed. But then I read a post called: “Choose Joy.” So, when I looked out my window at the gray day, I focused on the gold and violet pansies hanging there, savoring their rich colors, the contrast that speaks to me of the marriage of joy and sorrow, remembering their velvet softness, valuing their resilience in cold gray weather. I looked around me in my warm bright study, at a cork board of cards with beautiful pictures of birds from caring friends, a picture of daffodils that are my sign of hope, a picture of Jesus holding a child and laughing, a favorite one of my husband laughing with that sparkle in his eyes, our wedding photo with my family, my loving sons and daughter at various stages of their lives, my brother and his spouse Rick, who treat me like a princess when I get to visit them, me smiling just five years ago in a Cathedral in France. How blessed my life has been. How blessed it still is. The quiet joy of peace surrounds me like a comforter. And a tiny bubble of joy rises within me. Yes, we can choose joy!
I taught first and second grade in a four room Catholic School in a small country town. On Fridays the parish priest came after lunch to teach religion to my class.
Halloween was on Friday my first year there and since we were having a party after the religion class, I conspired with him for me to come bursting in dressed and made up as a witch, screeching scarily. I didn’t think to warn anyone else.
It seems I am a very scary witch. When I slammed open the door doing my witch thing, it set off a panic. Some children dived under their desks, others knocked over desks trying to get into our fully stuffed supply closet, and one or two even climbed up on the windowsills. Every child was screaming at the top of their lungs.
Their older brothers and sisters immediately fought their way out of the other class rooms to rescue their screaming younger siblings. They totally filled the central hall blocking the other teachers (and the principal) in their classrooms.
For a few moments it was total chaos!
Then order was restored, no one was hurt, the children were calmed and consoled. And my class forgave me, because all the teachers called it quits on classes for the day, and we had an extra-long Halloween party.
I wonder if now that they are grown, do the children remember and laugh? Or do they still have nightmares of their teacher turning into a witch?
Choose joy. Choose it like a child chooses the shoe to put on the right foot, the crayon to paint a sky. Choose it at first consciously, effortfully, pressing against the weight of a world heavy with reasons for sorrow, restless with need for action. Feel the sorrow, take the action, but keep pressing the weight of joy against it all, until it becomes mindless, automated, like gravity pulling the stream down its course; until it becomes an inner law of nature. If Viktor Frankl can exclaim yes, to life, in spite of everything- and what an everything he lived through — then so can any one of us amid the rubble of our plans, so trifling by comparison. Joy is not a function of a life free of friction and frustration, but a function of focus — an inner elevation by the fulcrum of choice. So often, it is a matter of attending to what Hermann Hesse called, as the world was about to come unworlded by its first global war, the little joys; so often, those are the slender threads of which we weave the lifeline that saves us.
Delight in the age-salted man on the street corner waiting for the light to change, his age-salted dog beside him, each inclined toward the other with the angular subtlety of absolute devotion.
Delight in the little girl zooming past you on her little bicycle, this fierce emissary of the future, rainbow tassels waving from her handlebars and a hundred beaded braids spilling from her golden helmet.
Delight in the snail taking an afternoon to traverse the abyssal crack in the sidewalk for the sake of pasturing on a single blade of grass.
Delight in the tiny new leaf, so shy and so shamelessly lush, unfurling from the crooked stem of the parched geranium.
I think often of this verse from Jane Hirshfield’s splendid poem-
So few grains of happiness
measured against all the dark
and still the scales balance.
Yes, except we furnish both the grains and the scales. I alone can weigh the blue of my sky, you of yours.
From the Blog: Make Believe Boutique- the Post: around the bend
Standing in the line to vote, I’d brought my rolling walker with a seat to use if standing long brought on pain. Three different poll workers kindly asked if I’d like to go to the front of the line. I said no, because I could sit down any time I needed to. They noticed the woman behind me with a bandaged foot and asked her the same. She also said no, there were chairs every six feet. She and I began to chat about the challenges of aging and life in general right now. She shared some difficulties, but then recounted with a light in her eyes how they had turned out to bring about some good changes in her life. I reacted with delight, recognizing grace and a faith we shared. We bonded there in a line, six feet apart, with masks. It was one of those blessed moments of connection. We parted reluctantly after voting and as I drove away I realized from other things that she had probably voted red, while I voted blue. But I also realized that she went back to her life reaching out in love to those familiar faces whom she understood and trusted, while I went back to reaching out to unfamiliar faces, with lives so different from mine. Both of us doing our best to help others and to share the faith that saw us through the hard times.
The problem with a political solution is that it doesn’t take into account that we are born with very different personalities. And though as we grow through stages of life, we can become stronger in undeveloped aspects of our personality, there’s a timing to the process that isn’t under our control.
I once wrote an article called Aliens in the Nest after recognizing how different I was from either of my parents and how different my five children were from one another and at least one of us, their parents.
It takes grace to love across these differences. It takes both time and grace to develop strengths in our weaknesses. What we can handle with the grace of faith now would not have been possible for us at an earlier stage of our personal spiritual development. God gives us grace for the moment.
We cannot force others to be where we are. I keep coming back to the importance of realizing with heart and mind that I and all others are loved completely at our worst, but are also still unfinished at our best. Legislating for others, no matter how strongly we feel and even if we ourselves would with grace be willing to sacrifice our own life for what we believe, doesn’t work. Our call is to help others find that love that frees us all to grow and risk and accept suffering and die knowing we were loved at each stage of our journey.
“Everything is energy including our thoughts and feelings. If strong and focused could they create reality?”
Maybe we help create what we focus on with either peaceful/kind or angry/violent thoughts and feelings. Maybe in times of national or world wide conflict we even effect the weather? What if when Jesus said we sin if we even look at others with lust (or hate?), he knew we effect all kinds of things with just our thoughts. I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of thoughts and feelings that if acted on would put me in jail. Maybe I’m harming not only my own body, but together with others unwittingly creating havoc on a much larger scale? I have learned that resentment really damages my body. And I have experienced incidences where my forgiveness, even unexpressed, has freed the person I forgave at the time I managed it. Humanity, including in our understanding of both Scripture and the science of nature, as Paul told us, sees through the glass darkly. There’s more we don’t understand about nature, ourselves, and God than what we do know. Maybe like Jesus told us, it’s what’s going on inside us that needs cleansing, not just what we act out.
Maybe we are like children playing with electricity, unaware of its power.