There has been plenty of sympathy coming my way, and the Contrarian has worked his tush to the bone trying to keep me mobile so that I could carry out my personal agenda.
Once again, I was reminded, as I have been through most of the season, that when it comes to disasters, I’m getting off quite easy. Travel to Haiti, Chile, the East Coast of the US, and well, most anywhere in Africa, and let’s compare notes. I think I fare quite well.
I’m reminded of a joke the Contrarian likes to tell. Some years ago, there was a flood in Cedar Rapids. Not nearly as awful as the recent one of two years ago. The Contrarian was living in the city at the time, and the Gazette asked readers to send in their stories of personal tragedy from the floods. The Contrarian quickly wrote off his and sent it in. Much to his chagrin, nobody published his distressing tale of his sock drawer being swollen by the humidity and not closing properly.
Well, my woes have been significantly greater at times, but my reaction has been over the top a good deal. Mostly, I’ve given some version of “Calgon, take me away!”
From time to time, I’ve seen stories about victims of much greater disaster and I’ve reminded myself of my “relative” ease. That happened yet again yesterday, when I saw on Oprah (I know, I don’t care for the woman, but my alternatives have shrunk to Dr. “how’s that workin’ for ya?” Phil, and The Price is Right ).
Anyway, Oprah had the woman who had been attacked by the chimpanzee and had had her face destroyed. She unveiled for the first time. It was awful. Most of it will not be corrected ever. She is blind, hand-less, and cannot eat anything but liquefied food. Yet, she survives, and has desires and plans for the future.
I wondered. When does an epiphany actually take? When does the aha moment, the transcendent point in time, actually work? When do I (this is my confession after all), actually change my life as a result of my horror, shame and guilt at moaning over relatively minor inconveniences? When do I stop implying that I’ve been let down by somebody or something. When do I stop feeling life is unfair to me?
Time and time again, some one suffers a life threatening incident, and relates that they have a new lease on life, a new take on life, a new reverence for every moment. No more sweat the small stuff for them. Does it take? Is it life changing? Really? Forever?
Or is it just me, who is profoundly shamed and determined to do better, only to “forget” all my new found meaning within days? hours? For it seems to happen again and again.
As I watched this woman struggling after having nearly every single aspect of her life destroyed or altered in permanent ways, I once more felt so guilty of feeling sorry for ME. I determined to do better. Will I? I have no idea.
I’ve withdrawn from my church ministries, realizing that the Contrarian was beating himself up trying to get me to church on Sunday and all the other days I had meetings or ministry. I do disservice to him since he does all he can, and I do worse disservice to my church because I am simply not reliable at this time. That’s a step to reassessment perhaps. A step to reclaiming my life as it is, not as I would have it.
Remember, the wise saying that life is what happened while I was planning how I wanted my life to be. It’s true. Fair or unfair, this is the hand I’ve been dealt, and it’s a life millions would give everything they have, to have. I have books, a computer, tons of yarn, a husband to laugh and share everything with, pets who adore me (most of the time), beautiful sunsets and warm crackling fires to ease the pains of age. I eat well, sleep comfortably, and have plenty of diversions. I can pray, and read and study. I have use of all my faculties and limbs.
I am trying to remember that it’s not all about me. The weather is not all about our mud problems. It’s really about whether thousands will be forced from their homes by water that will destroy their belongings–all of them. It’s about people who don’t have food, and clothing, and shelter. It’s about people who die from lack of health care. It’s about kids who turn to the wrong things because they have no future that seems worth working for.
I don’t know if this time it will sink in or not. I don’t know whether I’ll change or not. I hope I do. My selfish adherence to me and my needs and wants and all that is tiresome, and frankly embarrassing to accept in myself.
I am in my meadow, and I am living here today. I offer this not as the “hopefully, there are others out there like me.” I deeply hope there are not. I offer it by way of confession, and hopefully that will induce a determination within my heart. Are you listening God? I’m failing, and only you can grace me with hope for a better me. Amen.