For What It Is
Thursday, February 9, 2012Tweet
Once a month, on Wednesday night, I attend a prayer shawl ministry meeting at church. We knit shawls for those who need a physical reminder that people are praying for them, and we talk.
Usually it's me, a 90-year-old woman named Phyllis, a 75-year-old woman named Shirley, and occasionally a wildcard, one of the handful of women who show up a few times a year. Every month, Phyllis and Shirley have the same conversations. Not so much with each other -- Shirley glides from one topic to the next, and if someone tries to respond with a similar experience of their own, she'll say, "Yeah, no, that wasn't what happened here..." and repeat the story. We've yet to have a meeting in which she didn't tell me that Mike looks like he's 16. Phyllis spends most of the time in her own world and then will suddenly start talking, loudly interrupting whoever's talking. It's truly exhausting.
But for what it is -- a chance to keep up with my knitting, if only for an hour a month; to do something good for someone in need (even if it takes me several months to finish a shawl); to listen to old ladies talk and be grateful for my youth and my health and my living husband -- it is enough.
On Thursday nights, I have church choir practice. Most of the time my friend comes, which makes it more bearable and fun, even if we don't have much of a chance to talk. Our choir director drives me nuts because he rarely wraps up rehearsal before 8:30 even though choir practice "ends" at 8:15. It's not like we're rehearsing the whole time -- he goes off on long tangents about music theory, always saves the brand-new music for the very end, and has the most irritating habit of asking us whether we know a song already, getting a resounding YES from the choir, and deciding to go over it anyway. And then sometimes I sit next to this older woman whose mind is mostly gone; usually there's at least one time every rehearsal -- and at Mass every week -- when she gets momentarily angry at me for no reason.
But for what it is -- an opportunity to be singing again after 8 years of choir and then a 7-year break; to be greeted every week by genuine smiles and warm welcomes; to giggle with my friend over how dramatic some of the women can be; to praise God with my voice and not have to worry about overpowering the singers around me -- it is enough.
Although I do believe in taking small actions to increase your happiness, I am reminding myself that there is a mental part as well, a part that perspective and attitude play in making the most of what you have.
Nothing about life comes to you in a perfect package. My marriage is everything I could ever want, but we still argue sometimes and Mike still frustrates me sometimes. I have a job that I love, working with and for people I love, for a great college, and yet I have to freeze my butt off every day.
And so even in the most ideal of circumstances, we have to make some sacrifices and live in the brokenness of life. I've had to come to terms with the fact that immersing myself back into the Catholic/Christian community where I used to thrive means dealing with some prejudiced, misguided, and even downright ignorant people. Putting a focus on maintaining friendships means accepting that some friends aren't going to put in the same effort that I do. Digging farther into the good things in life inevitably means turning up bad things as well.
The question is: For what it is, is it enough?
Is there enough good in whatever you're doing to focus your mind on the positives and let the negatives flow past you?
What you're exhausted and beat up at the end of the day, are you satisfied? Are you happy? Are you going after the things that bring you joy? The things you feel called to do?
Life doesn't have to be easy to be good. In fact, it will never be easy. But through a combination of positive attitude and determined action, I believe you can still "suck out all the marrow of life," to quote Thoreau.
Sometimes I get so focused on the obstacles, the speed bumps, the things dragging me down, that I forget that this road I'm on is the one I want to be on. That the things on the horizon are the things I want to be moving toward. That by and large I'm spending my times on things I want to be doing.
What are your speed bumps, and what's on the road for you that makes it worth it anyway?