I have a penchant for dwelling on the negative. I am not uncomfortable sitting…nay….wallowing in my feelings. I can throw a mean pity party for myself. Don’t judge me. You’re invited. BYOK (bring your own kleenex) We can play all the sad songs and get really deep in it. Do you want to hear the traumas chronologically or alphabetically? Let’s go.
It’s a tough balance, you know. I was definitely raised with a “power of positive thinking” mindset. As the lyricist Propaganda says, “Self-sufficiency dies hard, right? But when rightfully humbled, God shows up in burning bushes.” All the positive spin in the world does not make the tragedies of my life somehow OK.
Yet, there is goodness. I know it is just as important to process the good as it is the bad. If we stop to notice the clouds, we sure as hell better stop to notice the sunshine.
This intentional practice of gratitude is something I used to do. In fact, in high school I used to fax a list of day-brighteners to a friend out of state and she would fax her list of day brighteners back.They were very everyday sort of things—the little things that make life worth living, you know? Warm chocolate chips cookies, the cute delivery guy who dropped off the package this morning, finding five bucks in my jacket pocket, the sunset. But, I have fallen out of the practice of counting my blessings.
(Speaking of…do you know that 19th Century Protestant hymn? “Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings see what God has done….” If, for a moment I am still enough, I could hear my grandparents singing it.)
It’s this balance, you know.
It’s holding two opposing things in tension. It is acknowledging both are true. Also both are necessary—at least in the terms of my sanctification. My life is hard. The crosses are real. The grief is palpable. The daily grind is exhausting. I never know if I am succeeding or failing miserably. I am alone. These things are real.
Also, there is grace. There is contentment. There are friends who show me more love than I could have ever dreamed would come into my life. There is laughter that is every bit as genuine as the tears. There is acceptance. His mercies are new every morning. Most of all, though, there is hope. Hope does not disappoint…
It’s all about balance, you know.
And potential. It is at some level about potential. Can I be happy? Maybe. Can I be at rest? Perhaps. Can there actually be bliss in this life? All things are possible and it would be a sin against hope to fully buy into the lie that my chance for peace or joy has passed.
I found this poem by Maggie Smith, “Life is short, though I keep this from my children. Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine in a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways, a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged, sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world is at least half terrible, and for very kind stranger, there is one who would break you, though I keep this from my children. I am trying to sell them the world. Any decent realtor, walking you through a real shithole, chirps on about good bones:
This place could be beautiful, right? You could make this place beautiful.”
My life has some good bones. There is the essence of goodness, of grace, of not just surviving but resurrecting through the death of dreams and living in the rebirth of God’s will. There are children—oh, thank God there are children—who still need peanut butter sandwiches and whose voices I can still hear giggling in their rooms when they should be asleep. There is work imbued with dignity and that brings me joy—not the pithy kind, but real joy. There is love. There are people who I choose and who choose me. There is truth—the kind that I cannot deny, even when circumstances may try to fool me into doubt. And there are friends who speak the truth to me, no matter what.
Yes, look at these good bones. I could make this place beautiful….