Tuesday, May 28, 2013

When Things Don't Come Together As Planned

Our lease is ending where we've been staying and cannot be renewed.  Our damaged home, which the contractor has been saying for MONTHS will be "surely done by the end of this month", is far from ready for occupation.  I arranged for another short-term rental but now our insurance company says they are betting that it will be done in the next 4 weeks and wants us in a motel for the duration.  I wouldn't bet on it being done by then, given the track record.  But I might be wrong. But it is what it is and I've been packing boxes which will be all put in storage for however much longer the work takes and packing suitcases to live out of for the next month.  Tomorrow we hand the keys back to the landlord.

L. asked me how I avoid feeling frustrated and annoyed by the continual promises of work being done that is not yet done and will likely be delayed.  I've thought about that.  I think it's due to three things.

First it has to do with being consciously grateful.  For a job, for a place to stay, for a table to sit at, a bed to sleep in, enough food to eat, for construction workers with skills, for a book to read.  Gratitude refocuses my view to include not only the challenges but also the blessings.  That fosters peace within me.

Second, it has to do with the old scout adage "be prepared".  I realize that I tend to almost always prepare contingency plans.  I tend to think about what I will do if such and such happens, or what we should do if things don't happen as planned.  And then I lay the groundwork for that as I continue to work towards what I hope will happen.  It isn't a negative expression of distrust or pessimism.  It's just that I know life and work doesn't always come together the way we want it too, and it's good to have prepared, in your back pocket, a constructive response to that when it happens.  Because in spite of everyone's best efforts, sometimes you need that helpful contingency plan.  Sometimes you need a whole string of them.  It's just part of life.

Third, it has to do with keeping the current challenge in perspective.  That's related to gratitude, but it has more to do with priorities and brotherhood.  My hope for my house to be made habitable is real and good, but in the prioritized list of hopes I see in the lives of people around me it is not way up on the list.  I am aware of the very real other hopes that are being addressed in my community, hopes for healing from injury and illness, hopes for reuniting of hearts in families, hope for help for those dealing with abuse, hope for help cleaning and rebuilding after the recent tornadoes, hope for shelter and hope and light, hope for young people just starting out in life, hope for people dealing with the challenges that come as one approaches the end of it, the list goes on and on.  This awareness does two things.  It makes me put my own current need in perspective.  And it gets me to work on helping others and their hopes and needs while I wait for mine to be fulfilled, which in turn reduces my focus on and impatience about my own situation.

I think these three things are things I heard about doing when I was young.  It's kind of interesting to me to realize that as an old person, they've become just another part of how I approach life.  I guess teaching young people good things that they only understand in theory when they are young can bring about good change down the road.  For those teachers and relatives who taught me, I am grateful.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Responses to Life's Sunsets

There are many things in my life that I can do.  But there are also in life some things that I wish I'd been able to do, for which the time on earth is past, and that I cannot go back and do.  Some of them are simply opportunities that did not ever present themselves or that life's vicissitudes prevented.  Some of them are opportunities that I chose to ignore in order to do something else that was good.  Some of them are opportunities that I had but did not recognize or was not prepared to take. And some are opportunities that I should have taken but didn't due to my own well-meaning or mistaken or immature errors of judgment.

And when I recall those they each, of course, bring with them a sense of regret or disappointment, some greater, some smaller, but all sad.

So the sentence below from an old novel jumped out at me yesterday.  It describes the response of an older character, a woman of faith, who is watching someone younger, that she loves, choose an opportunity that she knows is past for her personally in this life.

"Then into the eyes of Julia...there came a vision as comes to one who watching the glorious setting of the sun sees not the regretful closing of the day that is past, but the golden promise of the day that is to come."

The novel itself was not that great, but that sentence will stay with me.

And I think it is a much wiser and healthier response to regrets than the often quoted stanza by John Greenleaf Whittier about "the sad words of tongue or pen".

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Quote for the day

"At their root, most religious philosophies say do less harm, yes, but they also say do more good.  There is a limit to how much less harm I can do.  But my potential for good is unlimited.  All of our potentials for good are unlimited.
"The question becomes not whether we use resources but what we use them for.  Do we use them to improve lives?  Or do we waste them?  My life itself is a resource.  How shall I use it?"

~Colin Beavans, "No Impact Man", p. 205