Sunday, February 19, 2012
Choose Ye This Day....
2011 was a great year for me. SO many blessing came my way. November and December in particular were a giddy blur of peak experiences. I had found my new job which was a great fit after a long period of struggle in a difficult work environment. I celebrated my 30th anniversary with the man I love, and truly felt bowled over by the depth of the kindness and intimacy we have developed over the years. I had several key spiritual experiences that strengthened me in ways so sacred I hold them close to my heart. In nearly every area of my life, I had so much bliss it was astonishing. This was way beyond happy. I felt a rich sense of purpose and meaning in my life far beyond any I had known before.
Then the new year came and much of that seemed to flip. My job is still great. My man is still my hero. My testimony still is strong and sustaining. But it would have been easy to lose site of all that in the face of some dark things that at times seemed to overshadow everything else.
January was a tough month at our house. It was a time of funerals and condolences. We lost six different people we were close to. Most were folks who lived in other states, but who had been an important part of our lives over the years. Two were from our current congregation - bookending life with one being way too young (just 15) and the other having known many years. While the circumstances around each of these deaths was different - cancer, old age, accident, suicide, heart disease - in every single one of these cases we were reminded of the uncertainties of life and why it really does matter to say what needs said to the people we love NOW rather than waiting for just the right time. You just never know when a conversation will be your last.
Then right along side all those griefs, came the health challenges. My sweet husband had been having lots of problems with his right shoulder - pain and loss of mobility. It turned out he had a torn rotator cuff that needed surgery. What was supposed to be a very straightforward operation got more complicated when they found the damage to his shoulder was far more extensive than the ultra-sound had indicated. It was not just torn. His ligament was completely unattached from the bone. So instead of a simple arthroscopic repair the surgeon had to cut through the muscle which will require a much longer and more painful recovery time.
For several days after the operation it was quite a struggle for him to deal with the pain and nausea. There were two days in particular that were hell on toast. We were both feeling pretty bleak. Even after the worst of that passed, the frustration for both my beloved and me was pretty high as we coped with him not being able to bathe or dress himself without help. He couldn't get good sleep and was just never very comfortable.
Finally the staples came out and the sling came off so now he is feeling a lot better. Best of all is that he can drive again, so he won't feel so trapped being home unable to get anywhere. Still, it will be several months and much difficult physical therapy before he will have full use of his arm again.
Add to this mix that one of our grown up kids was having some major struggles. I won't go into the details here as that is his private business - but suffice it to say that we spent more than a few sleepless nights of worry about the problems that our boy was having to cope with. Our kids are all adults and as such we hope that they will be able to manage whatever challenges they come up against in their lives. But in my heart my boys will always be my babies, no matter how grown up they are, so it HURTS when I see them having an especially hard time.
Put all of this together and what it adds up to is that the start of 2012 has been a season of coping with adversity in one fashion or another.
It has given me a chance to reflect on how I look at life when things are shining and how I look at things when dark clouds come calling. There were times during the happy days when I reveled in peak experiences and knew absolutely how very well blessed I was. There were also, I'm sorry to say, times when all was good that I pretty much took it for granted and just got caught up without noticing or giving thanks for how sweet it all was. Similarly, there have been times during our recent difficulties and sorrows that I have REMAINED grateful for the tender mercies that abound, even in the face of hardships, times when I've felt genuine joy despite some terribly painful things crashing all around us. And there have been times when I've crumbled in a heap of overwhelm and hurting when all I could see were the losses, the pain, the distance between current reality and what I would wish for instead.
Because the contrast in our circumstances have been so absolute in a very short period of time it has been a pretty dramatic lesson -
Happiness, contentment and joy are certainly easier to find when experiencing pleasant and supportive events or environment. But good weather, good food, solid tires, and fine health will not in and of themselves make me feel like all is right with the world. I've known plenty of people who focus on whatever is not immediately perfect no matter how many blessings they have.
And in the same fashion, grief, loss, hard times will not by themselves make me be miserable. It is certainly more of a challenge to keep my optimistic outlook when everything I care about seems to be crashing down around me. But it is not impossible. I have truly known some moments of sweet peace and joy during some of these darkest days.
Life is a complicated mix of good and bad, painful and pleasant. Through it all I decide which I will focus on .....what I have to be grateful for or what I have to sorrow about. I pick. I hope I can choose well.