One of the lessons that my recently departed mother-in-law taught me through her example that I am really trying to correct in my life is that I have a major tendency to complain. Oh, I'm not talking about letting off a little steam when someone does something particularly bat-dung crazy or when you need to declare something that is unpleasant...but is true just the same (like...I need to take some Tylenol because my head is exploding). I'm talking about the tendency to go all-out in full blown whining over the little annoyances of life that we are all pretty much stuck with on a daily basis if we are drawing breath and don't have a payroll of people whose job it is to address our every whim.
I just wish I had someone who cleaned my house, car, or dogs other than myself. But whatever. (At least I have a house, car and dogs. See?)
I don't know about you, but when I am going through what my sweet friend refers to as a "valley" - I have a tendency to turn anything from spilling something on my favorite shirt to not being able to get a decent place in the Publix parking lot into a personal assault on my happiness. How somehow this has slipped through my consciousness I cannot imagine because I know that my happiness is not the center of everyone's universe. Nor is the fact that I am unhappy God's fault...like it has slipped past through God's filter of protection that I honestly believe in and sometimes assume should be used in ways I'm quite certain it wasn't intended. My head knows that I am not guaranteed a great deal on something, comfort, exactly what I want, the perfect future son-in-law, or even a good hair day. But something in me seems to think that I do deserve all of that, my way in most things, and the occasional happy surprise to let me know that I am loved as a daughter of the King.
Obviously, I also sometimes seriously need to get over myself. Or spend more time in the Word, in a soup kitchen, or on someone else other than yours truly.
Lately, because I have been in mourning...and have been trying to support my wonderful husband who has just lost his Mom...and my children who have just lost the grandmother that they always thought would be with them...I have been extremely sensitive. I cry sometimes for the most ridiculous reasons that have less to do with the mourning process...and more to do with a bratty little pity party that even I'm embarrassed to be attending. The other day, I hit my foot on something and took it personally...as if the universe was conspiring against me to make me even more miserable than I already am. Which, in turn, made everything seem so much worse...because I'm focused on the expectation of exactly that.
I didn't know how to break the cycle other than to get mad at myself for being ridiculous while simultaneously allowing it to go on until one day it just fades away...like hiccoughs eventually do if you just get used to having them when holding your breath won't work. In the past week, I have tried both of these options...giving in to the "poor, poor, pitiful me" person while also sometimes berating myself for being such a big baby.
Neither was particularly helpful...just so you know.
I think that things begin to get better when you come to the end of both of these options and just declare that whatever happens...you know that you'll be fine. It is at that point when you can actually look up and see some sun peeking through the clouds, or you might even amaze yourself by finding a rainbow.
That's my favorite, by the way. The rainbows. I rarely see one when I don't think that God is on my side and that whatever is going on is about to be over. I realize that rainbows aren't "wishing stars" - but they are one way that God gives me personally to let me know that He is in control and I need to go back to Trust 101 and start all over.
I think that looking at what is going wrong in our lives is actually quite healthy from time to time. People that tell you that what you think and declare is what follows might be right - I honestly wouldn't know - but I find it useful to take myself to the "worst thing that can happen" and wallow around in that for awhile. I learn that I can handle that...and then anything positive from that point just serves to support me coming out of the valley toward the mountaintop. In a completely metaphorical sense, mind you, as I have no intention whatsoever of climbing anything until I drop some weight.
Like stairs, for instance.
But one day I will. That's the plan anyway. Plus, I'm pretty sure that every train station in Europe has at least a gazillion steps to get up to go anywhere useful. And I'm headed to Europe in less than two weeks.
One of the lessons that I have learned is that it is okay to complain for a little while and work through whatever it is so that you can come out whole on the other side. It is fine to accept condolences, meals prepared for you, cards, flowers, and prayers and be grateful for those kindnesses. It is not out of line to spend two days curled up in bed watching the Hallmark Channel and convincing yourself that even you could write some movies better than those you are insisting on watching. It is even alright to have a thirty minute conversation with God about why you are particularly unhappy and why you need just a few little kindnesses thrown your way to give you the motivation to get out of the fetal position on your couch...and on with life.
I had such a conversation with God this morning on the way to work. I'm sure that the people passing me thought I was on the phone, singing along to the radio, or something...but the truth is...I was praying diligently for a break in the storm that is my life at this point in time. I am grieving that the wholeness of the wonderful family I married into - is broken until we are all united where she is right now. That she will watch my children and niece get married one day from the best seat in the house...but we won't have her physical presence. That when my niece delivers her baby next March, there will be no photos of her holding the newest member of the family. I must be content with the photos in my scrapbooks and the memories in my heart. I also asked Him to bring me some peace in a situation or fifty that have been tearing away at my self-confidence and my faith. Because I am a believer in signs...I asked Him to just give me a little bit of help to be able to keep the faith until the day when He puts everything in place for me. It isn't that I doubt that He can...I'm just having trouble thinking that He will in a way that I can handle. Bearing in mind, of course, that right now my little feelings are somewhat tender and my heart is fairly burdened.
But I'm not here to complain about that. In fact, far from it. After all, I've learned that complaining really doesn't do anything for anyone...the complainer...or the person who has to endure listening to it. Be honest...don't you avoid people who make it a point to find something negative in just about everything they come across? I know I do. Life's too short...and the closer I get to 50...the less inclined I am to want to waste my time on people who are perpetually unhappy about every single little thing that crosses their paths.
So, in order to move along...I'm going to just assume that God will take our little conversation today and either change my circumstances...or change me. I'm equally open to both.
To be honest, I have actually crossed over from being fearful, sad, and overwhelmed to finding the humor in some of what is going on with me. I can't really change any of it...so I may as well enjoy myself. After all, laughing your way through those raw times is actually far healthier than the alternative.
I am blessed to have friends who don't mind the occasional telephone call to wax nostalgic or to just express my frustration at the events of the day...or in the case of August - which is apparently NOT my friend - the month. I'm just hoping that this dark cloud dissipates in time for me to spend the better part of the first two weeks of September in Europe visiting my sister in France and spending some time in London and Paris. Right now, I'll just be happy if it doesn't rain and we have minimal hassles. But if it does...that will be okay too. Once you've walked across the Thames River in London in the freezing rain in late May...you pretty much get over that whole "I must have perfect weather or I will deem this vacation a dud" thing. Thank you, trip of 2006 for that gem of perspective...and dose of reality.
In the coming weeks, I am going to be praying for the ability to only see what is going right...and not to see what is not. I'm going to dance like an ASU Stingette if something wonderful happens to me...and I'm going to be more "eh" when something does not...instead of assuming that the universe is conspiring to steal my joy. I realize by throwing down that challenge I am inviting every potential hassle to come into my life...and that somewhere the devil is taking out a composition book and filling it with things to test my resolve...but I'm also going to trust that God will bring me through all of this.
After all, once you have seen someone who has had every reason to complain choose not to do so...it is a powerful and valuable lesson. I just hope that I have the ability to be half as faithful to live up to that example. If so, that will be far better than where I've been.