"Uncompromising purpose and the search for eternal truth have an unquestionable sex appeal for the young and high minded, but when a person loses the ability to take pleasure in the mundane--in the cigarette on the stoop or the gingersnap in the bath --she has probably put herself in unnecessary danger"from Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
As I write this, a heap of trash and recyclable materials sits by my front door. Toys litter the floor of more rooms than I want to think about. Clean dishes drip in the dishwasher while dirty dishes clog the sink.
While it is my normal routine to make a dash of tying up these loose ends at the beginning of nap time, today I left the mess to languish.
It was simply a morning where I had. enough. already.
Between my children's crying, bickering (can a one and two year old already bicker?!) and refusing to do all manner of tasks: drinking from the cup, eating the lunch set before them, and using the stupid kiddy potty for crying out loud, the little stresses compounded until I finally had to lay the babes to their afternoon rest and walk away.
I came up to our second floor office sanctuary to write an e-mail to a friend who is always a beautiful listening ear and full of grace to respond to the small victories and struggles of my day.
I started to fire off my latest round of stress when it hit me.
Sometimes I don't know where my own stress is coming from.
Yes, there's the kids. Always the weight of motherhood. And house stuff. And mess after mess. And bills and... well, if you're an adult you know how this list goes.
But why am I able to take the stress in stride some days while others the pressure seems to build and erupt?
"What my father was trying to tell me as he neared the conclusion of his own course was that the risk should not be taken lightly. One must be prepared to fight for one's simple pleasures and to defend them against elegance and erudition and all manner of glamorous enticements"from Rules of Civility by Amor Towles.
Every now and again--okay, maybe more "again" than I'd like to admit--I start to get caught up in "elegance and erudition and all manner of glamorous enticements."
Compounded with my own vanity and pride, I become burdened with self-importance regarding the highfalutin things I need to say or do or write. After all, speaks my pride, who will illuminate this darkened world, if not I?
And then, after the bout of depression that follows the self-inflation, I come to a place where I again need to be saved from myself by Christ--who often is incarnate to me in the person of my neighbor.
Today, I medicated my bout of pathetic self-pity with Facebook and blogs--a brief exposure to the world outside of me, me, me and my house and kids and problems.
I stumbled across a new post by a friend, and decided to re-read her biography on her blog. The very first sentence states her blog's purpose: a creative outlet for her writing and photography.
Oh, yeah! I was reminded. That's why I do this.
Though some days I fall into believing the fate of the free world hinges on the star-struck thoughts illuminating my thick head--I am reminded by someone else: I am not the Christ.
My job is to love and to share and to connect to others-- but I am not here to save anyone. I am not that important--and I often fail to be productive and creative in my own little way when I try to be.
A man at church once told me about a talk he gave about the value of "spiritual lowness."
Though some of us (especially people like me who have an unhealthy predilection for extreme behavior) may be inclined (especially in the Orthodox Church saturated with monastic literature) to attain to "spiritual heights"-- it can often be good for our souls to shoot for "spiritual lowness."
Perhaps I don't have the man-at-church's meaning behind this phrase exactly right: but to me, spiritual lowness is that ability described in Rules of Civility to take pleasure in the mundane.
To see the mundane not as roadblocks on the way to an enlightened or fulfilling path--but as its very own spiritual path infused with the breath of God;
to believe that God is "everywhere present and filling all things"--even in the heap of recyclables, the dishes, the toys--
this is a true path to contentment and satisfaction in Christ.
More especially, to see my neighbor as embodying the imago dei-- this helps me to remain in gratitude, in love-- to take no human encounter lightly or for granted.
"But I've come to realize that however blue my circumstances, if after finishing a chapter of a Dickens novel I feel a miss-my-stop-on-the-train sort of compulsion to read on, then everything is probably going to be just fine"from Rules of Civility by Amor Towles.
Life can really bite the big one sometimes. And yet, if I only allow the tragedy of the human experience, the stress and strain of the day, into my heart, then I forego the many joys and miracles that surround me.
Be it as small as a morning cup of coffee, evening glass of wine, or the satisfaction of lacing together words and pictures in a blog post--I can latch onto these little, beautiful moments to find eternal truth as much as--or more than-- I might find it in a high-minded philosophical manifesto.
Glory be to God for dappled things--
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced--fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
"Pied Beauty" by Gerard Manley Hopkins
May God grant me the "spiritual lowness" to see the glory of God in dappled things, brinded cows, rose-moled trout.