Monday, July 30, 2012


I wonder why I am obsessed with death lately--not in the way you’re thinking just now, reading this sentence, but in the existential, philosophical way, the way which adds that protective layer we need when we think about the inevitable. I listen to Joan Didion on audio books describe the suffering involved in losing your child, and of course it touches me, it makes me think about the delicate balance between the here-and-now and the beyond. It’s unnerving to consider it--Isabella, in all her youthful and playful beauty, seems to me to be immortal, and it’s sobering to see this little bit of myself in her and know she will come, some day, to an end, as will I. That’s always hard to face, though I think my current obsession comes with preparing myself, with tempering my soul, with facing reality in a way that leaves room for awe and wonder and not fear and trepidation.

Life is for living, after all.

I guess what makes this process difficult is suffering. There’s such a variety of it, all confounding and heart-breaking; I am especially sad for those who endure debilitating and terminal illness, who deal with physical and psychological pain for extended periods of time. There’s a discipline to dealing with that that tempers the soul, but no one wishes for that. What we want is the rainbow, not the storm, but both are necessary, as the cliche of course goes.

So what if we just took it day by day? What if we just took each moment God has given us and made use of it for each other? Give yourself to someone and to yourself, even for the smallest of things: read a book to a child; listen to someone complain for a bit, without judgment; don’t respond to someone in a knee-jerk kind of way; give yourself unreservedly to something you have been meaning to do for awhile, whatever that might be; meditate for even just 20 minutes, as quiet as you can be; or else pray as a child does: so simply asking for the simplest of things, so easily grateful for the small things of life.

I’m going to work harder at this myself, but then, that’s how life gets lived--not giving up, trying even as you succeed or fail, and working with the tools of this wondrous life we’re given.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Language of Disagreement

The kinds of fights most of us like to avoid are often as quick and easy as a Southern summer storm, descending upon the land with vengeance in its thunder and lightning and downpour. As I get wiser (notice I did not say older) I find that I'm learning more than I thought I would from this: the inevitable tousle over something. Anything. Sometimes everything. Makes me think of times when the adults in my world fought in front of us kids, how I hated it, how it broke my heart then and sometimes still does, especially when disagreement involves witness by children. The sadness of bile and bitterness seems wrong for a child's eyes and little soul.

Yet, conflict and its resolve are what children must see to know, to understand, to build the spiritual tools necessary to overcome. What I have learned after so much witness is that experiencing conflict is like language immersion in another country; the language of forgiveness comes in letting go of old grudges and griping (I've been praying for the holy spirit to come and clear my head many times lately!). Part of this, too, is in the language of humility as much as in the language of righteousness (and no, not that puffed up kind you're thinking of)--in conflict we need to know ourselves, be willing to get to know others, and leave that little wiggle room for that unnameable something which somehow starts resolve, somehow brings us the tools to be able to put down our anger and frustration and just talk to each other, and see that sometimes there's more than meets the eye.

I don't know what it takes for someone to take the first step--it's often a little nudging from within, a barely perceptible feeling that something must give, that pride is a waste, or even that pride is the reason to reconnect with that one other whose soul you've locked horns with.

Conflicts come from disagreement on the simplest terms of the human condition--the desire to be accepted, loved, free. With time and patience we can make sense of this--if only we're willing to try. With our own good example we can help a child to see that good can come from bad, and disagreement can somehow lead to love and true living.