Joy in living life…

Life, that act of living out one’s days: it is mysteriously hard to define.

Life by its very nature has a chameleon aspect to it.  Adapting to its surroundings, changing with the ebb and flow.   Mirroring shadows.  On good days, life is a bed of roses.   Life is a year full of sunny summer days, a bowl of the creamiest ice cream ever to tempt the taste buds, an idyllic visit to a childhood home, a dream vacation to a tropical paradise.   On those days, life is better than the best.  Life is grand.

But when life turns dark, those dismal, dreary days when plans change and the ground shifts beneath the feet, life appears desperate, hopeless- like a deep pit with no way out or like a rocky chasm that has been placed between truth and hope.  It appears during these times that there is a divide separating the living from the near dead.  The latter, unable to lift their heads and cry for help, drowning in their own self-pity.  It is a hopeless place, a place of despair.  When life appears aligned with menacing storm clouds and endless tunnels that appear to have no escape.

Life can be somewhere in between the best and the worst, in that no man’s land.  Finding itself in the land of disappointment.  A place where nothing is good enough, where there is little to satisfy or quench thirst.  Where gratitude has been crucified along with contentment.  Where peace is crushed under the heel of selfish desires.   A place where thankful hearts are scorned.   Or perhaps the in between of life can be considered as merely complacency, where one is never committed to live life to the fullest potential or scope.  Where endurance and perseverance are mocked.   Where ambition is scorned.

Life is complicated.  But life is really what you make of it, is it not?   Life is certainly that, if it is anything.

I have visited all these places.  I have traveled many miles through torrential storms, weathered the ride and come to experience life and some of its offerings.  And I echo the sacred Poet who penned these words, “All is vanity.”  Is there anything new under the sun?  Is there hope for more than this?  Is there a deeper meaning to life?  There must be more than this. For this life is not what was dreamed it would be.  There are far too many disappointments.  There have been choices made that could be reversed.  There are struggles on a daily basis to accept, embrace and trust that there is a plan and purpose in all of this.  That beauty can rise from ashes.  That new wine can burst forth from old wine skins.   That hope can and will prevail.

To choose to embrace the life that has been given is to believe that miracles do happen, dreams can come true and that it truly is a wonderful life.  Life is lived in the here and now, not back in the past or forward in the future.  There are choices that affect today.  And when the choice is made in the present to make the best of the life one is given, then life becomes a thing of beauty.  Life is beautiful in a raw, ethereal way.  For true beauty is deeper than surface level, and the beauty that is observed in a life lived well is awe-inspiring.  Pushing us ever onward.

And that kind of life is worth the living.

Joy in the middle…

Do something with your days of which you can be proud.  Even today.  Start right now.  For it is never too late to begin making moments count.   Make your one life meaningful, and make it worth the breath it took to get you through the day.  Do something worthwhile.  Do this for yourself.  Do this for the greater good of others.  And in doing something worthwhile, it will leave you unafraid.  Unashamed.  When people ask questions about who and what you are, about the meaning for living your life, you won’t be afraid to answer.  You won’t be afraid you haven’t got an answer.  And even more importantly, do something of which you can be proud for it is your own legacy you are building.  Care enough to have high standards for yourself.  Care enough to believe in yourself.  Care enough to want to make a difference for others.  Care enough.  Because at the end of the day, no one else can do the living and the caring in your life but you.  It’s all on your shoulders.

No pressure.

We had dessert (strawberry shortcake with whipped cream) with a gentleman this evening that has parked his camper three down from ours.  A charming seventy-nine year old widower, he was full of stories of the people in his life up until the point that I asked him about his career in the military.  “I don’t talk about those days,” he said. “I didn’t do anything I was proud of.”

Hmmm…that stopped me in my tracks.  I haven’t met too many military chaps who can’t weave a yarn or two about life ‘way back when’.  And certainly, most are proud of their accomplishments.  It got me thinking about my own life.  What am I proud of?  Or rather, not so proud of?

There are a lot of moments in my life that I am not proud of.  Many more than should be.  I am careless with my words, thoughtless with actions and uncontrolled in my emotions, by times.  To be fair, I am working on these shortcomings, but change does not come easy.   As a mother, I have often felt that I am a poor example of a mother.  I do not live up to the stereotypes that are imbedded in my head.  I am not a comfortable fit for the role of mothering as I perceive that role in my head.  And so, I see the worst in myself.   I am not naturally patient, I don’t particularly enjoy spending large chunks of time with young children, I find being silly a drain on my energy and I have a very short temper.  In short, I am certainly not the ideal.  In talking with my sister the other day, I expressed this very thought, and she assured me that there were as many different ways of being a mother as there are mothers themselves.

So, I guess I might be doing okay.  The jury’s still out on that one.

To say I am not proud of my life as a whole would be a misrepresentation.  More accurately, I feel  I haven’t done anything of great worth.  I read the eloquent words of others who write nobly of being parents to children with life-threatening illness, or words they penned of their own struggles and how they deal with long-term illness.  Others write of their love of being mothers and ream off endless treatises on how to be better mothers than they already appear to be.  If I could be but a particle of those highly touted examples found in these essays, I would have it all under control.

Still others write inspirational words to uplift and motivate devoted readers who follow their writing regardless of their philosophical differences or placements in life.  It must be something to write words that carry that kind of weight.

Inspiring.  Makes me want to try to write like that.

The words these writers I so admire weave into thoughtful prose and heart-wrenching  essays are often difficult, awe-inspiring and challenging for the reader to read.  But their words are read because they are worthwhile.  They are important words.  They lift the reader to another place, a higher place than they were before they read, so as to help them to understand.  Their’s are words of which one could be proud, for they speak of lives lived well in spite of circumstance, material possessions or choice in the matter.

When I read their words, I often shamefully think, “What do I have to be proud of?  Why bother writing such useless, boring essays on my uninteresting life?”  I am like this gentleman whom has intrigued me by  refusing to share stories of his life: he and I- we have done nothing that we’re truly proud of.

Or haven’t we?  Is not all the schema of life important?  For there needs be some of us whom act as scene extras or there would not be a realistic element to the film.  There needs be an audience or there would not be reason for the entertainment.  There needs be average, every-day people for we are the gauge by which the extraordinary measure their worth.  There needs be the mundane or there would never be a moment of normalcy to this world.  There must be a level by which we measure what is both extraordinarily wonderful and unbelievably horrible in this world.  And that is us. The middle men and women.  The people who are living out their lives ‘outside the fishbowl’.  We live without scrutiny.

But this I know: all of life matters.  Especially the lives of those in the middle.  But still.  Knowing is not always enough.  There is inside some of us a deep desire to matter to more than just a few.  We want our lives to COUNT in a larger way.   And count they will when we first strive to matter to the ones that matter most to us.  We must focus on that circle that forms our intimate bonds of friendship and other relationships.  And at the end of the day, it is once again perspective that brings my heart and thoughts towards home.  For home is where the heart is.  And the heart if the wellspring of life.

This I also know for sure.  I matter; even from my place here in the middle ground.  I matter to God, to my family and to my friends.  And you matter for all the same reasons.

And that is something we can both be proud of.