That's how you know you've arrived at a Certain Age: if you let your attention wander briefly, it's next week; if you turn around twice, the month is gone. What feels like a few weeks pass by, and half the year has sped away. Then you look in the mirror one evening and it hits you: more than half my life has passed by.
A recent issue of Fortune magazine was at the chiro's office yesterday. I read a gloomy article about execs in their 50s getting let go from their jobs and never finding anything else. But, oddly, it shows how far I've come in my understanding. There was a time, not too long ago, when an article like that would have depressed and frightened me. What has changed? Well, in no particular order:
FlyLady. I won't try to explain; just click on over to flylady.net and see for yourself. Before you scoff: I think the list is around 250,000 now, worldwide. We all have our reasons for living in CHAOS ("Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome"); it's a strange place we go in our heads and our hearts. And it is the purest of blessings to be liberated from it, one flung cluttering thing at a time. And not just things, but habits ... attitudes ... memories. This woman is ministering to us in a wonderful way - and helping us minister to our families. There are 250,000 on the list; their progress brings the number of people positively affected by the FlyLady's wisdom to - conservatively - way more than a million.
Experience. I've done a lot of kinds of work in my life; I can do a lot more.
God. No matter what: He's been there for me. If it is His will that I get laid off, or fired, and I lose my house, and all my money, then I shall schlep myself down to the Mission and see if I can help out there for a bed for the night. He sends us like that, you know; it's my belief that the more tightly we cling to anything not-Him - people, surroundings, income, health, you name it - the more cataclysmic it will seem when he pries all that out of our clutching fingers. And He will do it; just as you pry the chocolate bar from a screaming toddler's hand before the tyke makes itself sick, or to give it something even better, which it can't yet imagine.
One of the people who influenced me most in my understanding of God is St. Thérèse of Lisieux. She gave up everything voluntarily, leaving God only one thing to remove from her life: the sense of His presence and love. So, she was tortured by temptations of doubt - and this during a time when she was so ill. Even my dear patroness had to give up the very thing which had made her live her life the way she did. She understood what was happening to her and bore it like the strong saint she was.
We call her "The Little Flower" and think of her as a little shy girl, but she was actually a tall woman, with a wonderful sense of humour and extremely intelligent. I would've enjoyed her as a friend, but I'm glad I don't have to know her here on earth: I'd be too abashed. She was strict with people! ;)
I was in love with the Discalced Carmelites, but never made it into the order, or even the active branch which is out here in California, the Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart. I'm still not sure of my vocation, after all these years. What is that great saying: "life is what happens while you're making other plans"? That's me. I look back, and it's not what I'd call a structured life. The weird thing is, I don't feel that I want it to be. I sort of follow my nose in that; I consciously try to allow God to guide me, by staying out of the way and listening and watching for the signs that He wants me to follow a certain way, remembering St. Teresa's advice to look for what brings you that certain peace in your soul.
The peace to which she refers is not a relaxed sense of leisure or sureness, like you feel at the beach. It is a quiet knowing that This is what God wants: it matches His teaching, it makes sense for and in your life. It is not without pain. I felt that peace when I watched the love of my life walk away from me at eighteen years of age. God pried the little trinket away from me only to give me, in His own time, a better gift, which I could appreciate with more understanding. Now I know where my dear one is; I know he's doing well. Like the toddler, I am comforted; the candy is forgotten; I do not even notice as my face and hands are wiped clean of the stains of my greedy self-medication; my whole attention is focused on the new and wondrous gift I've been given. And, like a toddler, there is nothing I can do to pay back the gift, just as I did nothing to deserve it. I can look into the eyes of my Parent and breathe, "Thank you," in childish wonder... but the moment doesn't last. I cannot take my eyes off my prize. It is so marvelous that I just sit and gaze at it, overcome with joy. I don't need to even touch it to feel the bliss it brings me.
I had to let go of a lot before I was ready for that. Fortunately, God's allowed me to work and do what I love and do best, and learn while doing it. I've been provided for, not only materially but because I've learned the joys of frugal living - my monastic leanings, perhaps ;)- and I'm even at a point in my life where I have the greatest treasure of all, solitude and time to write and think. In many, many ways, this is the best time of my life. It probably always has been; it just took me this long to figure out how to appreciate it.
And God has always been there.
He's there for you, too. He loves you. You're His child - His thought, His idea. He is a firm and wise parent. When He's prying your fingers open from around whatever you're clutching, deaf to your howls of protest and your terror that you'll never see it again, ever, and how COULD He, etc. & so forth & so on - just... stop. Trust Him. Stand (or kneel!) there, face wet with tears, breath coming in sobbing hiccups, sniffling, lower lip trembling, emotions all in a storm - and wait for a moment. Watch and see what He's got up His sleeve. Whatever it is: you don't need to be afraid. This is not some mortal, fallible, selfish, confused, ignorant, depraved, callous or merely fatigued parent; this is your God. Let Him be a father to you, just for a minute. After 60 seconds, you can resume your tantrum. But let Him give you His love first, OK? You may not sense anything happening, but in that moment of silence He can fill your soul with the love of a lifetime. Whether what you're crying over is a mere trinket, or your dearest, most precious dreams - open up. Let Him do what He will with what you're hiding from Him. He already knows what's in there, anyway - He made whatever it is, too - remember?
Sixty seconds. That's all I ask. Ready? Go.