Thursday, March 27, 2014

Tieing together our lives

I recently read that some people become overwhelmed by the intolerable monotony of life. That all the little glories of each passing day become a drudgery to them. I doubt that those people have children.  Each new change in my children is a constant reminder of the passing of days, and I am one step closer to the end of the plank, the day when I step off this little ship of life into the vast ocean of forever.

"My days are swifter then a weaver's shuttle...
 For my days are but a breath."
 (Job 7:6a, 16b)
It is the daily miracles of the rising sun and the sparkle of the light playing on the stream outside my kitchen window, that hold me together. It is lifes little consistencies and small comforts that hold me down and keep my mind from reeling in the immensity of it all; a universe with no end, being beyond time, beholding the face of God.

When I put on my cozy brown wrap-around sweater, I wrap myself in this present moment, this temporary physical reality. It is cotton moss-stitch with flecks of red woven in which has become covered with little pilly spots. These show the wear I have put it through in the two short months I have owned it. It has a pleasant texture despite the pilling, its shawl collar folded up to warm my neck.
My pair of red linen Birkenstock clogs which I wear like slippers but which also find their way with me to grocery stores and walks to school are also getting worn from daily use. I enjoy them so much that I am tempted to put them away, to preserve them for later. But I decide I need them now and when they are all worn out I will not regret the years of fine service they have rendered.
Our white Corning ware peculator belonged to my husband's parental grandmother. Corning ware stopped making peculators and they were all recalled by the company because of a construction defect years before I was even born.  Yet it still works and my husband's father can remember his mother making coffee in it when he still lived at home, over 40 years ago. I love the green medallions printed on the sides, the shiny medal pouring spout and the glass knob top which the coffee "perc, perc, perc"s into so I can watch it splatter inside the roof of the transparent glass knob. At some point in its storied history the glass top must have fallen on the floor, because the sharp broken edge is covered over with clear plastic packing tape, an imperfection that adds the human touch of Grandma Marchese to my kitchen and links me to her in some tangible but sadly impersonal way. I wonder about it. When it fell and part of the glass shattered did she curse? Was she relieved to see that it could still be used? Did she use it anyway and cut herself, or did she think to put on the tape right away? The stuff of stories, my kind of stories at least. The small seemingly meaningless events that tie our days together into a lifetime. There may be grief in our heart but there is also coffee to be made and dishes to be done and probobly a pile of dirty laundry hiding somewhere. For some of us, it is in the doing of these tasks that our redemption from sorrow lies. We are not overcome when we keep order to our homes, rhythm in our daily routine and hope in our hearts.
"I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord."
(Psalm 27:13-14)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The backwards spiral of existentialism

It was a wonderful party and I was enjoying myself, celebrating life and joy and marriage. It was then that I was ambushed by despair with a simple passing thought. "In 50 years most every adult in this room will be dead, probably including me."
Moments slip into hours into days into months into years and the wrinkles around my eyes deepen, the skin on my arms looses its elasticity, and my daughters look more like little ladies. Our grandparents were married once too. They too were young and in love. Like my husband and I they had little children and felt all their lives were before them, standing tall and proud, arm-in-arm against the onslaught of time. During their lives they faced wars and economic depression. They were full and busy. They had sadness and joys and they loved; they loved their children with the same fervor with which I love my own, they felt the same passions for their spouse, the same longings for safety and peace, financial strains and maybe even the same fear of death. Did they lay in bed together and discuss the possibility of another baby? Did they argue when what they really just wanted was to be held? Did they cry together over the death of their own loved ones, just as we have cried together over their deaths?
These thoughts are the strong undertow that pulls me down, down, down the backwards spiral of existentialism. At first I am enjoying the swim, immersing myself in the present moment and then I am being pulled under by the strong current of time, awash in the meaninglessness of it all. "Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die." Tomorrow you die. Tomorrow is coming and one of these tomorrows will bring death. Is death a door into eternity or just the infinite blackness of nonexistence?
I don't want to give into the blackness. I am going to fight my way back to the light. Where is the light? I am suddenly so cold inside my core, so full of sadness and sick from fear of the loss to come. I don't want to grow old and have my children take my place as the parents. I want to fight to the end, but why? Does it matter?
That is where despair finds me, my old foe wearing his muddy garb, ready to pull me down into the depths of all that meaninglessness.
"No" I mutter inwardly "No, I will not let this happen. This is precious and I will not surrender this moment."
"Please Lord, help me. Pull me out of this blackness; out of this fear and unknowing. I need your help. Show me your way of looking at my life."
Immediately I feel myself being pulled out of the blackness back to the light. I put my head down against the weight of time and will myself back to life and away from thoughts of death. When I comes I will be ready, but I will not waste what I have been given by falling down the backwards spiral of existentialism.
I am standing upright again, my head above the water, both feet planted firmly on the shifting sands of time that will invariably pull me into the future. I take a breath and fill my lungs with this moment. Only seconds have transpired since my initial thought, the initial shove backwards. Only a few breaths, a few blinks of my eyelashes, that separated for me the light from the dark, life from fear of death, joy from sadness.