I hang on to this belief, knowing full well it is foolish and false. I catch myself believing it at gut level, buried far beneath my guise of wisdom and common sense. And it is this:
Other people are living "normal" lives--the kind of life I seem ever on the precipice of having. Other people have arrived and settled in to one spot for the rest of their happy lives. Other people stay securely footed in "normal" careers that yield enough to live and then some. Other people stay securely united in marriages, riding the jarring seasons like trained horsemen, elegantly, effortlessly. Other people don't live in constant limbo, don't measure the years according to what it was they were waiting for that year, what it was they were hoping to hear and didn't.
I told you it was foolish and false. Bring me one person--anyone--and we will discover the striving, the interruptions, the limbo, the churning, the struggle--they are present within each one of us. Rich or poor. Illiterate or educated. Pessimistic or optimistic. Visionary or pragmatic. We are likely not alone in thinking life is what happens next, if we could just get past the hurdle right in front.
C. S. Lewis wrote,
The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's 'own,' or 'real' life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life--the life God is sending one day by day.I wrote a while back about real life, about owning the days I'm given, not waiting for the next stage, the one that looked perfect on paper. I've lived just long enough, I think, to have discovered the surprising pattern about the next stage. It looks far better on paper than it feels going in and out of the lungs. Life is years of labored breathing with occasional seconds of breathless euphoria. Why do I persist in imagining it to be the reverse?
And so I agree, it would be a great thing, if one could, to embrace the unpleasant things, these less than optimal stages, these insurmountable hurdles, these disappointments and delays, as part of real life.
To find even in the labored breathing, a joy to be alive at all.
To find even in the limping forward (or possibly back), a curiosity at how the scenery might change, a gratitude for mobility alone.
To conclude that "normal" is at most a setting on the dryer.
To gather the necessary courage to live an unscripted life.
Is it mediation, discipline of the mind, praying without ceasing? Is this the way to welcome even the unpleasant things, the hurdles and setbacks, as part of a beautiful story we might live? My best guess is it might be all of the above.
Let's think of tapestry weaving, the complex and beautiful images accomplished by ignoring the rules of traditional weaving, by rejecting the back and forth, from end to end, continuous until complete. Instead, when you weave a tapestry, you block colors, starting sometimes in the middle, sometimes on the outskirts. You add color upon color upon color until the image appears.
It is not linear.
It is starting and stopping, back to the beginning, hovering wherever the colors stack the highest.
For many years, I have believed life to be a traditional weave. Back and forth, end to end, continuous until complete.
Now, I am growing to believe it is layered, color upon color, back to the beginning, out to the edges, feeling like we're getting nowhere, when indeed, getting somewhere has never been the point. It is about the picture woven out of all these shades, hues both pleasant and difficult, setbacks and propellants alike, the news good or bad, the progress steady or stalled. This color upon color, this day upon day, this is real life.
And it is, indeed, a great thing if one can see it as such, as the day upon day He sends.