For the past few days, I know, this blog has been a little on the edgy and skittish side. Those of you reading me must have developed an image of me tap-tap-tapping away at my keyboard, hair askew, wild-eyed with a caffeine overdose, hyperventilating and unable to focus.
And yeah, that image would be just about right.
I apologize if I’ve seemed a bit out there. While I was under the pressure of a couple of deadlines, Christmas and family commitments, I let email correspondence and other concerns go rather to hell and then this week I looked up at it all and felt like I was the proverbial hapless clerk about to be flattened by a pile of files.
All of this was apparent in my writing which, for a few days, has been uneven and unfocused. My Li’l Bro Thom – a fellow who understands the concept of high stress and yet manages, through faith, to deal with it and still remain sane and reasonable – noticed.
“You’re writing like you need ritalin,” he joked.
Normally, I would have laughed, but when a criticism is really on-target, even if it is offered gently, it can really sting, and rather than laugh I emailed back an unhappy emoticon and a pathetic, “go ahead, make my day even worse.”
“What’s wrong,” he responded.
There followed a rambling email that was the equivalent of a harried woman blubbering and waving her hands about like a demented emu. I spilled!
“My husband has a job opportunity that is very exciting but will mean more travel! I’m becoming a sentimental goose who keeps seeing her grown children as cute 6 year olds before her eyes – how did my life go by so quickly! And I don’t think anyone is even reading me except my Elder Son’s Sweet Girlfriend – and I think she only reads me because she’s mystified by me, or something. Sometimes I feel like…all I’m doing is writing words and words and they don’t matter. I know you were joking, and any other day I would have laughed…but I just feel so out of sorts. And I got my hair colored and I’m SO grey, all of a sudden! You men don’t understand what it’s like!”
“You need a retreat,” he counciled.
“Yes, and chocolate,” I concurred, wondering if Buster had any about for his Eagle Scout fund-raiser. “What about you,” I asked, feeling immeasurably better for spilling, and knowing he is carrying a very heavy load in many ways. “How is it all going?”
“Well…we take every day as it comes, right?” He wrote back. After going into some details on a family matter that is causing him real grief he concluded:
Sometimes, I hate my life
But mostly, things are good.
I looked at those words for a long time and then wrote back, “David could not have written a better psalm.”
One of the greatest things about becoming a Benedictine Oblate is that we are encouraged to pray at least some part of the Liturgy of the Hours (aka The Divine Office, aka The Opus Dei) every day. Immersing oneself in the psalms is a remarkable experience because within those 150 poems resides the entire human condition in all of its lunacy and sorrow, its agony and rapture and woe. To read the psalms daily is to be reminded that no human expression of feeling is unique to the rest of humanity, that our interpersonal kinship is not really narrow – rather it is as broad as we allow it to be.
We live in a very polarized age wherein we too often, too-willingly segregate ourselves with an “us good, them bad” mentality. That is not new, of course. Humans have always drawn their lines of demarcation between themselves and others – mostly either because of ethnicity or language or creed. Lately, as ethnicities blend and languages fade, the lines seem increasingly to be drawn mostly over ideologies disguised as creeds. Or creeds disguised as ideologies.
It’s distressing to see. It is terribly distressing to watch what appears to be an inexorable move toward national self-destruction in the pursuit of “squashing the other side,” when in fact both sides are America’s, and an America without healthy discourse and respectable, honorable and loyal dissent will not need an outside enemy to render her impotent and eventually inconsequential.
The truth is, no matter who we are, no matter what our economic situations, our familiar realities, our backgrounds, our educations, our failures or our potentialities – beyond all that separates us, beyond our own drawn lines, we are all the same. In our quieter moments, we sing a nearly silent, common psalmody. It is the psalm of the Common Man, and everyone sings it, no matter how “uncommon” they believe themselves to be:
We take each day as it comes
Sometimes I hate my life
But mostly things are good
Mindful people try to be grateful for the good things in their lives, but it is easy to overlook what is positive and dwell on the negative – to lose sight of all one has, for the want of what one seems to lack. It is an ancient part of our human condition – it existed in Eden.
In a monastic house, psalms are chanted by the community in turn. They sit dexter and sinister, right and left, and each side takes turns, verse by verse, down the psalms.
Left and right, they sing. They weave psalms and canticles, readings and collects, prayers and praise into one marvelous whole, and in doing so dexter and sinister – united in purpose – become one.
We take each day as it comes. Sometimes we hate our lives. But mostly things are good.
WELCOME: Readers from NRO’s The Corner. While you are here please look around. Today we’re also talking about the film The Pursuit of Happyness and George Bailey, the Eason Jordan, Michelle Malkin adventure, who I’m voting for and why My Dog Likes Bananas. Feel free to nose around the archives. If you’re looking for Christmasy ruminations, well…try here or here or here. Enjoy!