Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Down to the Ground: a long, introspective post not entertaining in the least

It has been rough, coming out of Holy Week and back into the not-quite-swing of things that is currently my life.

By the not-quite-swing of things, I refer to the lack of rhythm I'm experiencing due to having a different schedule each day and different places to be in. I'm still not used to it and not sure how to get there, but trust I will find a way to create rhythm where it is not naturally occurring. I am a musician among other things, I remind myself.

By it being rough, I refer to both the end of the special focus on "spiritual" things, and some particular "earthly" things that have been challenging. I put those in quotes because I'm not a dualist in that sense, and these things overlap greatly.

"Earthly thing" one: I heard a bird shrieking outside the back sliding glass door. I thought it might be related to the wren's nest out there, and went to see what was going on. It had nothing to do with the wrens. Our dog Tosca had caugh a robin. I feel sick even as I write about it two days later. I opened the door hoping to make Tosca let go, hoping the bird could get away. But it was too late, and the bird could not get away, and the shrieking stopped very shortly, and I wish so much I had not witnessed this. I wish our cute dog did not kill birds. I wish no animal killed another. I wish the peaceable kingdom were already here.

"Earthly thing" two: For my birthday a couple of months ago, Drazen bought me some binoculars. And not only binoculars, but binoculars that take photographs! I never saw myself as a binocular-toting person, but because I do love birds, I had commented once that I could understand why people got them, even though I used to think "birdwatching" seemed a strange and geeky hobby. He remembered this, and now I have these very cool binoculars.

I used them back in February to take photos of an otter I saw. I think I have not written about that, because I was waiting to get the photos to put with the writing.

I used them more recently for shots of the wrens' nest mentioned earlier, the construction of which I had the pleasure of watching.

So, I"ve been eager to get these photos "out" of the binoculars and into some format that I could view. Well, binoculars that take photos are by necessity somewhat complex technologically. And getting the pictures "out" involves connecting the binoculars to the computer. And although I read the instructions, I could not figure out how to do it. So I was waiting for Drazen to help me, and finally Sunday we sat down to get that done.

And....the battery had died in the meantime, it appears, which means the photos I took died with them.

I will never see my photos of the little otter and the precious wrens at work! I could hardly believe it. This was the same day of the robin killing, so that just made it harder. I was so sad about the loss of these pictures. I even got grumpy.

"Earthly thing" number three: I learned about the recent success of a friend, a writing success. Then I sat down to play piano for a bit, and was hit by thoughts of how I used to play, and how I could play today if I had made different choices. That led to thinking about how I used to write more seriously and that I have essentially done nothing in the field of writing beyond one published article. And then, what was it? Oh, I enjoy teaching, but I didn't pursue a teaching career, and I don't have a PhD.

Before long, I was wading through a morass of nihilistic self-flagellation, telling myself that nothing I do really matters, and that I've wasted the talents and gifts I've been given, etc., etc.

What it really boiled down to is that the things I do are not public, are not noticed, are not recognized. My work is done largely in the privacy of an office, and whatever success may occur there is something I will never talk about, because of the nature of the work.

I survived my growing up years partly through performing well and getting feedback on my performance. My high school and college experiences were largely a long line of competitions won, ribbons accumulated, awards granted, words of praise bestowed. Truly growing up has been for me a big struggle in letting go of that and learning to find meaning in living according to deeper values, whether or not anyone ever notices.

Well, somewhere in the midst of that morass and the depressive feelings it was slowly but surely bringing on, a ray of light shone into my mind and said, "Remember what you've been praying for?"

And I looked toward that light, focused for a moment, and realized that since Good Friday, when I had a deep realization that I needed to grow in humility--No, let me be more honest, I realized how much I still struggle with self-righteousness--Well, since then, I have been praying a prayer shared by a friend on her blog some time ago. Here it is:

O Jesus meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed,
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,
Deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I,
That others may be esteemed more than I,
That in the opinion of the world, others may increase, and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I, provided that I become as holy as I should,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. Amen.

Suddenly it seemed clear to me that my prayer was being answered via this struggle with my sad, false pride. By facing this friend's success, and the self-flagellating thoughts of my failures, I was given the perfect opportunity to let go, to be delivered from the desire for esteem, honor, praise, approval. Here it came: Do you really want this or not? If you do, then let this go, and keep praying.


And then I realized, too, that my extreme sorrow and upset over the binocular incident was further evidence of my need for humility. I had not long before been thinking critical thoughts about others and how silly blogging, and now Facebook have made us all, so that the activity of describing our lives seems to take priority over actually living them. But I didn't think this of myself, only of others. And yet here I was, angry and put out about losing photos, so I would not be able to show them to others--when the beautiful thing is that I got to see an otter in the wild! And watch two wrens build their nest! I actually got to do those things, and I will always have the memories, if I choose to keep them.

So, I've done some letting go. Confessing. Coming down to the ground. Growing in humility means you have to grow down to grow up.

It's rough. But I'm slowly getting the not-quite-swing of it.

And next time I'll try to write something less introspective and a bit more fun!


Lawrence Underwood said...

Not entertaining, but very enlightening. I know all too well a bit of what you are thinking and feeling. It is a strange, wonderful, and fear inducing thing when our Lord shapes us.

Thank you for sharing.

Melody said...

I'm glad you posted an introspective post... because I needed to hear it too. And it will hopefully inspire some introspection of my own... and I personally think that is one of the points of blogging anyway.

Carolinagirl said...

Tis the things that cause us to be humbled. I honestly do not mean for that to sound sarcastic as I'm afraid it could.

I think we need to be humbled once-in-awhile.

Lucy said...

Never apologise for writing like that, that was a wonderful post!

There was so much there that was so familiar:

'Before long, I was wading through a morass of nihilistic self-flagellation, telling myself that nothing I do really matters, and that I've wasted the talents and gifts I've been given, etc., etc.'

Goodness, have I been there!

I would have loved to have shared your experience of seeing the otter, but, you see, I have, and perhaps in a way that was more important than if I'd seen the photos. I've shared your disappointment too, which is real and honest and very understandable, and that matters too. I shall picture you watching the creature, and how delighted and excited you must have been, and I'll treasure the image!

Never forget, 'they also serve who only stand and wait'. I have few certainties about God, but I think I've said before, I believe very strongly that God is that which knows and cares about all the difficulties, all the struggles with yourself, all the sense of failure, and all the things that no one else even knows about because they are often the things you don't do, or the hurts you suffer inwardly...

Your unsettled way of life will surely resolve itself, and you'll look back with relief and clarity on it; meanwhile, I suppose try to achieve as much balance and order as you can, and take it one day at a time...

Horrid about the robin, but Tosca couldn't help herself, and you say it was over quickly. I find that kind of thing loses some of its horror when you speak of it, and how bad you felt.

I probably should have e-mailed this, but wanted to respond immediately.

Sheila said...

Lucy, I published your comment in case it might encourage some other writer along the way. You never know.

Sheila said...

And thanks to the others also for understanding and encouragement. I guess it's obvious that I wouldn't have posted it if I really didn't feel it was somehow worth sharing. I'm glad it could mean something to someone else.