"Are you hanging in there?"
Most of the time.
When people ask how I'm handling social distancing, I usually say I'm just fine. Mostly it is true. But, after seven long weeks of the same ol' same ol', some cracks are beginning to show in my facade. I no longer bother with make-up, even when making YouTube videos for my former art students. I've worn nothing but leggings and baggy shirts, often the same ones, for more days than I care to remember. I am sick and tired of meal planning and preparation, yet have baked - and eaten! - more sweets and goodies in the last two months than I usually do in an entire year. And yeah, binge watching Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime is my new norm.
Welcome to Covid World, where sloth, gluttony, and envy hold sway. Pride, wrath, lust and greed are probably just around the corner, though who needs all seven deadly sins when one is enough?
How am I? I am healthy and well... and feel like a failure.
To have courage for whatever comes in life - everything lies in that.
The feeling remains that God is on the journey, too.
Be gentle to all and stern with yourself. - St. Teresa of Avilla
Am I being too hard on myself? Most certainly; after all, I am doing my best to cut everyone else some slack. Maybe failure is too strong a word. Maybe it is just that I know I am not living up to my potential during this crisis. I keep hearing about the great things other people are doing, creativity that is blooming, generous acts of kindness and bravery, and can't help but think my contribution has been a little sub-par. Perfectionism plagues me. I have struggled throughout my life to live up to expectations - my own, and other people's, too. Even before becoming a Catholic, the bible verse "to whom much is given, much is required" resonated with my can-do spirit. As a writer, I tried to imbue the young heroines of my Emrysia series with that spirit, to show through them that love, self-sacrifice, and the sharing of each one's special giftedness is all that is needed to make the world a better place.
Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.
Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies. -St. Teresa of Calcutta
So, how am I doing in that department right now? Well, not so hot. It has been four years since my last published novel, and it is hard to write in a full house. With school closings came the loss of my art students, and a shuttered church hailed the loss of a congregation to lead in song. What is left for me to share? Preparing meals and cleaning house doesn't exactly utilize my best gifts or leave me feeling very fulfilled, something I have struggled with throughout my stay-at-home mom years, even though I have always done these things to the very best of my ability.
But... maybe it is enough.
Maybe, for now, it is more about what I can give up with love, than what I can do.
“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.” - St. Theresa of Lisieux
Maybe small things are great things with the right perspective. In small things great comfort can be found: a favorite meal, clean sheets, a helping hand, a hug. Stopping whatever I am doing to look my tween in the eye and really listen as she describes the latest YouTube video she watched, or sympathizing with my college junior about her need for chocolate and Taki without criticizing her messy room, I can offer small consolations with great love.
On my walk this morning, I found joy in small things, too: a friendly chipmunk, the chorus of birds, the crunch and scent of the spring woods. If the God of all creation is concerned with the minute detail of lichen and leaf, who am I to disdain the minutiae of of daily life as it benefits others?
Remember that nothing is small in the eyes of God. Do all that you do with love.
- St. Theresa of Lisieux
Today I am pondering small things, and leaving the big things to those who can do them. It isn't a cop out. It is where I am at. It is what I can do. It is how I can love.
In an attempt to increase my productivity and reduce anxiety, I have gone back to studying scripture first thing in the morning - Stop right there! Some of you reading this have just shut down your receptors, haven't you? Why? Is my meditative practice such a threat? Are you afraid you might read something that conflicts with your belief system? Hear me out then, please.
As an author, I have tried not to offend with my "world view", believing that a good story needs to be shared. I didn't want the world I created to be only for those who think like me, and, trusted that if someone wanted to dive deeper for meanings they could, while those just looking for a little escapism could find that, too - much like C.S. Lewis did with The Chronicles of Narnia.
Lewis lived in a time when good writing was appreciated despite personally held points of view. He, along with Chesterton, Tolkien and other Christians were widely read in their time because of the quality of their work, not because the reader always agreed with their morality, which was openly displayed. Though I don't claim the same intellectual depth or comparable ability to entertain as these greats, I do share Chesterton's and Tolkien's profession of faith. (Lewis made an effort to avoid espousing any particular denomination.) Yet, despite believing, I have rarely shared anything online that acknowledges my religious beliefs, fearing it could turn off a large segment of readers. I do it for you, right? Trying not to offend you.
Why, then, did I feel so convicted this morning when I pulled out my Bible?
Fence sitting has it's downside - kind of like going to college for four years and never declaring a major; who can tell what you actually know?
Even God, it seems, wants to see the proof in the pudding. There is a verse in Matthew's gospel (bear with me, agnostic and atheist friends) that says "Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven, but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in Heaven." You may or may not believe in God, as is your prerogative, and if you definitely don't, then that scripture verse shouldn't bother you at all! The fact that I believe He gave you the free will to decide that shouldn't affect my ability to entertain you any more than it affects, say, your choice of a dentist or grocer. Or is it that words are more of a threat than dental drills and produce aisles? Are my "subliminal powers of persuasion" going to keep you from enjoying a romp through enchanted landscapes with fantastical creatures, any more than price markdowns and colorful signage are going to make you switch toothpaste brands, or give up shopping for food? Maybe. Maybe not.
I like to look for what unites, rather than what divides us; that is a major theme in my work. However, I weary of pretending I don't have a system of belief, that I am unerringly neutral. I am tired of sitting on the fence. There is too much polarization in the world we live in today and, yes, I would rather not add to it, though I would like to grow. In order to grow, I first need to acknowledge where, and who, I am. I am a Christian. Not always a very good one, but that goes without saying.
In my mind, we are ALL God's children, naive in our understanding of what is, and what is yet to be...
...and understanding only grows when we are open to growth.