May day! May day!
Yes, it is the first of May. And my introductory shout is both a celebration of that long-lost holiday of putting out flowers on doorsteps for others, and also that call of desperation we hear from captains of the air and sea when they are in trouble, and their ship or their plane is out of control.
Today I feel both a reason to celebrate, and a need to get my “ship” back in control.
The most obvious celebration in our household today is for my middle son, who turns 11. Eleven! As usual, my mind screams where did the time go? It seems like only a few years at most that my husband and I were celebrating both the blessing and the bewilderment of having a second healthy boy (11 pounds and 6 ounces of healthiness to be exact!) Still, celebrating him and the young man he’s rapidly growing up to be is so much to celebrate!
Then, there’s my call for help. It’s to get me out of my own mess. I keep reminding myself these are really and truly only problems faced by people privileged enough to live in First World countries like the good ol’ US of A. So, please know that as I complain, I am also grateful.
The last month or two for me has been a ton of ridiculousness of volunteer activities and the like. Not to mention anything that can go wrong seemed to go wrong for my husband at work, which meant later than usual nights for him as well. It all ended last weekend in a big hurrah when I decided (only about a week beforehand) that being part of our neighborhood garage sale was also something I should do.
That makes perfect sense when you’re already exhausted from too much chauffeuring of kids to lessons and activities, volunteer commitments at their schools, and not disappointing the tens of people who look forward to my thrice-a-week blog.
Yes, when better to do a garage sale? Oh, and a lemonade and bake sale put on by the neighborhood kids, along with my kids. At my house.
Of course, I should do that, too!
So, Friday was a flurry of activity here trying to set up and price items for Saturday’s sale. (No time for blogging that day). Saturday morning the doorbell rang at ten to eight with the neighborhood kids raring to go. (Not entirely unrelated to my whole theme of the post today, their sale was *mostly* for charity–they each kept $5–and they ended up raising over $50 for Autism Speaks, so their story, too had a great ending!)
Anyhoo, then there was me, bleary-eyed and staring through the steam on my mug of hot green tea as I opened the garage door and the car loads of bargain shoppers swooped in. And, while most of the whole sale is a blur, I do remember this: I remember having to use the calculator for a woman who was buying $6.70 worth of clothes and miscellany because she gave me a $10 bill.
As I slowly punched the numbers in she blurted out, “$3.30! My change is $3.30!”
Yes, I know monkeys can do math better than I do. But, my question is, can they do it on about four hours of sleep and with so many distractions going on around them? My garage was full of people milling about and every other second one of the kids was asking me a question! Anyway, luckily for me, at the moment she told me what her change should be, my calculator simultaneously concurred.
And that’s when I realized I had no dimes or nickels for change. (I’d planned on only pricing things in quarters, but obviously changed my plan without consulting my brain).
Anyway, it all worked out. I told the lady to take the two 10 cent items for free. She quietly thanked me and then, very kindly went to her car and returned with a dollar and 20 cents worth of dimes to not only pay for the two 10 cent items, but to also provide me with future dimes for change.
What is my point, you wonder?
I have no idea. (I’m still really tired and it’s now Wednesday).
Which kind of is my point. I had reached a point where nothing much was making sense at all anymore. Why was I doing all this volunteering? Why was I adding more things to do to an already overworked brain and body? Why was I continuing to say yes to things, even though the most obvious answer should have been to say no?
I’m still not entirely certain, but I do know this: no matter how hard we try to do everything and then some, we all have a breaking point. And at that point something’s gotta give. And, unfortunately, in my life, that usually means my husband and my kids have to put up with a tired, cranky wife and mother.
I wish I had a better answer. All I know for sure is that along with my kids and husband, I suffered for taking on so much. I didn’t want to be grumpy. I didn’t want to be so tired. And I didn’t want to be doing anything on the weekend besides enjoying my family (which I was not at all able to do because of all my “yeses” to other things).
So, when Monday came, I worked all day on some of the other volunteer things I’d committed to doing, and as I was able to cross more and more off my list, I started to feel a sense of peace. (Even though I had to sacrifice the blog again to get them done). I started prioritizing and making a punch list. Tackling one thing at a time. And bit by bit my load has lightened. And I have found stillness and peace and quiet again.
And yesterday, there in the stillness at the bottom of all of it, was God. Waiting. Holding it all up with me (or for me). Reminding me that every decision I make impacts others.
It’s how I’ve come to understand what Catholics call “original sin.” Our decisions have a ripple effect: on ourselves, on God, and on others, even through the generations.
It’s a tough row to hoe, knowing this.
There is hope! And my hope comes from knowing this: that the ripple effect is also true of our good deeds, when we follow the promptings of the Spirit. I remember having a conversation with my priest at my last parish in Wisconsin, and he told me that following the Spirit is like throwing stones into a pond. We let the Spirit carry out our work like ripples on the water…and sometimes? Sometimes, they touch something and bounce back to us!
And that’s why I have hope. Because, while I know that my crabbiness and crankiness has a ripple effect, I believe that my good deeds do, too. Otherwise, why would the lady who was only minutes earlier yelling at me about her change (and hinting–not so subtly– at my idiocy) return with not only payment for items I’d offered her for free, but also with change to spare?
It’s the miracle of mercy.
And it is why I have hope that when my earthly life is over, those who have known me will remember me not for the stained and blotted effects of my thoughtless, hurried and sometimes cruel choices, but rather that they will feel their hearts flooded by the loving and heartfelt goodness that comes from the light of the Spirit within me.
Because it shines in us all!
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” John 1:5