Have you ever gone through a season when you'd wake up in the morning and look at yourself and think, Who am I? Is this even my face anymore? Heavy stuff to be dealing with at 6:30 in the morning. This is why I run so often. When I'm running, all I can really think is, right foot/left foot/right foot/lef...somebody's breakfast smells good. But my little ole body can't run every morning, and existential crises are no respecters of persons. In any case, that's what's been going on in my head for the last few weeks. And it's not a good time to be losing your grip. I don't know about you, but I feel like this year has brought some particularly tough challenges for everyone. Ebola, school shootings, ISIS nastiness, droughts, mudslides, separations, rejections, failures... Good thing I'm not the type who worries about everything. Oh, wait, I am that type. Rats.
The trouble in the middle east is particularly worrying to me because my brother has been deployed to that area. This is a picture of him with his daughter Zoe. He's been out there a month, with six months left to go. While I realize that this is what he's been trained for, that he made the choice to put his life at risk with open eyes and a willing heart, and while I realize further that if he'd chosen instead to pursue a career in accounting he could still get run over by a bread truck walking home from the office, I still feel like my beating heart is being dangled over a pit full of ravenous wolves. And I get to watch my sister-in-law and my parents suffer the same worry (and worse) from practically the other side of the world.
Life is hard.
Did I tell you I've been made Head of High School? Technically, I started learning the ropes last year, but this year is when the rubber began hitting the road for reals. And you know what? This whole 'leadership' thing is not easy. Suddenly, all the problems that I used to quite happily let other people take care of have become mine. It's not that I have to do all the jobs, but I do have to see that they get done, and the mental burden of it all is surprisingly heavy. Plus, after all the meetings and emails I still have my own teaching responsibilities, and I am not a fast worker, which sometimes puts me in the awkward position of not having finished the things I've been asking my fellow teachers to do on time. Also, there's that pesky learning curve to consider, and being in leadership means necessarily that other people will suffer when I mess up(!). I'm not complaining. Okay, maybe I am. I don't regret taking on the job, though. It is an honor and a blessing, and I just know it must be doing some sort of good. I'm sure we're all building a lot of character, right?
And then there's facebook. Gaah! Facebook! I search my feed hungrily for morsels of home, pictures of family, news of friends, anything that will help me feel connected. But inevitably, I end up looking at a long line of wedding announcements and baby pictures. Heck, my friends' babies aren't even babies anymore! Suddenly, I'm crying all over my lesson plans. Pull it together, woman! How many of these same friends are feeling just as small because they don't get to live on a ship in Madagascar? How can I, in good conscience, complain about ANYTHING when not a hundred meters from where I sit, people who have not had one tenth of the opportunities I've been given are just hoping to be able to walk normally, etc.? Still, I won't deny that it stings. After all the Huffington Post articles and mom blogs, I feel like a dead tree in a forgotten garden. But that's how it is, isn't it? We none of us know what our own paths are leading to, but we're absolutely sure we can see all the good things on other people's paths, just lying there like ripe apples for them to pick up and enjoy. Never mind that we have no idea how hard it is for them to keep walking.
I don't want my own petty disappointment to get in the way of any of my relationships. You are all far too valuable, friends, for me to let go of you. That's why envy is a sin, you know. It separates people. As soon as you start comparing someone else's life to your own, you put them on the other side of a sort of mental see-saw, and the higher they get lifted, the lower you sink. "She doesn't know what it's like," you say to yourself. "She won't understand, so why bother talking about it?" Before we know it, we're either worshiping them or hating them, probably both. Isn't that awful?
Listen, there is enough Beauty in this world for every single one of us to lead breath-taking lives. Beauty and Goodness are eternal things, because they are characteristics of an eternal God. We are not competing for some finite commodity. The see-saw is a lie. Lighting a candle doesn't take away the brightness of those that have already been lit. In the same way, your gifts and blessings, your triumphs and successes, your moments of love and delight can only add to the brightness of my own life, because I know you, and I love you, and that means that the things that bless you also bless me (just as your hurts also become mine).
So bring it on, Facebook! Show me all your adorable Instagram pics. Tell me all about those little angels with their sticky faces and quote-worthy sayings. I love it.
And I love you, dear friends. All of you. Thank you for being part of my beautiful life.
PS- I got a haircut! You can see it here in this photo of us teachers at the Academy's recent Science Fair. (Just for you, Mom.)