Thursday, October 13, 2011

Not-So-Great Expectations

I have discovered the meaning of life.  Actually, I have discovered the meaning of a horrible life.  Does that count?  Maybe it's the C.S. Lewis in me (see previous post if this seems pompous to you), but I really do think I'm on to something here.  Something that has been brewing in my deranged head (again, see previous post if this seems a bit harsh to you) for quite some time now.  I must admit, I think people have been on to this way before me.  Dang it.  Oh well, though, at least I'm jumping on this bandwagon now.  So what is the secret to having a horrible life?  What is the gateway to unmitigated suffering?  Having high expectations.  I know, quite novel, wouldn't you say?

   But really. I'm all over this like I was all over cloth diapers last month (btw, I'm still all over cloth diapers).  Helloooooooo, expectations! You are my new enemy to conquer.  So, let me share with you how I got here.  Not that I haven't thought about this many of times before, but just recently it has really, really, really hit me how we can be slaves to our expectations of life, husbands/wives, children, churches, food, cars, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  So, we've been passing around a nasty stomach bug in our house the past two weeks which has brought a record amount of lack of sleep.  One morning, after a particularly brutal night, I felt myself putting up the streamers for the Pity Party I was about to throw.  And this was going to be a doozie of a Pity Party.  I got myself all fired up about how James has never, and in full Pity Party mode- probably WILL NEVER- sleep through the night.  It went from bad gas as an infant, to teething, to sickness, back to teething, sickness and teething, and the list goes on.  I was stuck in this total rut of "If I could just get this gas under control!" to "Ok, when this sickness finally passes....then I'll get some sleep" to other expectations of future peace.  Now, look, I totally understand that sometimes you have to think positive thoughts and convince yourself that it WILL get better just to survive the tumult of today.  But then I started to feel like I was constantly setting myself up for disappointments.  That, rather than praying for the grace to accept whatever comes my way- no sleep, cranky kids, a husband who has to work late- I was constantly praying for my life to change.  Who am I kidding? I wasn't praying for my life to change, I was pitching a royal fit that it better change or I'm heading to Mexico.  Adios!

    I had this same thought during my stint in Central America.  During one particular nasty storm, the rest of the volunteers and I went out to the river that bordered our land.  One of the vols waded out into the river (now that I'm thinking about it, that was totally not smart) and waved as we took pictures of him in the raging waters.  Suddenly, we see a perplexed look on his face as he starts feeling around on the ground of the river with his big toes.  He leaned over at one point and came up holding part of our water system that brought running water into our house and the other houses at the farm.  I didn't exactly know what that meant....what does it mean, I asked myself, that he's holding a pipe in his hands that is supposed to be transferring water to our house?  Well, it means, dork, that you won't have running water for months.  Things got a tad nasty as the toilets couldn't be flushed, we washed the vegetables and such in the ocean, no showers, etc.  We had always washed our clothes by hand but with no running water we had to now take them all the way down to the river and wash them there.  The thing that I noticed, though, is that while this latest snafoo totally wreaked havoc in my already fragile Central American existence, the natives totally took it in stride.  The Honduran women didn't shake their fists at the heavens (although I have to admit my Spanish was really rough so there is a small chance that they were indeed screaming at God but I didn't see the usual hand motions that go with such a tirade).  They brought their clothes down to the river and found a decent rock and started rubbing.  Let me tell you, it's a good thing I saw them doing it before I tried.  If left to my own brilliant ideas, I probably would have been searching for tree bark to scrub my underwear with.  Bottom line, it didn't really phase them that much.  I'm sure they considered it such a luxury to have running water in the first place that I suppose not having it was just more of a return to normal than a total demotion in quality of life.
     I started to feel sorry for myself, not because I had to bathe with the fish, but because I realized I had so far to fall in life.  And when you have so far to fall immense fear can creep in because you are so preoccupied with hoping that you don't lose the comfort, or the money, or this or that.  And you become so preoccupied with worrying about if your car is going to break, or your refrigerator is about to go bust, or your hairdryer is going to explode and the frizzies are going to break out in a free-for-all.  You realize how much control (or a modest stranglehold) you have on things.  You realize that you may just lose the last screw in your head if the damn ants won't stay out of your food.  But the Hondurans?  Why, that's all just life to them.  Their lives were so naturally simple that they weren't as easily thrown off-kilter like I was.  My expectations of life were (and are still) so high that it had (and has) the potential to create in me a constant unrest, a constant search for more comfort, a constant search for more money, more sleep, and the addiction goes on.

  Pray for me, will you?  I want to release that hold on things.  I want to raise my kids with a simplicity that is freeing, without going totally overboard and moving to Amish country (which I HAVE thought about, albeit only briefly).  When I pray the Our Father I want to really mean it, that I depend on Him for literally everything.  And, God forbid, if my house burns down to the ground (without anyone in it), or my new Kitchen-Aid mixer goes on the fritz, I will calmly smile and realize that this is not my heaven.


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