Joy, week 18
Every once in a while I get an urge to read one of Jane Austen’s classics so I recently enjoyed reading Pride and Prejudice — my favorite — once again. This time through I was struck particularly by Darcy’s admission to Elizabeth at the end of the book that he had been taught correct principles but had still gone amiss in his application of some of them as the years passed. Elizabeth’s refusal of his hand at first angered him but soon he allowed a sincere self-evaluation and came to cherish her all the more for making him know himself, for demanding of him the gentleman he had intended to be, and when he saw clearly again he went about the task of improving, of changing, of earnestly becoming the man he knew he should be.
I felt a kinship to Darcy as I finished the book this time, not because my life parallels his in any particulars, but because that experience of waking up to comprehend the distance between what you are and what you thought you were has been mine of late. I have wondered to myself more than once how someone so good-intentioned and with such efforts to be principled, could still end up here. You may remember this post about a stack of literature I am reading. The books are about a specific challenge we are dealing with as parents, and what I am reading makes so much sense and yet simultaneously goes against enough common parenting practices as to make me feel like I’m on the right track and need to turn everything I’m doing upside down at the same time. There have been days and moments of frustration but in my learning, repenting and practicing I also have a growing feeling of gratitude for this opportunity to truly know myself and choose to become the mother I intended to be. Because we usually compare the inside of our lives to the outside of other families, I don’t know that this process is something most people would ever notice, but because I’m the one who lives inside my life it feels like fundamentals are being shifted and realigned in major ways. One of my great weaknesses is a tendency to become impatient with slow growth, and this kind of growth is definitely slow.
I realize all of this is ambiguous. No need to worry; all is well. I choose to be vague instead of specific because I also feel a responsibility to be loyal to my children and refrain from advertising their challenges or weaknesses in ways that would be, to them, a breach of trust. I share it only because I think many of us have had that experience of waking up to our shortcomings as we gain knowledge and because it is the strongest ongoing theme in my life right now, next to the deafening roar of a schedule gone crazy during this last month of school.
Last week can be easily summed up in a few short sentences: Too much time in the car. Too many meals prepared in a hurry. Too many late bedtimes. Too much unfolded laundry. More children fighting colds. Too many days spent responding to the urgent issues of the day instead of systematically working on things of greater long-term importance.
I confess that all day today I’ve been fighting the temptation to indulge in self-pity and frustration and so I will refrain from typing too much in order to avoid it. Yesterday I was driving my daughter to her soccer game when I discovered the home of a friend who had moved. I had lost track of her and knew only that she’d moved. Imagine my delight to drive by her home and see her standing on her driveway! I went back and we visited and I had a smile on my face for the rest of the day. Yesterday at church I had a conversation with a lady that went so well that I felt that same smile on my lips. I was able to help a friend and this week stopped at the door of several great women I haven’t visited with in a while. Sometimes those doorstep conversations, designed to say “I was thinking about you” are the highlight of the day. I want to do it more.
I dealt with some stains on my six year old’s school shirts that I just hadn’t taken care of. That felt good. I cleaned the laundry room. I almost cried when the rest of the bills for my son’s recent ankle surgery arrived but was saved by the face of my two year old peering up at me to ask if I was sad. She then climbed up and entertained me with nonstop chatter for 30 minutes, becoming increasingly animated in her mannerisms. Oh, I love that girl. And it’s a good thing, too, because she racked up quite a tab this week in broken things. She is a class all her own!
I cannot tell you how far short I am falling. I can tell you how earnestly I am trying.
And that will have to do, because there certainly aren’t two of me!
Good luck with your week. If you’re like me, you need a lot of it!