Today was speedy. From the time I parked my car, (in my special, designated, radiation patient parking place in the parking garage…jealous, huh?), until I was walking back out to my car took a total of 15 minutes. Brownie, Chipper, and Star Wars were only able to enjoy the presence of my vivacious personality for approximately 5 minutes. 😀 They likely had a small pity party when I left, drowning their sorrow in hot coffee, as it was quite early in the morning. (zzzzzzzz)
As I was leaving that congested area of town, my thoughts went to the things that can happen in a life in 15 minutes…or 5, for that matter. Someone can go for a normal eye exam and a brain tumor is discovered instead. A family can be enjoying a beautiful day at the zoo and suddenly their four-year old is in the gorilla exhibit. An annual, boring mammogram is abnormal. Parents of a newborn hear, “There’s a problem…” Suddenly, life is changed completely.
I know. This is coming across like ‘Dodie Downer’, (aka: Debbie Downer), but I did just come from a room full of cancer fighters, and enjoyed a brief chat with a lung cancer survivor who was awaiting her chemotherapy treatment. It’s difficult to hide my head in the sand from the fact that
life is fragile
And often, when we turn our eyes away or bury our heads in our own stuff, it’s really easy to treat it as though it isn’t…precious.
Many times, in the mundane ordinariness of schedules, jobs, church, and just plain busyness, I think that I become numbed to the pain or longing in the faces around me. It can be overwhelming, I know; it’s kind of my job to know. At the same time, without an appointment schedule, if I take the time to see – truly see – there are lonely, suffering people crossing through my life at any given moment of every day. For instance, while I was having all of my deep, meaningful thoughts, (you may beg to differ), I stopped at a coffee shop for an iced coffee. Pulling into the parking space was a bit tight and an elderly gentleman felt the need to kindly direct me. Then he gave me a thumbs up when I navigated the treacherous spot. (Cute, right?) When I got out of my car I thanked him, aaannnd intended to keep walking, but he wanted to talk…about the weather and the coffee shop and the crowded lot. By God’s grace, I realized he was lonely, so I stopped mid-stride and chatted for a few moments. It wasn’t that difficult for me; I simply had to re-calibrate my constant GO-GO-GO switch!
I love a passage in Anne LaMotte’s new book, Small Victories. Cloaked in sarcastic humor, her wisdom can say things to me that perhaps others cannot. Maybe her words will help me avoid excessive navel-gazing and open my eyes to what is going on with others around me:
The worst possible thing you can do when you’re down in the dumps, tweaking, vaporous with victimized self-righteousness, or bored, is to take a walk with dying friends. They will ruin everything for you.
First of all, friends like this may not even think of themselves as dying, although they clearly are, according to recent scans and gentle doctors’ reports. But no, they see themselves as fully alive. They are living and doing as much as they can, as well as they can, for as long as they can. They ruin your multitasking high, the bath of agitation, rumination, and judgment you wallow in, without the decency to come out and just say anything. They bust you by being grateful for the day, while you are obsessed with how thin your lashes have become and how wide your bottom.
I’m very grateful that I don’t have any dying friends at present, but now, 5 days a week, I am in the presence of people fighting for everything their lives used to mean to them. Maybe you are, too. Maybe it isn’t their physical lives; maybe it’s emotional or spiritual or mental. It can all feel like dying, just the same…I wonder how 15 minutes of our time can make a difference? or even 5?