It’s been one of those times lately, when the soul goes searching for meaning and all signs point in the same direction: Quiet. Silence, to hear the still small voice. And encouragement to accept what it says, even when the message is hard.
It was a rough week, last week–all those snow days, being cooped up and diverted from routine–and I didn’t handle it well. In the few moments I took to be quiet and still, the message I heard was, indeed, very hard. It said I was making my life, and my family’s, much harder than it actually was. I was resentful. I complained a lot. My fuse started out short and dwindled quickly. Nothing was good enough, and instead of looking on the bright side, I rode my attitude down a tight corkscrew of negativity.
Waking the soul is never a comfortable process. Recognition of one’s smallness–pettiness–is something everyone needs periodically, but when you get yourself stuck in a rut, it requires a real effort to suction your feet out of the mud. A bad attitude can always justify itself. There’s always cause for frustration, and that’s never more true than when you’ve managed to get yourself into a funk. You don’t put yourself in a funk, after all. It happens because lots of small irritants pile on top of each other and get blown way out of proportion.
The problem is, you get tired of feeling put-upon, so you defend yourself by expecting things to go wrong, thus justifying your bad reaction when, of course, they do. It’s an ugly cycle that almost everyone–maybe everyone–falls into at some point.
The trouble is that some people fall in, and they stay there. You know you’ve met people like that. People who are perpetually negative, perpetually angry at the world.
That’s not who I want to be. But it would be very easy for me to become that person.
I reached the pinnacle of this awareness twelve minutes into Mass yesterday, with a single line that I got to sing several times, to make sure the message sank in:
The just man is a light in darkness to the upright. (Ps. 112)
A light in darkness. That’s what I want to be. Not a proselytizer, not a finger wagger, not a complainer, not someone who lets five days stuck in the house turn her into a fire-breathing dragon.
A light in darkness. Someone whose actions and attitude breathe joy and peace into the world around her. Who lifts people up.
That’s a stretch for me, I’m afraid, but then again, maybe it’s a stretch for all of us. So I embrace this time of soul-waking, of soul-stretching, uncomfortable as it is, and the opportunity to wend my way back toward the narrow path yet again.
Good, thoughtful post. I was thinking some of the same things during the psalm this weekend. The weather has been getting me down, among other things. But trying to find a way to be the light in the darkness is important. Thanks for the reflection.
Dear Kathleen, As is always the case when I try to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed one of the pieces you’ve written, and how I’ve been touched by it, I can come up with the same word: WOW. Yesterday I tried to explain to our granddaughters (3 and 5) the Gospel reading for Mass in as simple a way as I thought they could grasp it. (Ok, so I didn’t go into the salt part, because I knew that would give them the idea they could help themselves to any salt shaker they come across and, well, you can do the math on that one!) I talked to them about Mt. 5:16 and gave them a coloring page with a drawing of a lighthouse and “Let your light shine” written in dotted lines. (Thank you, Lord, for the internet!) Their smiles told me they’d grasped it. They said they would “shine for Jesus.” Yep, they got it. I thought I had, too — until I read your piece today. WOW. Thanks for your perfect timinq. Blessings, Tere F.
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Beautiful article. I can so relate. I can get such an attitude at times. Sigh.
Waking the soul. I like that phrase. God is good. He helps us know what we need to work on. He puts His finger right on it. And loves us right though it.
You were a light in my darkness this week! Thank you for coming to the hospital and being there!
It was my honor, Laura.
Wonderful post, Kathleen. Honesty makes it great. Here I can see myself. (Getting the Thanksgiving feast to the table does it for me.)
With your insight into the machinations of funk, you, the fire breathing dragon (great image)became light to my darkness, “someone whose actions and attitude breathe joy and peace into the world around her. Who lifts people (me) up.” You make me understand how God can love this motley crew. Love ya!
In your poetry you always seem so serene. It’s good to know I’m not the only one.
On Sun, Feb 16, 2014 at 1:59 PM, So much to say, so little time wrote:
I’m a New Yorker (South Bronx), that should say it all.