It’s one of those days when you don’t feel all that hot and from the time you wake up, the entire world seems to get on your nerves. You’re getting the kids ready for school and there’s the note in a kid’s backpack that starts with the passive aggressive phrase “Just a friendly reminder…” and then you can’t find that same child’s jacket because she just throws things wherever (of course, they all do that), and the sound of the radio and TV announcers on the news feels like nails on a chalkboard, and Instagram is being snooty and telling you they’re not willing to fix the problem you didn’t cause, you just have to deal with it, and you hold back from responding to so-and-so because your word for the year is “cheerful” and…
And there you stop, because you shouldn’t even have let the whole tirade get this far.
I sometimes refer to myself as an emotional exhibitionist. I pretty much put it all out there, both good and bad. But more bad than good, I’m afraid, because I’m also prone to being what Christian calls, with blistering accuracy, the “brooding artist.” Which basically means looking for things to go wrong. It’s a lot easier to find things to gripe about than it is to look at all the good in the background.
Last year, I read “Come Be My Light,” about Mother Teresa. I didn’t realize until just now that I never blogged about it, although I did write a Liguorian column on the topic. The thing that struck me most about that book came very early-on, where Mother Teresa observed that those who exude the most joy and love often are covering profound suffering. Almost, I thought, as if there is something about the choice not to dwell on suffering that frees up all that joy and love.
I knew right then I’d found my central theme for 2017, because the truth is, I don’t really suffer but I often act like I do. My irritations, though legion, are really rather petty. And I don’t want to be a Negative Nelly. I want to be like Mother Teresa. I want to be someone whose presence exudes calm and joy, not frenetic frazzlement. (Don’t you love coining words?)
I didn’t intend to blog about this at all, because I felt like even talking about it would undermine the whole point. But I started and abandoned two blog posts in the last twenty-four hours, because they were both turning into whine-fests, and when my family walked out the door this morning and I tried to start working on a novel synopsis and couldn’t concentrate, I just clicked open a window and started venting, and here we are.
I did say I was going to be more off-the-cuff.
So now you all know, and you can hold me accountable. Because I think this commitment to cheerfulness may turn out to be the hardest spiritual task I’ve ever set myself.