Thursday, November 22, 2012
the glistening whole
Happy Thanksgiving! This Thanksgiving I find myself pretty darn thankful for pretty much everything. And I mean everything, the good and the bad.
I’ve had this thought for a while now and I’ve been wanting to write about it, but life has been too busy to blog. I have about 10 minutes before everyone wakes up and the rolls have to be started, so here goes.
Our time in England was full of adventures. But, not all of them were the adventures I was envisioning when we set off across the ocean. I was envisioning happy children soaking in a new culture, putting themselves in place in time and space, a happy mom knowledgably explaining the whole spectrum of the world to them as we visited castles and museums. I envisioned life being calm and slow there, leaving behind all of my commitments here and just focusing on our children, homeschooling them, absorbing the world at their pace, from their level, helping them make connections, making connections with them. I envisioned us all taking a deep breath and just being together, in the moment. Now, If you followed our blog, you know that life over there didn't[t exactly roll out how I was envisioning.
Sure, there were some moments that were idyllic, lots of them actually. But, there were other parts of our adventure that I would have rather cut out while I was living them. Things were not calm and slow and worry free. I was not the perfect picture of a calm mom opening the world to her children. Thankfully I had my little Hazel to remind me during all kinds of crazy moments that even the bad stuff was part of the adventure. The car problems, the car problems, the car problems, the health problems, the housing problems, the scary driving on the other side of the road problems, the navigating another country problems. And, because I really was living a dream come true by traveling with my kids I remember thinking over and over while there that I was so happy we were doing what we were doing. But it was hard.
Now, I know that the glitches we experienced in our England adventure were not serious trials, and I am so thankful for that. Everyone survived. Our hardships there were min-i-mal compared to what so many people experience in life, and I want to make sure to acknowledge that. I remember reminding myself of that over and over again when all the craziness was happening. Life was tutoring me using little problems, maybe to get me ready for bigger problems.
Anyway, what I wanted to write about, and I have to get to the point here because my time is almost up, is that now that we’re back and people ask me about England I tell them, without any hesitation, that it was fantastic. That it was the adventure of our lives. That I want to go and do it again. When I look through our pictures I get that swelling inside that gets me all weepy with nostalgia and longing and joy. Suddenly, with the power of retrospect the whole experience is glistening. I have far from forgotten the difficulty of it all, but all those hard things just swirl into the experience.
I remember my sister-in-law Mary Ann (who has travelled abroad with her kids a lot) telling me before I left that I needed to “live in anticipation of the memory.” I tried to do that when I could, but it’s only now that I realize what she meant. The memory of a big experience like that is usually glorious. It doesn’t have all the worry of not being able to see what is ahead, how it is all going to work out. The memory sees the experience for all that it is. And it sees it in perspective, the whole picture made up of lots of days combined together. And in the whole, we see beauty where in the moment we only saw ashes.
This fall for book group we read Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. There was one passage that really stuck with me. I can’t go into details about the plot of this book (mostly because I can’t remember a lot of the details) but there’s a point where the main character Billy Pilgrim finds himself in jail on the planet of Tralfamadore (I know, strange plot, poor Billy seems to have PTSD). Billy's captors give him some Tralfamadorian books to pass the time, and while Billy can't read Tralfamadorian, he does notice that the books are laid out in brief clumps of text, separated by stars. "Each clump of symbols is a brief, urgent message -- describing a situation, a scene," explained one of his captors. "We Tralfamadorians read them all at once, not one after the other. There isn't any relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time."
I love this idea of an author carefully crafting words that create an image that is beautiful and deep. I love this idea that when we see all moments at once the experience is deep and beautiful. That the whole of something is often more glistening than it’s individual parts.
Perhaps that’s the main lesson I’m taking away from our time in England: That as we move through life, the day to day may not seem glorious. In fact, it may seem darn right dull, mundane, treacherous, exhausting or nerve frying. It may even seem to blur past us in a flurry of business and activity. But if we live it well -- in anticipation of the memory maybe -- if we can have a little Hazel reminding us during the thick of it that it’s all part of the adventure, when we look back on it the whole of it will glisten. Sometimes we just need to wait and see them all at once like the Tralfamadorians. And then we can be thankful for everything.
All parts of life get us somewhere if we let them. If we can trust the Author of the story we will know that He is carefully crafting our experience so that, in the end, the image of our life is “beautiful and surprising and deep.”
So this Thanksgiving we are thankful for everything. Because, like Hazel put’s it, “it’s all part of the adventure.”