I bumped into a friend walking her dog last evening. When I asked how she was, she raised her eyebrows in exasperation and said, “I just had a birthday.”
“I didn’t know. Belated happy birthday.”
The dog tugged at the leash and came to me, wagging her tail and begging to be petted.
“That’s OK,” she said. “It was the last birthday of a decade. The next one is the BIG 70.”
I smiled with understanding. I’m next — in a couple of years. The thought of 70 seems foreign to me since my spirit still feels and sometimes acts like it’s 21.
As I petted the dog one last time and she walked away, I got to thinking about life and what I’ve learned. Truth be told, what I’m still learning. Here are some thoughts.
That used to be the humorous saying on some TV show that I can’t recall. But seriously, I’ve found as I continue to age that I know nothing. In my earlier days I attended a wealth of seminars, workshops, devoured all manner of spiritual, psychological and self-help books, tapes and CDs.
In the end, they weren’t wasted. They helped me grow.
But if I’m honest, life has had its way with me, sometimes painful, sometimes joyful, and I’ve come to the point where I realize wisdom and knowledge are far beyond this frail, human mind and spirit. As Joni Mitchell sang, “I’ve looked at life from both sides now …” And sometimes, I really don’t know life at all.
But that’s a gift. Ironically, it’s only when I’m in that space of not-knowing that the Divine’s love and grace can have free rein.
I’m not seeing a lot of listening these days. This distresses me. We live in chaotic, uncertain times. It’s difficult to hold and open space to really listen and hear what the “other” is saying.
But when we’re in that space (see above, I know nothing), only then can we come to a fuller understanding of the other’s feelings or point of view. That takes some humility. And courage.
It doesn’t mean we have to agree. A friend and I had a heated political discussion the other day. It was difficult for me not to want to jump in and state my point of view. But I took deep breaths. Dug deep. Listened. We both found a bit more understanding.
PEOPLE WILL DISAPPOINT US
This one comes under the category of “expectations” and “acceptance.” Many times I’ve expected someone to do something or act in a certain way, only to step back and tell myself, “You’re not giving that person the freedom to be who they are.”
Another tough one. Yes, people will disappoint us. But it was Mother Teresa who said, in part:
“The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway. In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
LIFE IS SHORT
Blink of an eye. Really. If you don’t have that realization yet, you will. And I don’t like it, not one bit because my ego tells me there are all manner of things I haven’t done yet, like writing my best-selling novel or traveling to Spain or Scotland. Any or all of that may or may not happen.
But the truth is, I can only “be” in the present moment and live from there, plan from there, love from there.
For it all. Even what we call the “bad stuff.” I’ll end with a story I’ve always loved.
Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker and Christian who, along with her father and other family members, helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II.
Because of her actions Corrie and her sister Betsy were held in a concentration camp where they lived in barracks plagued with lice. Lice were everywhere—in their hair and on their bodies.
One day, Betsy said to her, “Corrie, we need to give thanks to God for the lice.”
Corrie said, “Betsy, you have gone too far this time. I am not going to thank God for lice.”
Betsy said, “Oh, but Corrie, we are supposed to give thanks in all things. That’s what the Bible tells us.”
The thing is, the sisters had been trying to hold prayer meetings in the barracks but were concerned about the guards breaking in and shutting them down. But Corrie later found out, because of the lice, the guards refused to go into those barracks. And they were able to hold their Bible studies.
And learning that I really don’t know a danged thing at all. And still learning to listen. To be in the moment. To accept all that is.
But that’s OK. I’m a work in progress. We all are. We can find comfort in that. We really can.
Because we are loved, right now, exactly as we are. Isn’t that amazing?
So we can take a deep breath, a sigh of relief. We can let go. Of our agendas. Expectations. Inability to listen. Our need to know everything.
For that, we can be truly thankful.