Monday, November 22, 2010

Amen and amen

It doesn't take much to make you realize how lucky you've got it when you sit down at a table with a friend, face-to-face, who is struggling just to get dinner on the table. Makes things very real, very fast.

So here it is: I have been blessed in this life with many wonderful things that I take for granted every single day. I have a reliable job. I have a pantry full of food. I can send my kid to preschool and can even consider making sacrifices to send her to private school -- in other words, I have so much that I'm actually able to give things up. I might have to wait until the next paycheck to buy those new shoes I want, but I can buy them. I can go out for a night with my girlfriends and know that this splurge, just for me, won't have a direct - and negative - impact on my family. I have health insurance and, more importantly, I have my health. I own the roof over my head and the car sitting on the street in front of it. I can buy plants and flowers to grow just because they're pretty, then have the audacity to complain about breaking a sweat to care for them. I have more opportunities than I can begin to imagine, then let fear keep me from taking advantage of those that are staring me in the face.

I know God. I know that He is here, with us and in us. I have no idea how He works, why my life is overflowing with comforts while others' are overflowing with hardship, but I do know that He is equally present in both. He is a great and wonderful mystery, and I am blessed to live in a time and place where I can not only say that, but I can write it for all the world to see. The small things that I can do to help someone are not nothing but they sure do seem to be when compared to the unimaginable things that God can do. And so while I sit and wonder how I can begin to help make a dent with the real-life, day-to-day struggles of just one family I am reminded that my offerings have to be matched with my prayers, and a hope that God will become known in their lives and hearts. Not for the sake of salvation but for the sake of hope and peace.

Look: I've had hard times. We all have. And though I'm certainly guilty of doing so in the past, I'm no longer in the business of saying who has it better or worse in this life. What I want to do - no, what I need to do, is learn to live in the knowledge of my blessings rather than the frustration my desires. I need to meditate every day on the needs of others and craft a life that is designed to help meet those needs, no matter how big or small. I need to live a Thanksgiving life rather than celebrate a Thanksgiving holiday.

Heaven help me.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

True confessions of a frustrated soccer mom

Newsflash about me: I just might, maybe, have some self-esteem issues. Kinda like you, and you over there, and you, too -- that's right, I see you back there. The one with the Sally Hansen Creme Bleach and Palmer's Skin Therapy Oil.

Oh wait a minute. That last one is me.

But anyway...

It was one of those mornings today when clean, wrinkle-free clothes were at a premium and I didn't seem to have the time, inclination, or raw materials available to pull together a particularly polished "look." And I didn't really care so much because I knew that today I wouldn't be seeing any patients, families, doctors, or co-workers except for one, and she & I would be holed up for the day in a work room on an abandoned Methodist psych unit. Awesome!

So I had made peace with my fashion fate as I headed out the door with Sara in tow, bound for another fun day at preschool. When we arrived I gave myself a quiet pat on the back for running late, as usual, because it avoided the crush of other younger, hipper, cuter moms and the awkward small talk required as the kids line up for their obligatory hand-washing routine. I parked in the lot across the street, my dad's old oversized, fleecy shirt repurposed as as a sentimental cool-weather jacket but, sadly, really rounding out my sad-sack appearance. I mean really. It was a What Not to Wear moment, and I knew it.

We got to the gate just in time to meet up with The Mercedes Mom. I've seen her lots of times during morning drop off and she has always annoyed me. Here's why: She drives a brand-new (ridiculous and ostentatious) Mercedes SUV. She weighs about 110 pounds. She always - always - wears spandex. Tight, and, at least this morning, very short spandex. She carries big, expensive designer bags and wears more makeup (to complement the spandex, I suppose) at 8:30 on a Wednesday morning than I did on my wedding day.

Certainly these are all very reasonable reasons for me to pass judgment.

Today she was also talking on her cell phone, carrying on an intense conversation about shaving something that I hope, I really really hope, was a family pet. I opened the gate for her & her daughter and didn't get the acknowledgement that I didn't expect to get (so no disappointments). We trekked up the walkway and got to the door, and as I stood on the stoop I paused for half a second, just to see if she would reach for the handle. She didn't and, still unsurprised, I opened the door & held it for her.

Me, in my dad's old oversized fleecy shirt and pants with the button missing (oh, I didn't mention that before?) waiting on Mercedes to wrap up her conversation so we could get inside & make our way to the hand-washing station. Paints a picture, doesn't it?

Even as I stood there I had this flicker of recognition: She wasn't expecting me to wait on her, she was just talking on the phone.

But a little bit of insight has never stopped me from hanging on to bitchy suppositions so I trudged in, marveling at that scrap of spandex barely covering her ass while simultaneously cursing myself for the sloppy shirt and overdue eyebrow maintenance. We got inside and passed a couple more of the Moms-I'll-Never-Be: proficient at small talk, sipping on their Starbucks and in absolutely no hurry to get anywhere. Sara walked ahead of me in her typically oblivious way, too engrossed in the ish on the walls and the conversations around her that she forgets to stop and hang up her coat and book bag in the hall outside the class room. I called out to her, and Mercedes Mom looked at me.

"This is Sara?
Yes, yes it is.

"Oh, well hi there! I'm Charlie's mom. I called your house and left a message for you a week or so ago. Charlie's having a birthday party and we wondered if Sara would be able to come."

Oh. I'm sorry (nervous laughter)... we're pretty bad about managing the voice mail in our house.

"Who isn't these days! I would have e-mailed everyone but the office didn't have the list together yet. Do you think Sara can join us?"

(relieved) Well, when is it?


Ah, well unfortunately she won't. We'll be in Pennsylvania this weekend.

"Oh... that's too bad. We'll have to get these two together some other time then. I know Charlie would really like that."

We walked into the class room, and just like that, all my assumptions evaporated. The skinny, rich, uppity bitch ended up being the friendliest parent I've talked to at Sara's school. I didn't feel judged at all for my shaggy hair ( I'm a little overdue for a cut) and dingy tennis shoes. She was completely normal (well, except for maybe the spandex -- no joke, I'm talking SHORT) and her hair, now that I looked it at, was kind of a mess too. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Turns out, I was the bitch. I was the one with the ugly attitude which, tragically, perfectly complimented my hot mess of an outfit and minimally maintained, unwanted facial hair. It was me, not her, that I couldn't stand.

UGH. I have such a long, long way to go. So with clean laundry in the closet and Sally Hansen waiting by the sink, tomorrow I'll make another stab at it. Here's hoping a little extra effort on the outside is just a stepping stone to a whole lot more effort on the inside.

(But I still retain the right to feel bewildered by the spandex. Because.... come ON.)