Sunday, January 9, 2011

Nothing Great is Easy...or Convenient

So, it's been a while since I made an entry, and that's largely due to the fact that I've been short on deep thinking time of late. Being back at work and having everyone back to their normal schedules has left me short of time to ponder and meditate on anything other than what comes next. But sometimes you just have to make time.

It's been very enjoyable watching Trevor fall under the spell of pottery. There is something terribly rejuvenating about the process of making clay into a vessel simply by controlling where and how it touches your hands. I really had no idea it would be quite so captivating for him, but it is. And in having to teach him how to start and continue in the endeavour, I've had to really think about my own techniques and the reasons for them. It has given us something new to do together.

I have made a commitment to myself this year to be more positive and supportive of others (and myself). It's a hard habit to create after decades of criticizing and finding fault. When being judgemental has become part of a family socialization pattern, it's hard to replace it. I keep reminding myself of the condescending wiseman. That seems to help.

I'm also trying not to take responsibility for the choices and actions of those I love. Very hard, believe me. But I keep reminding myself that every individual has the power to choose, and I cannot control that. But it is hard to watch them set outrageous standards of perfection and then themselves for not achieving them. And I can't help but ask myself if this is what our Father in Heaven has to put himself through all the time watching us stagger through life.

I'm teaching marriage and family relations class again at church and it leads my mind in interesting directions sometimes. I've been reading a book about conflict and how unresolved internal conflict in our formative years can impact our adult relationships permanently. It's interesting to see how the world likes to attribute blame for destructive behaviour to past injustice. So far every scenario in the book has been credited to something someone else did or didn't do to a person in their childhood or youth. One woman becomes a nagging critical spouse because she was verbally criticized by a parent repeatedly. A man becomes an underachiever because his parents failed to acknowledge him when he did achieve something important. And I can't help but think that there's an important element missing in all this psychology. As individuals we are all given the power to choose for ourselves. We choose whether or not to become reflections of our past. We choose to fight with our loved ones. Yes, our environment has an impact on our learned patterns of coping, but we're the ones ultimately who decide whether or not we will persist in that pattern. Our agency means that we don't have to be someone who's self-destructive, self-serving, selfish, or even self-loathing. And with the added blessing of the Gospel, we know we can draw up on the strength of the Lord to heal our imperfections as many times as necessary. Repentance is supposed to be repetitive. It was never intended to be a one time fix.

The title for the blog comes from the memorial of Matthew Webb, the first man to successfully swim the English Channel in 1875. It was his second attempt and reportedly took an extra 5 hours because of jelly fish stings and strong currents. He inspired thousands of marathon swimmers who continue to attempt the crossing both successfully and unsuccessfully. And interestingly enough, Matthew Webb (who became a professional swimmer) died in an attempted swim through the Whirlpool Rapids of Niagara Falls just under 8 years later. He was still fighting self-imposed battles.

How many of us will spend our entire lives fighting the same issues to the very end? Probably a lot of us. I can easily imagine myself battling social insecurity when I'm 80 - feeling a little out of place or out of step. And instead of finding that discouraging, I find it a little hopeful. It means I am who I am, and I get as many chances as it takes. And if I'm still fighting on the day I leave mortality, I'm still on the right path. If I'm still trying to work towards perfection until the very end, I am enduring. And that will make all the difference when my accomplishments are weighed on the balance.

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