The Little Things

little-thingsHonestly, I’ve been struggling this past month or so.

It often seems like the days just drift by, with those around me bustling to work and fulfilling goals and stressing about life in general. Outside of it all, I watch them hustle and wish that I were still part of all of that stress.

Weird, huh? But it’s true.

When you’re in the midst of regular life, it is all a bit overwhelming, and a break is welcomed. When a serious illness–or other calamity–holds you down, however, things change. The regular falls away, leaving little but the illness.

Days are filled with doctors’ appointments, worrying about scan results, dealing with side effects of treatment, etc. Life becomes simply about trying to maintain a failing body. And that can be disheartening.

So I’ve been trying to count three good things that happen each day. Perhaps it’s that my husband and I were able to go for a walk today. Or I saw the first robin of the season. Little things.

In Katie Ganshert‘s upcoming novel, Life After, one of the characters, Anna, states:

“I guess that’s what life is, though, isn’t it? A whole bunch of little moments that don’t seem significant or life-altering at the time, but when you look back…They become the most profoundly beautiful things.”

Maybe that’s my lesson to be learned and lived out for right now.

If I had my druthers, this cancer would have never happened. I would still have a job and wouldn’t be scarred and wrecked physically. My days would be all about the hustle and bustle of regular life.

Really, really honest, though…If that were the case, I probably would miss the little things because I would be distracted by all the rest.

Cancer takes away pretty much everything when it comes into your life. With all of that empty space and time left behind, however, there’s the opportunity to see those blessings in each day and cherish the little moments that make up our lives. Because one of these days, I may be able to look back and smile.

The Obsolete Woman

obsoleteAs I’ve grown older and reached middle age, some days I creep about, fully expecting someone to leap out of a dark corner, pointing their finger at me and yelling, “Obsolete!”

My particular skill set and education really are from a previous age, that time when our culture lay its emphasis on the power of the written word and the influence of authors. With the rise of Twitter, memes, and pithy quotes, I’ve watched as the necessity of masterful storytelling has faded even as the ability to manipulate and create multimedia–whether images, videos, gifs, or whatever–has taken precedence.

Also, much of my work history has been in libraries. Go figure.

I’ve attempted to roll with the course of culture and have learned how to create websites and fashion my own images. And, for awhile, I even gained income by working online. Lacking in education as far as these new skills were concerned, I pursued my own knowledge through research and trial–with lots and lots of error thrown in for good measure.

There is still that feeling of being obsolete, of having only “spindly limbs and a dream.” Such an apt description of me, even now.

When I found myself in the Cancer Center of Kansas yet again in July of last year, I was confused and upset. I was supposed to be done with all of this, wasn’t I? I had been a survivor for twelve years, and here I was again with a brand new breast cancer and a diagnosis of Cowden Syndrome. Spindly limbs indeed.

Looking in the mirror, I see a thinner, weakened woman who looks a bit like an old man. Sparse hair, large glasses, and no breasts just complete the image. All I need now are plaid shorts, black crew socks, and sandals.

Definitely obsolete as far as being “sexy” is concerned. I can’t remember now where I heard this, but in one movie–most likely a Lifetime movie–the middle-aged woman talks about being “invisible” to men. That certainly seems to be true in my own experience. No longer feminine…no longer working…and not yet at the “crone” stage of womanhood, although I seem to be reaching that at a far younger age than I ever expected due to the effects of cancer treatment.

“Past my prime” and unemployed, I seem to fit the description of “obsolete” more and more these days.

Our culture would echo that of The Chancellor, declaring, “You’re a bug…an ugly misformed little creature who has no purpose here, no meaning.” In the episode, refusing to be defined by the State and its culture, Romney Wordsworth responds, “I am a human being!”

And that, ultimately, is where his strength lies. The character of Wordsworth, filled with faith, refuses to be humiliated and denigrated. His trust remains with God and the power of the written word, even until the last.

In his upcoming book, Divine Direction: 7 Decisions That Will Change Your Life, Craig Groeschel says that God made us to “trust him to redeem your pain with his power.” No matter what has happened–or is happening–in my life, God can bring something good out of all of it.

My future is honestly up in the air right now. But there’s still hope. Groeschel goes on to say,

“Your story is not over….You have more chapters to write, more victories to win, more friends to meet, more of a difference to make, more of God’s goodness to experience. Even though you may not like the plot so far, with God’s help, you can transform your story into one you’re not ashamed to share. You can start something new.”

I’m trying to hang my hat on that hope for the moment.

As with the character of Wordsworth, I can declare that I won’t be defined by the “State” or our culture. Responding to a seemingly impossible situation with knowledge and faith, I can perhaps live to tell my own tale. And oddly, just like Wordsworth, I’ll bring my seemingly useless skills to our current technology and media to do so.

And I won’t forget that it was Wordsworth’s reaction to his impending death that makes the most impact in the end. His faith helps him to respond with strength and peace, as opposed to The Chancellor’s desperate appeal for escape from his untimely demise.

Simple Pleasures

grant in paper box with quoteCats do seem to be wiser than us when it comes to many things. Rest, of course, is high on their list. All kitties seems to be unusually suited to relaxing at any time, depending on their mood and comfort. Stretching their paws leisurely, my cats will often blink their eyes at me as I go about my workday and then relax back into dreamland.

I have begun to wonder if we could learn a few things from our furry friends. After working 60+ hours per week for the past few weeks, I’m tired. I’m just plumb too old for this, I suppose. When I feel the weariness about my eyes even with a constant infusion of coffee on a daily basis, I know I need rest. That and those simple pleasures that we all take for granted as we get older.

I realized this yesterday when I had a bit of “down time” and lay down to read a book for a bit. So relaxed was I that I fell asleep for a quick nap. How I had missed that! Not exciting, that’s for sure, but pleasurable, especially for us old folks.

Life has admittedly become a chore lately. Maybe with a few lessons from my cats–and more time with the Bible–I can take my leisure and find some rest during busy times.

On Cooking and Cleaning and Generally Having a Ball

Original Photo by  taliesin on Morguefile.com
Original Photo by taliesin on Morguefile.com

The past few days have been spent in a frenzy of baking and cleaning. I have made two batches of chocolates, chicken and dumplings, assorted other meals, and a breakfast casserole that’s currently waiting for the oven. Additionally, there have been mucho cleaning and dog bathing. Why? There’s really no reason—no friends or family visiting from afar. No reason to put myself out, and yet, I enjoy it.

Yes, that has been quite a revelation over the past few days. I have thought about all of those years that I spent reading history and literature, thinking that I was doing important work. I certainly enjoyed the intellectual challenge, but I don’t know that I ever really had fun while I was in college. Perhaps this view is only in hindsight, when I have received so little return on my degrees. Maybe it is “sour grapes,” and I am latching on to the one thing that remains, cooking and cleaning. I am still partially employed, but it is not fulfilling work. And finding additional work has been difficult, if not impossible.

I am sore and worn out from my work lately. Still, tired as I am, I get a kick out of baking and cooking and generally being a housewife. I find myself collecting recipes on Pinterest and looking longingly at various home projects. Puttering around the house with my animals, I have been happy. The life that I once thought degrading seems a bit sunnier now.

On my way to the store yesterday, I thought about my grandparents who had very little education. They didn’t travel worldwide, take expensive vacations, or have fancy stuff. However, they knew how to manage money, garden, cook from scratch, and take care of their family. And they certainly weren’t afraid of a little work. Some today would consider that to be a “small” life, one that hadn’t truly been lived. Still, I think they had a richer life, one that focused on those things that truly matter, and they had work that was fulfilling and meaningful.

Somehow chickens and a garden sound mighty fine to me. And one final thought came to me on my shopping trip: finding meaning in any work that you do. Can any work be meaningful and fulfilling? Possibly. I guess it depends on where our heart is.

Spaghetti

Original Photo by MaxStraeten on Morguefile.com
Original Photo by MaxStraeten on Morguefile.com

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” –Dale Carnegie

Throwing spaghetti against a wall or cupboard is one way to see if the pasta is ready to eat. A little messy, but it apparently works. Lately I have been thinking of this technique in relation to my own life; it seems an apt metaphor for life and change. A time of uncertainty—such as unemployment or divorce—can often lead to desperation to produce any sort of positive results. Throwing our passions and talents against a wall, we hope that something sticks.

Admittedly, this sort of period in life won’t necessarily be fruitless. When faced with the loss of comfort, we often find our own creativity or latent talents. For example, a month ago I would not have considered manipulating photographs for a hobby. My husband was the one with visual talent, not me. Too without the immediate need for some sort of employment, I probably wouldn’t have written an article, much less a blog post. My focus was on my work and others’ writing, not my own expression. Both in the areas of writing and photos, I have discovered that I do still have something to share.

However, without an overall plan or vision, the efforts can lead to nothing. So far, mine have resulted in plenty of spam emails, but no real job or contract offers. Perhaps I need to redouble my efforts or refocus them. Or maybe the strands just need to “cook” a bit longer.

As with cooking pasta, continuing with the process is important. Even if work or applications don’t “stick” this time, the efforts may bear fruit at a later date. Unfortunately, as a middle-aged woman with a family, waiting for that future time is much more difficult than it might have been when I was younger. When I fail, I’m not the only one to suffer. My husband and his daughter have to do without, leading to their dissatisfaction and resentment. The desire to avoid this and a natural lack of patience lead to my desire for results now.

Perhaps, though, age and responsibility bring some benefit as well. Humility and wisdom—at least, hopefully—have been gained by this point, along with a greater focus on quality work. Having come through my 20’s and 30’s, I see with a different perspective and know just how much I still need to learn. Also there is the experience of past successes as well as failures. Yes, maybe age does bring something along with the wrinkles.

For my family and myself, I will keep trying. I’ll keep throwing spaghetti up against a wall until it sticks, and then we’ll all reap the benefits of my continuing to try.