You know what I love about blogging? I love the way that it gives me a place to let it all out; to think aloud, as it were, and vent and just put it all out there. It’s like a journal, but it’s better because after I’m done ranting, I get comments from friends that say “I understand.” Oh my gosh how valuable is that understanding! The validation of a friend or even sometimes a perfect stranger just saying “I have felt that way too” is just huge. So thank you, my friends in the comment box, for taking a minute to tell me you are there, and I am not alone in my mid-life angst.
The other thing I love about blogging is that sometimes after I vent, I feel better. Sometimes all I really needed to do was just get it all out, spill the thoughts across the screen and let them go. Except, well, that’s not totally accurate. I don’t let them go, exactly. I’ve had those very thoughts and feelings a lot over the last few years, so clearly it’s not like typing it out makes it go away. More like it gives me the chance to step back and look at things from a new angle. I reread my own post and suddenly I’m the reader, not the author. And from that perspective, I react differently, and kind of give myself some advice. Last week, in the hours after I blogged, I had a bit of a mini-revelation. You want to hear it? It’s a total shocker, something I’m sure will just knock your socks off. Here it is:
I’m not dead yet.
Yes, I know, quite a news flash, ain’t it? But you know it’s like I grabbed myself by the shoulders (figuratively. literally that would just look weird and be rather uncomfortable) … and I said “Self, snap out of it! You are looking at this the wrong way! Your life is not over! So you’re forty-one, so your kids are growing up and finding their own paths. Does that mean YOU can’t have a path? Why the heck not? You say you regret not studying literature and writing? Then DO something about it!”
This little revelation came to me as I was perusing The Great Courses catalog that came in the mail the day before. We ordered a couple of the courses for Drew when he was homeschooling last spring. The “courses” are lectures from professors at respected universities in the US and the UK. No tests or homework, just lectures. He liked them but didn’t actually complete either one because it turned out that finishing the school curriculum was a lot more time consuming than we expected. Anyway, that’s why we get the catalog. So I’m looking at it and I’m thinking, “Why couldn’t I do one of these courses?”
I’ve developed this really bad habit of putting my kids first to the point of whiny martyrdom. As in “It’s not fair, my daughter gets to take all these amazing Lit classes and go see Shakespeare plays. I wish I’d done that, instead of picking the practical major.” and “My son is so lucky to have his mom advocating for him to make sure he’s challenged and working to his potential. I wish I’d had that.” It’s like it hasn’t occurred to me that just because they are having their horizons widened and getting all these cool opportunities doesn’t mean that I *can’t* do the same. Which is about when I started thinking, “So maybe I should do more than a Great Course. Maybe I should take a real class. Heck, maybe I should get my Master’s Degree!”
Could I be more of a cliche if I tried? Forty-something woman having mid-life crisis decides to go back to school for non-lucrative type degree, for personal fulfillment purposes. I SWEAR. I am rolling my eyes at myself.
So maybe I filled out of a couple of online forms for information about earning a master’s degree through online courses. And maybe a day after that I started thinking I can be a tad mercurial in my moods and perhaps I ought to step back and not jump into something so fast. And now I’m kind of sitting here on the Pause button, undecided about whether to do a Great Course or take something for credit or just check out a whole bunch of books from the library and call it good. The important part is, I have options. And I can do whatever I choose and I don’t have to sit on a pile of regrets and let my past dictate my future. I am not dead yet.
And would you believe, this whole revelation was only a precursor to a bigger WAY BETTER revelation that I had today? I know, it’s like I’m on a roll or something.
So I was at the library a few days ago. Checking out a big stack of books for my kids, as always. Only this time, I decided to get a few for myself. (Not like I never get books for myself. But usually I look a little and then think “I don’t have time to read that. Why even bother?” because I have a very bad habit of checking out books and then not reading them because I get busy and a book is such a time commitment and then I keep thinking I’ll get around to reading them and instead I turn them in late and pay a big fine.) But this time, I went to the “religion” section and picked out the kinds of books that I’ve been meaning to read forever but never do. Carpe Diem and all that. (For the record, I also looked at Wuthering Heights, which I have been meaning to read forever, but it was shelved in teen section with a new cover that said something like “Bella’s favorite book!” and well, that killed it for me. Just, no. I’ll have to find it in a used bookstore with a better cover.)
Ok, back to the library. I checked out two books, one of which was The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis. I figured, a book of essays is a good place to start. I can read one essay a day, no biggie. Today I read the introduction AND the first essay, which is the sermon “The Weight of Glory”. And I realized I’ve read this book before. Last year, about this time, to be precise. So not only am I a cliche, I’m living a rerun of my own life and have memory issues to boot. But that’s okay. Because that sermon is so good I should seriously read it every single day. Seriously.
“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Let that sink in a bit. Why are we always settling? Why do we fixate on the dumbest things? Why do we miss the infinite joy that is being offered. INFINITE JOY. That’s like way better than just “more than fine“.
But that’s not even the part that really got me in this essay. Lewis speaks of Heaven – which I as a Christian believe is my true home and where I will spend eternity – and he says, basically, that all the longings we have now are the soul’s way of saying “there must be more” – “We remain conscious of a desire which no natural happiness will satisfy.” And then he goes on from there to talk about what it means that in heaven “we shall have “glory”. Now this is where is gets interesting. He explains that “glory” isn’t what we think it is, because we’ve sort of twisted the word into something else. But the “glory” that the Bible speaks of is “when the redeemed soul, beyond all hope and nearly beyond belief, learns at last that she has pleased Him whom she was created to please. There will be no room for vanity then. She will be free from the miserable illusion that it is her doing. With no taint of what we should now call self-approval she will most innocently rejoice in the thing that God has made her to be and the moment which heals her old inferiority complex forever will also drown her pride deeper than Prospero’s book.”
I know I can’t put into words how reading this made me feel. But maybe some of you feel it too. Really I can’t do the essay justice – you have to read the whole thing. (please, do yourself a grand favor and sit down with a cup of tea and take the time to just absorb every word. I promise, you will be glad you did.)
What I found in this sermon-essay was validation. That what I’m feeling is real, and more than that, that it has purpose. My soul IS hungering for more… and that’s a good thing. I should not be ashamed. I should not try to smother that feeling with busyness or distractions. But then, what should I do? Well, as Lewis says, (and I love this line) “Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning.” So what then?
“It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. … There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal… it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit… This does not mean we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”
I find in that prescription a validation for my day to day “minutia”… the caring for my family, the errands that lead to interactions with friends and strangers. It is all important. All of it.
So there you go… my two great ephiphanies to kick off this new week: I’m not dead yet. and It is all important. Deep thoughts!! And with that I shall go try to figure out what I can prepare for dinner that can be made ahead of time and is the kind of thing one would eat whist watching TV because the debate is on at 6 and I am a political junkie! (We’ve already voted, via mail, so this debate is pure entertainment for us.) And then, if there is time, I shall sit down to view my first online lecture – I bought a Course!* “Classic Novels: Meeting the Challenge of Great Literature”. Doesn’t it sound interesting and exciting and fun? It does to me!
*This post was written in two spurts… last Thursday and today. Because that is the way life goes around here. So! Many! Interruptions! But that’s okay! It is all important! 🙂