Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Christmas Fail!

What is the proper etiquette when receiving disappointing, disastrous, or even frightening Christmas gifts? Are you able to maintain politeness despite feeling otherwise?

In our family, some are more successful than others at hiding their true feelings. Some wear every emotion clearly and unmistakably on their faces. And I sometimes wonder if we are we more considerate to acquaintances than we are to our families?

I remember one Christmas when, try as I might, I didn't do a very good job of hiding my disappointment over a gift. It was many years ago, when my children were very small. They had gone shopping with their dad to buy mom a Christmas present. We were incredibly short on funds so any purchased gift was a real sacrifice.

I was very excited at the prospect of this gift, especially when I saw the department store box.  New clothes!  I was sure of it, and had been craving something to enliven my tired, sparse wardrobe.

Old. Lady. Clothes! (and I wasn't an old lady then!) Oh my stars. Really? I'm not sure who they thought they were buying for. My heart just sank. Ohhhhhh, how could I try and feign joy and delight when truly what I felt was disbelief and horror? I tried. I really did.


I know I didn't even muster up a tiny squeal of false delight. What a rotten person I was.  I still feel terrible about showing my true disappointment when I knew how proud my family was of their gift for their mother. What should have I done? Politely smiled and put it away in the back of my closet? We couldn't afford to do that.

What did I do? I returned it to the store and replaced the gift with my choices from the year-end clearance sale, all the while knowing that my selfishness and pride had wounded some hearts that day, hearts that I loved and cared for more than any others.

I wish I could have handled the situation with more grace. I wish I would have been more sensitive to my family's feelings, knowing how excited they were to give.

I wish they hadn't picked out such ugly clothes.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Not Dead Yet!

My mind has been turned to things of eternity.  I have been thinking about potential; I have been thinking about my life's mission; I have been thinking about where I am on the timeline of my earthly life.  It was driven home with resounding power, as I was sitting in the temple, that as I approach the mid-century mark I am far from being done with my life's work.

Seriously, in all practicality, I could very well be merely halfway through my life.  Then why do I sometimes feel that I am nearly ready for retirement?  My children are grown, life as a full-time mother has abruptly changed with a nest that is pretty empty.  I have been reminded that I still have a lot of living left to do, and more importantly, I still have a lot of learning and contributing and refining to do, with probably many years left ahead to do them in.

What does this mean then?  Does it mean that I resign myself to the aches and pains that are knocking at the door?  Or does it mean that I must meet this conqueror with a full-battle attack?  Do I let myself become old, as is threatening, or do I reclaim my youthful health by trying a little harder?

If I am, perhaps, only halfway into life could that also mean that I still have hobbies left to discover and to perfect?  Does it mean that I still have thoughts to think and dreams to imagine?

I choose to think that I do.  I am reminded of a popular phrase from Monty Python, (surprisingly) which proclaims:  "I'm not dead yet!"

From a more expected source, I have also been inspired by the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who recognized that he too has a lot of life left in him.  In his essay entitled Experience, he contemplates the threads on the loom of time, and the picture they paint of our life's work.  He wisely admits:  "I know better than to claim any completeness for my picture.  I am a fragment, and this is a fragment of me."

So, even though sometimes I feel that I have seen it all, and done it all, and feel very smugly wise in my "old" age, I truly am but a fragment when compared with what I am capable of.  I do not know even half of what I should.  I have not served and blessed enough of God's children to have begun to repay my great debt to a loving Heavenly Father.

The world is full of opportunity.  What a gift.  We have also been given a gift of time:  "And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh..." (2 Nephi 2:21)

Our days are prolonged that we might finally figure out all that we must know and all that we must do.  What a gift.

I'm not dead yet!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I Left the Woods

Why do we let ourselves forget?  Why do we become so focussed on distractions that sidetrack us from our ultimate goals?  We have so much potential to think and to do and to explore and to find and to wonder.  Why do get muddled down in the quagmires of mediocrity?

Life is not meant to be static, nor stagnant.  And yet, once again, I often find myself wearing footpaths into the soft and impressible earth that used to seem fresh and new.  Some daily habits are good; many are tired and exhausting and worn out, and their repetition puts us on a treadmill that goes nowhere.

"I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there." 

I return to Thoreau.  I find refuge in Thoreau's thinking outside the box.  I identify with his impatience with the status quo and his desire for freshness and new challenges.

"Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one."

"...how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity."

"...if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpect in common hours."

The common hours.  The expected.  The ordinary; the run of the mill; the unremarkable.  THAT is not good enough.  I want more.  I believe the seed was planted in me to expect more.  And hopefully to achieve more.

"He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary."

What am I ready to leave behind?  What lies beyond that self-imposed invisible boundary? What is preventing me from expanding my capacities?

"He will live with the license of a higher order...."

I think I am ready to move out of the "little shack in the woods".  It has been an important place.  I have learned much and reconnected with my past.  I have felt validated and cared about.  But it has become stifling and monotonous. It threatens to be consuming and common and commercial.  I cannot spare any more time for that.

I am reclaiming my time and my dream.