I knocked on my neighbor’s door and asked if she would witness my signature on a legal document associated with my mother’s estate. She agreed, and we got it done.
“Thank you so much,” I said on my way out the door. I had less than an hour to scan the document, email a digital copy to the paralegal, and mail the original hard copy before the post office closed for the day.
My good-hearted neighbor must have noticed my harried state because she asked, “How are you doing?”
I teared up. “It’s a lot right now—legal, financial stuff, taxes—and everything’s taking longer with all the disruption. The new puppy isn’t getting along with our older dogs. And I miss my mother terribly.” I stopped to take a breath, knowing I’d crossed into the Land of Self-Pity.
“I’m sorry to burden you,” I said. “Sometimes I get overwhelmed.”
Many of my readers know I start my day with devotionals, including Richard Rohr’s from whom I often quote. In a recent reflection, he noted these five essential truths:
- Life is hard.
- You are not important.
- Your life is not about you.
- You are not in control.
- You are going to die.
The truth I struggle with the most is number four. I want to be in control, and once I go there so go the others. I don’t want life to be hard; I want to be important; I want my life to be about me; I don’t want people to die. When I get overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of what I cannot control, self-pity is one response, but anger is my default. And I can walk around the Land of Self-Righteous Anger for hours. Just ask Keith.
My first husband often said, “Life is hard and then you die.” He was not a person of faith, and neither was I while we were married. In any case, most of us would agree with truths one and five, especially these days. But what strikes me now are two, three, and four.
You are not important. Rohr notes, powerlessness is the beginning of wisdom, the first step for AA and Al-Anon 12-steppers.
Your life is not about you, that is, “Life is not about us, but we are about life. We are not our own. We are an instance of a universal and even eternal pattern. Life is living itself in us.”
You are not in control. Rohr: “For many of us, this may be the first time in our lives that we have felt so little control over our own destiny and the destiny of those we love. This lack of control initially feels like a loss, a humiliation, a stepping backward, an undesired vulnerability. However, recognizing our lack of control is a universal starting point for a serious spiritual walk towards wisdom and truth.”
Here is a prayer from Thomas Merton whose spiritual walk comforts me when I feel overwhelmed. I hope you find comfort, too.
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
This post on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jShIFR6H4YQ&feature=youtu.be