1.13.2013

It comes in handy

Hi, all.  And a very good Sunday to you.

I went into this week with my head down, eyes focused, armed with coffee and Luna protein bars, knowing it would take an extraordinary amount of determination and an extensive use of iCal to make it to this very Sunday in one piece.  And here we are.  So thankful for a sabbath weekend.

I'm not sure I've really talked to anyone outside of work folk and my parents.  This past week was something of a web of old job/new job and everything in between - which meant my alarm was going off at 3:45am or 6:30am depending on the day.  Which is not confusing for the body at all.  I spent the last two nights staying in, watching old Barbra Streisand movies, in bed by ten o'clock.  

Then there is the fact that I leave for Africa in ONE WEEK.  I am feeling strangely chill about this trip.  I am not unexcited or unenthusiastic, I'm simply not stressed about it at all.  Maybe I should be.  I carry a trait that I am incredibly thankful for:  the ability to maintain a sense of calm in stressful situations.  I wish I knew how to put this on my resume, because I think maybe this is a marketable attribute.  It comes in handy when you are crammed on a train with one million other people who do not speak English or being questioned by the police in Portuguese.

The flipside of that is I am so guilty of over-thinking almost everything.  This makes me an incredibly poor decision-maker.  Every time my friend Tricia and I go out to breakfast, it is preceded by days of messages back and forth over where to go.  And then, what time!  Good gracious, the decisions.  So, I'm thankful that I haven't had much time or energy to think about Africa, or my new job.  Maybe that means I go into it all rather unprepared or unorganized, but maybe that's okay.  For now.

This question popped up on my TED Big Questions yesterday:
"How are your expectations affecting your experiences?"

I had to think about that for a while.  In general, I'd say my expectations of the world, family, friends, myself (even a meal for Pete's sake!) are too high.  I expect the world of, well, the world.  Unfortunately, more times than not, I am setting myself up for disappointment.  And then those moments, those experiences that are totally spot-on, that match or exceed my expectations, are burned in my memory forever.  I'm thankful for those.  And sorry and sad that so many times I think in a dream, when the truth is, I live in a real world of humans and machines, faults and failures, and almosts.

I don't want to lose my sense of hope and conviction, because I'm not sure what the world is without them. But I am trying to level my expectancy.  So that, hopefully, my experiences will outshine my expectations.

I've been hearing a lot lately about folks who have been deeply and profoundly unhappy.  Folks who are dealing with a very serious bout of depression.  I hardly know what to say to them.  I have never known such deep-seated despair, and it is not something you can pretend to know.  But every time I hear of someone who is experiencing this weight and woe and loss, I think of Job and his friends.  It says that when they saw Job they could hardly recognize him.  "Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights.  No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was."  

I was thinking about this yesterday while I was running: the weary and worn, the afflicted, and what it is to be present with them in their suffering.  I was also listening to an episode of Radiolab, interestingly enough, on Bliss.  The episode began with this incredible audio clip from a video by Norwegian adventurer Aleksander Gamme.  He had captured a perfect moment, an experience of pure joy, on the last leg of a three month trek in the Antarctic when he discovered something he had stashed under the ice at the start of his journey:


A double pack of Cheese Doodles!  A bar of milk chocolate!  Mentos!  On a three month journey through the Antarctic, when you are cold and hungry and tired, this is bliss.  

Aleksander says, "When did you shout the last time you were so happy?" 

When I first heard the audio of Aleksander's discovery, I literally doubled over, laughing and smiling like a fool, trying to run and maintain a sense of decency.  When I got home, I immediately found the video and experienced it all over again.  I can't stop watching it.  The host of Radiolab mentions this moment in the video just after his initial Cheese Doodle discovery, when Aleksander pauses and looks out across the ice. Frozen in a state of disbelief and pure, unspeakable bliss.

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