Today is my baby brother's birthday. Happy Birthday Michael!
Trials probably do make you stronger - or more resolute, or more clear in your thinking. Not the legal kind, though I'm certain they can sometimes have a similar effect. I'm talking about the kinds of life events, sometimes your own and sometimes those of a loved one or acquaintance, that strip away all the silliness, or reveal it as silliness, and give you perspective.
I'm thinking of big trials - those are like a spotlight, illuminating everything in the vicinity in impossibly bright light, so clear that they cannot be denied. My friend Pam's brother, Larry, had a very large tumor removed from his face a few weeks ago. He's home, recovering well, in the care and love of his very close family, and in the prayers of the faithful that Pam's life is filled with. And guess what? Every person that Pam let share in this incredible trial in her family's life knows a little bit more about family, and love, and faith. We are grateful for our family, and we either are roused by or marvel at the faith. It's impressive, and humbling.
But I'm also thinking of the smaller, wearing trials. Those that, left unspoken in the dank dark space under the stairs, grow big and acid, eating away at your confidence and your joy. Chronic illness, chronic pain, the disappointments of a lifetime - it's this kind of trial. Each moment is bearable. No problem. But they take a little, take a little - and then you find yourself without a reserve of hope, facing the big ugly thing that the moments have made in your heart. It's not inevitable, but it is a real risk, and it takes a real effort to keep those moments at bay, in perspective. Like weeding a garden, or cleaning a house - keep up with it, and it's a small matter to tidy. Let it grow unchecked, and you have a big project on your hands. Maybe blisters, certainly thorns.
I'm an evangelist about this stuff any more. I have the fervor of the saved about tending your heart as you would any other precious growing thing. Don't count what you do not have, but what you do; this is the simplest path to joy. Don't say you can't, or that you'll try. You can, so do. Find a stretch of minutes each day to tend your heart - the small trials that vex you. Yank 'em before they take root.
My big learning this month? The stretch of minutes I tend my heart are apparently the same minutes I spend walking my 4 mile loop, bellydancing, or riding my bike. Action and clarity come as one for me. So as my owie foot has been hampering my movement (it's healing - yayyyyy!), little weedlets of discontent are sprouting. I sat on my deck tonight, it was a little drizzly and cool. I looked not at the few flowers I have not yet planted, but at the expanse of beautiful blooming spaces, the plants that are like living paintings to me. I breathed deeply, and drank a glass of wine, and found ease.
Soon it will be real summer - hot, dry. But for now, it is early summer, with all the promise that holds, and air scented now with late blooming lilacs mixed with early roses, the faintly floral scent of my crazily blooming clematis vines, the dark smells of good earth and compost drifting through. It's good to see - really see.
Next time I'm here I WILL be telling you about my morning walks making me smile, my bike being the fastest thing since my banana seat Schwinn, and my new bellydancing scarves making my shimmy even shimmmmmmier. But in the meantime, I'm smiling.
Don't try. Simply do.