“Mom.” I heard my son’s voice, but didn’t instantly react.
“Mom?” he gently asked, “Did you forget to sign me up?”
With his name absent on the season finale Champs Swim Meet heat sheet, I didn’t blame him for wondering. I’ve forgotten before. But this time, the omission wasn’t my fault or our coach’s.
On another day, this might have fired my ire – the inconvenience, the disappointment and the unfairness of it all.
But not today.
Life’s events of late – with all their death, heartache, strife, emotions– weighed heavier than a heat sheet omission.
Ready to chalk it up to a good life-lesson (sometimes things don’t work out despite our best-laid plans), I reached for my keys to go home. But before I could start to console our way out the door, the meet coordinator swooped in and took care of the oversight.
So, I took my place in the stands to watch.
How could we watch and cheer swimming when a quarter of our downtown was a crime scene? And closer to home, how can we be excited for the momentary when my dear friends are suffering from the untimely death of loved ones, relentlessly brutal cancer, job loss, spousal unfaithfulness, debilitating depression, suicide, … and more. Regular matters seem so insignificant in light of these things.
But, life goes on. Time marches. Seconds tick, minutes pass, hours and days go by with little regard to the things that fill them – whether heavy or light.
Personally, I’ve found it hard of late to get my productivity engine going in the midst life’s heavy. Like running in quick sand, my thoughts struggle to get beyond the heaviness.
But there we sat.
Watching race upon race that brought with them unexpected insight. Here are a few things I saw that offered perspective on living the regular in the midst of life’s hard:
1. Always and regardless of events, people matter. We’ve seen it in Dallas. I saw it play out in regular-life from the stands.
After a confused start and particularly dismal finish by our teen boys’ relay against a team of what looked more like young adults, I watched them hop out of the water and head straight to shake hands. The trading of great job’s and nice race’s took the competition from an up-or-down, fair/not-fair event and made it about the people. I watched the boys on both sides appreciate each other. It was compelling – even a little convicting.
2. Though feelings tempt out thoughts to believe otherwise, we’re not alone. Look up, take note and talk – the person walking alongside probably feels the same.
“This is crazy,” my friend Robin said. “I’m fighting feelings of frustration with the organization of this meet and so much more. Which seems so petty and ridiculous considering 5 people lost their lives yesterday. Perspective, huh.” Yes. He said it; I needed to hear it.
For me, it wasn’t as much about swim-meet-frustration, it was nagging heaviness that was silently stealing the moment. His passing acknowledgment helped diffuse the covert threat. He outed the culprit, helped frame the moment and most importantly said what we all were thinking – even if in the back of our minds. Then maybe we can breath as oxygen-infused authenticity offers perspective.
3. Good is in the midst – as is inspiration. Fred Roger’s reminder never gets old: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
4. People are resilient – resilience is part the package. So lean into it. We could all take a lesson form the cutest little 6 year-old swimming the back-stroke. His tiny body and determined windmill arms looked like a Happy Meal wind-up toy. He inched along the length of the pool, swimming his heart out while everyone else finished. Head bobbing up and down to gasp for breath, he finally made it to the end of the pool amidst the loud cheers of the crowd. Some kids might have cried, given up, been embarrassed. He just got out and walked past unphased. Ready for the next event. I think that’s called grit.
5. Moments matter. It has been hard to allow moments to matter with life’s-heavy loud and proud. But that meet mattered. The participant’s hard work mattered. The race mattered. None of it was life-defining, but it mattered. Regular-life moments in the midst of hard – they matter. And, they might bring with them a richness of their own.
After watching my kid finish last in the event for which he trained all summer, my heart sank as he walked my way. “You okay?” I asked. “I’m great,” he responded. “I know I came in last. But, I shaved 4 seconds off my best time.”
I was glad we stayed.
6. It’s good for life to go on. Heavy life-events happen and must be addressed (the hurt, the fear, the anxiety, …), but they also need to respect the present. Life’s hard just can’t be given any more reign that it already has. Maybe it’s in the life-going-on that life-heaviness doesn’t win.
May we let life’s-hard inform but never define our days, our self-worth, or our outlook.
May we take a cue from the two U.S. Presidents who, despite very different backgrounds and ideologies among other things, stood together at the Meyerson memorial service, grieved and purposed to inspire.
Then, may we do as President Bush encouraged,
- “reach for the unity of hope, affection and high purpose,”
- avoid “…judg(ing) other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions,”
- and “…practice empathy, imagining ourselves in the lives and circumstances of others. This is the bridge across our nation’s deepest divisions.”
A bridge supported by the secret sauce of life: loving others – walking alongside rather than against.
Thanks for walking it with me, praying for all who have been touched by tragedy.