The sun comes up the sun goes down, and with the consistency of the rotating of the earth you can pretty much count on that. But everything else reminds me of the experience viewed from the seat of a bicycle as you travel down the sidewalk just after your dad has removed the training wheels. The harrowing steepness, the swerving, and yanking are all part of the experience we call living. Some days the rodeo gets the better of us, and when it does you might find yourself licking your wounds for an hour or a year.
Like the new bike rider we try to control our direction with a tight grip and steady resolve. But no matter your skill level, your planning or your blessings, we are all in for falls now and then. Should do you believe the cliches “mistakes are where you grow”, or “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”? Although I have no quantifiable proof of the validity of these phrases, I can tell you from personal experience they offer at least a soothing balm and some hope when things are bleak.
As soon as we seem to wrangle one area of our lives into shape, another goes completely haywire and we turn our attention to it. If you’re not careful, daydreams of that perfect problem free existence paints the serenity of you by the ocean in your Adirondack chair, your hair blowing in the soft salty breezes, not a care in the world. Go ahead and indulge in the sense-altering out-of-body experiences for a while but snap out of it a.s.a.p. Because challenges and pain, fear and worry and doubt, illness and despair and loss, mean something. They usually mean you love, you strive, you care . . . you are living. My faith teaches me that I am not in control anyway, He is the rock that anchors me when life tries to wretch the joy out of me.
Possibly your list of what qualifies as a perfect day changes as your days increase in numbers. Focusing on what you are grateful for brings this life lesson into focus. I can’t tell you the value of two principals worth their weight in gold, gratitude and optimism, and I was reminded of it in a funny way this morning.
My husband and I have grown and sold Christmas trees on our 20 acre farm for 14 years. Recently I wrote about an unusual method of saving some of our trees that were being attacked by scale. Scale is a predator that craves Scotch pine trees and will kill every one you have. One way to combat these predators is with nature itself. The Lindorus beetle requests a steady diet of scale! Release them on your farm, and your problem is gone. We did this last year and found it to be very effective. This year we have only a few of our surviving Scotch pines and once again this season, scale has come to dine. Mr. B (husband-tree grower) orders the bugs which arrived first thing this morning. Mr. B intends on taking the beetles and moving them to a vial. If you can picture a small little fabric bag with drawstring and some straw substance inside and 50 very small beetles that fly, you might begin to understand the ramifications of this task.
Mr. B has a list as long as your arm of things he wants to accomplish. There is no grass that grows under his feet. As soon as those bugs arrived he was ready to attack the day. He proceeds to transfer the bugs from the drawstring bag into a vial thinking it will make scattering them easier once he is out in the trees.
“Halt!” I tell him. “You don’t want a few of those to end up in our dinner, take your task into the laundry room please!” Mr. B takes his little fabric sack and his empty vial (fat, plastic, clear medicine bottle with lid) into the laundry room and sets them on the counter. I feel compelled to share my strategy for this “mission impossible” task, but Mr. B’s optimism has sprung the operation into full swing. He removes the cap of the vial and then loosens the drawstring bag. He puts his fingers in and pulls out crumpled straw with plenty of little black bugs attached. I was thinking this may be easier than I thought, so I left him alone with his mission. It wouldn’t be long before I could hear the chopping sound of the vial turned upside down, trying frantically to imprison various beetles beneath it.
“Wow, they can fly!” Mr. B announces as I rejoin the crisis in progress. That was a curious comment for him to make, as we knew they could fly from last year, but it was more his realization the beetles were not going to follow his game plan.
I’m sure if I was on the “red-eye” from California like these little critters were, I would be all about stretching my legs too! Although all the straw went from the drawstring bag into the vial, many of the curious travelers were off with their own itinerary. They crawled on the counter, and over the edge of the counter, a few crawled the other way, and rested on my cute lampshade at the corner of the folding counter. Mr. B was doing his best to stay calm while I spied a few on the window trying to get out. I thought my job was to point out the escapees, but he said . . .
“No! Watch for the ones still coming from the drawstring bag!”
Sure enough the beetles slowly meandered out of the bag onto the counter and as each did, Mr. B directed the foreigner into a vial. There were one or two instances when the unfortunate dissenter did not clear the edge of plastic vial coming down over them, but there was no time for a moment of silence.
When the task was done, grateful he collected most, he went out to distribute them and I went back to my own tasks. I didn’t tell Mr. B that one was on the floor of the breezeway, and one just crawled across my computer screen while writing this. I opened the back door for any remaining beetles and pointed to the fields of trees.
“Dinner is that way, you’re late for the game!”
As usual Mr. B was optimistic on the onset and grateful that he managed to capture the majority.
Just like the beetle rodeo in my laundry room this morning, you won’t be able to avoid all the potholes in the journey of life any more than you can herd beetles, but the optimism in which you approach the mission and your standard of gratitude could have an impact on the outcome.