I’ve just made myself laugh aloud. There have been a few blips and hitches in our church routine today – the Sunday sermon has been delayed on youtube and all morning I’ve had emails pinging in, like some piece of atonal modern ‘music’. They were from people who weren’t quite sure if they were doing something wrong, or if the sermon wasn’t yet online. I don’t have any role in the church, but I have the church laptop and so I am the one who sends out emails. I soon found myself answering these perfectly reasonable questions quite abruptly￼. I had a stern word with myself and softened, but it’s hard to answer one person sweetly when another two messages are pinging in, queueing up.
As the morning slipped into lunchtime and there was still no sermon posted to listen to, I was asked to send out a church email to say that the service would now be scheduled for this evening. In reply someone thanked me for ‘all you do’, and then someone else thanked me for ‘the techno stuff’ and then someone else said “You do so much”
I gently demurred. They insisted.
“Listen up!” I wanted to shout, enough with the thanks. I do not load stuff onto youtube, I don’t record it, I don’t preach or teach, I don’t do anything except send out one or two emails a week. Others do the clever stuff, the hard work stuff, the inspirational encouraging stuff.
‘Pshaw!” is the response, “You do far more than that.” And I start to laugh with a trace of exasperation.
“No, seriously, I don’t.”
“You do so much.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yes, well, we know you do.”
I have never had a problem with false modesty. If I say I do nowt, then you can take it as true that I do nowt. It’s what I’m good at, doing nowt.
In mounting desperation to direct the thanks to where it should go, I answered one thanker with the simple phrase “I just send emails, erratically.”
I love that. It sums up my life. Next time I’m asked what I do, I will answer “I just send emails erratically.” That makes me laugh. Aged 71, what do I do?
Menial tasks, erratically.
The things I can do and can do well, no one wants. The things they want me to do, I do badly.
I was asked last week if I would return to nursing in this time of crisis. I replied that I’m 71, so according to many I shouldn’t even be allowed out of doors, it’s 40 years since I trod the wards, I’m overweight, with high blood pressure and sciatica and problems with my inner ear. But apart from that – step aside Dr Kildare, I’m coming through!
Life is funny, eh? You get to 71 and still nobody knows who the hell you are.
Nobody can step inside my brain to marvel with me at the gentle chaos, the vague ideas and fleeting thoughts, like so much flotsam and jetsam, all bumping against each other on a sluggish and uncertain tide. I’m as unknown now as I was when I came mewling into the world, a whole lifetime ago. Unknown. I wonder if you feel that way too? I think some will.
That’s a bit wonderful, don’t you think? We are all our own universe.
I have found in this last week a really deep and unexpected peace about who I am and the life I’ve led. I’m shabby and my life has been a mess. But I am also a precious jewel and my life has sparkled. Both are true. Both are held in perfect tension. And I don’t need correction or reassurance or sympathy or disagreement… it’s all water off a duck’s back. I have peace.
It’s not my peace. It has nothing to do with security in this world, or wealth, or health, or the absence of war, nothing to do with how able I am (or amn’t!) , the work I do, or the work I’ve done. It’s the peace of God and it really does beat all understanding.
It certainly beats mine.
How unexpected, but how human, to find such a depth of joy and peace as this strange pandemic creeps among us. How schizoid.