Some time after my husband died I was in Sainsburys (oh, how I miss Sainsburys, here in the sticks) and reaching into a low freezer cabinet I glimpsed, in a strip of metal, the reflection of a sour, grey and positively frightening face. Startling! Who could it be? Who could be so obviously fierce? You guessed it – it was me! Seeing my reflection like that was a revelation. At 43 years old I realised that the grief and shock of the last few weeks, the upheaval to life, my concern for our daughter, worrying about work and mortgage, alone and adrift, had become etched in my face and in my attitude, turning me into someone older, and colder. That’s what people saw when they saw me, this stranger. That morning was such a good lesson and I’ve tried to remember, since then, that when we see someone who seems unfriendly or even hostile, we don’t know what’s going on in their lives. We don’t know what grief or turmoil they’re trying to cope with at that moment.
How do others see us? What vibes do we give out, unknowingly? My resting face is glum. Time and gravity have done their wicked work and I’m a sour faced old ratbag when I’m not actually making the effort to smile. I hope I’m not a sour faced old ratbag inside but to all intents and purposes… outside…..
Appearances can be deceptive. The person who looks angry may be broken, the person who looks confident may be quaking, the extrovert wreathed in the trappings of success is just as flawed and messy as you and me underneath it all. In fact, the more success and confidence we show to the world, the more effort we have to put in to maintain the illusion. That must be exhausting and, of course, it’s futile. It won’t fool anyone, or ourselves, for long. Robbie Burns saw a louse (nit) on a very grand lady’s hat when he was in church one day and that prompted him to write this:
‘O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!‘
In other words, says Robbie (my rough translation) ‘If God would give us the gift of seeing ourselves as others see us, we might not be so full of airs and graces and so pleased with ourselves.’
Certainly that day in Sainsburys pulled me up short and I became aware that I needed to change, to make an effort to rejoin the world, to step away from grief. So, that realisation was a gift. It was. But sometimes seeing ourselves as others do, well, it’s not something to lighten our step and bring a merry whistle to our lips. My neighbour took a photo of me on the beach yesterday. And when I looked at it my immediate thought was “Well, what a fat auld, miserable auld, biddy. Ridiculous. The state of her!”
So this next photo comes with a warning – it’s not a pretty sight – it’s the opposite of Ozymandius; in my case it’s “Look on my lack of wonder, ye mighty, and despair.”
Who is that? It’s surely not wonderful and amazing me? Why is it making me laugh?
And you know what takes us through all these moments, these revelations, and helps us to face the next day? You know what keeps us going when we catch a sight of the real us, when we look down at our hands and see how wrinkled they are, how many age spots we have (just read this morning that the late Queen hated to see her hands in a photo)? What keep us going is the knowledge that even as we are gradually falling apart, we are all still full of life and love and silliness and absurdity. I love our absurdity. I mean, look at that absurd woman on that rain drenched beach, carrying a bag of dog waste (the dogs are out of shot). Isn’t she absurd? She is. She’s ended up in a house with no garden, and now she has to get down to that rain drenched windy beach come hell or high water, every damn morning, Covid or no Covid. Isn’t she absurd?
Here’s something I know for sure – life never unfolds as we have planned it. How boring it would be if it did. We may have the expectation that one day we will be old and surrounded by a loving and caring family, maybe basking on a sunsoaked beach, drinking crisp cold wine while the waves sigh and murmur, but life is not likely to follow suit. Chances are it will unfold in another way entirely. Who’s to know? Who’s to decide? Only time will tell.
And if I could retrospectively plan my life, what would I change now, looking back? Not a single day. Not a single hour. Every minute of my life, the good and the painful, have brought me to this moment, and however ridiculous I am, however absurd, however grey the day, it’s brought me to the knowledge of God, and a meeting with Christ. How could I wish to change a single second? I’ve never, it turns out, been an accidental tourist. I was always guided along the way. When I was toppling off a mountain top, somersaulting to the bottom, yelling all the way, a soft landing had already been arranged. It just took a few knocks to get there.
I just love that all my life there has been happenstance. Things have happened that have set me staggering off one path and onto another. Some were happy happenstances and some not so happy. But I’ve come through them all, just as you are coming through all the messiness and doubts of your lives. We’ve reached this moment for a reason. There is more ahead. So what if there’s the occasional nit in your hair? You can get rid of it. So what if you’re standing in the pouring rain? You are water proof. So what if you are far less than perfect? You are wonderfully, miraculously, amazingly human. And God loves you.
However absurd we are, God loves us. Died for us. Amazing God.
See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:28-33
3 thoughts on “Absurd me.”
No. You look kind. Kind, searingly clever, shrewd and…with a handle on something infinitesimal.
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Just Thank you🤩 xxx
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