I Can See Clearly Now
I have a daughter. She is nine. While pregnant I fantasized that her and I would spend our days together playing tennis, sipping Starbucks, and having completely logical conversations about life. I tried to be realistic, figuring we would have a few small spats when she hit the teen years. All of which would be fixed with an afternoon at the spa, of course. Clearly the pregnancy hormones made me delusional.
Girls have a reputation for hitting adolescence and completely losing all ability to think or act rationally. I would argue that very few girls wait for adolescence. Really, less than one percent even waits for post-utero. My daughter is proof.
Real problems cannot even begin to compete with the ones that she creates. So I find myself on a daily basis waving my arms in front of her face while explaining that the space within my earshot is a drama free zone. For her I have coined a simple mantra. “If this is the worst thing that happens to you today, I’d call it a pretty good day.” (To this she rolls her eyes, crosses her arms, and screams that I make no effort to understand her . . . all while she stomps to her bedroom to play Angry Birds and listen to Taylor swift.)
Some days I wonder where she gets it . . . other days there is no question.
Wednesday was just such a day. The pools were cloudy at the Club that day. A common occurence in salt systems, and not a problem in any way (really chemically speaking, it’s a sign that the salt is doing it’s thing). Still, it often brings a barrage of questions from members. I had a class in the pool at 8:30. I drug my feet the whole way there; creating a dramatic scene in my head of angry people and unsatisfactory explanations. I created a problem in mind before one even existed. Which in turn pushed my eyes to the ground and put a grumble under my breath.
I slunk into the pool, trying to avoid eye contact. Still, I could not help but spot a gentleman who had been off the radar for a couple of weeks. I said hello with no intention of stopping, wanting just to get through what I had convinced myself was going to be a miserable class. I flippantly asked how he was doing, not in any space to really care. When, for a brief second, I finally lifted my eyes enough to fully take in his countenance. His lower lip quivered, his line-backer build hunkered. Tears hung in the balance of his swollen eyes.
Over the next hour, he shared with me his wife’s diagnosis of stage-four lung cancer. He spoke in two sentence intervals, as sorrow caused his voice to crackle and fade. His brokenness broke me. I know his wife. I love his wife. But any sorrow I felt paled to compare to the devastation he was experiencing.
In an instant, I realized how petty my spirit had been — concerned with self-preservation in response to a problem that may or may not have even existed. My imagined pool drama nearly drowned out the opportunity to share in the grief of someone who at that moment deserved my full attention. My tantrum nearly stopped me from doing my job — both in the literal sense of giving people the workout they needed, and in the more spiritual sense of caring about people the way that God commanded.
In an instant I was reminded that life itself is a privilege. A truth often clouded by would-be drama. God created the Heavens and the Earth, the animals and plants, man and woman. Then He gave man purpose: to be in obedient relationship to God, to work and tend to the earth, and to cleave to one another. These were the privileges of life: relationship with God, work, and relationship with one another.
These are still the privileges of life. I do not simply teach aerobic classes. I have the privilege of giving amazing people the opportunity to sweat through their troubles and to care for their bodies. My work is a privilege. The people I pass are not just my students, I have the privilege of engaging in their lives and caring about their hurts. It is a privilege to know them. I do not simply represent my own desires, but have the privilege to love others because God first loved me.
Drama, both real and imagined would seek to cloud that reality. I pray that life will continue to present opportunities for perspective that I might see clearly.