Thursday, December 29, 2011

Failing My Own Expectations

My mother has this beautifully painted desk in our kitchen: it is red, bright blue, green, and yellow. Upon it has sat, for as long as I can remember, a now-yellowed newspaper clipping that reads:

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race." Sincerely...
-Lawrence E. Wikander, Curator
Calvin Coolidge Memorial Room
Forbes Library
Northampton, Mass.

I read this, frequently, and sigh sadly. I have a modicum of talent, a bit of genius, and tons of education, but persistence is what I lack. Usually, I don't mind, but right now, I do mind. I mind more than a little bit. I started off the holiday season so well: I ordered my Christmas cards, made a Christmas card list, started writing and addressing them in earnest, baking, getting little boxes in which to put the baked goods and deliver to friends. And then the week before Christmas, everything changed. Saturday, December 17th! Everything from then on was a wash. I haven't done anything - I haven't even mailed the cards I wrote or presents I bought, I didn't deliver the packages or finish decorating the cookies. I barely managed to finish decorating and make the house look presentable for my poor exhausted (and now sick) husband. I didn't call any of my friends who are far away, I was not so good about keeping up with my in-laws, I did not reach out to the people I love and tell them how much I love them.

In that time, I grieved how I thought I should. I wrote and tried to pray. I visited a few friends close by. I did a great deal of gardening, and an even greater deal of crying in the quiet of my house, alone, while my husband was at work and the world bustled on. I forgot about cards and presents and calling or messaging. All the balls that I so enjoy juggling, juggling, I just let them drop, just turned away while they were all in midair and let them fall.

I try to put my post in perspective by adding pictures of my room after the devastation of the tornado in April. Surely this should make me feel better, right? ...right??

I didn't do it to hurt anyone; I didn't do it because I was being careless or forgetful, even. I just stopped working, as a person, for a while. But now as I'm coming out of the fog, I realize I might have hurt people because of my forgetfulness. Someone might have looked forward to a card, a call, or a gift that I had hinted or promised in my earlier productivity. And I'm so sorry. I try to figure out the words to tell people that I'm sorry, but I just get tongue-tied, trying to be genuine but not excusing myself, understanding but not a doormat. I feel all at once sorry and angry: I'm angry that anyone would ever take these omissions personally. I sit here boiling, wondering if anyone is thinking, "well at least she could have..." It infuriates me that someone would chalk this up to carelessness, or laziness or laxity, now, now of all times!

But the next instant, I am on the verge of tears, agreeing with this fictitious person. How right they are! I want to cry. How useless am I that I can't even address a few darn cards and get them to the post office? I feel ashamed to talk to people, calling them sheepishly, knowing they don't what to say to me and realizing that I don't have any words either. I keep wanting to apologize, I know some of these people are genuinely hurt, but I'm worried that if I did, they would say "oh no, please, don't worry about it at all - " and then I'd feel dumb for making the effort.

And then at the end of this utterly futile and energy-sapping thought exercise, I realize that I should not be so concerned what people think - that I should strive to do what is right by God and by neighbor, apologize if I think it is merited, and go on with my life. Realizing how much I fail my own expectations, I think I'll just crawl into bed and call it a day.

1 comment:

  1. Oh! Hugs! You are the sweetest person I know!!!

    My cards are waiting to be addressed at the moment. I was hoping to get them out before the first but I may have a new aim of getting them out before Little Christmas!


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