I spent this past Saturday feeling a little blue. Saturdays tend to be days that make me sad. I always have really high expectations for a day of freedom and time with my husband, but the freedom usually makes for anxiety in my mind. Usually, there’s a list of unreasonable accomplishments that I think I’m going to make happen. At the same time, there’s the hope that we’re going to do something FUN(!). By the time noon rolls around and the day if half over and I still have ten tasks to do on my mental list, I already sense my failure.
The Saturday Sad was in full effect a few years ago when I was on staff with Young Life. I’m not a planner and I tend to long for a continually changing schedule. Young Life gave me that and as much as I thought I was going to love working Monday mornings and Monday nights, Tuesdays 9 to 5, Wednesday morning to bedtime, etc. I didn’t. I longed for sameness. I wanted someone to zap my life and make it fit neatly into a regular workday so I could know when I was off and when I wasn’t. Not knowing made me feel like I should always be working. I felt guilty for nights home with my husband when I could be out with high school kids. And on Saturdays, I felt it most of all. I should be meeting kids for lunch, I’d think. I should be planning for the Saturday night leader training time. And instead of either doing those things or not doing those things and being peaceful and thankful for my time to rest, I lived in a thorny in-between. I constantly thought about my failure to do either.
I went to therapy. Not just because I was sad on Saturdays (actually, that would be kind of a funny reason to give a therapist), but because I felt like my mind was out of control. It was never at rest. It was never grateful in a full sense of the word. I was anxious.
Some day I’ll tell you all about how therapy made me into a grown-up. But for now, I’ll just say that therapy taught me that I was wrong about myself. Yes, I’m not a planner. Yes, I’m drawn to having a flexible life. But I learned that when I have flexibility, I need to know what I’m going to do with it because I’m never satisfied with rest unless I’ve made a conscious decision that Rest is what I’m going to accomplish. (By the way, I do make that decision often. Rest is good.)
So, when I sat on the couch in my pjs this past Saturday, thinking of all the work I could be doing— for my Young Life administrative job, around the house, on my poems--my heart started pounding. I breathed shorter. And I turned into a grouch.
Chris called it “Pregnant Sad,” which is probably true. I’m sure I had a surge of hormonal mayhem that made me feel a little out of control. But I’m thankful to say I didn’t simmer in it for long. I felt sorry for myself, snapped at Chris a little about how dirty our house is and how we still don’t have pictures on the wall. I worked on the Bible study I teach on Sunday nights (while lying down pathetically on the couch), and then I got dressed, walked with my little family to the park, watched my husband and son roll down the hill together.
There’s something about thankfulness that (amazingly) tends to be the antidote for all things sad in my life. Sometimes I just need to remember that my life is not a series of tasks that must be accomplished on time; it’s people. And those relationships are beautiful. I have a husband who really loves me and who knows how to love our son. I have a son who is obsessed with stories and rockets. I have a baby who swishes around my insides and makes me want to eat pickles. (Being pregnant is the weirdest/greatest thing ever.) And my life is full.
Last week I wrote about my 88 year old Pawpaw, who was struggling in the hospital with pneumonia and heart failure. As of Tuesday last week, I was preparing myself for a last minute trip to Amarillo, in hopes of a chance to say goodbye to him for the final time. We weren’t sure he’d make it through the week.
By Thursday afternoon, he was a new man. The guy’s indestructible. I could list for you the times he probably should have died. He just keeps pushing through. He was released from the hospital on Friday and sent to a rehab facility. They allowed him to leave for the afternoon yesterday, oxygen tank in hand, to attend my mom’s family birthday dinner. Miraculous.
Yesterday morning, I stood next to my husband in church and sang, “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” a hymn that has rarely come out of my mouth since childhood, a good old-fashioned Southern gospel hymn. In my childhood, after an important family dinner, my Meemaw would have us clear everything out of the dining room and insist that all the instrument players pick theirs up. She’d sit down at the piano and start playing through her list of favorite gospel hymns. Can you believe that? My family would have sing-a-longs. Usually my brothers and I would roll our eyes when the countrified versions of “I’ll Fly Away” and “Just a Closer Walk” began. But, seriously, is there anything more beautiful than a family singing country hymns together in the dining room?
As I sang that hymn in the middle of San Francisco on a November morning, I let myself hear Pawpaw on the bass line, Meemaw’s vibrato on the alto, my dad’s fiddle, my aunt’s cello. And I felt grateful.
Maybe this lesson is coming just in time for Thanksgiving, but lately I can’t seem to get over how true thankfulness always squishes the mean worm in my crazy head. I just have to make the choice to let it.