One of the hard things for me is expressing negativity.
And it’s not that I don’t experience hard times and dark days, because I do. I just have a hard time saying words that express that, or piecing together the phrases that mean, “so, like, today, I can barely remember what hope feels like,” because that just sounds melodramatic, doesn’t it? And I think, sometimes, that people just think I’m kidding (which is how I normally operate) so then I try to think of other words, other phrases to convey challenges but…somehow…I fall short.
And there was a day last week when that was the case, I was riding the struggle bus, and I was riding it hard.
That day, someone said to me, “Hey, what’s the matter with you?”
I was like, “Me? What do you mean?”
That person said, “You’re usually happier than this. You’re usually funny. I expect more from you. Pick it up a notch.”
“Yeah,” chimed in another person sitting in earshot, “I expected today would be funnier, if you came by, but so far it hasn’t been.”
So then I did my best. I tried to be happy, for them. Because I want them to be happy, too. And I consider myself a decent actress. And I teased and smiled and winked and laughed…for them. But, probably, they still weren’t satisfied.
Later I sat in a chapel and thought about my one cooler-than-me friend. He once told me about a time in college when he hit a rough patch—him of the gut-splitting imitations and the loud, loud laugh and the jump-right-in approach to all things life. And his classmates would be like, “Hey, aren’t you usually happy?”
And he had to be like, “Yeah, usually. But, right now I’m not. And I need the space for this.”
It’s an odd line to walk, the line of “My standard is ‘happy’, but currently there are things going on in my life that require different emotions.”
(A coworker just walked by, though, with the start of a joke. So, I took it and added more joke and then we laughed.
And that’s OK, too. Right? It must be. Right?)
This year I really get the forty-days-in-the-desert side of things.
There’s this one concept that Jesus could have saved the world with a bunch o’ fanfare and parades and explosions and Chinese dragons with a hearty musical or two thrown in for good measure.
But, he didn’t.
He decided to join us for all of it. And the hunger in the barren desert and the temptations and all his friends deserting him and not understanding what he was trying to say and betraying him and denying him and everything…the whole nine yards of Passion.
“I’ll bet,” said the cooler-than-me friend, “you feel very alone right now.”
“You’re right,” I said, “That’s exactly how I feel.”
I don’t know how to do this well. So, I’ll post this post on a day when I post other, happy posts. And then people can read those and maybe just skim over this one. And, that’s fine, too. I’m couching it purposely. Why? Because I don’t know how to do this well.
Do you want to talk about other things? Because I can. I can talk about Detroit and about flowers and how I saw robins the other weekend and how I snuggled a fuzzy puppy and how my brother made maple syrup. I can talk about plays I’ve seen before and books I’ve checked out of the library and any other number of things.
But, cooler-than-me friend also talked to me once about masks, and how important it is to be realistic in our struggles. Otherwise, we’re just stupid cartoons, based off of reality but deceptively false.
I’m not a cartoon.
I’m a woman. And usually I’m happy. And I love colors and I love jokes and I love flowers, too. And sometimes my life is hard and decisions aren’t easy and I feel stuck and the overcast skies of Michigan match exactly how I feel.
And that’s OK. I have to let that be OK.
And Jesus is in the desert, too.
Does this make sense? I never said I was good at this.
Do you know what else is OK? Feeling overcast. Seasons are merely that: seasons. And right now the world in southeast Michigan is grey. Everything is grey. And the things that weren’t originally grey are stained with salt, so now they’re grey, too.
But, one day it will rain. And it will rain hard. And the rain will stain the trees darker shades of brown and the flowers will blossom and the grass will burst. And that will be OK.
That’s how life is. And it’s OK. And Jesus is here. It’s just: things are a bit stained with salt at the moment. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t hope. It just means they’re stained with salt, at the moment.