Nearly a month into this experience, this mission, I began to notice rising feelings of distress. I felt irritable and overwhelmed and stretched—that old rubber-band feeling where any more pull will break the band. My emotional energy reserves were gone. And I didn’t really know why. My sisters encouraged me to have compassion for myself, to realize that after living alone for years I am suddenly sharing space with other people all day every day. In another life, it seems, I raised seven children—whom I love and admire. When I consecrated myself to being a husband, raising a big family, serving my employer, being active in my church, mentoring boys in scouting, and keeping the house, yard, garden, and coops in good condition, I lost my sense of self. I saw myself only in relation to other people and events and duties. Perhaps that is the way we are meant to perceive self: in relation to others, not as an isolated entity. But I felt wrapped up tightly with a long, heavy, scratchy blanket of demands and duties. In my distress, I reached upward in the prayer of thought and sought help to be more humble, less selfish, less judgmental, more patient, more positive and energetic, to stay focused on the work, and to maintain a better life balance. I often comment to my children on the connection between balance and happiness, and urge them to find a balance that works for them as they juggle work and play and service and duty. I am aware, however, that a balanced life is not always possible, and that often we simply have to do our best from within our state of imbalance, despite the ideal. And I am remembering a Man who once said, He who finds his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for love and goodness will find it again. Through all of life’s complexities, the virtues of love, kindness, forgiveness, and humility will stand the test of time, will turn our inward-inclined natures outward to others, and will help me find myself even as I try to give myself to others. Time to get to work.
It’s called adjustment, Roger, and look how much you adjusted from going to a house full of people to being alone. That was pretty tough, too, but you did it. Don’t forget what He said, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (substitute mother and father) You have been richly blessed with this wonderful opportunity to be of service in the best way.
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