Raindrops and Perfection

He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. –Matthew 5:45 MSG

It seems appropriate to talk about rain today–this 13th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina–but I have no desire to revisit that horror today. The photo above features my favorite line from R.H. Peat’s poem “Perfection.” When I “encountered” it on the blog Sightseeing at Home a few months ago, I decided to create a series of photos using lines from the poem.

Every oak will lose a leaf to the wind.
Every star-thistle has a thorn.
Every flower has a blemish.
Every wave washes back upon itself.
Every ocean embraces a storm.
Every raindrop falls with precision.
Every slithering snail leaves its silver trail.
Every butterfly flies until its wings are torn.
Every tree-frog is obligated to sing.
Every sound has an echo in the canyon.
Every pine drops its needles to the forest floor.
Creation’s whispered breath at dusk comes
with a frost and leaves within dawn’s faint mist,
for all of existence remains perfect, adorned,
with a dead sparrow on the ground. –“Perfection” by R.H. Peat

The photo above is the first in the series. I even photographed a dead sparrow I happened across one afternoon. There was nothing poetic about that image, so we can probably forget about adding the last line to the series–unless I approach it less literally.

The incongruity between the poetic lines and the actual image of the sparrow reminds me of our tendency to use language to “pretty up” some really “jacked up” aspects of life. I’m learning that such language doesn’t minimize the ugliness and does little, if anything, to help. In some instances, what appears to be encouragement or inspiration is actually damaging. There’s nothing glamorous about struggle. Nothing to celebrate in being strong enough to withstand the blows. People who struggle with mental and/or physical illnesses don’t need platitudes. They need help. They need support. They need love. It is easier to come to grips with life when we realize, no matter how hellish, life is just that. . .life.

Isn’t that the point of Peat’s poem? Life with all its “stuff” happens to us all–whether we’re good, bad, nice, nasty, or somewhere in between. That is part of our messy, perfect existence in this world.

Oops!

I failed.

As a recovering perfectionist, failure can wreak havoc on my psyche. I have to coach myself away from negative feelings that start in the pit of my stomach and that, if left unchecked, work their way into my mind and set up shop.

And here’s the thing. It’s not even a “real” failure. I simply missed posting a microblog yesterday. Not because I forgot. Not because I had nothing to talk about, but simply because I was feeling other feelings and couldn’t shake those feelings enough to pull up my blog and write.

I crawled into bed much too early, thinking I could nap away the feelings. I opened my eyes every now and then to check the time, hoping I’d have enough of some other feeling to post something before Monday became Tuesday. Anything.

I last looked at the clock at 11:20 p.m. and thought…there’s still enough Monday left.  Then, I slipped into a deep, deep sleep.

I chided myself about it all day.

This is my attempt to “get over it” and to stop beating myself for what can’t be undone. I enjoy blogging—it has been a safe space for the last five (plus) years and I don’t want to associate negative feelings with my blog.  So, I’m shaking those feelings by expressing them and by reminding myself—that “if at first I don’t succeed” at blogging every Monday for 52 weeks straight, then I can “try, try again” next year if I choose.

More importantly, I am allowing space for my own “humanness” and acknowledging that reconciling those other feelings was far more important than a blog post at that moment.

Other People’s Stories

Railroad Crossing: Shot at a Stoplight

Today, I listened to other people’s stories. Not by choice–mine or theirs. Circumstance required my presence, but I felt like a voyeur, listening in and observing private matters.

One person injured in a failed attempt to rescue someone from a kidnapper. Another the victim of domestic violence. A mom whose inability to say “no” to her son may cost her freedom.

Normal, everyday people whose lives “behind closed doors” rival the most titillating television drama. I sat wondering–not how their lives had gotten to this point, but at how easily a life can get to this point.

We’re all at risk. Not one of us is completely safe. One bad decision, one snap judgment, one wave of compassion or indignation can change the trajectory of a life.

Momentarily.

And that’s the good news. No matter what other people think or how much our lives change, that “one moment” does not define us, does not determine who we are or who we are going to be. The road back to “drama free,” to recovery, to redemption might be long and arduous, but there is a road back, a road away from, or a road forward.

Look for the Gift

Do you remember my student, Chante Marie?

She’s leaving in a week to pursue her music career! Needless to say, I’m so proud of her. I know “just going for it” can be a scary venture, but Chante has a beautiful gift and spirit and she’ll be more than okay.

She and her hubby (they’re such a cute couple) dropped by my office yesterday and brought gifts—a lighthouse postcard, which I’ll share later, and a journal. Chante did not give me a journal to fill with words, but she gave me her very own art journal—filled from cover to cover with her art and brief musings!

Dream: Chante’s Art Book

This is such a precious gift. I am speechless.

During the drive to school and work this morning my son and I talked about the importance of looking for the gift in each day. Life can be, well…life. Something might happen during the course of the day that “knocks the wind” out of us—an injustice, an unkindness, a failure, a disappointment. Some days we’re knocked down before we can recover from the last blow, and sometimes we feel like we can’t “catch a break.”

A page from Chante’s Art book

Even on those days when it’s a struggle to lift our heads, there’s a gift waiting for us.

Sometimes the gift is tangible—a flower, a letter, a beautiful art journal, or a hug when needed. Sometimes, it’s intangible—the beauty of another’s soul, the sighting of a hummingbird, a painted sky, the good feeling that comes from doing well, a phone call that comes just when needed, or the sudden appearance of someone who just crossed your mind.

Actively seeking the gift works to rescue us from slipping into a mundane pattern of doing and getting and merely tolerating life. It saves us from cynicism and from fretting over trifles.

Fly Away: A page from Chante’s art book

Chante’s gift provided that for me yesterday and continues to bless me today. She gave me more than a physical journal; she also gave (part of) her soul journey. The intangible expressed through the tangible makes a very powerful gift.

 

Join me in making a habit of looking for the gift in each day. If you need a little help, check out my penfriend Beckra’s blog: Every Day, One Good Thing.

Be sure to collect a few gifts from Chante’s IG and blog too!

Ciao!