Over at her blog Words on the Word, Audre Myers posted a piece yesterday entitled, simply, “Life.” It’s a succinct and effective little piece about how Life often disrupts our, well, lives, and how our best-laid plans are often thrown out the minute Life demands our immediate attention.
The past several weeks have been full of Life for yours portly; indeed, this school year—which seems to be dragging endlessly onward—has been one of the toughest of my career. It got me thinking about this post from last May about the difficulties and joys of responsibility.
We all find ourselves busy at times, and I imagine many of us dream of shirking our responsibilities. The sad fact is, many Americans do—the moment anything becomes inconvenient, or no longer offers the fun thrill it initially did, we move on to something else new and exciting. There’s an inherent restlesness in that lifestyle, a lifestyle of constant pacing and chasing.
That’s the child’s response to responsibility and difficulty. As adults, we should adapt to difficulties, and bear our responsibilities cheerfully, even when they are more burdensome than usually—perhaps especially so at those times.
As I noted last year, most of our perceived problems either dissipate into mootness or are otherwise resolved before they truly become problems that need addressing. Case in point: I was slated to teach an online class this summer. That’s not a problem so much as an opportunity, but it was going to require a good bit of legwork this week to get the course ready to launch Monday.
I got home Tuesday evening to take a look at the course, and realized it had either been purged (due to low enrollment) or given to another instructor (likely a full-timer who needed to make his hours). While I’m a tad disappointed about losing out on some relatively easy money, it’s also “solved” a problem for me—finding the time to put that course together during yet another busy week.
Again, another problem resolved before requiring any real effort on my part—perhaps not on anyone’s.
With that, here is 5 May 2021’s “Heavy is the Head“:
Last Wednesday I wrote a piece, “The King of One’s Castle,” in which I wrote about the joys of home ownership, and the sense of import that goes with that responsibility. Putting time in working on and around the house gives me a sense of accomplishment, and deepens the pleasure of ownership.
As a corollary to that post, I’d love to offer up this slight counter: to whom much is given, much is required. I’ve been hearing that bit of Biblical wisdom from Luke 12:48 my entire life, often when I resisted doing something with my musical or oral talents (I possess a deep, rich, chocolate-y radio voice, and am often called upon to announce).
I am blessed to have been given much by way of talents, though I quickly temper that proud statement with sincere humility—there are many others far more gifted and talented than I am. Nevertheless, I do think I possess some attributes that increase my responsibilities to those around me.
That burden is not always easily borne, but it must be, whether easily or not.
Any homeowner immediately recognizes the myriad little problems that creep up—or, just as frequently, come crashing down. Indeed, I’ve found that owning a home is to exist in a state of permanent incompleteness, as there is always some tiny maintenance issue to attend to, and large projects to be dreamt of for a mythical, less busy time. Indeed, it creates a Zen-like sense of radical acceptance that some projects just won’t get done today.
More than the responsibilities of home ownership, though, lately I have found myself filling the role of amateur therapist. Indeed, I enjoy the little maintenance jobs of home ownership; while they may be put off, they can also be done—completed with a sense of finality and satisfaction. I recently replaced the lower heating element in my old oven—a $25 part that would have cost at least $100 for a professional to come fix—and managed to jury-rig a slightly different element to work safely and effectively. The frozen pizza I ate the following evening never tasted as sweet.
But people are not ovens, and their problems are not so easily fixed. Naturally, I don’t aim to “fix” anyone—that’s the kind of thing for overbearing ditzes in situation comedies. Still, after repeated versions of the same conversations, it can grow tiresome.
Anyone that has anxiety or knows people that do understands that rational reassurances, while not entirely worthless, often do not calm the underlying fear, which is itself almost entirely irrational. Therefore, much like a wife venting to her husband about work, the anxious person does not seek solutions, per se, but understanding and acknowledgment—recognition that the problem exists, and a patient ear to hear it out, over and over again.
For the patient listener, however, the burden can grown heavy after a time. At a certain point, the listener needs relief from the incessant worries of the worrier. I found myself hitting that wall a couple of weeks ago.
Fortunately, Nature takes its course, and the notion that “Time heals all wounds” certainly applies here: time tends to resolve many problems on its own. I believe it was President Calvin Coolidge who quipped that problems are like boulders rolling down a mountain: if there are ten boulders, nine of them will roll off of the path before they reach you, and only one boulder needs to be addressed.
It’s easy to attempt to control the course of all ten boulders, but doing so is overwhelming and impossible. Most perceived problems resolve themselves—or the people behind them merely run out of steam or go on to something else.
In short, responsibility is a joy and a burden, and it feels good to use one’s gifts for others and for the Glory of God. It’s also worth remembering that the burdens are often temporary, and like the stone before Christ’s Tomb, they mostly roll away.