Unfinished Conversations

PROVERBIAL PEN TO PAPER

Made to Fit…

The best metaphor I can think of is clothing. You find a shirt, you really like it, you try it on and it fits fine, it’s passable, you don’t hate it; in fact there are parts of it you could grow to truly love. But one store over there’s another shirt that has a better fit, for you. One that doesn’t involve many turns in the mirror to make a decision; one that is snug in all the right places, and loose in the rest. It doesn’t make the first shirt bad, it just means there’s an item of clothing out there that doesn’t see you settling on ‘okay’ or ‘good enough’ or ‘fine for now’. And maybe the first shirt is at the front of the store, not hidden away on a rack right at the back. It could be on sale, or maybe it’s even full price but you’re determined to buy that day. You might have a friend with you who convinces you how perfect it is. Or you might just really really want a shirt.

My point here is when it comes to the people in our lives, how much do we settle?

Now I don’t think that settling necessarily means for something lesser. I’m not implying that ‘settling’ makes that person unacceptable or an awful specimen of a human being. Perhaps it’s just agreeing to something that isn’t quite the right fit; agreeing to be okay with one thing when there’s something out there that may be more made for us. It’s too easy to compromise; on our values, our convictions, and our hearts true desire. All because we receive a fraction of something we want and we are willing to allow that to be enough to convince us that it can outweigh everything else.

There’s a reason people stay in unhealthy, often abusive relationships. And from the outside looking in it’s too easy to judge those people; people who have allowed the small amount of good to outweigh the incredible levels of bad. A friend said to me recently that we like to categorise everything, particularly when it comes to relationships, as black or white, but when you’re in it there’s only ever grey. There’s infatuation, desire, risk and heartbreak. There is also compromise and sacrifice, and oftentimes love, the real kind. There’s the fear of losing something you have long wanted, even if what you have isn’t truly what you longed for in the first place.

We’ll say that this is good enough, even if we know we’re not happy. We’ll hold on to those three amazing weeks right at the start, even if they’ve long since been overshadowed by time spent together that barely even manages to reache a notch close to good. We’ll adjust our communication style to be accepting of theirs, after all some people are just incredibly passionate, and passionate people yell a lot, right?

What astounds me is this capacity to alter ourselves to be okay with something that we actually don’t find to be ‘okay’. I’m not talking about accepting someone for all that they are, or finding ways to compromise, or working hard. Because I get what it takes to make a relationship work. I’m talking about all of the convincing that goes on in our minds; perhaps we’re not even entirely aware of it.  All of the ‘wait and see’s’, the ‘if we can just get through this’. All of the promises we make each other and ourselves; the things that don’t sit right but that we push past.

I don’t know much about that elusive sensation called love. But I do know that it is constantly being cheapened. That we mask our desire for it behind poor substitutes. I know that we too often mistake infatuation for love; that sometimes we even realise it, but creating an illusion seems better than not having anything at all. Above all I know that it’s too easy to settle, to forget all that we sought in the first place, and to get lost in the hope of a feeling, instead of the feeling itself.

The thing about clothes that aren’t quite what we wanted, is that they don’t last very long on the rotation, or if they do, we end up feeling less than comfortable, less ourselves when we wear them.

'Those' Lessons…

I have the extraordinary privilege of working with some truly amazing people. The thing about volunteers is they (for the most part) have such incredible motivation and hearts of the purest gold. The part that I love the most is their stories. Because everyone has a story; we all have a reason that brings us to this point on our journey. Volunteers and their intentions, the cause of their desire to give back, are certainly no exception. There are some people who inspire me to the point where I am left in speechless awe at the strength of their resilience and I spend every moment with them trying to soak up even a fraction of their spirit.

I met and placed a young girl in May who fit the volunteer mould perfectly. Motivated, enthusiastic, caring and committed. All traits that go into the makeup of the ideal volunteer and, not wanting to be harsh toward my own kind, a rarity in Gen Y. Three weeks ago she underwent some routine tests, during which the nerves in her legs were impacted and feeling was lost. In spite of assurances that movement would return it did not, and this young woman, just shy of 22 years of age, is now sitting in a rehabilitation hospital waiting for some news, any news, as to the why and what next of it all. She is facing, without explanation, the prospect of a lifetime in a wheelchair, living in a care home, separated from her family and all of the things she had imagined for herself.

I heard some preaching just last night about adversity. About how we are breeding a generation of soft individuals who feel a sense of entitlement with very little to no work required on their part. To an extent I feel forced to agree. I grew up in a household that valued hard work. The work ethic displayed by my parents still blows me away. What I see in the teenagers and children (and at times their parents) of today frustrates me. I want to shake them and explain that their sheltered little world is going to be shattered at some point by the lack of tolerance and acceptance by the rest of society in relation to their silver spoon in mouth attitude.

I do think that adversity creates a toughness and endurance that grows us, in life and faith. And I think that we all have a tendency to be wrapped up in our own problems and sometimes we need the perspective of someone else’s hardship to really jolt us back into realising we actually have it pretty good. We can be so blinded by the one thing in our lives that isn’t going according to our plan that we are unseeing of the multitude of other blessings that surround us.

People amaze me in their times of distress and their capacity to get through it; I am impressed so much by the ability to see joy in the midst of pain. Therein lays the rub though. Knowing you should rejoice in times of discomfort is one thing; actually embodying that joy is quite another. People frustrate, irritate and disappoint, but mostly they inspire me, they encourage and they bring a perspective that can be enough to create much needed revelation.

Should possibilities be worse to bear than certainties?

—Charles Dickens