Someone in class today asked today what a person is to do when their reality falls far short of their dreams. What do you do when the longed for child does not come, or your college of choice rejects your application or blessings of health or employment fail to materialize. What do you do? Where do you go from that path that you never planned to be on, and feel you scarcely recognize as your own?
Besides the obvious Hallmark answers: counting blessings, looking on the bright side, etc., What do you do?
I said I unload the dishwasher.
You might think I was joking, but I wasn’t. Entirely.
I think I was fifteen years old or so when I sat across the desk from the ultimate authority figure in my life and was completely misunderstood. So misunderstood that I did not have the composure to speak up and say, “Wait, wait a minute, that’s not what I meant.”
I just sat there speechless, stunned.
We were discussing a recent problem I said something like, “You know, in a way, I’m glad it happened. I’m glad something happened.”
I meant: I’m glad that something real happened; I’m glad that there is some physical evidence of an elusive conflict I could never confront or define in the past. At least now, I have a place to curve my hand around and say, Here, right here–this is where I hurt.
What he heard, was a fifteen year old kid with black eye saying she was glad for a change-up in the boring routine of day-to-day get up, go to school, come home, repeat–as if, on some level, I had enjoyed the excitement of being clobbered.
I realized how very misunderstood I had been when he frowned over his fingertips and said, “Kimber, you know–there are two types of people in the world: those who wait for things to happen to them, and those who make things happen.”
I stared at him, totally astonished to have my words interpreted that way, and I didn’t protest. I left his office feeling utterly confused and humiliated.
And yet, those words have stayed with me for almost twenty years, and whenever I feel paralyzed by disappointment, sorrow or indecision, I close my eyes and I tell the ultimate authority in my life, Hey. I don’t know where to go from here. Help me to do something, anything. Where do I go from here?
Honestly, His advice usually runs something along the lines of unloading the dishwasher, or cleaning a window. Something benign but doable. And then I have to take it from there, even if I don’t feel like it, or understand it, or think that sorting the silverware is going to get me any farther along my path than I already am.
I can tell you that whenever I begin, no matter how small the opening steps, the path opens up in ways I never imagined in the midst of my former paralysis.
Sometimes you just have to do something. Anything. You have to get out of bed, put on your shoes, and make something happen. If you cannot face mailing out another application or having that talk with your boss or your child or your father or your spouse or your mother–do something you can do. If you’re a praying sort, you might want to ask for some direction. The important thing is that you act.
If you’re on the right track, you’ll soon recognize it. If you aren’t, that will become apparent too. If you huddle in fear at the crossroads, you just get cold and damp.
You’ve heard it said that faith without works is dead, and you might as well be, too. If you are not working at something, working towards something, you do not exist. Doing is the essence of humanity.