Monday, July 22, 2013

Great Expectations

Today at The Mirror Magazine

Has it been scientifically proven yet that more women are Type A personalities? Or is it that we think we need to uphold a set of values that is not universal, but constantly ruining the fun in our lives? We need to be smart and saavy; we need to be gorgeous (models-as-standard) and athletic (fit, too); we need to be domestic enough to please other people's standards; we need to pay attention to our kids; we need to have our own fulfilling careers.

My mom and me: two Type As, different goals
The pressure to work in a job for career-purposes, the pressure to marry and then the pressure to have kids and the pressure to support those kids in their range of activities and schooling ventures... has life turned into a tea kettle for women? Are we all going to end up screaming when the water gets too hot?

In yesterday's Gospel, Mary sat listening at the feet of Jesus while Martha was busy serving everyone. Exasperated, she asks the Lord if he can tell Mary to help too. Instead, he says, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her."

This story is so important for women - and not because they need to decide if they are a Martha or a Mary. Philippians 4:6-8 (RSV) says, "Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

When we bring our gifts to the Lord, they are enough. Sometimes, the laundry is going to sit for days. The kitchen will be a mess after you just cleaned it. The project you finished is praised, but then you're given two more and the time slot is narrow. You're working out and eating well, but the weight is not coming off quickly. Life is not as you planned - and isn't that where this anxiety is coming from?

Perhaps we women need to take a step back from our want/need of "instant gratification" - having it all, all the time. My Latin teacher used to tell us that we could only have two of the three things: studying, sleep and social. I refused to believe this, but I am not a Latin scholar. Rather, I have embraced the idea of "slowed gratification" - happiness comes out of making sacrifices, taking a different route, allowing choices to shape life, and accepting gifts along the way.

Otherwise, ingratitude sets heavy on shoulders. Many people feel disappointment because they want excitement and social outings and dates and a fulfilling job. But they're in their twenties and the job experience necessary for fulfillment has yet to come into fruition. For some women, this disappointment continues into their thirties and forties: marriage isn't what they dreamed; kids are sponges of time, energy and resources; and just what is the point of it all?

Women, we need let ourselves slow down, sit and appreciate the hospitality of enjoying other people as well as serving other people. If it feels one-way, then something is amiss. If we cannot sit in the presence of the Lord without worrying about a project due at work or dishes that need to be done, we're not paying enough attention to the important parts of life. If we're worried about what other people think more than our own concerns and the concerns of our family, that is anxious and not loving.

Meal time is an especially good time to slow down and listen
The pressure cooker will always be on in variable areas of our life. The challenge is to let the pressure rise, but be ready for it. Delegate and let other people help, even if they do it in a way different from your own. (Loading the dishwasher, anyone?) Let silence enter your heart and mind, and may you find peace in the blessings life has given you.

What has helped you find happiness, readers? How do you slow down in this busy world?

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