This has been the week from hell. Sorry, if it offends you to hear a pastor say that, but it's true.
It started with my (very young in terms of maturity) 18 year old trying to get back to school and being stuck in Chicago for two and a half days, first because of storms on the coast, and second because Southwest then "lost" her new ticket. They lost her ticket while we were trying to get working phones from ATT and had limited phone, text, and email access. That alone, trying to help my panicked daughter who, at 9:15 at night, the day after her flight was originally supposed to leave Chicago but at the time the new flight was supposed to take her, and who was lost as far as they were concerned, while my phone, text and email access were completely limited, was unbelievably stressful for all of us. When we finally had her scheduled for a new flight, the next day (which also meant she would miss her first day of school, something that was also stressful to my daughter since all of her classes had wait lists and she was afraid she would be dropped from them because she missed those classes), and finally figured out a way to get her from the airport then to the school (shuttles were no longer running at that point since all kids were supposed to be back in school already), then we were able to see that in the middle of all that chaos, while the ATT guy had said the phones would mean we would add $30 more to our bill each month, we had just received an email from ATT telling us that in fact our bill would jump $270 for the first month and then $170 per month after that. Trying to call ATT to get their help, we were told all offices were closed for the day and we would have to call back in the morning. Okay...
The next day when I woke up my hearing was completely gone from my right ear and very minimal in my left ear. It felt like both were completely stuffed with cotton. I still tried to follow up with ATT who reassured me that their written email detailing the cost was wrong and that I should just trust what they had told me in the store and were now telling me on the phone. "Can I get this in writing?" "Well... no." Okaaay… still waiting to see what the actual bill will be, but at that point it will be too late to go back to the store and demand a refund. Hm.
The next day I was on my way to the doctor to see what was going on with my ears when I received a text from my son's school saying the school was in lock down because of a gunman on campus. I moved into full panic mode, completely unsure what to do except to try to text my son and see if he had his phone on and could give me any more information at all. A half hour later, I did hear from him that all was okay and he'd been released but that he knew nothing else about what had happened. In the mean time, the doctor told me (I think, because honestly, it was hard to hear him both because I can't hear and also because I was freaking out about my son) that it would take about a month for my hearing to return because I have blocked Eustachian tubes (due to a combination of a cold and TMJ. Really? Then why has this never happened before?) because it will take that long for the medication he's prescribing (which, by the way, makes me ill: I feel nauseated and exhausted all the time) to kick in. Okaaay…
I've been refinancing the house in order to buy out the church's portion since, with David's income now helping as well, it helps both the church and us for us to do this. The church then no longer is paying off a loan, and we can build more equity on the house if we own the entire thing. Also, it means we can work on it now without needing the church to pay for a fifth of any work we do, which would also put strain on the church. Great. Except the following day the final paper work came and it appeared that the title company did it wrong: We refinanced, but it still appears the church has title to the house.
Add to all of this some crisis at church (par for the course, but this was more stressful and serious in many ways than is often the case).
Then we come to this morning. I was driving my youngest daughter to school when a big monster truck decides to ride my tail. He was probably within a foot of my bumper on a 45 mile per hour road. I was behind someone else, so this was not because I was going too slowly: there was no way I could have gone faster. I also know I didn't cut him off since I didn't change any lanes. It was actually really scary, so I pulled over to let him pass. He drove as close to our car as he could, even clipping the mirror as he passed. As he passed, I could see the anti-everybody bumper stickers on his car. I pulled out and followed, keeping a safe distance, and saw that he was not repeating this treatment to the car now in front of him. It turns out this was another parent at Aislynn's school: dropping off a child right in front of us. The only thing I can think of why he was so awful is because he didn't like my "tolerance" bumper sticker. And because he didn't like the sticker, he chose to terrify both Aislynn and I. We were both shaking after he clipped the mirror. This reinforces my feeling that our country is in a place of civil war. The distance between political view points is growing, the lack of tolerance for difference is intensifying; the anger, rage and hate that gets acted out with this terrorizing car behavior (as well as much more serious acts of violence and aggression) is dangerous, is attacking, and none of us can avoid this.
How was yours?
Usually I would follow a long complaining session with a reflection on our ability to choose to focus on the good instead of the difficult. I can celebrate with great relief that the gunman scare at my son's school turned out to be a false alarm and that no-one was hurt. I can focus on the amazing gift of having friends in Chicago who were able to help my daughter, house my daughter, for the two nights she had to stay there. I can focus on the great learning experience it was for her to take a taxi for the first time, to trust strangers, to make new friends and to go through airport hassle in many ways alone. I can focus on the fact that my hearing isn't permanently lost, and that ATT is promising that things will not be as expensive as the bill is saying. I can rejoice that while this horrible truck bumped my mirror, they didn't take it off, none of us were hurt, and we are all living to see another day. I could do that. I could also look at the amazing good of the week: I had the opportunity to see a musical with a very good friend, I went for a wonderful hike with another very good friend, I had dinner and dessert with other friends, and have watched my eldest daughter begin her second semester with a lot more confidence and hope than her first semester. All of my kids are thriving in their own ways, they are healthy, smart, and truly kind people. My new husband is awesome and supportive and loving and kind... All of that is really good stuff, and if I were a better person I could focus on all of the good and encourage us all to be grateful for each day and the gifts (and learning that comes with the challenges) that we are each given in every moment. But the reality of being deeply scared and worried this week for all three of my kids to different degrees, not having my hearing, and feeling sick all the time because of the medication makes it hard to just be Pollyanna-ish, or even faithfully grateful. It was, in many ways, a bad week. And I can only hope that this next one will be better.
The thing about good times and bad times is that they all pass. And they do. The only thing we can count on is change. What I experience now, in this moment, will not be what I experience in the next moments or hours or days or weeks. When things are really good, that reality is hard. When things are bad, the reality of change is a promise of better things to come. I wish many times lately that we lived in a world that was kinder, more compassionate, more understanding, and more grace-filled. I wish people understood that the people you hate are parts of you, as much as we are all parts of one another, and that loving all of them is still in each of our best interest. I yearn for a world with less fear, less anger, less hatred and violence. But we live now, in this world, with all of its beauty and all of its pain. And the best we can do is to breathe through the bad, and delight in the good; to grow from the challenges, and to try to be in the world the way we would want the world to be. So, despite the fact that I still can't hear, that I still feel sick, and that I am still worried about many things, I will put on my big-girl pants and keep stepping forward with intention and a commitment to be grace-full. It's all I can do. I pray it is enough.