Years and years and years ago there was a commercial on TV that we used to tease my mom about. The commercial showed a harried housewife working hard to get through all of the demands on her day and then at the end we see her running a hot bath, pouring in Calgon bath soap. As she slid blissfully down into the tub, the caption read “Calgon, take me away.”
I think the discrepancy actually came though when her day hardly ever ended in that sought for Calgon moment in a hot bath. It usually just ended with more work to be done.
My guess is that many, if not most of us, can close our eyes right now and place ourselves squarely in this same position – more to do than there is time in the day: our job, work at home, service opportunities, when-will-I-cram-that-yoga-time in moment (which more often than not ends up instead at the freezer door with a large spoon headed for the chocolate ice cream).
And as we close our eyes after leaning against the closed freezer door, we realize that waiting for us in just a few hours is the need to get up tomorrow and do it all again.
Ever stop and wonder: Is this all there is?
We think that if it is, we may as well just throw in the towel. There has to be more to life than this.
To combat that heavy feeling and give us the energy to keep driving through the day we place benchmarks ahead of us, things that we are working towards, things that we will “get to” after the hard work of today.
An Alaskan cruise.
Losing 15 pounds, and not finding them again.
A visit to the Hair Club for Men to restore the curly blond locks of 20 years ago.
A nap (Yes, I hear all the deep sighs on that one).
We close our eyes and keep telling ourselves: Someday.
What if, however, today is all there is? What if an Alaskan cruise never happens? What if we never get that job that will make everything so much better?
Let’s face it. I’m pretty sure that there is no trip to Hair Club for Men in my future.
So, we lay our weary body down and stare momentarily through the dark at the ceiling and think back on the day. And we ask, “Is it enough?”
Is the culmination of all our yesterdays into the lump that is today enough?
We can probably grudgingly admit that we would survive without having these dreams come true. In the big picture they really aren’t that big of a deal. After all, bald is beautiful, right?
But what if the benchmarks in front of us are more than distractions from the monotony of daily life? Benchmarks that really matter in the big picture? Benchmarks where we find ourselves holding our breath and clinging desperately to until they resolve?
A sick child to finally get well.
A wandering spouse to beg forgiveness and become faithful again.
A rebellious family member to understand enough to change direction and choose a better way.
An incurable disease to have some sort of relief and cessation of pain.
To not be alone anymore and find that special someone who shares our life, loves us just for who we are.
These hit harder. Instead of skin irritations that may be soothed by a Calgon-take-me-away moment, they feel like they cut down closer to the bone. And the pain is so acute, so intense, that it becomes all we think about, all we spend our time on, all we are.
They consume and dwarf everything else in our lives. Not much else seems to matter.
But what if that rebel doesn’t change his or her ways?
What if that spouse keeps wandering right out of our life?
What if our child doesn’t get well?
What if we are still alone?
Then when we lay our weary body down at the end of the day and stare momentarily up through the dark at the ceiling and think back on the day, and ask is it enough, do we simply burst into tears and shake our heads?
It’s a lot harder to shrug our shoulders and say it’s not that big of a deal.
Because it is a big deal. If these benchmarks don’t happen, the consequences matter. Really matter.
So, what are our options?
In The Hiding Place, Betsie Ten Boom manages to somehow find things to be grateful for in each day while in a Nazi concentration camp. She even expresses gratitude for the fleas that ate into their skin. Certainly people today might argue if someone could in fact be grateful and loving in the depths of such hate and hell. Isn’t it unreasonable to expect someone to react in such a way, or to even believe that someone could?
Yet she did.
I think the more important question isn’t whether or not she was able to do it, but why she did it, day after day.
What did it change?
It didn’t change her circumstances. It didn’t get rid of the fleas. It didn’t’ bring more food. It didn’t change the outcome of her eventual death in the camp.
What it did change was people. It changed individuals. It changed the spirit within.
It changed what matters most.
We can pound the mattress and cry out, wanting with all our might the one thing that we have no way of making a reality. As it consumes us, nothing else can make up for it. Nothing else brings us any satisfaction, because there cannot be any happiness without that one thing being real in our life. The one thing we can’t make happen.
We can take a deep breath, try to relax our body, and slowly look for and find things that were good today. Small things. Insignificant things. Silly things really. Maybe something as small and silly as a flea.
Slowly, over time, we begin to feel a change. A change that is personal and individual. A change deep within our spirits.
And we realize that if this is all there is, if this is what life has handed us and there won’t be any more, that it is, in fact, enough.
It is more than enough. Because it is good. We can see it now. The good is visible and bright; the difficult more blurry and faded.
The culmination of all our yesterdays into the lump that is today bursts with sweet, quiet, positive memories that have changed us. Now, instead of focusing only on finding the good for ourselves, we become someone who seeks to help create good moments for others to find in gratitude.
And instead of just changing one person, one individual, we change two. Then three. Then even five.
The funny thing about learning how to be happy with today is that it helps change tomorrow. Tomorrow now feels full of possibility and potential. We see so many things that we really do in fact have control over and can change for the better. Things we can see that we must change for the better.
We now have a better understanding of hope. It is the music we hear as we continue our dance – in the rain, in the sunshine, and everything in between.