Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Waiting is Over

The waiting is over!

But let's talk about waiting.

And wanting.

I sometimes think about what I'll do when I'm very old, like my mother-in-law, Madelon, the oldest person I know. She will be 94 in September.

Madelon reads The Chicago Tribune and The Atlantic Monthly.  On her Kindle, she has read Catherine the Great and Peter the Great, and every volume in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series.   (She also weaves on a small loom, lives independently with her husband, and goes out to dinner frequently at their favorite restaurant in Mineral Point.)

I probably won't be living independently at 93.  At 93, my mooring will probably have slipped and I'll be drifting laterally through time, keeping company with both the living and the dead.

My point is that I have always thought that when I am too sick or frail to do anything else, and if I have no money to spend on luxuries, I will still have books.  And books would be enough.

However, when one is suffering in a state of want and waiting, the idea of books being enough is just obnoxious.

Hoping is part of the equation.  How much hope?  How much worry?  How much bracing for disappointment?

We're selling our house to our neighbors across the street.  They know that we have to buy the farm in order to sell them the house.

Occasionally, I have sent them  helpful updates via text:

"Brace yourself! The seller is AWOL!  No idea what's happening!"

"But I'm optimistic that everything will work out!"

"But it might not work out!"

There's nothing they can do, but at least they knew when to worry.

I passed their five-year old son on the sidewalk the other day.  He told me that he would be take Josh's room and Sylvia, his little sister, would have Adam's room.

That's great, Alex! I said.  But we have to make sure that we get the farm, right?

He gave me a quizzical look, like I was misinformed. 

I know that it's very Judeo-Christian to ask God for things to go your way through prayer.

I can't really ask God directly for stuff.  It's a vestige of the Taoism I internalized through my long dialogue with the I Ching.

It's also consistent with the spirit of the serenity prayer:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.

What I can do in my relationship with God, however, a relationship which looms huge in my mind during periods of intense waiting, is to offer bribes.

I write a bigger check to my church.

I write a bigger check to the kid I sponsor in Africa.

I make sure our bird-feeders are full.

I conscientiously focus on organizing the food pantry, while at the same time worrying that I might somehow forget to feed 400 members of my community because I am so intensely self-absorbed with my urgent need to own a hobby farm.

I've been bribing God for years.

When I was living paycheck to paycheck, at times when I had barely enough money to pay my rent, in an act of desperation I would hand a twenty dollar bill to a homeless person.

This was a God bribe.

Anonymous donations, they're God bribes.  They're between a person and her God.

You can call it selfish.  You can call it cynical.  I do.  It's not the noblest act of faith.

But it is an act of faith.

I don't think you can persuade me that it isn't.

When you put your money, energy, and sweat into something for the exclusive purpose of  bribing God, that is an act of faith.

I've never bribed God for eternal life.  I've bribed God for a modest cash windfall, a clean mammogram; and, most recently, the farm.

At the same time that I am shelling out money and favors, I am also trying to adjust to the idea that I won't get the farm.

That is a tall order, made so much harder by suddenly having a second horse in need of adoption and a family across the street in need of my house.

In fact, I completely failed to come around to accepting not getting the farm. (Reference earlier defiant posting, "Life is Elsewhere".)

That Buddhist thing about eliminating desire from one's mind..?   That's fine, as far as it goes...

But what about if you go into preterm labor at 23 weeks?

What if your child spikes a fever of 105?

Tell me that mother's problem is the wanting.

No.  That is where that seminal tenet of Buddhism fails.

One could argue that the idea of reincarnation is some consolation.  But in the examples above?  Not much consolation.  (Trust me, I've been there.)

Taoism doesn't offer the consolation of reincarnation.  As far as I know, (which is not terribly far from here), it simply states that there is no point in standing in the path of that tornado.

Unless you are that defiant young man at Tienanmen Square who stood alone in front of the tank.

We are small, says Taoism.  The trees are as blades of grass, we are so small.

I like that.

But I prefer to have a God and a kingdom of saints and a living spiritual energy; call it the Holy Ghost; call it Chi.  I call it all of the above.

While waiting, I entertained doubts about my worthiness.

I entertained doubts about the signs that I thought I'd read correctly.

I entertained the possibility of happiness, and the possibility of loss.

I diverted my attention from all of these things by writing about a place outside of it all, Prague; to remind myself that I love things every day that are beyond my reach.   And that experiences that I have already had, and experiences I have yet to have, enrich my life every day, though I fail to notice.

While waiting, I did sometimes manage to hold to the center, as the I Ching would have advised me to do had I asked it.

But eventually, a realty-related due date would occur, like a Tarot card, holding out the promise of a great reveal...

"I love deadlines.  I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."  --Douglas Adams

So, to recap, I've written a quasi-theological rant and provided few details about what actually happened, which probably would have been interesting.  Sorry!  I'll learn from this mistake when no one reads this post.  
Long story short, amendment signed, well report submitted, financing secured, we're buying the farm!!!















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