The Second Call

“The only man I know who behaves sensibly,” George Bernard Shaw wrote, “is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me. The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.”

Sometime in the early middle of life, we wake up one morning to discover that our measurements have changed. What we have been doing for years, we begin to realize, simply does not fit us anymore. We have outgrown the young life that we thought would go on forever and have found within us a whole new person. Worse, we find ourselves lodged in a life we no longer find stimulating or satisfying or exciting. We are unfamiliar—even to ourselves. We find that we are living some kind of creeping death, sloughing off what fit us in the past, in the old life we thought we loved, and unable to find a new way to fit into our present.

The feelings that come with the realization are overwhelming. One part guilt, one part fear, they make us ill in soul. We know what we cannot admit. If we do not stay as we are, we will feel forever unfaithful. If we force ourselves to stay as we are, we will go to dust inside.

There is so much at stake now. So much life behind us has been invested in what we now find to be lifeless. And yet there is so much life left to live. How can we possibly live it like this? And where did we go wrong? What happened to our commitment to the life decision we made in an earlier life? And what is at the root of this shift of centeredness: a lack of the kind of personal responsibility that sees a thing through? Immaturity? A lack of focus? What?

And the usual answer is “none of the above.”

Assuming that tomorrow will be the same as today is poor preparation for living. It equips us only for disappointment or, more likely, for shock. To live well, to be mentally healthy, we must learn to realize that life is a work in process.

–from Following the Path: The Search for a Life of Passion, Purpose, and Joy by Joan Chittister 
 
 
 
 
The blessing of not being perfect

“This is the very perfection of a person, to find out our own imperfections.” –Saint Augustine

Humanity is a mixture of blunders. That’s what makes it so charming, so interesting to be around. Because none of us is complete, we all need one another. It’s only when we convince ourselves that we are the fullness of all that is, that we become spiritually poor.

The nice thing about being human is that you get to fail a lot. Value that; it’s priceless. It gives us such respect for everybody else. The reason clowns and slapstick comedians are so popular is that, if truth were known, we all see in them the parts of ourselves we try too hard to hide. When we take ourselves too seriously, we forget that the only thing we know for sure that’s eternal is God.

Making mistakes is part of the growth process. We must learn to be much gentler about this with other people. We must also learn to be gentler with ourselves. Otherwise what we expect of ourselves, we will expect of everybody else. And that can be tragic. For all of us.

Never be afraid to admit that you “don’t know” or “can’t find” or “couldn’t do” something. Ourimperfections and inabilities are the only thing we have that give us the right to the support of the rest of the human race.

The gift of knowing what we lack is the gift we have to give to the abilities of others. As the Irish proverb says, “it is in the shelter of each other that the people live.”

–from Aspects of the Heart by Joan Chittister