I've written before about how much more I appreciate life now. I find myself using the word privilege all the time. It's a privilege to get up in the morning, to spend time with my husband, to parent my children, to do my job, to interact with my friends. People are precious and I love them more than I ever have. It's not new for me to love people, but I feel like the Grinch, whose "heart grew three sizes that day." Each day is a gift, and each person in my life is a gift, and I am filled with gratitude.
I've always been a very emotional person, crying far too easily. I remember how annoyed I was in college when I took the Myers-Briggs personality inventory and came down on the F side instead of T (F is for Feeling, T is for Thinking). Anybody who knew me at all would have known I'd be an F, but I wanted so badly to be coolly rational instead of the emotional wreck I felt I was. My friend Diane once said of me, "Ruthie's so healthy," and in context she meant that I was "in touch with my feelings," which she thought was a good thing and I thought was a bad thing. Now, my emotional wreck status has gone to a whole new level. While I function in the classroom and am not a quivering heap at every moment, I cry during worship every single time, cry when I read, cry when I hear people's stories. Today we went out for lunch after church, and I suddenly remembered the last time we had been there, and whom we had seen, friends who suffered loss in the earthquake and are no longer in the country, and, you guessed it, I cried. I'm having to learn to accept that this is the way it is now.
I worry less now. I wrote about that here. I thought I would be scared to sleep in my house when I came back, but although I am still abnormally sensitive to sounds and movement, and frequently think an earthquake is starting, I really am not living life in fear. It seems such a waste of energy to fret about things that don't matter, and life and death are so far beyond my control, so why fret about life and death either?
The next one seems trivial. I almost always wear a necklace now. I stopped wearing much jewelry at all when my last baby was born, because he would pull on and break whatever I was wearing. That baby is now in second grade, but I had never really started again. It's not as though I have all that much - I don't even have pierced ears - but I do have some necklaces and bracelets, with sentimental value only, that I like to wear. Now my attitude is: what are you saving it for? Every day is a special occasion. In general now, if it brings me joy (and is harmless - obviously I still need that caveat), I try not to postpone it. My beautiful aunt, who died of pancreatic cancer a few years ago, always said that: "Don't postpone joy." I thought I was already living that way, but since the earthquake I understand what she was saying even more. And part of that is that I wear a necklace to work now.
Remember the scene in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader when Aslan tears the layers of scales off of the dragon Eustace, even though Eustace has been trying without success to remove them himself? I always thought that was a picture of conversion, and I still think that, but the longer I live the more I think that it's also a picture of life. I keep learning about more and more layers that I have and that God needs to remove. He uses the things that happen to me to remove more and more of my pride, and my pretense, and the barriers I've built up between myself and other people. (Note, I'm not saying that's why God lets terrible things happen - so that we can grow - but that if we allow them to, our circumstances can help us grow.)
Eustace tells Edmund:
"The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know - if you've ever picked a scab at a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away."
"I know exactly what you mean," said Edmund.
I know what he means, too. It does hurt like billy-oh. Life is so much harder than I expected it would be. But it does feel good to get rid of some of the pointless worry, to live life in a more immediate way, to care a bit less about what others think of me. I have a long way to go before I am the person I want to be and the person God wants me to be. I hope not all of the peeling is as painful as these last few months have been.