Sometimes I look back on the people I have been and wonder: what is this? Joan Didion said: “I have already lost touch with a few people that I was,” but also advised us to keep nodding with them, lest they “show up unexpectedly and we surprise “.
I spent the early parts of my life trying to fight against the certainty of a universe that doesn’t make sense. Now I spend it learning to live with uncertainty. Being at peace with things that don’t always make sense, accepting that everything doesn’t have to be resolved in order to be okay – for me to be okay. Donald Miller observed that jazz cannot be resolved and that jazz is more than okay. Jazz is amazing.
Other people I used to love make New Years resolutions. I thought of it as another chance to get it right. A sort of larger view of Anne of Green Gables “https://www.nwaonline.com/news/2022/jan/02/hope-is-not-a-wish-or-a-dream/” Tomorrow is always fresh, without any errors. “I would resolve to do certain things like drink only water, make my bed every day, only earn marks above 95 percent. One year, I decided to ‘write a letter thanking someone for something every day.
It’s not that these goals were bad. Looking back, I feel a certain tolerance, a kind of affection even as I roll my eyes at the person who made them. She was a go-getter. Serious. But I now see her as a little stuck. She was too idealistic – a perfectionist towards herself and the world. Someone with high standards which is great but sometimes missed the forest for the trees.
I used to think that good was the enemy of perfection – something that made us settle for less than the best. Now, I believe that perfect is the enemy of pretty good. Something to which we aspire and which by its very nature cannot be achieved. Perfect prepares us for failure; good is a much more reasonable goal.
Instead of resolutions, I adopted a ritual that I call Remembrance. More than just reflecting on the past year, it’s going through my calendar and stringing the days together like pearls – pulling together a year that’s dismembered in my thoughts and remembering it so I can review it. Study the themes. Glean the good.
Here are some observations from my 2021 Souvenir:
Continue to show yourself, for yourself and for others. I disappointed people a lot, and I’m so sorry. But in general I think the other people’s part has been easier for me because of my belief that it is the Christian thing to do in order to take care of others – to be loyal, patient, faithful, patient, kind. And I still believe in it.
However, one theme that has emerged over the past year is that it’s also important to show yourself off. As Randy Pausch said, listen to the flight attendants. If the going gets tough, get your own oxygen mask before trying to help someone else.
I did it this year. After losing my election last November, in January 2021, I was shrouded in deep unease. The attack on the Capitol, a health crisis and a painful medical procedure, and moving my spring semester classes online made matters worse.
I tried to pray, exercise, and write to get out, but the abyss widened. Finally, I took a shower. I made appointments and spent money without having to speak to a therapist. I got dressed, got out of my house, and started looking for opportunities to stay on top of the people and issues that were of great interest to me.
It was not easy. I knocked on doors that were slammed in my face. But slowly, over the course of several months, I found outlets for my angst, stayed connected, and met new people who shared it. Flannery O’Connor and Mary Oliver were right: the life you save can be yours, and sometimes it can even be the only one you can save. You’re worth it.
Hope is a choice. But not in a self-adhesive fashion, which should be obvious after reading Observation # 1. I recognize the often false dichotomy of mind over matter, the anti-scientific logic that faith is everything. what you need to be mentally healthy, the **** bull of virtually every one-size-fits-all bandage wellness philosophies.
What I’m talking about assumes that a person has found their place through whatever cocktail of factors brings them there – for me it’s faith, community, meaningful work, rest, exercise. and a decent diet, therapy, and healthy doses of depression and anxiety medications. It takes a certain mental stability to embrace the agency that we have when it comes to our choice of Weltanschauung. But ultimately, we choose.
I am often asked why I believe in God, why voters will choose better if they understand how their elected leaders betray them, why I love Arkansas and want to live here even though we have low scores in so many areas, why i am so passionate about education, why politics is a noble calling, why stories make a difference. At best, people ask me these things out of curiosity. Others ask me because they find me Pollyanna-ish and want to teach me ugly truths by citing evidence of their most unfortunate choices.
My answer lies in my experience, confirmed again as I remember 2021. The apostle Paul writes: “Hope does not disappoint us. I believe so, because even though people disappoint me sometimes, hope never did. Throughout 2021, I hoped to find meaning in my experience of loss, and by grace it spread. Not as quickly or as much as I would ask for, but enough. And that grace continues to flow as we move into a new year.
The loss of my children leaving home, the loss of leftovers after I was elected, the loss of opportunities for which I have worked hard; even the loss of innocence in my community and my church affiliation – in each of the losses that marred 2021, hope has sought entry into my heart. Things worse than any of these, like hospital stays with my mom and son, fear for my daughter’s long-term health, the world’s multiple biggest existential crises – these things weigh heavily, but hope makes them bearable.
Hope is not the same as a wish or a dream. Hope you have / wish you a happy birthday. May all your hopes / dreams come true. These are good feelings. But they are passive. Wishes and dreams are different from hope because hope is active. He participates in what I call the divine mystery. We hope with our hearts and also with our hands. Hope is not just a theory. It is something that we help achieve through our actions.
It sounds more esoteric than it actually is. It’s as easy as knocking on doors with the hope that we will open up. Explain a concept to a student. By writing this column in the hope that it connects with readers. He will go to church hoping that you can find – as well as contribute to – a community of faith. It’s inviting people to the table in the hope that you can find some common ground. It’s about running for office, voting and contacting the people who represent you and holding them accountable in the hope that you can push politics towards the nobility. It is staying in Arkansas because you believe in it and seek to develop it.
My prayer – and my hope for Arkansas – is that we all show up for ourselves and each other in 2022, and have a healthy and happy New Year.
Gwen Ford Faulkenberry is an English teacher and editorial director of the non-partisan group Arkansas Strong. (http://arstrong.org) Email him at [email protected]