Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Best and the Worst of Times

I remember watching A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens for a literature class when I was in high school.  Of course we didn't have DVD's or even VHS tapes in school then.  The movie was in black and white, and we watched it from a film projector on a small screen.  The opening line of that movie (as well as the book) has always stuck in my mind ... "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."  When I watched the movie as a teenager I didn't really understand the significance of those words.  The one thing I remember thinking was how could that be - those things are complete opposites - how can they exist at the same time?   Although I didn't remember all of it, the opening line goes on to say "... it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us..." - more opposites that shouldn't be able to exist together.  I've come to realize this summer though that all of those things can in fact exist together.  You can experience events and feelings at the same time that are polar opposites - things that are so different in every important respect that they shouldn't be able to exist in conjunction with each other.

The beginning of summer is always an exciting time.  It means the end of another school year, time off from work to relax and enjoy myself, no papers to grade or lesson plans to write, the promise of trips to the beach, afternoons by the pool, books to read for pleasure, and no set times to go to bed at night or get up in the morning.  In other words, the beginning of summer represents "the best of times."  My summer this year started off that way.  I had made the decision that no matter how scared I might be it was time to open myself up to the possibility of having a new relationship in my life.  My mother had responded well to her chemotherapy treatments during the past year.  Trey was settled in a new house and doing well with his work and his personal life.  I didn't know anyone, friend or relative, that seemed to be having any major problems in their life.

I soon found that "the best of times" was going to be short lived though.  My mother's initial tumor became resistant to the treatment she was receiving, and she is now waiting to have her treatment changed.  I learned that the 16-year-old daughter of an old high school friend had died in a car wreck.  Trey was faced with making a major decision concerning his job and ultimately his future, and I wasn't sure I was helping him make the "right" decision.  I found that opening myself up to the possibility of a new relationship brought with it the risk of being disappointed and hurt.  Then I learned a dear friend that I have known since third grade had suffered an aneurysm and is currently in intensive care in a coma.  "The best of times" I had been experiencing seemed to be gradually turning into "the worst of times."  A season that began with so much light was beginning to be filled with pockets of darkness.  Although I was holding onto hope that everything would turn out for the best, I was beginning to feel despair at the same time.  One minute I was feeling like I had everything to look forward to, and the next I was questioning whether I had anything good to look forward to.

I have felt all of these contradictory emotions at the same time and with equal intensity.  They don't exist separately but rather together seemingly in a struggle with each other.  I literally go from feeling on top of the world one minute, to feeling as if I'm at the bottom of a deep valley the next.  It's been over three years since Eddie died, but I believe these up and down feelings are still related to what I experienced with him.  My life with him was such a roller coaster for so many years that I don't think I've ever completely gotten off that ride.  I'm sure that in time these feelings will subside just as others have, but sometimes it's extremely hard to have the patience necessary to wait on the change to take place.

"Dear Lord, give me patience.  Let me live according to Your plan and according to Your timetable.  When I am hurried, slow me down.  When I become impatient with others, give me empathy.  When I am frustrated by the demands of the day, give me peace.  Today, let me be a patient Christian, Lord, as I trust in You and in Your master plan for my life."  (from Prayers and Promises for Women)

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