Archive for Thursday, April 5, 2007

Personal growth comes with small steps

April 5, 2007

Change is in the air again as the erratic temperatures this past week made a strong case for the validity of global warming of Al Gore and the pictures of polar bears sitting in the middle of the Artic Ocean on ice floes. Change also came to our community in the form of contested elections for school board members as well as new members who ran unopposed for city council. By the time you read this, we will know the results of those elections. Let's hope you all voted.

Change also came to those of us who are Jayhawk fans. Watching Kansas University's basketball team lose in the NCAA tournament was a bitter pill, and the abrupt ending to a long and successful season. A season marked by many achievements such as winning the Big 12 Conference only to have that victory swallowed up too soon in anticipation of KU's seeding in the tournament -- the Big Dance as it is called.

Grief may be too strong a word when trying to put into perspective losing a ball game by saying "it's only a basketball game," and by remembering that it's just about a bunch of super-sized kids running after a little round ball. However, emotions run high around such contests, and winning and losing overshadows the larger picture of how well the teams play and how narrowly the victories are won.

Actually, I find it a relief after a few days of being in the dumps to have it over with, and to look around and suddenly be aware of the glorious spring that has erupted in a sudden burst of rainbow color. I have so often crooned the glories of spring -- the trees, daffodils, tulips, forsythia and pear trees -- so I'll not go there. But what a gift after such a long, cold winter, even if it was just one long month in February.

All of the above is the precursor to a subject that I am a little bit unwilling to broach out of fear of sounding mystical.

In one of my earlier columns I wrote that one of my biggest fears was driving in fog. Lately, while driving into Lawrence for early morning Mass, I realized I had been driving for a while in the fog and was not frightened. Of course, it was daytime so I may not be as courageous as I think, but just the realization that I was doing something that even last year would have given me the heebie-jeebies was encouraging.

I found that while I could not see at a distance, I could see just far enough ahead not to be frightened.

As I rode along I thought about how this could be a metaphor for living one's life -- not escaping into the past or anticipating the future but being present in the moment. It was also reassuring to know that beyond my gray cocoon vast acres of farmland reached out on either side of the narrow road even though it was not visible.

Another such experience came quietly on Passion Sunday while reading the passion of Christ (as is the custom each Palm Sunday) and realizing that I was not fidgeting as I usually do. Standing on one foot and then another saying to myself, "Why do we have to read the whole thing -- I know it by heart already." Instead I found I was reading along and being present to each word. Now that's an epiphany as so often being quiet is one of the hardest things I do.

In both of these experiences, I felt I had grown at least a little bit.

Sometimes moving through Lent can be an uneventful time with not much happening and then at other times when life is stressful, just moving through those 40 days is enough without additional prayers or fasting or any of the other stuff that is supposed to lead you to a proper state of penance before Easter.

The gifts I have received during this time are that change can come suddenly and joyfully when grief is over; as in nature unfolding overnight, or quietly as in discovering an old fear put aside to an awareness of living in the moment.

I hope for you this Lenten season has also been one of positive change, the loss of old fears and an awakening to the beauty that surrounds us in nature and the resurgence of spring once again.

Happy Easter.

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