Today seemed to involve an awful lot of waiting. I went by train to see a very good friend I haven’t seen for two years. It’s one of those silly situations where the nearer and dearer someone is, the less you seem to get around to seeing them. If I had been driving, it would have taken 40 minutes to get to her house. As it was, I went by train and had to change trains twice both on the way there and on the way back again. Add to that the fact that one of the trains was cancelled and I actually spent four and a half hours traveling – or rather mainly not traveling, but waiting.
I don’t know about you, but I do seem to spend a ridiculous amount of my time waiting for things. I have spent hours of my life waiting for buses, for friends and for check-outs. I have spent days of my life waiting for holidays and waiting for Spring (then Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring again). I have spent weeks of my life waiting for test results, waiting for a husband, waiting to find out what I should do with my life…
That’s an awful lot of time waiting for.
Today was one of those rare times when I actually just enjoyed waiting. Of course in one sense I was still waiting for my trains, but today I enjoyed the whole experience of being there, waiting, not wishing for the next thing to hurry up and happen. I enjoyed people-watching and people-listening, I savoured two lattes, I took pleasure sitting in waiting rooms listening to bizarre announcements on the tannoy (not sure they’re still called that!), I meandered through a few pages of Orlando and looked at the exquisite colours in the sky.
I’m sure that if I could only learn to wait, fully in the present moment, I would not fear life seeming scarily short.
As I walked along the main road towards work today, the traffic beside me crawled along so slowly that I kept on over-taking – and then being over-taken by – this vehicle. I really like this image because the word ‘ideal’ conjures up for me ideas of perfection, order and beauty and yet it’s presented here in such a tatty and imperfect way.
It got me thinking about how much of our lives is a futile quest after what seems ideal. We live in a society which is founded on making us dissatisfied with what we have now by selling us ‘ideal’ images of how things could be for us, if only. We could have this ideal life if only we drove the right car, if only we lost some weight, if only we wore the right clothes, if only we didn’t look our age, if only we earned more money.
The whole thing is ridiculous.
I, for one, want to stop and take a breath and think about this quest. I want to pause and listen to the messages and see if they ring true.
It does’t take long for me to realise that even if I had the car, the figure, the clothes, the youthful appearance and the money, I wouldn’t be living in a society that was ideal in any way at all. Perhaps we all need to think about what our ideal society would look like and then put at least a little bit of our effort into trying to create it. If all of us spent half the time we currently spend worrying about our weight and appearance on actually trying to create a slightly more ideal society, things could change enormously. They might never be ideal, but they could be so much better.
WARNING! A proud mummy moment coming up!
Today my son won a ‘highly commended’ prize for his painting of me in a Mothers’ Day art competition. To be honest, when it came to it, pride was not the only emotion.
I went up to the local shopping centre to see some of the 1,800 children’s portraits on display and to watch a friend’s daughter receive her 1st prize from the mayor. I wanted to see my son’s picture as he’d done it at school so I hadn’t got a glimpse of the masterwork and wasn’t sure that it would be sent home afterwards. I’d asked my son if he’d like to come too and show it to me, but his response was typical of him: ‘Nah – I’ve already seen it…’
When I got there I realised that it was a slightly grander affair than I’d expected. I thought there’d be some kind of mobile display in the mall, but they’d taken over a whole shop to display the pictures. The local paper was there taking photos, there were speeches – lots of speeches – and proud mummies galore, some on the edge of tears.
The three main winners received their prizes from the mayor and their mums were heaped up with flowers and chocolates, perfumes and scarves. We all clapped as they had their photos taken and I assumed that the event was now over. But no. They then announced that there were prizes for the highly commended children too and the first name to be called out was my son’s. It was a moment of pure embarrassment. I had to go up and shake the mayor’s hand on my son’s behalf and have my photo taken and then, once the other 9 children had come up to receive their prizes, had my photo taken again standing in a long line with the children – me the monstrous giant at the end…
I was very proud of my son, but the thing that struck me most from the experience was that despite the amount of time I spend writing here (loftily thinking about higher things, wanting to get my priorities right, spiritualising left, right and centre) it doesn’t take much at all to throw me entirely. One unexpected bit of attention and I’m a self-conscious, embarrassed five year old again.
Today was Mothers’ Day and we had the traditional service at church where flowers are given to all the women to thank them for the many ways in which they care for us. I’ve seen a lot of flowers today and could have taken some photos of very beautiful ones, but decided to use this image from the outside wall of the church. Any of you who have read my About page will guess that I only have an extremely hazy idea of what this ‘thing’ (notice the rather imprecise, un-techy language) does, but I understand that although it looks like a pretty flower, it’s also stopping the walls from collapsing.
So here’s to all the women out there holding things together. A big ‘thank you’ to the mothers and teachers and friends and wise women who display both grace and strength and help stop things from collapsing all around us.
Thank you for reading. If you are interested in looking at photos that others have taken in response to this challenge, you can follow Shelley here, Sharon here and Lisa here. We have also recently been joined by Louis who you can find here.
I think it’s about time I apologised for the extremely long Lent you’re being exposed to on this blog: I should have come up with some clever way of numbering sundays so they didn’t count towards the total. Never mind – a bit more imperfection in my imperfect Lent!