Friday, November 30, 2007
A Pain in the Neck
Faithful Catholic writes:
It does my heart good to hear you referring to some of your tasks related to the care of Sr. Mary Fiacre as "a pain in the neck." I care for my two elderly parents, both wheelchair bound and both incontinent. I worry constantly about my attitude about dealing with my "pain in the neck" tasks because I think I shouldn't think of them as such a pain in the neck. I care for them because I love them and because I want to keep the fourth commandment but, I sometimes think I might just be in trouble, not with the letter of the law but, with the spirit of it. Know what I mean? I have this notion in my head that I ought to be rejoicing in the less appealing chores but, I'm not. I feel like I'm cheating when I offer it up. Does this make any sense?
I'm delighted to hear it does your heart good. I've been thinking about bringing it up for some time now. The past year and a half to be exact. I think what stopped me are the gory details of what taking care of Sister Mary Fiacre actually entails, which would be an affront to her dignity.
I finally just decided to throw caution to the wind and call a spade a spade. "Pain in the neck" pretty much covers the whole spectrum of chores. I'm very comfortable mentioning that is is indeed a pain in the neck because if it were a barrel of laughs I wouldn't have to offer it up or go searching for the joy in it or any of that. I'd just get up in the morning and say, "Oh Goody! We have some bedding to change for the next hour or so! This is going to be such fun!"
I worry constantly that you are worrying constantly. Your attitude may indeed be a problem. But it might not be. It's a tough nut to crack. Luckily it's nearing Christmas so there are a lot of nutcrackers lying around.
Let's ponder some of the stops along the way of your own private Stations of the Cross.
1. As I said, there would be nothing to offer up if it was jolly in the first place.
2. The joy comes from the suffering.
Wait right here. I need a bigger nutcracker.
Everyone knows that a gift you worked to make or find or buy, especially if we're all aware of all the work you put into it, is the best gift. It's the best gift even if comes out all wonky. It's the best gift because while you were trying to put it all together you were thinking of me.
That's one way to look at it.
Another way is to ponder the words of St. Angeli Merici, who admonished her nuns with this gem, "What you do for these people is more important for you than it is for them." She was talking about their work with the poor. I imagine she was mentioning to them not to get a swell head about all the fine work they were doing, but she ended up saying a real mouthful.
It's more important for you because it brings you humility and compassion that you can't get just going about your business of getting up and having coffee and heading off to work and coming home and watching a little tube and heading off for a good nights' sleep. It will make you stronger and more loving. It will expand the size of your heart the way the Grinch's heart got bigger before he was about to fall off a cliff with all the Christmas toys. It wouldn't do that if it were all easy breezy lemon squeezy.
On top of that, it's the gift that keeps on giving because your work now will expand your compassion to other people who are in the similar positions, which means all old people and the people who care for them, just for starters.
Which is why this is the part of your question I find a little unsettling: I care for them because I love them and because I want to keep the fourth commandment.
Commandment Schammandment, those are people in there! Look, there aren't any old people. You will learn this as you yourself grow old. You will always be about 35. Your body will change, your face will change. You may wonder where you can find the zipper on this 'old suit' you are being forced to wear.
So now, imagine being 35 and having, well, those problems you are dealing with. No fun for you? Imagine what a riot it is for them. They're just a couple of kids!
You don't have to rejoice every time you have to mop up, lift, shuffle, wait, haul, roll, fetch, stand up, sit down, mop up again and listen for odd sounds with radar bat ears. Once in a while is good for starters. Work your way up to most of the time. I'm not sure all of the time is possible.
For those times, offer it up.