One of my least favorite days of the year, Independence Day, has of late turned my favorite. There's something about wandering between brownstones, laying in the grass, eating from food trucks, sweating unholy amounts, talking and playing games with precious people, cramming into subway cars, and watching the most magnificently beautiful fireworks the modern world can conjure. A new family tradition has brought me so much joy. "This is my favorite part!" I would announce periodically, as though I had zero concept of the exclusionary implications of the term 'favorite.'
But standing on the subway platform waiting to switch trains, a horrifying thought dawned in the back of my mind and rose into my outlook. I was not jubilant, I was not miserable, I was not anxious, I was not content. I just was. Which meant that something had to be wrong!
Surely there was something to feel guilty about: things I ought not to have said, things I ought to have planned better, thoughts I should have swept away, thoughts I should have brought to mind. There were so many things to be stressed out about: fundraising and follow-up phone calls, packing and medical arrangements, the van's screwy transmission and empty gas tank. I gazed down the empty platform, wiped the sweat off the back of my neck, and wondered, "What on earth is wrong with me?Why do I feel so normal?"
So I took a moment to remind myself that sometimes it's okay to just be.
In my obsession with mindful living and in the throes of my right desire to be each day more like Jesus, I get a little carried away sometimes. I drink in the high highs and wallow in the low lows because I mistake the extremes for poignancy. As though there were something particularly profound about irrational happiness or erratic despair. I somehow came to believe that if I was neither euphoric with the satisfaction of living rightly nor despondent from the conviction of my shortcomings then I was doing something wrong.
And it's true, that the choice between life and death is always before us. It's true that each day carries a million different reasons to be glad and a million different reasons to grieve. Certainly Independence Day shows this, in the multimillion dollar pyrotechnics contrasted with the exploited homeless jingling change, in the triumphant #BOSTONSTRONG banners contrasted with the makeshift marathon memorial, in the unity celebrated from the loudspeaker contrasted with selfish disregard for others on the ground. I find much meaning in these highs and in these lows.
But not everything is an existential crisis.
There is no need to despair when the meaning can't be found. It is good to live with care to the consequences of my values, attitudes, and beliefs, but it is also good to stand on subway platform and just be there. To laugh with friends, and to take a walk, and to get on the train and go where you're going. I am finite, and I will not catch every shred of meaning in every experience. I will not even come close. John Tagliabue wrote once, "The ordinary blankness of little dramatic consciousness is good for the health sometimes." And I think that may be true.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.