Religion

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

I found this quote online, and it really got me thinking.

To a young person, just entering on adult life, the world seems full of “insides,” full of delightful intimacies and confidentialities, and he desires to enter them. But if he follows that desire he will reach no “inside” that is worth reaching.

C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

C.S. Lewis might have been inspired by this (or a similar) Bible verse:

Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

1 John 2:15 NABRE

Sometimes the world is so all consuming and pervasive. We get attached to our creature comforts, but we must always remain detached because the path to heaven is not paved with cell phones, junk food, expensive clothes, and fancy cars.

Since I had my son, thoughts of my own mortality have been stomping through my head. Memento mori has become one of my mantras. You would think this would make me run to confession at the earliest opportunity, but to my detriment, my pride is stronger than the fear of being separated from God for all eternity if I do in fact die before I can get to confession.

This makes no sense logically. If I truly loved and believed in God, desired heaven, and dreaded hell, then I would swallow my pride. Otherwise, if I proceed down the path I’ve been taking, my actions state that God is not real and that when I die, my body will crumble into dust because that’s all I am: just a body, and the immortal soul is a fantastical thing invented to counteract humans’ number two fear (second only to public speaking): death.

The good news is that it has been easier to let go of material things. That new blouse? I don’t need it. Listen to Top 40 on the way to work? Don’t really want to anymore. Eat out tonight? Let’s save the money. Actually, I’ve been thinking more about money and the temptation to consider it a safety net. We’ll be OK. We have money in the bank in case something happens. But that is the wrong mentality to have. Money belongs to the world and can disappear in an instant. God doesn’t care how much material wealth we have; give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and all that. If we are truly meant for heaven, the real blessings are the virtues that will get us there, not the earthly trappings of a huge house and a gas-guzzling car.

However, the flip side of all that is we can get rid of all the material things in the world, but we are still stuck with ourselves and the sin that begins in our hearts. So it’s not as easy as locking ourselves in a cloister like a monk. The monks did exactly that and still struggled with sin!

Teenagers and young people inevitably get sucked into the world to some degree, as the C.S. Lewis quote says. They want to be like their friends, and they want the shiny new things their friends have. They want to be on the “inside” and will often go to great lengths to get there. All that stuff is a rite of passage, and parents can only hope and pray that their children will see the light and grow out of those phases. I worry about how we are going to raise our son in this technology-infested world, but I can’t worry too much. He has free will, so no matter what we do or how well we raise him, he could still go against what we would want for him.

Common wisdom states that children are influenced by what their parents do rather than what their parents say, so another good step would be to live the way we would like our son to live. Again, that brings me back to the subject of confession. There’s no getting around it, so I might as well face reality and go! A confession from the heart is good for the soul. 🙂

Journal

Aesop’s Fables, Revisited

I was reading to my son from a book of Aesop’s fables and came upon the one about the fox and the grapes. To make a short story even shorter (spoilers, haha!), the fox belittles the grapes because they are out of his reach. Those grapes are probably sour anyway, he thinks bitterly. I’m not sure what message my son got out of the story. He was too busy slapping his drool-coated hands all over the book.

Then I realized something as I tried to pull the page out of his slippery hand so I could turn to the next story. I’m an awful lot like that fox. If somebody has a nice house, I always think, Who the hell would want to pay for that huge house, to heat it and cool it and clean it? I’m glad I don’t live there. Or people who are always going on trips. I wonder if Dave Ramsey is right… did they most likely go into debt to pay for that vacation? Haha, suckers! Internally, I’m envious of these people’s nice things.

I try to pass my envy off as gratitude for what I have, but it’s really just bitterness. One of the hardest things for me to do is to be happy about another person’s success. Their gain literally takes nothing from me, but it still affects me, as if I’ve fallen down a notch on a ranking list that exists only in my head.

Count your blessings! they say, and for me, that involves going home and being happy with my family and forgetting all about the outside world, once again proving the point that others’ success and material possessions have nothing to do with me at all. It is all so easily forgotten.

So with that said, my new goal for the next couple weeks is to purposely try to be genuinely happy for others, rather than belittle them. And be more grateful for the good things that I have, which are many.

Journal

Career vs. Family: Reprise

Back in 2012, I wrote a post about career versus family and the balancing act that must be done when one is trying to “raise” both. So now I can provide insight to my past self because I am in the position of having a career and a family.

But if we’re being realistic, I don’t think I have much more insight than I did then, except I realize that I could never be a stay-at-home mom. I always thought I could because after all, my mother did it. So why couldn’t I? I was so wrong. The three months of maternity leave I did take were hell on earth, and I couldn’t wait to get back to work so I could feel like I was actually doing something.

But you ARE doing something! You’re raising a baby! people tried to tell me. It didn’t erase the fact that without work and no routine to speak of, with sleep deprivation and zero energy, I was starting to get severely depressed. I was honestly thinking of dropping the baby off at the fire station and checking myself into a mental health institution. It was that bad.

Then I went back to work and the world brightened instantly. I went back to normal. The fog lifted. Everything was better. My hat is off to the stay-at-home mothers of the world. I don’t know how you do it. I admire you deeply.

Even so, all this is not to say that I would choose career over family. A career should serve the family, not the other way around. The family does not exist to serve one’s career, and if it does, you’re doing it wrong… or you’re a politician.

My three months of maternity hell leave made me question my own motives. Do I love my job at the expense of my family? I don’t think so. I try my best to keep my time within the standard eight hours a day and not take on unnecessary extra work. I keep it in my head that a job is a job, and a job cannot love me in the way that my family can. If I lost my job, it would be devastating but ultimately replaceable, but if I lost my family, it would be devastating and irreplaceable.

Perhaps if circumstances were different, and my family was in a situation where I did not have to work to keep us afloat, I would have enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom. Perhaps it was just postpartum hormones, and not simply being out of work, that made me so miserable. Perhaps if I had started my family before starting my career, I would have wanted to stay home with the child(ren), but alas, today’s economy really doesn’t allow that. Gone are the days when one can get married straight out of high school or college and expect to live on one person’s income while supporting children.

As my son gets older, perhaps things will change, and I’ll be better able to balance career and family. Now I feel like one or the other always gets the short end of the stick. “They” say things like Do what’s best for you and your family, not what everyone else thinks is best, and that’s what I try to do. But man, those comments from the peanut gallery can really get you down. (And that’s a post for another time.)