Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Irrational Joy: A Survival Skill

A very close friend has been battling Big Issues for a while. Her struggle started six or seven years ago when her unemployed drug-addled husband became physically abusive, and she had to leave. In a grueling divorce, she lost her home, money and belongings. Soon she lost both parents, too. She’s been hard-pressed since the divorce to find a job that pays a living wage. There have also been health problems.

In search of employment she moved alone to a large city in a less downsized part of the world. She did find work but was homesick to the core. We who deeply love her agreed that she was not in the right place. This is a woman who worships fresh air and open spaces. She used to hike miles every day through woods and hills; she lived on a farm, for God’s sake. Not a good candidate for a crowded city of concrete, smog, and steel. Still, she willed herself to work and live and make friends there for a couple years.

Six months ago, she returned to her hometown where she’s renting a room from another friend while looking for work. She’s in her mid-50s, attractive, funny, energetic, and smart. Accomplished, too. This is a woman who shouldn’t be single let alone single, homeless, and out of work. Yet she is all those things in a region still stunned by economic depression. I would be worried about her except that she has one surefire survival skill: a capacity for boundless joy. Her easy laugh, open heart, and agile mind make me believe that things simply have to get better for her--soon.

Recently my friend introduced me to one of her favorite books, Everything on a Waffle, by Polly Horvath. Although written for kids, it speaks to us all. Horvath's heroine, Primrose, is a lot like my friend: darkly funny, resourceful, and imaginative. Primrose steadfastly refuses to believe that her parents are lost at sea. While she awaits their return, counselors urge her to be realistic and face her losses. She is shuffled from home to home and survives several nasty accidents, losing a couple digits but never her optimism. She meets fascinating folks, most of whom don’t help her much. In fact, the most dangerous turn out to be those in the helping professions. Upbeat and open to new adventures, Primrose finds delight in unexpected places, including a restaurant that serves . . . you guessed it . . . everything on a waffle. In Horvath's story, hope rises when and where you wouldn't think it could live. Such is my friend's conviction.

'Tis the season to count our blessings. We often focus on what’s missing in our lives rather than what we are blessed to have. In so doing, we risk allowing that empty place inside to swallow the light around us. The remedy? Be a little bit like Primrose and my pal: Laugh because you can. Love because you want to. Believe in better times to come even when you have no clear reason for doing so. Irrational joy may be the most rational skill we can cultivate.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really like this. Good food for thought (no waffle pun intended) as we launch the holidays. -Karen Kyle

11:43 PM  
Blogger Nina Wright said...

Karen, thank you. And happy holiday season, from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day and beyond.


11:46 PM  
Blogger Saloma said...

I think we all know somebody going thru hard times. Let's pray for them and let them lean on our faith if they need to until things get better. Things do get better in God's own time.


6:02 PM  

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