I like the idea of reaching for something beautiful like the stars, but it takes work to keep my eye on something so far away. When not overcome with passionate optimism, I am a person given to weary sadness. Sometimes it translates as hopelessness, sometimes as an inability to forgive the inordinate number of trespasses from those who surround me, and sometimes as kind of general malaise. During the impassioned phase, it is not difficult to look up.
I am not in that phase at the moment. I am in the phase where my Pollyanna self would be shot on sight. It is called highly critical, general malaise mode. Inside that place, it is very difficult to look up. Ironically, when I could most use a steady gaze on something higher, my neck prefers to stretch sideways to inspect the shortcomings of my fellow travellers.
In nature, my children, unexpected things, I am sometimes given the needed adjustment for my view finder. When those fail, I flounder. More often than you would think, Mrs. Auchter comes to mind. When I knew her, she was in her eighties, blind and living alone. She had three people in her weekly life, Alice, who did her hair, Marion Fisher who got her groceries, and me.
I thought she had good reasons to be depressed, bitter, and resentful. But if she was these things, I couldn’t see them through her delight at seeing me every Sunday afternoon. She saved up all kinds of things to tell and show my high school self. A piece from Mozart played properly. Warnings from the radio about drugs. The state of her toenails. The good work of prunes. I picture her curly white head with marks from where she slept, her hunched up shoulders, the thick glasses she couldn’t see out of, covered in finger prints.
Recently I read about Josephine Bakhita. She was a very poorly treated slave for many years. Her enslavement was eventually pronounced illegal by the French courts of the day. No longer a slave, Josephine chose to live at a convent. She was assigned as doorkeeper and subsequently was familiar with the local people. She became beloved and very well known for her kindness and generosity of spirit. Literally thousands came to her funeral.
I need to know how this woman was dealt such an ugly hand and ended up a dealer in tender humanity. I have never been a slave, and I think what I do is at least as pleasant an occupation as doorkeeper. I notice the cupboard doors left open, the shoes kicked across the floor, and the dirty Tupperware from the lunches not returned and I am not a happy camper. Josephine Bakhita puts a serious wrench in my ideas about payback for such indignities.
But maybe she is giving me something better to aim for. Something to keep my head up looking at the stars.