The things that trigger the need to write always surprise me. This time it was a simple question asked by my friend and oblate mentor that set me to pondering for days. “How are you doing?” I know, I’ve written before about answering the “How are you?” question but this was different for me; I’m hoping that by writing today I’ll figure out why and maybe even be able to answer it.
First, a little background. Since I am mostly homebound, I thought at first that it might be impossible for me to be accepted as a Benedictine Oblate candidate. But God does indeed use all things and inspired the Oblate Director of the monastery with which I am now affiliated to offer me the opportunity to study at home. Part of his decision included asking a particular oblate of the monastery to act as my mentor. Their actions speak strong lessons regarding what it means to invite Christ more deeply into one’s life via the Rule of St. Benedict. She and I have met only twice in person but, I am honored and happy to say, have become friends as well as fellow travelers on the Benedictine path.
So, why did the caring inquiry of a friend who even remarked that she didn’t want to intrude into my privacy (something she did not in any way do!) render me mute for so long?
“How are you doing?” “Better than most and not as good as some” would be the glib answer – yet it’s also true. Barring the desires of some in power to dismantle my husband’s pension plan, our lifestyle is fairly secure which is something most of the world would give much to be able to say. As hard as this disease is, there are far harder, so I am once again fortunate. We have so far been able to afford our medicines; again, almost embarrassingly fortunate. Our family is safe and all one has to do is look at a headline to know how blessed we are in that! The wealth I enjoy in these things and others is indescribable, yet I felt completely unable to answer that question.
“How are you doing?” Well, a medicine I had hope for doesn’t seem to agree with me, adding another to a long list, so I’m still struggling with acceptance.
“How are you doing?” I’m feeling a bit lost, very sick, and trying to cover it up so others won’t leave me out of things more than I already am, so I am still struggling with acceptance.
“How are you doing?” It hurts terribly when others know more about my children and grandchildren than I do because of the isolation this disease imposes, so I am still struggling with acceptance.
“How are you doing?” I feel overwhelmed by the least things that others do with such astonishing ease, so I am still struggling with acceptance.
“How are you doing?” I get scared about the future even as I profess my trust in God, so I am still struggling with acceptance.
“How are you doing?” I feel I’m handling it one moment and crash the next into a bewildered mess of sickness and pain, so I am still struggling with acceptance.
“How are you doing?” I sometimes want to scream when someone tells me about ordinary things they do and which I know I will never do, so I am still struggling with acceptance.
“How are you doing?” I fight an unbecoming resentment when there are breakthroughs for other diseases and none for this one, so I am still struggling with acceptance.
“How are you doing?” I am both irritated with myself and deeply ashamed for the whole list above and for all the things I haven’t listed, knowing how absolutely blessed I am in all that truly matters, so I am still struggling with – myself.
Well, it seems there we have it , the voice unmuted, the answer I needed for myself. “How are you doing?” I’m struggling with acceptance. I’m struggling. But in those words “I’m struggling” there is life, isn’t there? I’m a very poor example of a Benedictine of any stripe, but I’m struggling. Time to email my friend.