After signing off last night, I felt somewhat smug I guess, because I had just gotten swearing off my chest and managed to be funny about it. (At least Stacey thought so. Thank you, Stacey.) Then it hit me that I had completely neglected to say anything about the last part of my intro verse, Ephesians 5.4--the part about substituting thanksgiving for crassness and nonsense.
Apostle-Paul just kind of slips that in there. You might not even notice. On Sunday when we talked about it, I posited that gratitude is presented as an antidote to lazy speech because lazy speech usually focuses on the negative, and if we are instead focusing on thanking God for stuff, it's harder to be negative.
Then Phone-Company-Ray phoned this morning. He is, clearly, the one on whom Phone-Company-Andrew dumps his less pleasant duties. Perhaps Phone-Company-Andrew didn't want to have to admit to me that he isn't as omnipotent as he billed himself to be, but the fact that he has someone to whom to delegate the message implies that he still wields some sort of power. I've never met this poor Ray fellow.
Anyway, Ray was calling to tell me that my little outpost-town is "not close enough" to the Phone Company's "central headquarters," but that they are "constantly upgrading," and if they "upgrade to our area" within "the next six months," they'll give us a call. All that to say that DSL is out. Oh expletive. Roommate-Sarah says, "I could have told them that." And there was that part of me that knew she was right in her skepticism days ago, but I was trying so hard to be hopeful, which is something that both does and doesn't come naturally to me at all. So it's still a blow.
This just adds to the feeling I've been operating under lately, that my life is a series of "almosts." I almost meet guys who almost like me enough to date me; I almost get promoted; I almost get published; I almost get DSL. And when you feel like that, it's hard to feel grateful. A better defense seems to be to get extra bitter and start swearing, or to get really really funny. Or both. Never mind that neither of those actually are better defenses. Sometimes feeling safe is enough. Gratitude isn't safe because it's so closely tied to hope, and hope, in my experience, is so easily crushed. Which means I am.
When I try to be grateful in the face of "almosts," what I come up with are things like this:
- Well, at least I have dial-up--and a computer--which still allows me to post things here and write to my friends.
- Well, at least I'm not with the wrong person.
- Well, at least I've got a good relationship with my family.
- Well, at least I'm not starving to death or living in a wartorn country (although just by being an American I suppose I am contributing to the war tearing at some countries).
All of these things are really and truly things to be grateful for, and I would like to be grateful for them, and if I keep thinking about it, I'll probably get to that point. But the way I'm thinking about them initially doesn't really add up to gratitude. It feels more like making excuses. If gratitude is the prescribed remedy for crassness, then it seems like it needs to be bigger and stronger and more glorious than the simpering stuff that often passes for it. Maybe something like what Christy (who has lived through more horror and angst than I can dream of) says and demonstrates in a recent post. Maybe something like the young African-American woman who used to come to our store would say every time we asked her how she was: "Blessed."
That can be said tritely and as an excuse. It can be a way to avoid and push down our darkness. Or it can be a defining word, said in the face of obstacles no one else knows about, one that you grab onto with both hands and maybe your teeth because it's true even when the broken world is trying to shake your foundations. Or even just when battling the "almosts."