A Life of Quiet Desperation

It is already week two of the new quarter and I find myself feeling terribly behind in both homework and other sundry life-things.  Circumstances being what they are, last week was horribly busy for me, and did not really allow any time for school work to be done.  This is not a complaint, however, because I made thoughtful choices about several of the things that took my time, and felt that they were the more important ones.  Not one of those choices stand out to me at the moment as one I would go back and change. But, as the case often is, there are consequences for our choices, and the consequences I face at the moment is a flurry of activity as I try to make up lost ground before things get too far; before I resign myself to simply being behind and mildly disappointed with myself (as those two things are usually linked for me.)

As my evening class went on break tonight, I couldn’t help but start to compile a mental list of all that needs doing.  The chapters that need to be read, the films that need to be seen (yes, this is actually homework) the assignments to be written, and so on. I was very tempted to tell myself that this is all so very stressful, and that I am in a stressful place.  I was tempted to tell myself that I am stressed, when in point of fact, I was not feeling “stressed out” as say so often.  Yes, I have plenty to do, and it may feel stressful very soon, but at that moment, I wasn’t feeling “stressed out”, merely mindful that there is much to be done.
I have a close friend who seems always to be in a state of being “stressed out” as she puts it.  There is a never ending barrage of things in her life that seem to attack her relentlessly.  She does have a lot going on, and I recognize that she has every right to be stressed out from time to time.  But I also can’t help but sometimes feel that she chooses it.  She will identify situations that shouldn’t be categorized as stressful by anyone, as things that bear down on her. I think perhaps that she feels the weight of decisions with so much gravity, that there is little room in her economy for a bad decision, or even a less-than-ideal one.
Somehow tonight the thought of my to-do list, mixed in with the thought of my friend.  I actively chose not to take on a perception of stress in my life.
This brought to mind a quote from Thoreau: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
And I have to admit that in a sense, theologically, Thoreau is right. There is always so much to be done.  There is always so much that we need. There is always so much that we cannot accomplish on our own, or for ourselves.  We lead lives of quiet desperation, because our efforts–and we should make an effort–is only buoyed by the Grace of God. I mean that quite literally. We have a choice, where we can recognize that we need that Grace, that we live by that Grace, and that we are sustained by that Grace. Or we can not.  Either way, we are living lives of quiet desperation, but I think we can make a distinction about how we look at it.  We can focus on the desperation and simply live there, which results  as Thoreau put it “What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.” Or we can focus on the Grace that we are offered, and say “please” and “thank you”.
I think this choice matters in lots of ways; two of which I can think of at this moment:  choosing Grace allows us to sleep better at night.  And, accepting Grace means we have some to give to others when they need it.   If we are living in a state of desperation, we have no grace to spare for anyone else, because we don’t think we even have enough to get by on ourselves.
Yeah, I have a lot to get done, and not too much time to do it in.
By God’s Grace, it will come out.
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