"The world is indeed full of peril, and there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater."
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of The Ring
I had a long chat with an old friend this evening. When she first called, I was frustrated with Michael's boss and job and not really looking forward to a long conversation about our lives. But, after hearing her voice, I remembered why I so often feel so lonely; I have some of the most amazing friends in the world...all over the world.
As we talked of our respective journeys to the South and the ways in which we have had to adjust, she brought the point up that it's hard for each of us to reconcile what have become our "two lives". We have one life with our husbands and friends & family around where we currently make our home, but another back where we are from, and where our own families are. I'd never really considered it this way, but she is spot on. Time waits for no one and our parents and grandparents do not get younger as the weeks and months pass (neither do we, for that matter!); this, we found through talking, has been one of the hardest things to deal with in the constant go-between those two lives. Each time we leave to come back to our "everyday" lives, it seems harder for we are increasingly aware of what we leave behind and how quickly things change. It is a sort of grieving process that happens over and over again. I pointed out that, while this was true, we should also be grateful for this bittersweetness; it means we have something to miss and many that are dear to us.
So often we are concerned with the immediate: what to wear, how to do our hair, whether we make enough money or not. In the hot mess that life too often becomes, we are so overly prone to forget completely the simple joys God provides for the taking. I think that our friends and family help us to remember these joys, when there is true love & respect. Now, I must admit that I find these simple joys many times in my own home while I am alone with my two cats since my kitten is quite the trapeze artist and seems to find much entertainment out of things like trying to climb door jams. But the fact of the matter is, that when we are apart from the people and places that shaped us into who we are today, there is literally a piece of us missing.
A couple of days ago, I came upon the chapter in the Lord of the Rings where Gandalf falls in Moria. [ATTENTION: Spoiler alert...] It is, for first-time readers, one of the most heartbreaking moments in the entire trilogy. It is so even for those of us who have long loved these books, and we already know that he returns later in one of the most joyous moments of the entire trilogy. However, the sadness and the grief with which the Company is stricken at this point in the story is quite remarkable. For one, you have a group of men who are all weeping. Call me petty, but even in the times when most men remained true gentlemen, the majority of them didn't make a habit of showing their emotions. In this case, however, the magnitude of what has happened is so real and palpable that all pretenses of bravery or duty are set aside, if only for a few moments. Of course, those who remain are quick to return to their Quest despite their discouragement.
The quote at the beginning of this post comes after Gandalf has been lost and is spoken by one of the Elves of Lothlorien, making it all the more powerful as one works at deciphering its meaning in context, and out. For it clearly has great gravity for the Company in the face of their grief and the tasks that remain at hand, but it also has importance for any human living today. We are surrounded by doubt, mistrust, darkness, fear. The very presence of these things signals that of trust, light, and joy, but it is easy to forget this fact, and we seem to do so more often than is actually healthy for our souls.
I hope to personally continue to be increasingly aware of the joys that God has freely given me, whether past, present, or future. For starters, I am healthy, I have a loving husband and family, wonderful friends, and the means to live comfortably, though it often feels a struggle. Everything is relative, and nothing is an accident. The people we meet have a purpose in our lives, and we in theirs. If more of us lived simply aware of this fact, we would all be happier, I think.