Saturday 17 April 2021

Meaning and Purpose

Last Canadian Christmas (pre-covid)

I was intrigued and moved by this post by the talented but often irascible Steve Skojec of 1 Peter 5. It goes far to explain why ol' Steve roars like a lion at his critics instead of ignoring them, befriending them, or getting off Twitter. 

Many leaders among lay traditionalist Catholic men often express anger and disappointment in their writing, thus giving more fuel to the "mad trad" stereotype. But we live in difficult times, so it would be odd not to be angry and disappointed at least some of the time.  

By the way, I just thought of a priest-journalist's recent suggestion that children and young people be forbidden to attend the Traditional Latin Mass and laughed. I assumed, when I first heard about this, that he was either trolling or trawling for attention--or both. 

Western Civilisation is going through a very rocky time, largely because people want to get rid of the old certainties, which they blame for their disappointments in life. Sawing off the branch we sit on will not   make them happy although it has brought at least one of the founders of BLM a lot of moolah and some luxury properties Facebook does not want you to know about. 

There is also COVID-19, the lockdowns, the rushed vaccines, and the madness of people simultaneously trusting government propaganda and blaming governments for not solving the problems expressed in their propaganda. People are frightened of each other just for being--I flinch whenever I hear a cough on the bus--and families are being sundered into pro-vax/anti-vax, pro-lockdown/anti-lockdown, rule-following/rule-breaking halves. The trust between the police and the public must be at an all-time low in many countries. Worst of all, many of us cannot see our families and friends in person, which is a health disaster in itself. The number-one factor in living to a happy, healthy old age is strong, mutually fulfilling relationships. 

Therefore, we are living in very bad times, and I think we should go easy on ourselves and each other as much as possible. This does not mean binging on Netflix and food all day, for that is not true self-care. True self-care is reaching out to family and friends however one safely can, getting exercise, getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night, going outdoors, reading enriching books, doing the most essential housework, cooking and eating three healthy, filling meals a day, and very probably taking vitamin supplements, especially the medically recommended dose of Vitamin D. (Caveat: I am not a doctor, and this should not be taken as a substitute for doctors' advice, etc.) 

True care of neighbour is cutting them slack for their own way of coping with the international crisis, trying to see things from their point of view, and not adding to their burden of worry. Reaching out to family and friends to see how they're doing is crucial. Soothing the worries of your children is probably crucial, too. I know nothing about parenting, but I imagine telling children inspiring stories about children's heroism during other international catastrophes (the Black P|ague, the Second World War) might be therapeutic for everybody. 

Children definitely give you meaning and purpose. Both Steve and I, his reader, were struck by his memory of his wife thanking him by voice mail for the house he had provided for her, himself and their children after a long financial struggle. Fatherhood is so meaningful--fatherhood of all kinds. I am reminded of a war account in which Polish men in a Siberian gulag found purpose in sacrificing to keep the youngest among them--the then-teenage future narrator--alive.  

My sense of meaning and purpose, which collapsed when I was told I'd never have children and was  kicked by rejection letters from editors, publishers and agents, got up again after B.A.'s brain tumour reveal party. B.A.'s tumour told me that I had to stop pretending to be Lady of the Manor, writing amusing trifles for pin money, and get a job. And when B.A. got really sick and no-one knew why, I had two absorbing new tasks: keep my husband alive and make doctors keep him alive, too. 

Sorry to be repetitive, but it was traumatic, and traumatised people return to their traumas. I feel like I have been fighting non-stop since May 2017, not only because I am still haunted by the intransigence of doctors, but because I left the hospitals to fight with, among other tyrants,  agents of Revenue Canada. (Possibly the reason I can laugh at Fr. Reece's modest proposal for the TLM is because I didn't laugh when I got Revenue Canada's most recent letter.) 

Anyway, fighting The System in two countries for my husband's health and our money has given me a lot of meaning and purpose although it has also been very hard. It has been much harder--and more important- than putting up with the occasional expression of cozy Scottish (or North Irish) bigotry against Catholics. Fighting for health and wealth has much more tangible consequences than, e.g., smacking down a smug old man at a funeral tea. It includes a live husband under a roof we (increasingly) own.  

So what am I trying to say in this long-winded post? 

First, we live in very bad times, and so if we're angry and disappointed, no wonder. 

Second, we live in very bad times, so we need to focus on keeping ourselves and helping to keep our neighbours sane and healthy. This means diplomacy, expressions of love and support, tolerance and forgiveness. 

Third, we can find meaning and purpose in these very bad times by focussing on the good of the weakest members of our families. If you have children, that means the children. If you're single, that might mean your parents. In my case, that has meant my ailing or convalescing husband, who is now, thanks to the lockdown-nuking of his industry, financially dependent on me. 

That said, it has dawned on me that, breadwinner notwithstanding, the weakest person in our household at the moment is poor old burnt-out me. Can one get meaning and purpose from tending to oneself? I'm really not sure, but I guess I'll try. 

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