- sore muscles
- sinus pressure
- strong winds
Each of these represent finitude in some way. And they are four reminders I’ve received this past week of my own finitude.
It all started with a night of dancing at a friend’s birthday party. The innocent yet liberated, linguist style of dancing, that is. That, combined with my weekly game of pick-up soccer the next morning, left me hobbling around like a surgery patient for several days. As a former college athlete, I still haven’t quite gotten over the shock of getting so sore from such limited activity. I guess I’m not as young as I used to be (if a 25-year old can even say that). And yet, it’s a good thing to be reminded how dependent I am on certain muscles. My last job was at a care center for the elderly; while working there, I was giving thanks practically daily for an able body, for walking capability, for control of my body parts. I’ve gotten out of the habit. I take properly-functioning muscles for granted — until my improperly-functioning calf muscles make stairs an excruciating ordeal.
Just as I was regaining normal physical capacity, I finally succumbed to the cold/sinus infection that I’d probably been due for since everyone else has had something like it lately. It was nothing serious, but there’s nothing like a completely congested head to make you realize how little you can accomplish in a day. While my white blood cells were fighting off fever and infection, I was struggling to make it up to campus, get through class, and focus on my work (pardon a bit of melodrama). For a super productive, always-needing-to-be-doing-something kind of a person, this too is a good thing. I can always use reminders that I am frail and can’t do everything. And once the pressure is off, I realize how freeing my inability can be!
The middle of the week hit, and I was pretty wiped out. Wednesday afternoon, the fatigue caught up to me and I actually took a nap. Naps have become too rare in my life. I can always think of something that would be more worth the time and daylight than sleeping. Wednesday afternoon, I relished the reminder that slowing down is a good thing. For me, taking a nap may be a radical act of faith. Entrusting to God my to-do list so much that I can forget about it and sleep is not easy for me. But that day, it was pretty freeing to be so incapacitated that I wanted to take a nap.
A storm coming through the Dallas area caused the fourth reminder of my finitude. Walking in strong winds can be a humbling experience — just feeling the force all around you and the relative frailty in you. I saw a vulture circling in the sky and was struck by how little the wind seemed to bother him. He knew how to embrace his weakness and let the wind carry him, all the while harnessing his limited strength and skills to fly.
So this week I cut myself some slack. Those four reminders helped me have more realistic expectations of myself, even if just for a few days. It was a week of frailty and of discovering freedom in it — though even as I write this, I realize it was just a glimpse of my weakness, that I have nothing to complain about. I am fortunate to have experienced in my lifetime only a small piece of my finitude. Others are reminded of it with every breath they take.
May all of us live a little more conscious of our frailty and a little more grateful for the freedom it brings us.