A mother and daughter walking in a forest in Maple Ridge, Canada. Photo by James Wheeler on Unsplash

Barefoot and Preaching: I’ll take the scenic route for my journey this year

By 
  • January 15, 2019

Choosing is in the air. At the beginning of the year, the marketers are competing for our money, and gyms and diet programs are poised to pounce on the good intentions that follow Christmas feasts. 

A new calendar year lies before us waiting for resolution. My aging heart is getting a bit more cynical; years are arbitrary divisions of monotonous sunrises and sets. I am all about living with intention and I am resolving nothing.

Several years ago, I was lying face down on the chiropractor’s table relishing the few moments’ rest when the conversation at the doorway caught me. The client coming out of the next room asked the chiropractor if this treatment was going to do the trick or if there would be another for yet more money. The chiropractor answered with a question: If I gave you a glass of water today, would you still need more tomorrow? 

The question is so much more important than whether any of us visits a chiropractor. All the stuff that actually matters has to be done over and over again. There are no quick fixes, shortcuts or magic pills to resolve our problems. And this is the problem with once-a-year resolutions in a culture drowning in consumerism. I cannot buy spiritual resolution because I am not ultimately a problem that needs fixing. My life is not a problem to be solved.

My four-year-old, Charlize, is a whirlwind of a girl, with a life force bigger than her body can contain. Her joy is infectious and her frustration monumental. Woe to the one who limits her. I have learned, mostly the hard way, to give her lots of options. The other night, standing beside her raised bed, I began to sing the usual song. She put up her hand (as she has learned to do at preschool) and said, “Please give me choices, Mom.”

Every day, I am learning to drink from the well of each of my kids. It can be hard to find a moment with each of the four of them, but tomorrow’s reality will be shaped by today’s choices. I am choosing to listen, to cuddle, to read, to play, and to soften over and over again. So many days it is tempting to skip today because I did the right thing yesterday or last week. Surely missing today won’t matter? Except today’s choices are the only thing that matters.

Resolution is the stuff of resurrection, of bringing into harmony the tensions of life’s major and minor discords. And in my experience, resolution and resurrection are God’s work. My work is choosing life from the myriad of options that lie before me. To go to bed on time or watch one more show? To move or eat chips? To call a friend or take a bath? If only every moment had just one right choice and one wrong one instead of many competing goods and more than a few coping mechanisms.

I am resolving nothing because making better choices in the future need not condemn past choosing. All the days of my life, I have been doing the best I can with what I had and knew at the time. This recovering perfectionist does not need any more violent self-condemnation. If I need to drink more water tomorrow, it does not mean that today’s water was flawed; it means I am human, thirsty again.

Instead of resolving, I am choosing the scenic route through my life — on purpose. I want to participate in choosing strong relationships and health and good habits. And while there might be more efficient ways than simply choosing the best I can in each moment, I have tried efficiency and it broke me.

All the things worth doing have to be done over and over again: breathing, eating, sleeping, moving, loving, healing, grieving, remembering, playing, praying. (This is not an exhaustive list.) All the products and solutions are tricks designed to fuel dissatisfaction with my otherwise beautiful life. Get behind me, Satan. I have aged out of buying your trash.

I will pull on my mittens and go outside again today, and watch my breath rise to God. I will eat food that is nourishing and comforting and good enough, depending on the day. I am choosing to sit for a cup of tea with my girl that will too soon be a woman. 

The scenes of my life are being compiled into a life of my choosing, with gentleness and intention. God is working resurrection in that. Here is to another year of magic in the middle of the fog. I don’t want it to be any other way.

(Perreault works in Catholic health care in Saskatoon and writes and speaks about faith. Her website is leahperrault.com)


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