Reality can be absurd.
During an unusual cold snap in South Florida, there were news stories cautioning people to watch out for frozen iguanas falling from trees. Days later those stories were replaced by articles about people selling iguana meat – to eat. I live in North Florida so when the temperature dipped, I only had to worry about covering my plants and wearing closed-toe shoes. Still, I followed the stories about the non-native iguanas and the people who eat them.
More recently, I have been reading about sightings of non-native wild monkeys in the area and other parts of the state. Apparently, some of these monkeys are infected with a deadly strain of Herpes B. These herpes positive primates have been known to attack when their territory feels threatened. So, now not only do Floridians have to worry about being bonked in the head by a comatose iguana, or whether it’s actually chicken in our Brunswick stew or reptile meat, we also have to worry about diseased monkeys charging us.
And people think life here is just sandy beaches and lulling surf.
I often contemplate the absurdity of life. There is so much truth that reads like fiction. So many realities that seem fantastical. One of the biggest of which is that there exists a God who so madly loves us that he died for us. Of all the ways he could have mesmerized, awed, and astonished us to show his love, he chose death. I can’t say that would have been my pick. On the surface, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that he willingly gave his life out of love for us. When you contemplate the suffering that preceded his death, it feels as absurd as free-falling iguanas. “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us,” (Romans 5:8). Much to the hindrance of my relationship with God, I have struggled with the reality of this truth. How could he possibly know me so completely and still love me unconditionally? How could he identify all my weaknesses and still want me? How could he acknowledge all my failings and forgive me? And my favorite wondering of all, how could he allow me to suffer when in a breath he could remove the entirety of the world’s suffering?
It’s the Fall of my son’s senior year in high school. The seeds we planted in the blind enthusiasm of grade school, protected from the ambivalence of middle school, and fertilized with a hearty mix of encouragement and extracurriculars through the high school years have culminated into a small crop of college applications, deadlines, and gut-wrenching decisions. Our mailbox is jammed with colorful college brochures, inviting postcards, and glossy magazines that clearly explain the absurd-cost of college. For months, we’ve binged on the propaganda. We’ve made our list. We’ve pared down our list. We’ve reevaluated and we’ve changed it – sometimes all in one day. At times, motivations and decisions seemed logical, and, just as often, the experience has felt more like a diagnosis of insanity than a direction to begin anew.
It’s been exciting, exhausting, and frustrating. There have been hard talks and heartfelt moments of hope. It has brought us closer in ways that feel like a cherished parting gift which right now we have the joy of opening, but will ultimately close this chapter in our lives. Undoubtedly, the best chapter I could hope to write. It is not lost on me that all our efforts, not just to send him off to college, but to prepare him for adulthood, inevitably mean a parting of ways. Every act that brings him closer to his goals is taking me farther from the child I want to hold onto. Yet I know I can’t keep him. He needs to go and I need to let go. It makes me think a lot about what love means. So often, love is more of a surrender than a holding on. Love is another’s heart that we don’t get to keep no matter how much it has imprinted our own. It’s helping someone meet their goals knowing that getting them there will cost a piece of you. It’s explicably worth the sacrifice, the heartache, and the cavernous emptiness that makes you wonder if your heart is imploding. Love is the illogical dying on the cross for unworthy sinners that Jesus endured. It’s letting go of what you want to give someone else a chance at what they want. It’s beautiful and boundless. Despite breaking us into a million pieces, it inevitably makes us more whole.
Some people believe we should do whatever it takes to make our dreams come true.
That perspective makes me tired. Or maybe I am tired and more likely to pursue sleeping dreams than the do-whatever-it-takes kind. While I would give anything for the people in my life, I can’t say the same for my pursuits.
I don’t lack ambition or commitment either. If anything, I am guilty of skepticism for thinking this mentality is part of the happily-ever-after notion of dreams hawked by Hollywood movie makers. But I am not really that cynical. I love people who are passionate about their goals. I admire the tenacity it takes to get to the proverbial there, to arrive, to live the dream. I love an underdog, a comeback story, and an against-the-odds fight.
I am just not sure I want to be one.
Somewhere between the dream and the reality is the cost of pursuit. Whether in commerce or in life, we all have a price we are willing to pay to get what we want. Not all of us are willing to personify Rocky Balboa for the sake of our dreams no matter how much we admire a steely resolve to persevere and a cool moniker like “Italian Stallion.” Read more
I admit I am not used to winning awards. Sometimes if I am having a really bad parenting day I will give myself the Worst Parent in the World award. Other than that, the last time I can remember getting an award was in high school when I got Most Improved in PE II. Really, I did. It felt like a back-handed compliment to go with that back-hand serve I knew nothing about — a dubious honor memorialized with a certificate. Read more