Two little words

by +CrystalThieringer    @cdthieringer

Our small group sat around the table after dinner, warmed by soup and friendship. The discussion touched on many things, including background noise and empathy fatigue. I’ve been feeling it deeply these last few weeks but when I take a moment to breathe and reflect I realize it hasn’t been weeks, it’s been months. Fatigue skews time and thinking both.

This has been a difficult year. It shows in my writing–or rather, the blank pages where letters should be. It shows in my gardening–or rather, the scruffy parts of the back yard that I had promised to attend. It shows in my walking–or rather, the evidence of not doing so.

How challenging that balance between protecting my tender heart with my desire to know what’s going on in the world around me, with my friends, with my family. With myself.

Losing equilibrium can be dangerous. Some people, it seems, can know immediately what needs to change, determine a course of action and then take appropriate steps. Others have the same head knowledge but get stuck on their end of the teeter-totter. The rest of us ka-thunk in between.

Honest drama and disaster have filled most days, regardless of the attention I pay the news. Certainly, the natural forces of hurricanes and forest fires and flooding are prevalent, and my heart breaks for the people so affected. I struggle to remain empathetic and prayerful about their plight, remembering there are real people attached to the embarrassingly-easy-to-gloss-over headlines.

The melodramatic politicizing is what sickens me most days. Closer to home, there are unfolding dramas that quite honestly do the same thing. We can manage some of it. We can’t change much of it, and accepting this reality is perhaps the hardest thing to deal with.

The genuine tragedies and possible solutions seem to get lost in the unspoken rules of the games.

Is it just me or does it all seem a bit much these days? I see memes showing an idyllic cabin in the middle of an island, asking if I could survive without any internet or tv or radio or human contact, and my first response is “Oh hell, yes.” Then I remember that I have tinnitus. When it’s too quiet my ears sound like cicadas at a disco club on high voltage wires, and I’m not sure I would survive myself. Never mind the ringing in my ears, I don’t know if I would survive my own circuitous thinking. Or my genuine need for healthy human interaction, and I’m certainly blessed to have an equal abundance of that. I love my solitude and I love my people. And my cats. And also chocolate, which I suspect would be in short supply.

It’s the balance from which I’ve stumbled away.

Back at the small group table, a friend spoke quietly, as he always does. He never offers drivel. He’s been through stuff. He knows what it’s like to leave a country. To face bullets. To flee them. To fight for health and to watch from the sidelines while loved ones fight for theirs. His wisdom is the hard-earned kind that withstands scrutiny.

He said, “we always think we’re supposed to be thankful for all these things. That’s hard. Instead, we should be thankful in them.”

For. In. What a perspective shift in those two little words. Being thankful in circumstances is different than being thankful for them.

Be thankful in pain. Be thankful in beauty.

Be thankful in sorrow. Be thankful in peace.

Be thankful in grief. Be thankful in joy.

Be thankful in chaos. Be thankful in order.

Be thankful.

In everything.

Rejoice always, pray continuously, give thanks, in all circumstances…

I Thessolonians 5 (NIV)


16 thoughts on “Two little words

  1. Oh, I have been ka-thunking all along. This was so good. I took a deep breath and sighed with a smile as I read your closing thoughts. You have a gift. It is wonderful to witness your using it.

  2. We know this, yet we rarely do it first. We do it AFTER we have done a lot of other stuff trying to fix it, or abolish it. We do need to be thankful in all things. Great piece. Thank you.

  3. Good to hear from you, and even better to hear what you had to say. I really needed this tonight!

  4. What a wonderful testimony to the human spirit.
    Things I really need to be thankful “in”:
    In Bill’s continued cancer remission
    In Hamish (the dog’s) apparent cancer remission
    In the joy that my bag-making is bringing me
    In the recent writing conferences that have given me a new lease on writing
    In the wonderful online friends (of which you are one of the neatest) who keep me buoyed up in difficult times
    In difficult times that eventually turn into glorious ones

    Thanks, Crystal, for this most opportune post! <3

    1. Bill’s remission is wonderful news–and Hamish’s too. Thank you for sharing that!

  5. Crystal it’s like you wrote my mind. I desperately want to get out and get going but the thought just weighs me down and I talk myself out of it. My computer and phone have been out of order for several weeks and I’m hoping as of today things are going to be good. Computers can be non-threatening and less personal than speaking on the phone or going for a visit. I feel like it’s a major contribution to my withdrawal. Sadly, I like it. I think of you and others and try to think of why I can’t just get up and visit or call and I cannot justify it. Thing ringing in my ears can be so distracting that I can’t even stay on track with what I was thinking. Anyway, thank you for showing me how boring and foolish I am and to make an effort to do something about it. Maybe you’re the light at the end of my tunnel. I just have to start taking a step at a time. Be sweet.

  6. Some people get to a point in their lives where they do thank God for the hard situations you mentioned. I am not one of those yet, but I do thank God in my hard circumstances. Because he is worthy of our praise and our thanks. Because I know he never leaves a job half-done. Because he’s promised he will bring good out of it and believe me, sometimes I have wondered how in the world he would. Some things I’m still waiting on. I love your writing. Happy to see some today.

  7. I love your description of those who “ka-thunk in between.” That’s definitely me. And I adore what your friend said about being thankful IN rather than thankful for. This is a really thoughtful piece. I have the same desires for quiet, to get beyond the noise of the world. Maybe the way beyond is through? I appreciate your words so much. Here’s to balance!

  8. As others have mentioned, you truly have a gift. This piece was wonderfully written and inspiring on so many levels. Thank you for sharing.

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