I laughed my way through Judith Viorst’s How Did I Get to Be Forty and Other Atrocities. I’ve long since passed the half-century mark, so it seemed reasonable that I should at least face the music of being forty. Even though I must admit I feel more like thirty . . . until I think about my schedule of involvements. Then I wish I were older and had an excuse for hiding away in a cabin, writing my memoirs . . . as if anybody would ever care to read them.
It’s bad enough just meeting the daily and weekly deadlines along with fulfilling some people’s expectations—ugh!—but when I include a bunch of other self-assigned projects, the stress level can approach borderline madness. Which explains why, in my reading, I toss in Bombeck along with Steinbeck and Schulz along with Schaft and Pirsig along with Paul. Gotta have that balance! Otherwise, the screws get cinched down so tightly that I revert to nail-biting and fist-slamming and choking down too much food without tasting it.
I’ve got enough people in my life who frown authoritatively and admonish me to get serious. I need a few who smile relaxingly and encourage me to kick back, loosen up, and laugh a little more. I’ve got more than my share of “get-with-it” ghosts haunting me already, don’t you? Maybe that’s why I’ll pull Viorst from the shelf on a Saturday afternoon or a Monday morning. She helps Sunday make better sense. Extreme and uptight, she ain’t. But she is clever, witty, sometimes subtle, and always real.
In her piece called “Self-improvement Program,” Viorst demonstrates how quickly we tend to turn a simple plan into a federal case. Her poem about escalating to-dos and expectations culminates with the desperate cry of, “Won’t someone please stop me?”
Strange, isn’t it, how we tend toward extremes? What begins as self-improvement becomes self-enslavement . . . what starts as merely a mellow change of pace leads to a marathon of fanaticism. We’re nuts! Left to ourselves, we’ll opt for extremes most every time. Which explains why God’s Book so often stresses moderation, self-control, softening our sharp-cornered lives with more curves that necessitate a slower speed.
Are you spinning out of control on the fast track? How can you slow down? Where can you go to find enough stillness to rediscover that God is God? We’ll talk about that tomorrow.