Sometimes, I surprise myself. At times, those surprises are decidedly negative, falling into the category of "Just how bad can this get?" Those kind of surprises are loud, obnoxious, like glass shattering, or an ambulance siren blaring. They call attention to themselves, and they stick out in one's memory--isn't it somehow always easier to remember the worst times, the truly terrible moments than the joy, the laughter? That seems to be the devilish trick our memories play on us.
But then there are other surprises, like gentle rainfall on an upturned face--hardly a noise, just a sensation, soothing and soft. These surprises aren't the catastrophes, loud like the blare of an ambulance siren or the shouting match between people who really love each other. They are subtle. I have found that these surprises typically come in the course of an ordinary day and are usually part of that ordinary day--yet they are delightful, when recognized.
For me, these quiet times when I surprise myself might be when I come home from work, turn on my light box and walk 30 minutes on the treadmill in front of its light. Small, you say. Yes, I might respond, but still delightful. I feel brighter and lighter when my session on the treadmill is over.
These quiet times might be a small success at work. Because my job involves some basic graphic design, this might mean getting a project successfully off to the printer. Or getting it back from the printer, the cardboard boxes neatly packaged. Slicing open the packages and seeing my work, stacked row upon row, brochure after brochure, the pops of color I selected, the graphics crisp and strong.
Other quiet times? A laugh with a coworker. I have always been shy, and it has surprised me that I can make my coworkers laugh. As I relax in my workplace, I am starting to loosen up and good things are happening. I am asserting myself. I like exercising my sarcasm.
I surprise myself when I try a new dish in the kitchen and have success with it. I baked a cheese souffle this past week, and it came out so well--light and flavorful, set up perfectly--that I was delighted. "I can cook after all!" I told myself.
These are the small steps of health. They are quiet, in contrast to the catastrophes of illness. They come often, so often that I typically don't stop to recognize them. But when I do, they are, oh, so satisfying.
If you are like me, you are highly self-critical. You can easily name a string of things you don't do well. You are very aware of your character flaws. You also are painfully cognizant of your damaged history, and you have a long memory for all the hurt and all the pain.
Give yourself the chance to be surprised by the good, the lovely, the strong, the brave, the kind, the honest--in yourself as well as in other people. You will probably find yourself being surprised by it in the midst of everyday life, as the good and the lovely will come to you in the guise of the everyday.
To expand to an even larger idea, as Evelyn Underhill wrote, "God is always coming to you in the Sacrament of the Present Moment. Meet and receive Him there with gratitude in that Sacrament."
Yes, God does come to us in the sacrament of the present moment. We are called to live fully and well, to participate. Often, this living fully and well is done quietly, without fanfare. But if the urge strikes you, sing out!