Sunday, June 14, 2015

Diminished Congruence?

Dear Friends,

   The Silver Lining Report:

  • The air conditioner could be repaired. No replacement necessary. No guarantees, however, for length of functioning time remaining for a tired machine.

  • The desk lamp (essential equipment at this house) could be repaired. No replacement necessary. (There’s a story about that, but for another day.)

  •  Permanent hail damage minimal: loss of only one plant.

Annie sends warm thank-yous for your thoughtful concern.  She walks somewhat more easily, but has showed no inclination to attempt to jump up to the couch or bed. With the veterinarian’s approval, the barrier to the stairs has been removed and Annie is free to use the stairs at her discretion. However, as you may anticipate, Annie has exercised her freedom by staying upstairs, eating from her upstairs bowl, and using her upstairs litterbox. Apparently the trauma of her injury did not alter Annie’s contrarian philosophy of life.

Continuing over-cast days with frequent showers have driven my desert-hardy plants to a sense of altered reality.  As I leaned over to pull an impertinent weed yesterday, one of the agastaches whispered hesitantly, “Do you suppose they made a mistake in the shipping department? Is this England?” Good question.

Carl Rogers thought that congruence was one of the measures of maturity. In his view, the integration of our inner world (the becoming self), our outer world (the interactive environment) and our relational world (our network of “connected” others) into a relatively peaceful whole was one mark of the fully developed adult. He believed as well that the achievement and maintenance of this integration was a life-long task.  

Diminishment, I am discovering, leads to some unique challenges to congruence.

A case in point: I have been honored with an invitation to the wedding of the daughter of long-time friends, and honored further by an invitation to the reception and dinner following the ceremony. Over the years, being a wedding guest has been a joyous occasion for me. However, I discovered that this invitation had in addition to joyful anticipation also evoked a severe attack of dithers, a seriously incongruent response for me.

Having dithered about a long list of things, including what to wear, issues of transportation, concern about emotional and physical energy, and some things of obvious silliness, I finally sat down and asked myself what these dithers pointed to. What was this about?

This “sorting out” took a bit of work, but was well worth the effort. 

The issue—no surprise—involved the diminishment process.  A few weeks ago I shared with you a question: in a world in which space is diminishing, how much space does it take to grow joy? Today the question is a close corollary: in a world in which there is diminishing strength, how much energy does it take to share joy? Has my capacity to share another’s joy altered with my diminished energy to invest in celebration?

To my astonishment, I discovered that without words I had been wrestling with a dilemma: had diminishment so lessened my capacity for shared joy that I should consider declining the invitation? Could I no longer live congruent with my long-chosen pattern of entering actively into the joy of those with whom I am connected?

In the last two years before I left for college, the Sunday pattern of family consisted of church together (including my grandfather), then dinner (noon meal) together at home. My grandfather was particularly fond of chicken and dumplings, so the menu frequently consisted of chicken and dumplings with apple pie (which he also loved) for dessert.

In that last year, even self-absorbed adolescent that I was, I noticed that grandfather was becoming more frail although he remained fiercely unwilling to acknowledge that fact. 

One Saturday afternoon when I left his mail, I said as I went out the door, “See you tomorrow. The pie is already made, and the chicken ready for the pot.”

His hesitant response halted my hurry. I turned back to face him.

“Well,” he said slowly, “Not tomorrow. But bring me some of that pie if there’s any left.”

“Are you sick?” I asked with concern.

“Of course not,” he answered gruffly. “Can’t a feller my age stay home if he wants to?”

“But I thought you liked chicken and dumplings,” I said, and he sensed the unspoken question that underlay my response.

He smiled. “I do. That hasn’t changed,” he said, then added, “Now don’t forget to bring my pie.”

Diminishment alters many things, but choice remains.

I like weddings. That hasn’t changed.

And at this stage in a woman’s life, I can go to the wedding even if I can’t dance.

Since I have decided to go, prayer for my hair is in order.

See you next week.


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