We like to be ready. (Always believing it necessary, for the sake of clarity in communication, to define my terms, by “we” I mean me and those of my experience with whom I, much of the time, in the words of the prayer, “live and move and have my being.”)
We, well-read and well-traveled, intellectually curious and critical, gifted and capable, intense and driven, demanding of ourselves and of others, like to be ready. Prepared. Homework finished. Legwork done. Knowledge base intact. Inherent talents honed and at command. Necessary tools in hand. Physically rested (when possible!). Emotionally stable. Mentally alert. (Financially secure, especially in these uncertain economic times, doesn’t hurt!)
We like to be ready to engage our existence, even, paraphrasing another prayer, “the (sometimes foreseen) changes and (often unforeseen) chances of this life.”
And it doesn’t matter whether the readiness is real as in our self-assurance that by any standard measure the requisite resources are within reach or is more a matter of how we feel or both. The effect in attitude is roughly the same. Confident in heart. A vision of accomplishment in mind. Equipped to be able, active members of the communities of our families and friends, our neighborhoods, our professional associations. Ready to build a reputation of competence, to maintain a record of excellence, to prove our mettle, our merit.
But what about those nagging remembrances of times when we weren’t ready? Or that unsettling recognition of moments when we aren’t prepared? Here, too, it doesn’t matter whether the unreadiness is real as in our timorous awareness that we don’t have the requisite resources within reach or is more a matter of how we feel or both. The effect in attitude is about the same. Little confidence. Rather, a foreboding of failure, which, if realized, is followed closely by the guilt of having let others and ourselves down. All of it tearing away at the wonderful self-image of competence we’d woven for ourselves. Toppling the tower of self-esteem built, in part, truth be told, on some not too shabby past achievements.
If only we didn’t have to prove ourselves again. But we do. Life keeps presenting us with opportunities on which our sense of readiness rests, our assurance of having gotten it right rises and falls. In this, I think of some vignettes of many whose stories I know well…
The coming of a child into the life of a family. Preceded by months, perhaps years of preparation. Everything, from daily schedules to long-term strategies, is changed, for which no amount of pre-planning can prepare. Did we get it right? Were, are we ready?
That child asks a difficult question. About God. About a horrific public event, an act of domestic violence, a terrorist assault, a school shooting, a suicide of a well-known figure. About sex and sexuality. About body-image and intimacy. About us! We strive to make sense of the innocent, earnest inquiry. We, honorably, want to respond by replying to the question asked, knowing that often there are no simple answers and, at times, no answers. We struggle to translate the terms of our adult comprehension and conversation into a language readily grasped by a young mind. It isn’t easy. Did we get it right? Were, are we ever ready?
We’re in school or we’ve returned to school after a long absence. An exam looms. We’ve studied. Practiced. Prepared. Yet in one of those seemingly endless self-tests, often conducted in the middle of the night, a potential question, sometimes unbidden, pops into our heads. We don’t answer quickly enough to satisfy our rigorous standard of readiness. Or, suffering a momentary lapse of memory, we can’t answer at all. Anxiety and self-doubt arise. Will we get it right in time? Will we be ready?
We come to a crossroads experience, a watershed moment in a significant relationship. We discover some troubling thing about the other. Or some troubling thing encountered, confronted, and addressed long ago arises anew. Or, over time, the other, in primary need and desire, has changed. Or we have changed. This is a moment of turning. Perhaps toward the other, yes, painfully, yet profoundly more deeply in relationship. Perhaps away. We must choose. And doing nothing is choosing. Will we get it right? Are we ready?
An aged parent or family member increasingly requires more care. Assisted living? Total care? At home or in a home? Leave them there? Bring them here? The breadth of issues is beyond the range and reach of our experience and wisdom. We must learn in the moment. This is on-the-job training at an unfathomably deep level of seriousness. We must discern, then decide what is best. We’re not, perhaps ever, sure. Did we get it, are we getting it right? Were, are (will) we (be) ready?
We like to be ready. Prepared. And life keeps presenting us with challenges to our sense of readiness, preparedness.
Get ready. More to come…