Tuesday, 30 March 2010

I am useless - but this is a joyful post!

I have been thinking about how utterly useless I am over recent days. Because I am an ordinary self-doubting human being (and female to boot) this happens regularly (at 15 minute intervals most days!). However, on Wednesday evening last week I realised that I had overstepped the limits of normal uselessness (or should that be usual uselessness?) and become not just virtually or practically useless but actually useless. As things go this is hardly progress ...
After a difficult day I came home to my husband who said "there's been a phone call from Lyon for you." I went pale and felt rather sick ... I knew what was coming.
About six months ago I agreed to take a service in Lyon - didn't write it on the calendar, there'd be time to talk about arrangements later. Then of course Stephen's illness happened and I've sort of lost three months ... until the phone call I hadn't realised just how much this was the case.
So I had to face up to saying no sorry I can't do this, to letting people down, to feeling horribly guilty, to asking colleagues to step in for me, to trying to find a way of getting up at 5.0am on the morning that the clocks went forwards and getting to Lyon and blah and blah and more encounters with my virtual, practical and actual uselessness.
I hate forgetting things and letting people down and I've had some unpleasant hours over the weekend worrying about it, thinking about a last minute sermon, then just accepting that I wouldn't be going and worrying about whether they had found someone as I hadn't heard anything back from them.
A Monday night phone call from Lyon brought me solace - it had all been fine, they'd found someone easily, but my contact person had been away for the weekend!
So this has been an interesting exercise in realising my own limits and being a little less disorganised; in asserting my own needs to spend time with my husband; in recognising I am not at all indispensible. Sometimes I really must let go of things rather than trying to do more.
And you know what, something strange happened on Sunday evening - even before the phone call from Lyon - I felt as if a weight was lifting, a much bigger weight than that of my uselessness. Perhaps it was the weight of my striving and desire to be effective and efficient, perhaps it was the weight of being perfect or always saying yes. Anyway I realised that I am simply a brilliantly useless human being, just like everyone else: virtually, practically, actually and brilliantly useless.
Psalm 139 would put it rather differently, saying "I am fearfully and wonderfully made".
So I am frustratingly, brilliantly and joyfully useless. And that's good because as the weight lifted I had my first decent night's sleep in about three weeks. Wonderful.


Tom Z. said...

I knew this was a serious post when I realised "Dr B." had mysteriously morphed into "my husband"

Manoj said...

I really liked your "overstepping the limits of normal uselessness" bit. I personally relate with it quite closely. The only reason why we survive this crazy world is because we are a bit crazy ourselves. But can you imagine a world without people who do not constantly dance with impossibility? What a drab, boring, predictable and mundane dance it would be.

Hans said...

These lines have been accompanying me for the last 30 years:

"The tree on the mountain height is its own enemy.
The grease that feeds the light devours itself.
The cinnamon tree is edible: so it is cut down!
The lacquer tree is profitable: so they maim it.
Every man knows how useful it is to be useful.

No one seems to know
How useful it is to be useless."

Thomas Merton: The Way of Chuang Tzu, New Directions, New York, 1965, p.59