“Don’t snatch; it’s rude and bad manners. Don’t you know your manners?” – Bethany [from the Book “In Comfort of Mary“]
“Our planet is poorly equipped for delight. One must snatch gladness from the days that are.” – Vladimir Mayakovsky
“Successful men usually snatch success from seeming failure.” – A.P. Gouthey
There are two cardinal types of dreams we all have from time to time; one type probably more than the other. There’s the one where we go over what already exists, and remind ourselves how good our lives are. That’s the kind that gives respite and soothes our many aches. There’s the other, more conscious, in which we reminded ourselves how undeserving of rest we yet are. Where we instruct ourselves never to settle for less than we deserve. It’s one that calls comfort a prison and questions the purpose of such courtesies as ‘taking whatever comes’.
Imagine waking up in the cold and damp confines of a prison cell. The loudest sound you hear is the beating of your heart’s drum; clearly, you’re all alone and help is far away. The list of crimes for which you’re being held is neatly engraved on one of the walls. You smile. You may not remember how you got in there – but you know exactly what you have and haven’t done. The phoney charges won’t stick. You’re convinced.
Suddenly, you look through the iron-bar door and see your jailer sprawled out across the floor; stiff as a brick. Maybe it’s the booze – or he’s had a fit. Maybe you don’t even want to know; evil catches up to its handlers soon enough. But then, the keys. They’re hanging out of his pocket – right there in front of you!
Clearly it’s all a big mistake; no way you’re guilty of anything on that list. But, do you wait for company and attempt to plead your case? Do you reach for the keys and make a run for it? What if you stayed and failed to prove your innocence? How long would even you last in there? Maybe there’s a snug bed, mini-gym and giant TV. Maybe they allow family visits too. What to do? Break out – or hold back? Snatch or plead? *pause*
There’s a way an eviction notice jolts one out of any ‘comfort dreams’. If you’ve ever received one, you’ll understand just how disillusioning it can be. The disagreeable and quarrelsome tenant might have seen it coming; certainly not if all you shared with the landlord were smiles and bliss. That just made it sting worse than usual.
In fairness, I always thought to get a place with a little more legroom. But, to my immense shame, I traded motivation for the comfort of doing nothing. I continued to wish the need away – until the notice broke the finger I was hiding behind. The comfort dream had gone on one scene too long. Now, it was well and truly over.
Taking action was no longer a big deal after digesting the letter’s contents. But, it certainly wasn’t a product of self-mastery or discipline. It all came down to a simple choice, clear as day: move – or be homeless! I was sorely disappointed in myself for letting things get to that point and was still licking nursing the guilt when a bigger test hit me square in the face.
If the discomfort of finding a new house was too heavy to bear voluntarily, imagine retrieving a deposit from an unwilling and well-connected landlord. The ‘comfortable’ thing to do was walk away. But, spare a little comfort to brave the odds – and just maybe you’d be infinitely happier as a result. Guess it was life’s way of checking if I had learnt anything so far. Recovering a deposit is nowhere as critical as the threat of homelessness – so resolve should have been harder to find. But, …..
There’s a certain portrait that hangs off the wall in my parents’ house. It’s not one to be called exceptional. In fact, it’s very ordinary; marooned in space like a forgotten planet. It’s the framed picture of a woman – basic as can be. Add that to the fact that its closest neighbours are fairly compelling works of art, and one look is the most any random soul would spare it. Ordinary, uninspiring, unexceptional – the words of the uninitiated. For those who know, however, there’s a vintage story carefully etched into the very fabric of this portrait, gracefully distilled by the passage of time.
The tale is from an age before this – a time when film cameras were both the present and the future. My parents decided on the idea of family portraits and we’d found a studio nearby. Dingy, lifeless; nothing like the ones we see today. Easily the most memorable fact was the waiting period between being photographed and seeing what it looked like.
Suspense and expectation bubbled into one another in the weeks it took to get the plaques ready. But, eventually, the pictures arrived. Everyone seemed happy enough – except dear mom. It felt like her eyes were closing as the camera went off. She tried to accept it. She really did – but it just wasn’t happening. She couldn’t toss it as garbage – and she couldn’t embrace it. She could nether blame herself for blinking, nor the photographer for whatever else. So, she just let it hang there, ignoring it as best she could. She settled, it seemed!
One day, though, I passed, and the picture just didn’t look ‘sleepy’ anymore. Mom had found the cure. Unwilling to accept ‘whatever comes’, dear mom had snatched a way out. She’d carefully painted a pair of glasses over her sleepy eyes – and everything now looked perfectly ordinary. Ordinary – but perfect.
Today, that portrait hangs proudly in its space; its greatest triumph quietly tempered beneath its being ‘ordinary’. And, all because somebody wouldn’t settle or let crap slide.
I thought about that as the threat of forfeiting the deposit hung over my head. The convenient thing to do was to just let it go. Damn convenience; since when did it change the world?
We all shut our doors before we sleep at night. For the more cultured among us, we say ‘thank you’ even for the most mundane of gestures – bestowed or deserved. But, because the devil is in the detail, we often fail to see how these bode differently for all of us.
Is the acknowledgement actually from a place of saintly gratitude – or are we merely settling and accepting whatever comes? When the bolt latches firmly in pace, are we shutting out marauders or locking in potential?
A while ago, the theme was ‘surrender’ – understanding that even after we’ve done our very best, results may indeed vary. Today, deposit firmly in hand, I’m wondering at what point we can say we’ve done our very best. Taking the picture, accepting the portrait – or fighting the urge to settle for less than we really deserve?
For a while, my biggest ambition was to just let things be ‘for some time’. Lots of motion – but no real hunger. But, what I thought was shelter turned out to be a prison. The soothing comfort was fast becoming my undoing; keeping me from doing as good as I knew I could. Maybe it’s hard keeping every tiny part primed – particularly if we’ve got hands in lots of pies – but the fact remains hard to excuse. Starting now, some things have to change!