First, allow me to apologize to any past teachers of mine who stumble upon this. I have a confession to make–I used to write fake annotations in my books in high-school. I would just draw random lines, brackets, stars, nonsense notes, pictures of trees, my name, etc. throughout the margins of classic works of literature. Not always, but yeah, there are definitely some Panic! at the Disco lyrics jotted throughout my copy of The Scarlet Letter for no academic reason whatsoever. And for that, I am so sorry Mr. Hawthorne.
But! People change and somewhere along the way (I’d wager it was when I read 1984) I started actually getting the value in annotating my books. In college, suresure, I doodled on occasion. But the books I really got into have actual meaningful notes in them. And eventually, I started annotating books that I’m just reading for pleasure.
Ya hear that? Getting a degree in literature DOES have real world value.
Eh, I tried.
Recently, I read Shauna Niequist’s Cold Tangerines and here is just a sampling of some of my astute annotations:
“She gets me.”
“STORY OF MY LIFE”
“this is so important”
“OMGosh be my BFF plz”
I’d also wager that 46-83% of each chapter is underlined or starred. So, I guess I’ll just say this now–if you are like me and were residing under a big stupid rock in 2007 when the book was published and haven’t spent time sitting outside with an iced coffee and some cookie butter reading this book, GET ON IT.
I absolutely devoured it. I laughed out loud, I wept openly, I even shuddered a time or two at how spot on Shauna’s words were to my heart. She shed light on so many different facets of life and allowed me the space and perspective to look at certain things closer and with a fresh attitude of celebration.
The past handful of months have been so trying. Just one of those seasons where it felt like it was hit after hit after hit. And the days that weren’t stressful, cumbersome, or tragic were approached with such a lethargic spirit that they were barely lived. This book took all that, shook it up like a snow-globe, and somehow allowed all those pieces of my life to land in a new, different way. Somehow it all seemed not only easier to manage, but extraordinary.
I choose to believe that there is nothing more sacred or profound than this day. I choose to believe that there may be a thousand big moments embedded in this day, waiting to be discovered like tiny shards of gold.
GAH. That changes things, guys. That’s truth, that’s seeing potential, that’s not considering the phrase “life is a gift” as a cliche but instead realizing–yeah, it super is. And then acting like it.
I think I’ve mentioned that since March I work six days a week. It’s a lot. It’s not for the faint of heart. And even in that, I’ve had tacos with students, friends birthdays, running errands, babysitting, ice-cream dates, fair days, Wednesday morning coffee, Monday night prayer, funerals to attend, golf events to plan, beach plans to move indoors, golf events to cancel, talks to write, weekends at camps, car repairs, and somewhere in there I decided to make meeting Knightro a priority.
It looked like a full calendar, a whirl of events and to-do lists and grocery lists. But underneath it all, the month was a greatest hits album, a collection of stories, one after another, of the rich and gorgeous ways that God tells his stories through our lives. What looked like a shower or a dinner or one more night to clean up after was actually one of God’s best gifts, worth celebrating, worth seeing.
I wish it was my default to look at things this way. I’m working on getting there. I’m working on celebrating more, worrying less, and living life as one big thank you note to my creator. Because doesn’t that sound more appealing than the alternative?
I’m going to keep paying my bills, eating responsibly, taking care of my car, showing up at work, and doing all the other trappings of adulthood. But maybe I’ll stay up a little later laughing on the phone or wake up a little earlier for Cuban coffee. Maybe I’ll get on stage without hesitation, dance through grief with my family, play bongos for no reason, race in the rain, go on roofs, wear penguin costumes, bust out the giant hat, make games out of nothing, make errands an event, and even break my no-red-meat standard a few times for the sake of delicious tacos. Maybe I’ll stop using “today was too much” as an excuse to let it be less than what God intended when he gifted it to me. Maybe I’ll make space for the Lord to shine His face upon me, rather than letting the world knock the wind right out of me.
I believe in a life of celebration. I believe that the world we wake up to every day is filled to the brim with deep, aching love, and also with hatred and sadness. And I know which one of those I want to win in the end. I want to celebrate in the face of despair, dance when all we see on the horizon is doom. I know that Death knocks at our doors and comes far too early for far too many of us, but when he comes for me, I want to be full-tilt, wide-open, caught in the very act of life. I think that’s what we’re here for, not for a passive, peaceful life, but to stand up in the face of all that lacks peace and demand more.
It isn’t easy. Far from it, actually. And sometimes it kind of feels downright silly and irresponsible. But I’ve decided those aren’t always derogatory words. I’ve decided a blasted car speaker, a dose of stink-eye from a stranger, and a need for an extra cup of coffee are far less tragic than laying my head down to sleep after a day barely lived.