On the morning of my last full day in Barcelona over Christmas, I woke about an hour before my alarm went off. I had gone to bed the night before nervous about all of things I felt I had to try to accomplish on the following day. This included a last early morning mass at “my” parish, remaining souvenir shopping, meeting friends for lunch, doinging some research for CatholicBarcelona.com, cleaning and packing, and so on. I lay there in bed, staring at the light of dawn beginning to filter in through the curtains, stressing myself over all of these things I had to do, and wondering how I was going to muster the energy to try to get through all of them.
And as I fumed there, all hot and annoyed under the covers, I heard, quite distinctly: “You haven’t thanked Me for the day, yet.”
Now let me assure you, gentle reader, I am not someone who claims to have divine revelations or supernatural visitations. I am not, so far as I am aware, suffering from a mental illness such as paranoid schizophrenia, where such an occurrence would be symptomatic of disease. Nor was this something which was “audible”, in the physiological sense of hearing something being said and the ear and brain responding to it. Rather, it was something that I “heard” internally, somehow.
For Christians such as myself, we do not discount the possibility that such whispers and nudges from The Big Cheese can and do happen, albeit on very rare occasions. For those with another or no religious affiliation at all, perhaps the experience can be explained as a logical part of the brain trying to put the emotional part of the brain into some semblance of perspective. Whatever it was, for me it was a very real thing, and the effect was immediate.
I jumped out of bed and did say, “Thank you,” recognizing how fortunate I was to have been able to travel to my favorite place in the world, with my family, at Christmastime, after not having had the chance to do so for two years. I thought about how I would have a long, and possibly tiring, last full day in Barcelona, but that I was going to enjoy it. And whatever happened and however much my feet hurt at the end of it – so what.
Whether I was able to accomplish all of the things I hoped to didn’t matter, for I was losing the point: I was there! After such a long absence, I was there, and had a long day of beautiful weather to wander around visiting all of the places I love, and to be with the people I love. And I would be able to start out that last day at sunrise mass, properly thanking God for the opportunity to do so.
Today I was expecting some bad (or at least somewhat bad) news, and am still waiting for that shoe to drop as I write this. Yet as I prepared dinner last night anticipating what Friday could bring, this incident from a few weeks ago popped into my head. There seemed to be no point in ruining my dinner, or the rest of my evening, by fretting and fussing over what might happen on Friday, when I still had the rest of Thursday evening to relax and to get through.
I do not want to endorse what we might call embroidered pillow statements such as “Carpe Diem”, because they seem so trite and impersonal, even if fundamentally true. Because I make use of words for a living, and said use does not entail activities like composing greeting cards, I prefer to avoid the clichéd if I can. That being said, the reason that something becomes a cliché, or to be kinder, conventional wisdom, is that it tends to be true.
If God has seen fit to put me on this planet, for however long I happen to be here, then as a Christian my fundamental belief is that I have some purpose to serve. Perhaps it will be a great one, but more likely it will be a small one. Yet for all of us, myself included, getting too caught up in our plans, our dreams, or our concerns, means that we do not take the time to count ourselves very lucky that we are here to even have such thoughts.
Life is never going to be an experience of all highs or all lows for any of us. There are good moments and bad moments, and some of them may go on for quite a long time, indeed. Yet each of these moments has to be taken as it is, and for what it is. And in particular, if we do not take the time to say “Thank you,” when one of those good moments happens, then we have only ourselves to blame if we do not end up enjoying it, for however short or long a time that good moment lasts.
Breakfast at my favorite cafe in Barcelona, on the last full day of my visit.