Priorities I

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Priorities. From Merriam-Webster, the condition of being more important than something or someone else and therefore coming or being dealt with first.

I hate that word. Priorities. I especially hate determining what is and what is not important. It seems so horrible. I look around and see this big fantastic world, full of great and wonderful things. I see a small dangerous world too, full of horrible and sad things. How is any of it, any of it, not important? There are Fish and Games wardens who hunt down people that mistreat bugs. Bugs. When one was asked why he might risk his life to bring down people dealing in black-market butterflies, just bugs, for crying out loud, he said that it was precisely because they were bugs. They were helpless. There was no one to stand for them, to protect them. Bugs need the Fish and Game wardens because they are bugs.

People often look for silver linings. It’s what we do, hope in desperate times, the good even amongst the bad, celebrating the grace that has been given to us. Job, after all, stated that he knew his Redeemer liveth. But at the same time, Biblical personages often didn’t do only that, or that first. In times of trouble, they grieved. Clothes rent. Sackcloth and ashes. Why do I even mention this? It seems like it’s become a thing in some Christian circles to expect a person stricken with some sort of affliction instantly to go leaping around, praising God, and qualifying for sainthood. It feels like it is expected sometimes, that word but. As in, I may have lost my sense of taste and be green all the time, but look what I’m saving in food costs!

There’s nothing wrong with silver linings. We all need them. We all look for them. Eventually, we can all learn to simply see them, like the beauty of a dew-drenched spider’s web on cold, wet, foggy morning. Equally, there is nothing wrong with being able to look at a situation and clear-headedly determine that it sucks. This is not the same as sliding into a dark place, staying in a dismal situation without attempting to change it. Of such dangerous patterns of thought, truly desperate courses of action are born.

Right now, however, I may mourn that being in pain has forced changes in my priorities. Which is more important, taking this library book or that one home today? I can’t carry both. Which is more important, doing the dishes or the laundry? I don’t have energy for both. Which is more important, finishing my paper or prepping for my class? I don’t have the mental acuity while meds are being adjusted for both. Which is more important, going to church or the grocery shopping? Time with my friends or time asleep? Home with my extended family over the holidays versus the agony of multiple flights with luggage? Beg some family to come to me for a short visit, but then not see other family members or important people from home?

It is all important. All of it has always been important. All of it will continue to be important. I can’t do it all, though. However badly I may want to save every single butterfly or moth, I am simply not capable.

We all have to pick what we prioritize, no matter what we do in life, who we are, or what are physical state may be. Sometimes we make those decisions unconsciously, other times only after much inner turmoil. It is the curse of those that live a full life and one full of caring, I believe, to struggle with these choice. It is perhaps a better curse to bear than the opposite, that of the abyss of apathy. However, it seems that people suffering from medical conditions have to make those decisions constantly and nearly always consciously. It means facing the pain of choosing one important thing over another, over and over and over.

Please be patient with yourself. Please, others, have patience with us. Thankfully, the future of the monarch butterfly does not rest on a single butterfly alone. It won’t take the pain out of the decisions, no… but I am not responsible for saving every single butterfly or moth by myself. Sometimes it takes a lot of titanium butterflies, standing up for one another, supporting one another. It is not always the great strength of one but the combined small strength of many. Please, be patient with yourself.

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