This season, my spiritual reading is Ronald Rolheiser’s Forgotten among the Lilies. In the chapter, “The Martyrdom of Obscurity,” Father Ron points out that so many of us don’t want to be anonymous. Many of us want to be known for being great writers, athletes, celebrities, or scientific achievers. Popular culture pushes us towards self-expression and its possible outcomes of fame and fortune. A previous chapter “Longing is our Spiritual Lot” discussed our constant state of restlessness. Our faith is calling us to be restless and anonymous. We are being called to be in an existential crisis at all times.
For many, existential crises can be daunting and could be possibly depressing and demoralizing. I am consistently in existential crisis. I go through periods of achievement, success and joy. Then I go through phases when I feel a great sense of disconnection, disappointment, malaise, lethargy. I don’t feel that restlessness in all areas of my life. I am fulfilled and happy when all is well with my child, when I help solve someone’s problem, and when I’m dancing. I have wonderful friends. Like all people, I face situations and periods in my life that challenge me.
I’ve always been called to write. I write because it’s my therapy and what I love to do and how I best express myself. Self-expression is important to me. I wrestle with anonymity. I do wish I could be one of the lucky ones who gets my book optioned for a movie or that I become a successful blogger turned bestseller like Luvvie Ajayi who I idolize(even though she’s younger than me!) It’s hard to be ordinary. The existential crises of being unknown and never feeling fulfilled are natural, human crises. These feelings have inspired great literature, scientific discoveries, and global travel. These yearnings have also resulted in horrible atrocities including manifest destiny and the global colorizations which cost so many lives and war. The need for recognition and satisfaction moves people.
There is humility and power in being unknown and forever longing. Growth happens in those moments of feeling small and unrecognized. My life sometimes feels small. Yet it is in those moments of smallness that are great. My daughter packs up the car because she knows I have an early morning. A colleague gives up their free time to help support the team. Those are great moments that the world will never know as TV ratings hits or cultural milestones written up in Rolling Stone or The Wall Street Journal. Our greatest moments are when we are there for each other with love and care. Being an ordinary person is enough.