Calling on grace for the awkward stages in our lives

Maureen Pratt, a Los Angeles-based author, will offer a new series titled “Living Well” on health and spirituality in the CNS columns package. (CNS photo) (June 6, 2006)

I’ve done many awkward things in my life. Coughed during a crucial conversation. Forgotten the name of someone I just met. Driven away from the store, leaving vital groceries behind. Other things too cringeworthy to write here.
 
Indeed, the redness of my cheeks has not always been due to a lupus malar rash but rather due to utter embarrassment.

And my great red-face-inducing condition “du jour” is that I’m at yet another “awkward stage,” adjusting to sometimes precarious balance due to my recent diagnosis of autoimmune-cause poly-sensory neuropathy.

I’m making great strides (pardon the pun) in improving, thanks to a very patient physical therapist and lots of home exercises. But there are still times when I shake my head and think, “How geeky is this?”

Fortunately, along with my sense of determination to do all the good health care things my doctors prescribe, I frequently and broadly “exercise” my sense of humor.

The one-leg-standing reps that are a daily must have become my “inner flamingo” routine.

The deliberate steps up and down the halls are my “great feats.” And if I improvise a pirouette instead of gliding around a corner? Well, grace takes on many forms, especially when laced with laughter.

True, my propensity to laugh when combined with wobbly legs might make someone think I’m “laced” with something more potent than mirth. I know better; I don’t drink alcohol.

But the ability to laugh kindly at one’s own embarrassment can bolster the spirit, taking the edge off of a reality that might otherwise be more biting.

Appropriately practiced, laughter can also help others cope with the illness, infirmity or challenge of a loved one.

If we who have the ailment are capable of finding even a drop of humor in it, others might be less fearful, too. This creates a better emotional and spiritual atmosphere all around.

Besides laughing, there are other actions that I find helpful in dealing with the awkward moments (or longer stretches) in life. For example, I try again and again to improve.

Practice might not make perfect, but it does build strength. Memory exercises, checklists and my now-infamous one-legged flamingo routine can and do make a difference!

Prayer continues to keep me grounded and focuses my attitude on humility and trust in God, whose balance is certainly perfect when mine is ragged. Facing reality is vital, too. Without accepting where we are, we cannot possibly get to where we want to go.

It has always been difficult for me to ask others for help, but I am learning, baby step by baby step. Also, the metaphor of striving for balance is not lost on me.

I have a tendency to overschedule my days with multiple appointments and household chores, reading lists and epic “projects.” This new normal for me is quite the antidote to overbooking. As my carpets remain uncleaned (although they’re not in terrible shape), I am more accepting that not all will or needs to be accomplished immediately. Those carpets will get cleaned. Sometime. This year!

Finally, one of the greatly comforting aspects of all the teetering is newfound resolve to mind the moment, the precious time now that God gives for us to strive for our best, and appreciate those seemingly small accomplishments that over time become sweet goals.

We never seem to outgrow awkward moments, although sometimes we exchange one type of them for another.

The point is, I’m learning, to find the grace within and, while we do, keep believing and trusting that yes, it is there all along.

Pratt is a contributor to Catholic News Service of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; www.maureenpratt.com

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