Monday, August 24, 2009

A Question to say 'Yes' to

Since the marathon I’ve been spending my long afternoons at home, alone, watching Scrubs reruns and peeling slivers of string cheese. Today was no exception, except I felt worse. I hate my job, and I work at five or six in the morning and there’s nothing worse than waking up at four and preparing yourself for something you feel terrible doing, but aren’t able to change. I try to think of things I wouldn’t mind doing at this time of day: family bike rides maybe, a nice long workout, a good day of hiking; certainly not transferring frozen bags of pasta from frozen cases to frozen shelves while The Chiffons bleat in my ears beneath the fluorescent glare. Twice a week I find myself sitting on the floor of the bathroom at work, biting my arm to stifle the noise of my sobs as hot tears trickle down my cheeks. Its not fair that I have to work somewhere I hate. I moved to Seattle with my freshly printed diploma tucked under my arm, feeling that it guaranteed me something stellar and bright for the future. And I ended up in a grocery store.

So today I got to the part in the series where Turk asks Carla to marry him and she says, “I don’t know,” which really floors him and he’s just sort of dumbfounded and ego-struck for a while. After about fifteen minutes of the show, however, he tries a new tactic, and asks her several times a day. Each time she says, “I don’t know,” and each time he seems only more determined. But eventually something in him seems to snap, and her indecision actually wounds him a little, so he walks away; finally, in the last two minutes of the episode, she comes to her senses and decides she’s ready to commit. She calls him on the phone and says simply, “Ask me again.” And he hangs up the phone, drops what he’s doing and runs across town. As the camera pans out, they meet in a park, at which point music begins to play and the viewer only sees Turk bend on one knee, Carla nod her head, and J.D. run in with sparklers to zoom around them while they kiss. The song that drowns out the unnecessary dialogue is by Rhett Miller, called, “Question.” One line of the song goes:

Someday somebody’s gonna ask you
A question that you should say yes to

Its obviously a song written about engagement, and romance, but the words that hung in the air long after I stared at the blank screen didn’t remind me of getting engaged (an idea that is- admittedly- on my mind more and more these days), I wasn’t even thinking about Pat at all. I was thinking about the Eucharist.

If there’s a hinge question in my life right now, a question that I should say yes to, its probably something practical like, ‘Will you ever stick to your bleeping budget?’ or ‘Will you stop nagging Pat about leaving his stuff around your house?’ I’m not really feeling anxious about religion at this precise moment. There’s just not really a crisis right now, oddly enough. So it surprised me today when I felt this great surge of emotion in my chest at the thought of saying yes to God. I wanted it; I wanted to say yes.

Patrick had left for work several hours before. On his way out the door he realized he’d forgotten to take off the ring I gave him for Christmas last year, a ring that we worked on engraving together. The words printed around the outside are essentially the invitation to communion from the liturgy. Since he didn’t want to take it to the grocery store with him, I’ve had it on my finger all night, and it seems fitting to wear a ring this particular night that speaks a proposition. Every once in a while I move it from my right hand to my left, and I stare at it, and I keep wondering if it will make me kinder to him, more patient, a wife. It seems somehow both appropriate and confusing that the ring feels like something between my answer to God and an engagement ring.

Does a ring make you a good person, or the love of running, a runner? Will my surge of emotion, the yes that sits ripe in my chest make me a Christian, a real living, breathing model? I felt something akin to my high school enthusiasm, the version of me that wanted to run to the center of town and just feel something, just do something about the way that I feel, and to just be a Christian in that moment.

But it didn’t last in high school, and I know it won’t last tonight. To be a Christian, you can’t just feel something, or even tell someone else you feel it. The question isn’t, “What do you feel that has allowed you a moment to say ‘Yes’?”, but instead, “How will you live in light of the ‘Yes’?” How will I live in light of my encounter, the moment I was asked the question and found some miracle within me that allowed me to answer in the affirmative and survive to tell the tale, now nourished and sent forth?

But my moment of elated puzzlement only lasted for one lovely, ignorant moment, and then it burst like a soap bubble

I already knew the answer. Its was clear as day, and I’ve probably known it all along:
I have to go to work. I have to do my job.

And okay, there’s probably nothing wrong with searching for another job, or working on my resume, but when I wake up at five this Tuesday morning, I’m going to have to spend the next eight hours at the grocery store, and I might as well appreciate my job, not for the store or the company or for the mighty beast, capitalism. But because its work. And it’s the work I have- at the moment- been given to say yes to.