The messiness of worthwhile things
A childhood acquaintance of mine is married to a U.S. diplomat; they are currently posted in Bahrain. The civil unrest that is moving through the Middle East has come to her corner of the world; she and her family have been asked to limit their movements and take safety precautions.
Here is where I would normally write about their three-day kit (which the Embassy gave them during the Iranian protests last year) and how glad they probably are to have it. But as I scrolled down through the multiple comments on the post, I was struck by the wishes that things would calm down soon, so that she and her family could resume their normal lives. As a friend, I want as much safety and as little disruption for them as possible. But I also found myself cheering on those protesters in the squares and streets of Bahrain, who are engaging in civil disobedience in hopes for a better future. The wishes for my friend’s safety and convenience are loving, concerned ones, but they seem to overlook the fact that this process of demonstration and unrest is an attempt at self-determination by the people of Bahrain, a lunge at a new and different future.
The process of creating that future may be messy. It may be terribly inconvenient. It may be a bit frightening. My hope is that it will not be tragic, and that the people of Bahrain — and people everywhere — will have the chance to live long lives of opportunity, respect, and freedom.
In our own lives, too, the process of creating a new future is often messy, filled with starts and stops and things that didn’t work. Learning a new skill, forging a new relationship, training yourself into a new habit, changing an old one — these are often fraught with disappointment, mishaps and frustration. As someone who is trying to learn a new language (Spanish), declutter a small house, and teach kids to pick their laundry up, I fail daily. Yet the other night, as I was settling down to review my Spanish workbook in preparation for a test, I realized — I can understand so much more than I did a few months ago. And when I went to put the book away, there was a spot for it on the bookshelf, something that would not have been true even a month ago. As I tucked the kids in, I didn’t trip on their discarded laundry; it was neatly piled on the washing machine. These were small triumphs, but I’ll claim them as ours all the same.
Life is messy. Change is challenging. But the goal is progress, not perfection, and the reward for working through the challenges is, often, a chance at something better than what came before. So it is for me in my small house and so, I hope, it is for the people of Bahrain, with my friend along for the ride.
May the road rise to meet them, and may it be a smooth one.