When I was in the Army, my barracks roommate for more than 2 years was a Christian man from Dallas, Texas, named Jimmy-T Goodson. We were very well-matched, as roommates, not least because of our common dislike for life as enlisted men in the Army. He is a remarkable person in many ways, and I remember him very fondly as a dear brother.
Each morning, as he swung his legs out of bed and his feet would slap the tile of the floor, he would say: “I hate the Army.” Each evening, as he pulled the covers up to his chin, he would conclude, “I hate the Army.” It was a daily ritual that brought, in a strange way, a considerable satisfaction to both of our lives. Some days he said it casually, in an offhand manner; other times (especially Monday mornings) he spoke with deep conviction. But in the 700-odd days we shared a room, I don’t remember him ever failing to say those words.
I hate getting up early in the morning. I strongly prefer to wake between 8 and 9, whenever possible (not so easy with 5 children). In order to catch the appropriate bus, ferry & shuttle and be in my office by 9:00, I rise and get in the shower according to the 5:42 and 5:47 am alarms set on my bedside clock. Yesterday, as my feet hit the floor at 5:46, I thought to myself, “I hate my life.”
Some time later, as I drove along route 101 in the bright morning sunshine, I listened to the morning radio show, featuring an appeal for support of the Union Gospel Mission, an outreach to homeless people in Seattle. Every ten minutes or so they played a short vignette about one of the people who had been down and out, and was reached by the Mission program. I started thinking (again) about all the blessings that I enjoy, and I felt a little ashamed of my ungrateful thoughts.
I started thinking about other times I have worked early-morning jobs, not only in the Army, and about how life was for me then. I suddenly remembered what it was like to be single and how much of my time and focus was spent looking for someone I could love, who would love me. I remember times (especially when I was in the Army) when I seriously wondered if I would ever find such a person. I talked to my geraniums and wrote bad poetry and listened to gloomy music … it was a little pathetic, in retrospect.
As a man, I tend to be achievement-oriented … it is easy to fall into the error of viewing a wife and a family as ‘possessions’ or ‘milestones met’. I was reminded of the rare and beautiful preciousness of my Kathy and her deep and abiding love for me. I remembered the times we have (even now, with my grueling work & commuting schedule) to talk, be silly and enjoy each other. I am proud of the continuing godliness of my five children, who depend on my work for food and shelter (clothing they mostly get from Mamie). I revel in the time I have to enjoy my home and the valley where I live, if only on weekends.
I guess I don’t hate my life, after all. It is hard for night-owls to see the good in the world at 5:46 in the morning. Perhaps the lesson in all of this is to avoid philosophy until I’ve had my first Diet Coke of the day.