Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

August 2, 2010

From all the toil and anxiety of heart...

For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun?
--Ecclesiastes, 2:21

I felt, yesterday morning as I listened to the readings and gospel, that these were especially powerful selections for me this week. Little did I know that, 10 minutes after I came into the office, a certain project would blow up in my face, and I would be in big trouble.

The hardest part about working for a non-profit is that there are no little mistakes, there are only big ones. Everything costs us money, and money is the one thing we can't waste. On top of which there is too much work, and too little help, and no possible way to get everything done. Being late on a project--no matter the reason--is negligence. The only real analogy I have is that most of the time I am a juggler, and all I care about is keeping the balls in the air--I don't care if I do it with grace, or flourish, or manage any fancy tricks: I just don't want to drop anything. But when I do drop something--I find that the thing is the pearl without price, and it doesn't just fall to the soft grass, it falls off a cliff, and shatters into a million pieces.

That, my friends, is a tremendous amount of pressure, and a helluva a guilt trip. I've never learned how to cope with it. Sometimes I find St. Maximilian a help: "Let us prepare to suffer and work, we will rest after death." But let's face it, I'm not so good at the suffering thing, and to work I need rest. Edith Stein's words, quoted here before, only help when I know I have accomplished something--and have to step away leaving it unfinished.

But what do you do when the expectations of those around you are too high for you not to fail? And, worse, when the inevitable happens and you do fail, you fail colossally? When your job is at stake? When the livelihood of your institution is at stake?

My situation is not so dire as all that, but it is true that I made a big mistake first thing this morning. And that, though I have been doing this for a long time I still feel like I am treading water, because I haven't learned to swim. And that one more wave will sink me.

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