Published March 10, 2005
I am sitting at my desk in the library when the door swings open and in comes a lady who is a computer specialist.
“Monday!” she groans. “I can’t believe it’s Monday again.”
Then, huffing and puffing and grumbling about the cold weather, the disgruntled lady vanishes into her office.
I usually commiserate with her because I know that folks who hate Mondays are a tight-knit group—and suggesting that, just maybe, they are wrong would seem like a huge heresy.
Besides, I completely understand this lady’s dilemma. For nearly 10 years, I worked in a high-pressure, high-paying, high-visibility publications job, which at first I loved and then later came to utterly detest.
In the early days, there were intriguing writing assignments that really made my heart soar. I also had a kind and compassionate boss, and a salary that made me feel rather important, especially after all my years working for a pittance as a part-time teacher.
When my boss retired, the entire apple cart overturned. Without going into the gory details, let’s just say that some mornings as I drove the 30 miles to work, tears would course down my cheeks, making little paths in my make-up.
How I dreaded Mondays. After all, I knew what awaited me in the office—an endlessly full in-box, a pile of impossibly overlapping deadlines, plus co-workers who were every bit as miserable as I was.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my job had become my cross. Unfortunately, I didn’t think about asking God for help carrying it. Instead, my suffering seemed meaningless; it was something I had to endure because apparently there was no way out.
Like many couples, my husband and I had become accustomed to living rather high on the hog. We had a very nice house in Decatur, as well as a vacation home in Florida, two cars, and a penchant for dining in trendy restaurants.
One day, I saw the proverbial writing on the wall: I realized that if I continued down the path I was on, dreading almost every hour of my waking day, at some point I might go stark raving mad.
The only way out of our trap involved making some drastic changes in our opulent lifestyle. We sold the beloved cottage in Florida, cut back drastically on splurges and luxuries, and eventually scaled down to one car.
Embracing frugality paid off. I left the job from, er, Hades in 1999 and spent a year and a half at home doing something that I had dreamed of my entire life, which was freelance writing.
I loved getting up early and heading down to the computer with coffee mug in hand. I relished writing in my pajamas and pink fuzzy slippers and, some mornings, meeting my best friend and her baby girl for a coffee break.
Although my salary was very low, my joy quotient was quite high.
Things were proceeding at a fine and dandy pace until May 18, 2000, when a new cross nearly knocked me down. It was a diagnosis of breast cancer.
Because I knew very little about the amazing medical advances that were helping women who had this disease, I saw the illness as a death sentence. My mom had died from breast cancer, and I was sure that I would too.
Picking up the cross of cancer was a shattering experience. And in the season of Lent especially, the memory preys on my mind.
During Lent, we voluntarily strip away some luxuries and comforts in the hopes of drawing nearer to God.
Those who have unwillingly had comforts stripped away, whether from illness, accident or other catastrophe, can attest that what remains with you when everything else is removed is, simply, your faith.
Lent can bring powerful insights, as did the cancer diagnosis. I suddenly looked back at all the Mondays when I had been so blue and out of sorts because of my job, and all the other weekdays I had wished away because all I could think about was getting to the weekend.
Suddenly I became aware of how much of my life I had squandered by pining for the future. Why hadn’t I seized the moment and enjoyed my God-given time, instead of wasting it on daydreams of perfect weekends?
As time went on, cancer showed me that even a Monday spent in a dull and grueling job is a day to embrace and a moment to celebrate. Our time on earth, after all, is rather short, and if we don’t learn to savor each day, we are turning our backs on God’s greatest gift to us, which is life.
“I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly,” Jesus said in no uncertain terms.
Looking back on the days when I was dwindling away in a miserable job, I realized that I had been unknowingly refusing to accept this precious gift that Jesus had come to give me.
Instead of living for the moment, I was constantly projecting myself into the future. I would enjoy … the weekend … the next three days off … my summer vacation—but never the here and now.
Today I continue to work as a freelance writer but also work four hours a day at a simple, low-paying, low-stress job.
Although I have graduate degrees, my library job doesn’t require so much as a bachelor’s—and yet the work is perfectly attuned to my disposition. There are no people to oversee, no clients to meet with, no major problems to solve—and no threatening in-box.
What I do—processing new books that come into the library—would be seen as boring by many people, but for me, the work is peaceful, repetitive and calming.
I would not wish cancer on anyone, but one thing is true. It does change your outlook forever. You no longer can gripe and moan about Mondays because you realize how close you came to having all your Mondays taken away from you.
Like so many people who have survived a disaster, whether it is an illness, an accident or a war, most days I feel so very grateful for my simple little job. Add a cup of hot tea in the afternoon and perhaps a cookie, and I am on the edge of true bliss.
Of course, I realize there will be more crosses in the future, perhaps much bigger ones, but for now, I feel safe.
Right now I am sitting at the computer at home, where a mug of tea is warming my hands and a slab of sunlight is drenching the baby tomato plants that sit in a nearby window.
Outside a robin is chortling, and a cloud is moving across the sky like a lazy little boat.
What a great joy this moment is. God is in His heaven and all is right with the world.
I am alive! And even if it is Monday, I can’t help but smile.
Lorraine Murray is the author of “Grace Notes,” a collection of stories about her faith journey, and “Why Me? Why Now?” a book for Christian women with cancer. She works in the Pitts Theology Library at Emory and lives in Decatur. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.