In A Perfect World
I drag my mother’s stepladder across the kitchen tiles, breathing hard because the ladder is heavy. It’s also nearly as tall as I am. I position it right next to the counter and carefully start climbing. One step, two steps, a precarious balance on the top step. The floor seems very far away now. I hold tight to the countertop, afraid of falling.
I look up. Even from this height, my goal is still impossibly distant. The shelf with the yummy candies is high, high up. Too high for me to reach, even with the help of this clumsy stepladder. I sway with disappointment and almost fall off.
Though I know that the cabinet that holds my heart’s desire is much too far away for me to reach, I gaze at it anyway. I gaze for a long time, dejected. Why do I have to be so small? I feel like I’ll never be big enough to get the things I want. Even the cookies, my second choice, are tucked into a cabinet beyond my reach. It just doesn’t seem fair…
Slowly, I climb back down to safe ground. From here, the sweets are so high up that they might as well be on the moon.
In a world made for big people, I might as well accept the bitter reality: I am too little to have most of the things I long for. That’s just the way it is.
I love my teacher. But that doesn’t help me much when she starts talking about things that I can’t understand.
I try. I really do. I listen to the words my teacher says and the ideas she shares, and sometimes I get them. But only sometimes. So many of the words are unfamiliar to me, and the ideas fly right over my head.
It’s not just this teacher. All of my teachers are like that: filled with enormous words to describe enormous ideas. Each of them is crammed with information that they want to pour into me. But I’m not big enough to hold it all. If only my brain could stretch like a rubber band. Then maybe I’d have a chance.
So I sit here in class and try to look like I understand what’s going on. Maybe one out of twenty words actually sticks. The rest are beyond me. I wonder if anyone else in my class feels this way, or if it’s just me?
Sometimes I feel like the world, and all the ideas in it, is just too big for me. Or maybe I’m too small for it. Thousands of people spent thousands of years figuring things out, and I’m supposed to absorb it all like a sponge. All that knowledge! All those facts and figures! Chumash and Novi and history and math and who knows what else. It’s too much to fit into my little brain. I’m just a kid!
They say the teenage years are the cusp of adulthood. As if the fact that we’re out of the single digits is supposed to miraculously give us everything we need to navigate our way through grown-up life. As if!
I can tell you otherwise. The older I get, the bigger the world seems. I grow a little, and it grows a lot. The more I learn, the more there is to know. I’ll never catch up!
When I was a kid, I pretty much thought of the world as consisting of my own house plus a few blocks on either side. Now I know better. Now I know how enormous the world really is. Way to enormous for me to figure out. And getting bigger all the time.
Here I am, barely out of childhood, and people expect me to have my whole life figured out. What I want to study. What I want to be when I grow up, and how to get there. They seem to forget that I don’t have the experience they have. They know how things work in the world, but I don’t. Not yet. So how am I supposed to decide anything?
Don’t tell anyone, but sometimes I feel scared. I wish I could hide under the covers the way I did when I was young and forget about everything except my books and games. But I’m not that little kid anymore. I have to stay out here in the daylight, staring life in the eye. And life stares right back at me, looking scarier all the time.
Between you and me, I have a confession to make. Maybe things will change when I get older, but right now, on the “cusp of adulthood,” the world seems much too big for little ol’ me. Too big, and too complicated. Do you ever feel that way, I wonder?
If you don’t, please don’t tell anyone what I said. It’s just too mortifying.
Sometimes I feel as if my heart is simply too small for all the feelings it needs to hold.
Before I became a mother, this wasn’t a problem. Back then, the only one I had to think about was myself, and most of my feelings revolved around that same all-absorbing subject. Of course I loved my parents, but their job was to worry about me. My own heart was carefree.
But things have changed. First, I got married. Suddenly there were two people where there had been only one. Two people to think about, care about, feel for. Suddenly there was someone else, outside of me, whose feelings and well-being were just as important to me as my own. How strange…
And then, before I knew it, there were three! And then four, five, and six. Five precious souls besides my own to take up residence in my heart. Five people who depend on me to help them be happy. Five people whom I have the power to hurt with a careless word or look. Five people I love more than I ever imagined I could love anybody or anything. How in the world can I carry all that love and responsibility around in one measly little heart?
Sometimes the weight of everything I feel for my precious family is almost overwhelming. Like trying to fit a dozen bowling bowls into a baggie. Impossible!
If I could have one wish, I would wish for a bigger heart to give them all.
I want to love and revere You as You are meant to be loved and revered.
I long to feel even a tiny fraction of the glory that is Your Presence.
I yearn to hold You in my consciousness for more than a second or two at a time. But I am too puny a vessel to contain even that much.
You are so great, and I am so small. I stand before You in prayer and sense Your mighty awesomeness like a vast mountain that I cannot encompass, no matter how hard I try. Because you are the Almighty, and I am tiny. You are everything, and I am less than nothing.
You illuminate the universe and graciously allow a sliver of Your light to shine on my life. My gratitude, too, is infinitely smaller than it should be.
I long to expand the vessel of myself so that Your Presence can fill me. I yearn to grow and grow until I am big enough, and almost deserving enough, to bow at Your feet.
I will run in the way of Your commandments, for You will broaden my heart. Make my understanding ever broader and wiser. Let me serve you with the bigness that Your service demands.
Shower me with Your blessings. Because I need you, though You don’t need me. Because I love You and yearn to be worthy of Your enduring love for me.
Touch me with the finger of Your compassion, please. Because You are so great… and I am so very small.