True ambition is not what we thought it was. True ambition is the deep desire to live usefully and walk humbly under the grace of God.
I’ve listed ambition as one of my character defects. It’s a confusing one in that it also has a positive connotation, as when someone takes on something difficult with lots of energy, being “ambitious.” But as a character defect, I understand that it is the distinction and honor aspects of it that are defective and wrong and, possibly, the wealth and power aspects as well, though those can be put to good use.
I’ve never much striven for distinction, honor, power, or wealth, though I can get awfully nervous if I think my middle-class status is in jeopardy. I have a desire to live usefully and walk humbly. I don’t know how deep my desire is. Surely not deep enough.
Living usefully. As I’ve written, and people who know me in real life know, I work with adults who have developmental disabilities to the extent that they need major help in all areas of life. I work in their day program, and I got there because my mother has done this since I was five, and she gave me my first job. I got my second job when I moved to be with Carole, and I’m still at that job. It will be 15 years in June, and how that happened I just can’t understand. But I’ve moved from the day-to-day hands on working folks to managing the folks who work with the folks, and it’s just not clear at any given moment that I’m doing something useful. Not as clear as it was when, for example, I was giving someone a drink of water who couldn’t get it for himself. Now that is useful. Telling someone else how to give the water, or making sure they gave the water, or critiquing their water giving method, now that is just not as much–
I will be honest. That is not as much fun. Of course it’s useful. But while I felt I was good at giving the water, and knowing when and how to do it, I don’t feel I’m as good at telling someone else. Especially if they are not doing it well.
Anyway, a very useful way to make a living. I love it, which I don’t think lessens its usefulness. I think it is better for the people I’m helping if I love it, and I do. And it’s wonderful for me. I honestly feel a little guilty about that. Probably because of my Lutheran upbringing.
So useful at work. I want to live usefully at home, and that is generally not as much fun. The aspects of it that I like, I’m good at, and I want to do more. I think that being a pet of mine is a pretty good deal. My biggest deficit there, I think, is the anxiety I experience about being good enough, especially to the dog, but also to the cats. Other aspects of being useful at home I’m not as good at. I started to write and deleted a few things about that. I’ve come around to thinking this about it: my so-called “deep desire” is only as good as the actions that result from it. Doesn’t that fit every situation?