Life at times can be overwhelmingly rough – with natural disasters, major politically conflicts and uncertainly about the future. But as most people won’t stop complaining about it being a horrible time to be alive, you might be surprised to see your life now vs. what it would have been in the past.
I’m not making this up. That’s what it says on the calendar “a holiday per day” app I have.
“The second Monday of January each year recognizes National Clean Off Your Desk Day as an opportunity to begin your new year with a clean and organized work-space. Whether in a private or shared office, cubicle, home or a make-shift desk on the counter, having an uncluttered, organized, refreshed, and clean place to work will improve your efficiency and improve your serenity.”
Or, in my case, a place to store the Christmas tree for another year.
This is good because I was actually planning to clean off my unused desk so I can put the Christmas tree there to await next Christmas. We had been putting it in the attic, but the ladder to our attic is getting increasingly rickety. Every time Owen goes up that ladder I wince. I’m sure it’s going to collapse under him.
I decided this year, since we aren’t really using the room or the desk for anything much, why not put the tree and the nutcrackers there, thus saving Owen from a death-defying clamber up a creaky old ladder.
So. Just this once, I’m aligned with the calendar. I am cleaning off my desk on the official day. Are you impressed?
A lot of my blogs are about the crises and traumas that are scattered through my past life. But my life was so much more. There was love and friendship, fun and joy in the mix as well.
For example, I loved being a mother. I have wonderful memories of happy times spent with my children as they grew up. When they were little, every day had a magical moment that made me smile and think “I want to remember this forever.” I didn’t remember all of those precious moments, but here are some things that have stayed with me through the years.
One involved my ex husband, Larry, my son, David and my daughter, Sarah. It was in the 1990’s and David was eleven or twelve and Sarah was six or seven. We were on a long car ride and we were playing Simon and Garfunkel music. The CD came with a printout of all the lyrics.
Larry and I decided to expose our kids to poetry by analyzing the lyrics to “The Sounds Of Silence.” We asked them what they thought “People talking without speaking, People hearing without listening” meant. That triggered an amazing discussion. The kids were enthusiastic and really got into it. They both ‘got’ what the words meant and had spot on insights into what Paul Simon was trying to say.
I was proud of my kids’ intellectual abilities as well as their emotional sensitivity and maturity. It was a very special afternoon.
Another special afternoon involved just me and the kids, at home. In around 1990, when David was ten and Sarah was five, we watched a cassette of the Disney animated film, “The Little Mermaid”. We had seen it many times and enjoyed singing along. On this day, we got silly. When the song “Under The Sea” came on, we started dancing around the room. Then we went into the kitchen to search for percussion ‘instruments’ to accompany us. We got pots and hit them with metal serving spoons, like drums. We banged pot lids together like cymbals. We tried banging two pots together for a different sound.
We played the song over and over, dancing and banging on our ‘instruments’, singing at the top of our lungs. It was sheer joy for all of us. This is one of Sarah’s cherished memories from childhood.
Then there was the ritual of giving our beloved retriever, Sam, a bath. This involved both kids in bathing suits, washing him in the tub. I had to guard the tub to keep Sam from jumping out. He hated baths and constantly shook himself off, spraying soap and water over everyone and everything. This process involved lots of yelling and laughing.
When we were done with the bath, we’d dry him off and then came the fun part. We’d let him out of the bathroom and he’d tear around the house, rolling on every bed, sofa and rug he could find. We would follow him and watch, roaring with laughter! He was happily crazed and so funny to watch.
Reading to my kids was a big part of both of their childhoods. I read to David at bedtime until he was seven or eight years old and reading on his own. It was something we continued to love to do. We often ended up reading way past David’s bedtime. We would often get totally absorbed in a good plot or we’d be laughing so much at a comedy, that we just couldn’t stop. I still remember some of the books we read – classics like E.B. White and Roald Dahl, “The Indian In The Closet’ series and a comedy about Bunnicula, a vampire pet rabbit and his human family.
I stopped reading with Sarah earlier. Instead we watched TV shows and movies together. Sarah was always obsessed with ‘show business’ in all its forms, television, movies and theater. She read Variety and Entertainment Magazine as a child. I let her watch some ‘grown up’ shows from the time she was around eight or nine, in the 1990’s. Movies like, “Pretty Woman” with Julia Roberts, which she loved, and some of the prime time TV soap operas of the day, like ‘90210’ and ‘The OC.’
I let her watch these show, over my mother’s objections, because we would talk about the issues they raised for her. We got to talk about relationships and how people should treat each other. I helped her form opinions about issues that came up, like abortion, discrimination and sexism. Also, she only got out of the shows what was age appropriate for her. For example, when she was around eight, she knew that Julia Roberts played a ‘hooker’ in ‘Pretty Woman’ but had no idea what that really meant. She thought a hooker was a woman who wore sexy, skimpy clothes.
So Sarah and I had wonderful discussions about the shows we watched, as we still do today. But my favorite things to watch with pre-adolescent Sarah were the musicals that we saw over and over together. I’ve always loved Broadway musicals, so this was right up my alley. My favorite radio channel to listen to today is the Broadway channel.
We could sing every word of “The Sound Of Music” and “Grease” as well as all the Disney animated musicals of the 90’s. These were amazing, bonding experiences that we shared.
My life has been richly filled with deeply gratifying and gleefully fun experiences with both family and friends. It’s funny what I remember and which memories I value above all others. I have such a large trove of happy memories to choose from with my kids when the subject of favorites comes up. Despite the struggles and the down times, I consider myself very lucky.
I was out there in the wind and weather yesterday. It was cold, much colder than the air usually is during storms.
It was also windy, the tall oak trees blowing like reeds in the storm. These are tall, heavy red oaks, so if one of them falls, it will be awhile before the lights come back on. It was snowing hard and accumulating faster than it was supposed to.
I got some pictures of the roads, driveway, and walks, all covered in snow and ice. The pictures came out better than I expected. My hands were frozen. I could barely feel the shutter release. Five more minutes and I think my hands would have been frozen to the camera.
Marilyn pointed out that there is a reason she wanted weather-proof cameras … and this was it. Everything got wet, but nothing was damaged.
As much as we reveal in our blogging, we conceal at least the same amount and maybe more. I’m sure it’s not just me. Why do we do it?
Despite electronic media, I like privacy. The rusty underbelly of my life is not for public viewing. What is wrong and right my life isn’t stable. It’s mobile. It flows. The world is up or down, forever in flux.
If I write about it, whatever it was becomes fixed. Suddenly, it’s a “thing.” Even when the moment has long since moved on, you are still fielding feedback from your original post. I have learned — the hard way — that you should really not say anything you don’t want to be dealing with three years from now. The Internet is forever, even if your troubles are not.
What is wrong or right depends on myriad minor details. It is rarely worth writing about the little problems unless the event holds some kind of universality. As an example, anything involving customer service and the perils of dealing with it, is global. No one gets out of life alive — or without getting disconnected by customer service. Most other stuff tends to be forgotten as soon as you get over that bump. If you write about it, it becomes permanent. You have etched it in virtual stone.
My other reason for not bothering to write about the little complaining stuff is because it’s not interesting. The tedious remembering of those icky, gritty details is boring to read and equally boring to write. Whining is dull. Mine and yours. Dull as dirt. Despite this, at least half the Internet is filled with people complaining about stupid stuff they won’t remember in 24 hours. For a fair number of people, complaining is the only thing they do.
There are people who show up on my timeline about whom I can’t remember ever reading anything which was not a complaint. They live tragic lives. Ask them. They will tell you in intimate detail — they are the most unlucky people on Earth. Because everything always happens to them.
A pipe breaks? “OMG we’re doomed!”
Flu strikes? “Why am I afflicted by the gods? Why is the universe punishing me?”
A lost cell phone? “The sky is falling, the sky is falling.”
Their cars never run. Their jobs never last. The go from one job to another and the same stuff happens at each one, yet they never wonder if maybe they might be doing something wrong. Their relationships are doomed from the start because that’s what they expect.
The other day, it struck me that all of us have a more or less equal number of bumps in our road of life as anyone else, but not all of us view each as a calamity. Unless it makes a good story.
Much of the pleasure of blogging is getting to present ourselves and our world in a positive way. Unless you blog for sympathy — and some people do — blogging lets you show off some of the nice stuff in your life. In my virtual world, I can be better than I really am. I can be more fun.
Who said “full disclosure” is what blogging is about? Not me. Writing about the grimy details of life is like posting ugly selfies. Why would anyone want to do that? I’d rather make you laugh.
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