Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Some days I don't make time to read the paper; others I go from front-page headlines, to Op Eds to obits. The obits I scan, mostly to see the age of death and maybe the cause. Some days are "good" days. The good died old. Other days . . . not so good.
Today there was the story of a 17-year old girl whose last hours were spent in a swamp . . . I can read dry-eyed the stories of the men and women who die in their 90s with accolades and acknowledgements. But a child's death brings a pain sharp and cold to my heart.
It matters not that underage drinking likely played a part. Who, reading this, can say they have not, by the grace of God, or the luck of the draw, or fate, escaped the consequences of a foolish act?
But this girl paid the consequence of partying with friends, drinking, and then saying good-bye . . . but wandering into a swamp instead of her car.
"This is why you have to know where your kids are at all times," my husband says as I read the story to him, my voice breaking with emotion.
I know he wants to think that parental control is enough, that our kids are safe because he "knows" where they are. That he can keep them safe. He sounds tough because it hurts to think there are things he can't control.
"Her parents thought they knew where she was," I say softly.
Once I woke just before midnight at the sound of a crash. Against my husband's advice, I pulled on my bathrobe and walked out into a surreal world of flashing lights that made midnight brighter than noon. And in the strobe effect I saw two young boys-- 16- year olds-- lying lifeless on my neighbor's lawn. Yes, they'd been drinking and rushing to be home before their curfew when they hit another car.
My comment the next day when the local news station came with their camera and mics looking for a comment was, "It wasn't an accident. It was a consequence."
It was a consequence, but there was no comfort in the words I uttered years ago when my own slept in cribs . . . and I knew where they were. No understanding that it matters not why loved ones die, or even their age. The pain is the same.
While we are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions. ~Stephen R. Covey
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
If I take credit for my daughter's intelligent, organized approach to life, then I must take blame for my youngest son's overdue library books. If I take credit for his athletic prowess and caring personality, then I have to blame myself for my oldest son's problems.
I'd love the credit, but not the blame. In reality, I deserve neither -- or maybe a little of both. But only a little. They are who they are, these kids of mine. They've been unique individuals from the moment they entered the world. I only polished the surface, and not even that these days as they live independent lives-- or nearly so. I've stored the "character polish" with the baby pictures. Its use by date has expired.
I gave my children half their genes and all my love. They didn't come with instructions for care. Each was-- is-- unique. What worked, what didn't, what was helpful or not, was different for each child. It was up to me to determine what would be best for each of them. And I wasn't always sure.
I advised, nurtured, and disciplined, fine-tuning my mothering to fit each child's needs as best I understood them. I relied more on common sense and innate maternal wisdom than on generic advice from child care experts who never met my children.
Despite me and because of me, my children are in control of their lives. Or in the case of my oldest, he holds the reins, and I have to let him, despite the fact that he often rides off into the brambles.
Faith, like muscle, is built by use. Saying you have faith is not enough. Faith requires you to lean hard on the object of your trust without flinching, without bracing for the chair to be pulled away just as you sit. I have leaned hard on myself, for I must have faith that what I do, what I have done and will do still, if nothing else, is the best I have to offer. That matters.
My children will take the tools I've provided and continue to shape their lives-- for the better, I hope. Or not. But that is for them to decide. I have faith in them, too. Each of them.
“If you raise your children to feel that they can accomplish any goal or task they decide upon, you will have succeeded as a parent and you will have given your children the greatest of all blessings.”~Brian Tracy
Friday, October 10, 2008
I'm not sure exactly what the "real world" is anymore.
This morning I emailed a friend to say I was going to get out of the "real world" for a few hours and wander around some cranberry bogs with my camera. I amended my message to say that maybe I was, in fact, actually heading into the real world.
What's real? What matters? Is what matters real?
Philosophy aside, who knows, and maybe who cares? I'm not sure I do. But I've steeped in politics until I'm purple. I'm so tired of it all. It's a game I'm being forced to watch and play.
And as for the current financial meltdown . . . it pays to have so little to lose. I'm not happy about the whole thing, but my life will continue pretty much unscathed, maybe a bit pinchier in the penny department.
Gates held the top spot-- richest man in the world-- for 15 years, according to Forbes magazine. And now he doesn't.
I wonder if he feels any pain from losing his perch to Warren Buffet. Is Buffet gloating? I have not a clue. To me, rich is rich. What difference is there between the first or 31st spot? It's still more money than I could spend in a lifetime. A billion lifetimes.
There is a book I used to read my students when I taught math: How Much is a Million? by David M. Schwartz. My kids loved the book and so did I. Such a huge concept as a million needs a children's picture book to make it assessable to adults.
"If a million children climbed on each other's shoulders, they would reach higher into the sky than airplanes can fly; if a billion of them made a human tower, it would reach past the moon."
Can you imagine?
Then there's this I stumbled upon somewhere and saved to share with my classes.
A million seconds is 12 days.
A billion seconds is 31 years.
A trillion seconds is 31,688 years.
Our country has not existed for a trillion seconds. Western civilization has not been around a trillion seconds. One trillion seconds ago – 31,688 years – Neanderthals stalked the plains of Europe.
So . . . the real world? I think the real world differs depending on who we are. The real world for me exists of things I can touch and see and hold in my hand-- or more importantly, hold in my heart.
I have a billion of nothing. But I feel rich. I am rich.
Bill and Warren might not understand, but I hope, for their sakes, they do.
The man who has won millions at the cost of his conscience is a failure.~BC Forbes
Saturday, October 4, 2008
To be, or to just be. How? That is the question.
Or to be busy as a bee.
I exist; I'm a human being. I am, so of course I be.
But there's being, there's being too much, and there is just being, I'm discovering, and I've been being too many things at once for too long. I'm trying to learn how to just be "in the moment" as they say, even while being busy as the proverbial bee.
"First things first" (my motto) sounds good, but it's tough to manage if the to do list is overloaded, and mine was. So I did many things first, seldom doing one thing at a time . . . or if I did, I dropped that task unfinished, hopped to another, and then to another, and eventually back to the first. Breathlessly finishing at deadline became a habit-- and a bit of a rush, to be honest-- a habit I now want to break.
Did I have to wait until retirement added hours of formerly prescribed time to my day to learn to just be? I suspect not, but I'm not sure.
Maybe it was the fact that my job took a huge chunk of my time, leaving my "wanna do" list squeezed into the constraints of a weekend along with my "must do" list, that made me feel so frazzled. I guarded my free time zealously, not wanting to waste a weekend minute cleaning the oven and fridge.
So here I am with some free time on my hands for the first time in 35 years, and feeling a little at loose ends. I'm not complaining, exactly, not complaining at all, really, but it's odd to be able to just be after years of rushing.
And old habits die hard.
I need to stop thinking I'm wasting time if I sit down and read for pure pleasure . . . in a bubble bath no less; or if I only do one thing at a time, slowly even; or if I do something that I want to do but doesn't absolutely need to be done . . . ever.
I want to stop resenting the everyday tasks--cooking, making beds, vacuuming-- as intrusions on my "free time," and slow down and do them one by one. All time is free, after all. I know no one who has more than I do, or less. Where can you buy time?
It's a gift, time is, and perhaps nothing wastes it more than to pack it so tightly that it passes in a blur.
So I'm keeping busy, but doing it more slowly. Busy as a Zen bee.
To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles
and by opposing end them.~ William Shakespeare