Friday, March 12, 2010
More Thinking About Doing
Zeke is harking up his guts all over the house, just clear bile, and I suppose I should feel sorry for the poor little Yorkie but all I can do is sigh and get another paper towel and despair my fate in life.
It's gray today and I woke up from the sort of dreams you shake your head in wonder at and it takes all damn day to shrug off their residual emotional fallout. The kind that make you brush your teeth with tears in your eyes, not really crying, just leaky stuff that originates in the soul and finds its way out of your body in this ineffectual and silly moisture.
I also cannot shake what I wrote about yesterday. About how I have suddenly realized this thing- this sad fact- that I define my worth on my output. Really. That's what it is. And I got so many wonderful replies and comments and all of them made me think and many of them made me say, "Yes, that's part of it."
I don't think there is one answer here. I do not. As Michelle said- the more you think about it, the more complex it becomes.
And what Ms. Fleur said about how if we are raised not to value ourselves just for being here we tend to judge ourselves for what we do for others and how Lopo pointed out that in Mexico the babies are praised not for their accomplishments like we do (my child walked at eight months!) but for their cuteness, their fatness, their, yes, just being here. This is part of it too. It's not just American culture, I am sure of that. Look at the Japanese and how much weight they give to success in school and in business and how much shame is attached to not doing well in their work. I am expecting Mr. Toyota to impale himself on his sword any day now.
And I am thinking of my grandfather on my mother's side. I don't think I ever saw him in repose unless it was for that sunset-watching before supper with his small bottle of 7-Up in his hand or in his chair after supper as he studied a National Geographic book on early man. And believe me, before these restful moments, he had spent an entire day of his retirement working like a slave outside in the hot Florida sun, trying to tame and train his small part of the jungle of Florida or building something in his unairconditioned shop with wood and nails and saws and vise and levels and shellac. How even when we went on "vacation" with him he would rise well before the sun to go out and walk on the beach, miles and miles of walking. How he would spend his days fighting the waves, the tides of the Atlantic as if it were his job to do so. Another piece of work to do, just in a different place, with a different medium. Salt water instead of earth or wood.
I think of my paternal great-grandfather whose picture you see above. I never met him, as far as I know, but look at that face. I not only do not see one molecule of my own DNA in there, I do not see one iota of a smile, of pleasure, of any expectation of that at all. He worked hard, he made money, he made lots of money. That's all I know about him.
I think of myself and I realize I haven't had a manicure, a pedicure, or bought a new garment for myself or a new piece of jewelry or a book or a new plant or sat and listened to music or gone dancing in so long that I can't remember the last time these things happened. I think of how if I do something as frivolous as watch Wife Swap I have to iron my husband's shirts while I'm doing it in order to justify the time spent.
I know, I KNOW that I have pleasure in my life every day. But it is always pleasure associated with work of some sort. And it is good that I can take such pleasure in such simple joys. The pleasure I take in my chickens, my garden, the camellias I have planted and tended. Clean sheets I have washed and dried and put on the bed, stretched tight and made ready for sleep. A meal I have cooked, especially if it involves something I've grown myself. Even the pleasure I take in taking care of my grandson, which is, without a doubt, the purest pleasure of my life, is wrapped up in the tending and nurturing of another and let's face it- I was put on this earth to do that BUT, it is taking care of another. I am not complaining about the tending and nurturing I do. I would not be who I am without doing it. I need to do it.
But doesn't a great part of my pleasure in all of this belong to the fact that I deserve it because I have worked at it?
I deserve the good meal I cooked. I deserve the sweet sheets on the bed because I washed them. I deserve the smiles of my grandson because, well. Okay. That one? No. That's just a gift and I have done nothing to do deserve that and I can't even talk about it because it makes me cry.
But in everything else, I feel I might be too much like my grandfather and when I do sit on the front porch with Mr. Moon and my own version of a 7-Up, I can enjoy it mostly because I am looking out at the yard I have tended, I am sitting on the porch I have swept and grown plants to decorate it with and make it beautiful. Because I know that the supper I have cooked is simmering on the stove. And then, maybe then, I deserve to relax on the porch with my husband and enjoy it.
I remember once, as a little girl and my mother was going through one of her depressions and she was vastly unhappy and I determined that if I was perfect and did everything right and changed the toilet paper roll and washed the dishes and didn't have to be reminded to do my chores and so on and so forth, that this would make her happy. My mother would not be sad. She would not be angry. She would finally and at last stop crying, stop yelling. My experiment failed but in my child mind, it was not because the idea was a faulty one and that I could not make another person happy with my actions, but that it had failed because I could not, no matter how hard I tried, be perfect. I just could not. But if I had been, why then, my mother would have been so glad. And so would I have been.
THAT I think is the most telling memory I have of why I am the way I am. I don't think I ever once in my childhood felt that just my being on this earth was enough to give my mother any sense of happiness but that sometimes my actions did. Actions like being smart, like reading books that were "too old" for me. Like taking care of my brothers. Like cooking a meal, baking a cake.
And there you go. There is culture in this sensibility as well as genetics, most likely, and lessons learned from birth and ingrained in my very bones.
And I agree with very much with Ellen's comment yesterday and think that part of it, too, as in Ellen's life, is the fact that every bit of the work I have done on this earth, almost without exception, has been unpaid work which means work that, if you get right down to the real bottom of it- has absolutely no value in our society except for lip service. And so there MUST be physical proof of my toils and labors or it has not occurred. An empty laundry basket, a clean floor, a weeded garden.
That, too, is one of the pieces of the puzzle which I find myself pondering.
Anyway, I am going to be thinking about all of this more I can tell. I am going to TRY and let some of this negative bullshit thinking about myself go and I hope you all do too. I am going to try and remember that each of us deserves to have happy times unrelated to any work. Sometimes, at least. Hell- it's our right as Americans to pursue happiness! Isn't it odd and wonderful and beautiful that the founding fathers put that in the Declaration of Independence?
And to remember what Allegra said in her comment which was, "Living with cancer has taught me many things, but being kind to myself has not been one of them. I am learning that life is truly a brief episode in the book of time. And that what we write in it has little to do with doing, but most of all with being."
Thank-you, all of you for your comments and your thoughts on this subject. I think that it is one that if we truly consider and truly examine for what it is, we may actually make our lives happier and fuller and most importantly, learn to appreciate our very own selves for who we are and what we are instead of what we do.
All right. I'm done. For now.
Have a wonderful Friday, y'all.
And P.S. I think I just figured out why I love the image of the Virgin so much. I think it represents that love which is purely for ourselves. A mother's love. Accepting and without boundaries or conditions.
Sort of like Mr. Rogers, who liked us just the way we are. Whom I also loved.
And, who is, in the Church of the Batshit Crazy, a full and beloved saint.