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.
Love...Ms. Moon

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.


  1. Even though I didn't comment too much yesterday, I thought just about all day about what you'd written. And I had been meaning to tell you, anyway, that getting up in the morning way out here on the west coast and reading your blog entry is something that I do for myself. And reading your writing and sharing your day and listening to your voice in my head carries me, sometime, in this inimitable way. And given what you said about doing and being, I think you are more BEING than DOING -- the words you write are just the cover for your essence which is full of love and sustaining. I don't know if that makes sense but it does to me. You are essential and it doesn't have much to do with your sheets and your beautiful home and delicious food. And perhaps like all good koans, it does.

  2. Oh, Miss Moon! There's so much here; so much to identify with in this post and the one before. I love the title, 'Thinking About Doing," because the action/nonaction of thinking-about-doing is synonymous with how-we-drive-ourselves nutty.

    It's not so bad to value your output - as long as you include some of that self-care stuff in your "valuable output" category. Hugs and smiles are output, right? Making the bed, calling a friend, sending a card - output! Mani, pedi, garment purchases - these are actions of self-care and your valuable contribution into a local service economy - I say OUTPUT!

    Whatever; I'm not telling you something you don't already know. You're too wise and awesome for that - I just wanted you to know that I really identify and I'm grateful to have read your words today.

  3. You know, all us kids loved you just as much when you told us to make Christmas breakfast ourselves as when you made it for us. By which I mean, I, for one, love you for you, not for what you do (though I cherish and appreciate everything you do).

    Maybe you and dad should take a minivacation - come to town, eat out, dance, and stay in one of those new fancy hotels downtown?

  4. Elizabeth- My god, that makes me so happy. Thank-you.

    Angelika- You are wise beyond your years as so many of your generation is. Thank-you so much for reading, for commenting for those words.

    DTG- I know. And part of what I've been thinking about is how much I do, thinking that if I do it, my family will love me more! Isn't that bizarre? I love you so much. And maybe you're right about Daddy and I taking a town-vacay. We need some kind of one, I'll tell you that!

  5. Another revelation from you...and I share too...when you wrote of yourself as a child thinking that if you did everything right and that if you did more that it would make your mother happy. And in doing all that it did not that related to my doing the same! I too could never be perfect! I too could not fix my mom! I believe those times did reflect much of what I tried to be for everyone. I forgot about me. What could make me happy. I mean if I was really happy inside doing mundane chores would be just mundane chores! I wouldn't be trying to please everyone else but just doing a task that I could like or dislike. Does that make sense?

    My mom had dark places / disappointments /mishandled events...she poured them on her life, her family and friends. When things were good the world was in the palm of her hand! I am still trying to believe in myself.

    When Petit fleur wrote on yesterday she said a note that struck me "However, I think those of us who grew up with abuse have and exonerate perspective of ourselves in this regard. Because we are not taught to value ourselves just because we are here, we have to make up for that....". Wow! Yes! That struck a note.

    What a subject you have opened of enlightenment! I just got through reading a wonderful book by Sue Monk Kidd "Traveling with Pomegranates". An amazing book and would highly recommend. For any mother and daughter to share...I do plan on giving each of my daughters a copy....

    Okay see I am going on and on....healing and liberating ourselves from past slow...your self worth is there...for you to reach for...and when all else fails...hug Mr. Moon. Ask for what you need / up...hugs to you today....

  6. Well, I'm new here. But my perspective so far says that you're doing what you damned well please, when you want to do it, and you are very loved. In my book, it don't get no better than that!

    Blessings your way today and always...

  7. Dear MM,
    Sounds like you are well on the way to seeing this in a true light. Way to go!

    You are loved.

  8. Ms. Moon, I am going to read this over and over, because it tells me so much about our role as women and the foolish expectations we load on top of our already burdened shoulders.

  9. I love Mr Rogers.
    I can't seem to wrap my mind around this whole concept. I mean I can't figure out my thoughts/feelings on it in terms of how it pertains to how I live my life and feel about myself. I love your writing and thinking and reading everyone else's contributions too. I am not a mother or a wife, maybe this is why I'm having a hard time? Also I just feel like I have no idea what makes me worthy, or if I even am.
    I think this all will just float around inside me for a while and eventually I will form some kind of thoughts around it. I don't know why I feel so disconnected. Maybe because I never feel worthy, no matter what I do?
    But that can't be true.

  10. Mary, I am in awe of the wisdom and love you are able to share with all of us. Questions that bring insight to our own souls and presence here on Earth and answers that bring the kind of comfort as a Mother who rubs a child's head humming a familiar lullaby. I bow low to you my dear with the deepest appreciation. Your lovin Lizzie.

  11. Lizzie beat me to it- the word wisdom popped into my head reading this. thanks for that post. as always ..

  12. Today you are not only scribe and photographer, but philosopher:a person engaged in philosophy from Greek philosophos ‘lover of wisdom'.

    Philosophy as in "the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language".

    You are making us think and discuss one of the fundamental problems of our life as people and women in this conglomerate of places called America.

    Thank you for another day of that gift. x0 N2

  13. Elizabeth- Something else, if you read this. I was driving into town today and I was thinking about this post and then I started thinking about your beloved Sophie and how she is not able to "do" much of anything and certainly is not able to do anything which we would call productive and she can't even tell you she loves you (and that breaks my heart) but she is so very much loved for who she is and not one other thing, by you and her father and her brothers and others who know her. I love her a little, too, and I don't know her at all.
    So there. And I'm crying again, thinking of this.

    Ellen- What would make US happy? Was that ever considered? Ever? Maybe for a moment, for a birthday or Christmas gift.
    Why does it all have to be so damn hard sometimes? So hard to be happy?

    Laynie- Perhaps I am.

    Ms. Bastard- I am trying.

    Angie M- We do it to ourselves, don't we? And we never stop to ask why.

    Bethany- I don't know either, honey. I don't have the answers for myself, much less for anyone else. But I would like to think that thinking about it can help us all.

    Lizzie- I love you.

    Screamish- I am not wise but perhaps now and then something wise pops out. I think we all have knowledge inside of us that we do not realize.

    N2- Nor am I a philosopher! But, again, philosophic thoughts can come out. Thank-you, dear woman.

  14. Bethany, I know what you're saying--so much of a woman's value is determined by her motherhood experiences. How many times are we told that to be a mother is something we can never understand unless we do it? If you haven't had that experience, or don't feel like you want to, or otherwise don't feel like you have a "legacy" established outside of the obvious: your children, it can be very lonely. I know I experience this; you read my blog, you know this. Anyway, I get it.

    Oh, and Ms Moon, I get you too :) I feel the same way when I go through a period of non-productivity at work, or the time I had no job for awhile--it's a sense of purpose and worth that we assign to our actions. We just almost can't help it.

  15. kisses and hugs and languid leisurely thoughts for you.

  16. It's a good insight, Mary. Hard to learn through and through, but sounds like you've got a good start.

    I caught the vision when I was so worn down by radiation and chemo that I wasn't good for anything but sitting on the couch trying to remember to breathe. That period when I couldn't finish a sentence was the beginning of understanding I had value just for being.

    You're smarter than I was.

  17. And it gets more complex. I'm thinking about all the little kids who smush up a ball of clay and paint it red and blue and hold it up proudly and say "look what I did". I think we're hardwired to DO but it can get all twisted up and ugly and bastardized and our works end up defining us.

    I love you Ms. Moon. And you don't wash my sheets or tend my garden or cook me venison stew. I love you for your words, which I guess could be considered work, but to me they're just your heart and soul. And that's what I love you for. Your heart and soul.


Tell me, sweeties. Tell me what you think.