Life is hard sometimes. It just is. The people who look like they’ve got it all together–it’s an illusion. They may have some things together. They may even have more things together than you have together. But they don’t have it ALL together.
I always thought of my grandparents as the epitome of *having it together.* Their house was always tidy and clean, their bills were always paid, and their smiles were always ready.
When I went out to stay with them periodically over the past couple years, I discovered the truth behind the truth. Their wheelchair accessible van required that the battery be charged prior to every use, and it would drain out again in a matter of hours, so they had to carry a charger with them everywhere. Their microwave was vintage 1960-something and needed babying to work. And like everyone else I know, they spent ungodly amounts of time on the phone sorting out mistakes made by various vendors and service providers.
The reason I never saw this until I went and lived with them and took care of them for a while is that they never focused on it. They were so grateful for even the smallest of blessings. And when life was hard, they knew it was just because life is hard sometimes. Not because they were doing it wrong.
You’re not doing it wrong. You’re just maybe looking at it from the wrong angle. Life is hard and life is beautiful and you’re doing it just exactly the way it’s supposed to be done.
Unless you’re killing kittens. If you’re killing kittens you have to stop that crap.
Do you have these odd little internal habits that seem perfectly normal to you until one day it crosses your mind that maybe it’s not normal at all but quite possibly downright weird? Maybe you don’t even realize you’re doing it because you’ve done it all your life and so it’s not even something you think about.
For instance, maybe you tell yourself stories about inanimate–or nearly inanimate–objects, in order to explain their (ahem) “behavior.” You’ve done this all your life, almost unceasingly, running this internal storytelling monologue with yourself, until one day you’re standing in the kitchen and it hits you that maybe you’re just wee, teeny bit, tiny bit, a little insane.
So this morning I was harvesting sprouts. We grow them in these little trays, where they start as seeds and get watered twice a day. We watch tenderly as they spring to life, the miracle of a tiny seed suddenly sprouting roots and leaves and growing into a cute baby plant. For about five days, we nurture their growth, marveling over the miracle of life, and then we yank them up by the roots and eat them.
But first we yank them up by the roots and stick them in a container in the fridge to chill for a while. You harvest them by fistfuls, and there are always some stragglers left in the bottom of the tray and you have to decide whether it’s worth the trouble to go back and harvest those few one at a time, and usually it’s not, so you just wash them down the drain with a scrub brush.
So I was standing there yanking them up by the roots and wondering how they felt about it. For instance, were the ones that were harvested really sad, or were they kinda oblivious and thinking it was some sort of fun adventure. If they knew they were going to be eaten, I figured they were probably pretty scared about that. Poor little yummy little things.
Then I thought about the stragglers. Were they relieved when they realized they’d been spared? I imagined them throwing some sort of quiet but jubilant party: “YES! We made it! Now we have all this room to grow… spread those roots out, search for the nutrient-rich earth that is surely mere millimeters away. We are gonna MAKE it!”
But their party is about to be interrupted with a rude awakening. Suddenly they’ll find themselves violently crushed and torn, washed away in a devastating torrent, to a terrible underground death… or maybe (wait, some of them might find some place with nutrients and sunlight and eventually grow into something but… no. They’re on their way to a water treatment facility, and death by chemicals. Except the ones that end up in the trash. THEY might become something in a landfill… but more likely they’ll suffocate in the plastic bag).
Back to the tray. So then I got to wondering. What if one of the sprouts, prior to his tragic end, got to wondering (with a mixture of gratitude and humility) why he’d been spared to go on living, and someone came to him and said, “Dude, you think you’re lucky. But you know what? You’re not. Because THOSE sprouts, the ones that got pulled out of this life so early? They’re going to fulfill their destiny. They’re going on to do the thing they were created to do. They’ll become part of a larger organism, playing a critical role in cell growth and immune function. Sure, they’ll die first. But you know what? At least they will have died for a reason. You? You’re going to die too, but your death is going to be pointless. Nothing useful will come of your having ever lived. No one, nothing, will ever remember you were ever even here. And it’s going to happen soon. Now who’s the lucky one?”
And then I start applying the concepts to a larger picture. I think about our lives and I think about how sad we get when someone dies young, but maybe that’s the wrong approach. Maybe as long as they died FOR something then they’re the lucky ones. And how can we even know whether they died for something or not. Maybe what looks like a tragic accident or a terrible disease is really part of some bigger scheme and they’re going on to do something important, be part of something bigger, and we’re just the stragglers left here to wash down the drain at the end of the day.
That’s the point at which I usually start frantically pulling up stragglers, trying to get every last single sprout into the harvest container for later consumption. Until I start thinking about OCD disorder and decide I don’t want to be quite THAT crazy, so I stop.
And then, I start imagining the whole thing as an essay and about three minutes later, I drop the scrub brush and run to the computer to type it up.
Yup, so that’s what my mind does. Pretty much non-stop. Every day. All day. And until today it hadn’t occured to me that it might be a little strange. Am I the only one? What weird things does your brain do?
I’ve been at it all weekend, building this site. Most of that time has been devoted to trying to get social media integrated into the site. I still haven’t figured that out. But I did figure this out:
If you’re here, it’s because you care about what’s going on in my life. Wow. That’s pretty potent stuff. Thank you.
Which also means this:
I can post almost anything, and you’ll be glad to hear about it because, well, you care about me. That pretty much makes us friends, except the part where you don’t necessarily tell me about your life too. Which you can totally do in the comments and I will totally read them and it will almost be like a conversation. Grab a coffee and let’s talk. I’ll just look at this gratuitous cute photo of my son and our friend’s daughter, and muse on the differences between boys and girls while you’re gone.
Got coffee? Okay. The first thing I’m going to do is add a bunch of categories, so you can sort through stuff if you like and only listen to ramblings on topics that interest to you (ohmygoodness this is BETTER than friendship). Topics may include: Fiction (my little stories and half-stories and ill-conceived story ideas), Life Updates (just stuff about, you know, what I’m doing, stories about the kids, cute stuff, funny stuff, just stuff about us), and… well, that’s all I can think of at the moment. I’ll add more maybe. Some of them will probably already be there by the time you read this.
AND, because I installed this nifty little digest plugin thingy (that’s the technical term), sometimes this random rambling or whatever will be at the top of the daily digest, which I’ve changed so that it now comes out at night instead of morning, you know, so I can write about my day before I hit “publish.” And then at the bottom there will be a list of everything else I wrote or uploaded or whatever that day. Which kind of defeats the whole point of being able to sort through which bits you want to listen to. Sorry about that.
Anyway. If you’re here, thank you. And watch out. Once I get going I can seriously run my mouth. Be sure to step in and get your words in edgewise in the comments!