26 May 2010

Nothing Is A Given

As I consider the enormity of the English language, there is one word right now that I can’t stop thinking about:


A word that is so overused…and yet a word that describes a concept that is so vague, elusive, intangible. Probably because it is so overused.

We’ve all heard it. We’ve all said it. We’ve all thought it.

“That’s not fair!”
“To cry fair or foul.”
“All’s fair in love and war.”

My online dictionary defines fair as “in accordance with the rules or standards.” Most of the time, that definition works for me. But I realize, it works for me ONLY because the “rules or standards” happen to go with my own desires and wants at that time.

When someone exclaims something is not fair, it’s usually because they feel they were entitled to some specific outcome/behavior. Many times, the entitlement is justified; it is in accordance with the typical society’s “rules and standards”.

For example, I have always believed that when I (and my spouse) was ready to have kids, we would readily, easily conceive them. I considered that “fair”. And, when the time came, that’s how it happened. All three times.

But wait, how many loving, amazing people are out there want the same as I did? Millions. How many of those same are not having children easily? Millions more, probably. Friends close to me are having conception issues – they have waited, pondered, researched for years – they have done all that thinking that most of the rest of us didn’t do. It seems “fair” to me that they should be more entitled to children than I was. Whose “rules and standards” are in effect here?

Another example of a skewed sense of fairness concerns a former principal I worked under; his six-month-old infant son passed away unexpectedly last night. According to the “rules and standards” we’re used to, we are entitled to outlive our children. It just seems to align with the natural sense of the world. I wonder now: where did I get that right to believe that?

These things cause me to call my idea of “fairness” in question. Once upon a time, I might have cried these things “weren’t fair”…without any sense of what I really meant. Now, because I do believe the universe unfolds as it will, despite what we do, these things occur for some cosmic reason. And, I don’t have to remind you guys that our “society” is not the end all-be all. There is a larger, more sublime “Society” that exists, and it has its own rules and standards…ones that we will probably never, ever comprehend.

Now, all I can really say is: These things aren’t fair…to me. And probably not to people I know, either.

Does this make you feel helpless? I hope it’s doesn’t. I think we waste too much time proclaiming what’s fair and what isn’t. It doesn’t matter – it’s what a person does after the judgment that matters.

25 May 2010

Letting Go - Corollary A

So, why do we hold on to the things we do? As I sifted through the medley of items collected throughout my years on this planet (as discussed in the previous post), it occurs to me I have no reasonable logic behind keeping what I keep. And throwing what I throw, for that matter.

Exhibit A: I found my wedding dress about three days ago. After my wedding, I'd had small damage repaired, the entire thing cleaned, and then boxed/packaged up nicely in a "keepsake box". The heavy-duty cardboard box contains a clear oval cut-out, which allows me to view the wedding dress's bodice in its beaded and sequined glory. However, it creeps me out a bit, as the dress is fitted over a dismembered plastic mannequin torso, rendering it head and legless. Kind of like Stephen King meets "Brides" magazine.

Of course, I wish I knew what exactly I was thinking some thirteen years ago when I had it done. The purpose? The need? Who knows. More provocative, though, is why I've left it that way for the last decade-plus. And why now do I have the fervid desire to rip the box open, put it on (even though it will be too big), and go shopping at WalMart?

Who can comprehend the post-wedding human mind? Who, indeed?

Exhibit #2: I'd packed five years' worth of "free" Iowa State University phone books into my Container O' Memories. Every dorm room had its own copy, which found its way into my luggage at the end of every school year.


Originally, I think I kept them as proof of my progression through college; proof that I'd actually made it. You know, in case I ever lost my diploma or developed amnesia and forgot I graduated from college. Now, I think I've saved them because I'm so vain (I probably think this phone book is about me).

It occurs to me now that I should have just ripped out the page containing my name and saved that instead of the whole phone book. Oh well, in another ten years, when I go through those relics again, I'll do just that.

Going through all this stuff has provided a key discovery to my own personality: I keep things that remind me of things I could possibly forget. That's why the most of the Rochester Post-Bulletins of my children's birthdays did not make the cut...I will never forget my children or when I had them. They were the important things that occurred on those days; all other top stories are irrelevant to me. But, the 9/11 newspapers remain because it's an important historical event I don't want to forget.

And for this reason, the collegiate phone books will join the discard pile someday. I doubt I'll ever forget I went to college; I mean, every job I've ever gotten is because I have a college diploma.

And the wedding dress? Will I ever forget I'm married? I doubt it. Not when I wake up next a cute, conservative Aquarius every morning. Not when I interact with my three children on a daily basis (one of whom is his dad through and through). Not when I see our wedding picture displayed in the living room. Not when I catch the glint of my wedding band on my ring finger.

Now...if I ever get Alzheimer's...all bets are off.

02 May 2010

My 35th Year

I suppose I owe my faithful readers a recap of the thirty-fifth year of my life - what with my birthday being almost a week past now. I know I've stalled on composing this post, and I'm not sure why. Perhaps once I get to it, I'll realize it was a larger topic than previously thought.

I won't bore with the list of presents I received or activities I did. Instead, I'll regale you with the insights of a woman in her 35th year...because after all, I'm one year better and wiser; so the story goes.

First off, the month of April opened up with a new addition to my body.

I was first inked when I was eighteen. In the pre-cell phone and Internet era, what does a teenager do once she's left her parents' house and rules behind?

Besides have sex for the first time, I mean?

I get a tattoo! The only problem was that I'd put no thought into what I wanted; thus, I wound up with a design that was trendy and faddish at the time. I also did not consider where I would have it done; thus I ended up with the left shoulder. I don't regret getting the tattoo, but it occurs to me that 99% of the time, I forget I have it. And even if I did have it somewhere that I saw it often, it would have little significant meaning to me now.

But...I knew, deep down, I always wanted another tattoo. Finally, the germ of an idea came to fruition about a month ago. Right around my 30th birthday, the idea of having my astrological symbol tattooed appealed to me. But, I just quite never found the design I wanted...and ultimately, I never was quite compelled enough to get it done.

Then, the turmoil of the last year put the tattoo idea on the backburner. My husband and I separated and I was in the midst of a major job change. Getting a tattoo fell on the list of priorities. However, earlier this year, when things seem to set themselves right, the idea of a tattoo experienced a rebirth. I determined this year was going to be the year - but what? and where? The astrological symbol was still a possibility, but it had lost a bit of its luster. Even more of a vague notion was where to put it? All I knew was that I wanted it somewhere more visible.

Then, in what I can only explain as a total confluence of the planets, Providence, and/or other celestial forces unknown to me...the tattoo imprinted itself in my brain, as if it had been there along, waiting for me to remember it.

"Not all those who wander are lost."

One of my most favorite lines from one of my most favorite books. The rearranged blog title of a good friend here at the Stream (as well as IRL). The sentence engraved on a silver bracelet I'd long eyeballed in the Pyramid Collection catalog. And - a sentence that had more meaning for me than ever before, considering my journey of the last year.

The location? My foot. Yes, it was the trendy spot right now, but what better place, honestly, for THAT phrase?

So I went Easter weekend and got 'er done. After seven minutes of some pretty serious pain, I was done. And:

I love it. I see it everyday and I am reminded of my philosophy:

I really have no idea where I'm going. I don't know what tomorrow will bring. But, I'm not lost. I'm wandering, but it's okay.

So, that's the words of wisdom gleaned from my 35th year. As much as society stresses that we all "have a plan", it's okay that I don't. I don't always know what I want to do with my life, I don't really have all my "safety nets" in place, I can't always see the "big picture", and who I am now might be totally different tomorrow.

And I think that's the way it's supposed to be.