After talking with a friend who seems to volunteer every waking moment of her life, I had to ask myself, am I a good person? Is it merely enough not to hurt others? I did a Google search and found multiple quizzes I could take to determine if indeed, I was a good person, or a nice person, or even a kind person. Even Scientific American had a test to see if you could benefit from being agreeable.
There were times in my life, such as when I was in college, when it was all about me. I’d like to think I was kind to others, but I did little to volunteer or donate. Frankly, it was all I could do to stay afloat with my classes. When our first child was born, we joined a new church. I remember the minister asking on what committees I would like to serve. I was flabbergasted. As a new parent, I was lucky to make it to church. As time went on, however, I began to teach Sunday school and became very active in multiple ways. Still, did that make me a “good” person?
Are there times to give and times to prepare oneself for the greater good? Are there times when it’s ok to simply rest and focus on one ’s self? Is it okay merely to do no harm but never give time or efforts to others? Is not being bad mean that you are good?
While every religion has a viewpoint on this issue, the general consensus would be that it is a lofty goal to strive to be “good.” It’s a fine thing to use your talents for the benefit of others. It’s nice to help people. Yet for all my helpfulness, volunteering, and donating, there are times I find my definition lacking. I find myself falling short. It’s hard to be good.
The hardest time for me to be good is when I have to take that deep breath with my mouth closed so I can listen to someone else’s ideas. I’ll have to keep working on that.
My husband and I have been making a lot of decisions lately, especially those involving money. Some couples fight over money. I used to think it was because there wasn’t enough. Certainly that could be a reason, but even those will a healthy bank account can lose it over money.
One of the promises we made to each other early in our marriage was never to argue over money. So we sit down with the expectation that each voice will be heard and we try extra hard to listen. It’s been a joy to work together. I feel like inventing issues just for the pleasure of working them out with him.
It’s hasn’t all been easy, however. We both love art and I wanted a piece to replace one that was over the couch. It was pricey and he convinced me to order in a smaller size than I would have liked. When it came, I realized it wouldn’t work over the couch and we needed to leave the picture that was there. I wasn’t fond of that picture, but my husband was. I could have accused him of doing it on purpose. But I knew my husband. He would never be so deliberate. It took some doing, but together we found a place for my picture that didn’t relegate it to a back bedroom. He hung it with care and then stood back to admire it with me. “It looks good there. It’s growing on me,” he said, hugging me and making me feel valued. What more could a person want?
We used to ask, “Would you rather be rich, or famous?” or other variations on that theme. To be honest, neither of those have been my life’s goal. All my life I’ve dreamed of having a little cabin in the woods, complete with a fireplace, a tongue and groove ceiling and a river nearby. That dream is finally coming true for me.
I wonder when I get that moment to breathe the pine smell and listen to the wind through the needles, will I feel I’m truly home? Is there only one place on earth where we are meant to call home? I have lived this dream for so long, what will it be like to finally obtain it? Will I stagnate until I ask the, “Now what?” question? Or, having finally found the place where I belong, will I be able to become my best self and truly blossom?
How does one truly live the dream? Will it finally be enough or will I still want more? Will I still find things to complain about? Will the new life I’m so excited for bring about new adventure and discovery? There is a parable about a two men going to a new city. They ask a stranger from that city what it is like. The stranger asks them about their old city. One says it was great– the other terrible. The stranger says they will find it to be the same way in their new city. I guess, if I am looking for adventure and personal growth I will find it. Maybe I could start today.
My teen was having a hard time recently and stormed around for a day and a half. Teens tend to be overly dramatic, so I thought letting him work through it was part of the process. But then it occurred to me that part of the drama was because he didn’t know how to react when faced with a problem. Was this the end of the world? Could he make it go away?
With age, comes perspective. I have lived through enough situations that I know I can fix my problems. I know the difference between a minor setback and a problem that is going to require more effort on my part. I can project what will probably happen if I ignore a problem and whether it will go away on its own or grow exponentially. A teen hasn’t grown that perspective.
I have a friend whose catchphrase is, “It’ll be okay. Everything will be okay.” I didn’t understand her need to say that until just now. As my teen seemed to be circling in a loop of angst, I realized he didn’t know it was going to be okay. It was fixable. I sat him down and told him it would be okay. We talked through the nuances of the problem until he realized it wasn’t so big after all. The pep talk on how capable he was helped to make it seem surmountable. I reminded him that he wasn’t alone. He didn’t need to worry by himself. If he needed help, he could rely on his parents.
To date, the problem has yet to be resolved. But we aren’t worried. It’s going to be okay.
I hate New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. It just seems like an unsafe driving night/drunk fest followed by a day of refection/atonement/resolution-making. I never make resolutions. It seems like many people make them just to break them. When I make a promise, I keep it. For that reason alone, I don’t make many.
We do have a tradition in our small family. Each year, we collect pennies with that year’s date on them to add to our Christmas stocking. There is always a panic in December to locate shiny pennies with the current year’s date on them, but we have never missed a year. My husband and I tease that we are going for the whole roll, or fifty pennies. To date, we have 35 pennies. It is a long time to be married. We are blessed. We started a penny stocking when our son was born and now he joins in the tradition as well.
As we add the pennies, we always spend a short moment talking about something special about that person or something significant that happened during the year. When we put away the stockings, it ensures that they are never empty. It’s a simple, inexpensive tradition. Maybe it’s a way to let go of the old year and bring in the new. I guess we just have to do things our own way.
There are but a few kinds of people in the world; those that follow the rules, those who enforce them and those who laugh and claim the rules were meant for everyone else. I tend to be a rule follower for the most part, but when it comes to generating ideas, I liked to see how close I could come to bending the intent of the rule while remaining in compliance. I’m sure I was a spitfire as a child. No one notices the quiet, dutiful kid in the corner. I was the one who was too creative to sit still.
I have learned the saying, “It is better to beg for forgiveness than to ask permission,” really is a good motto most of the time. As a parent, it is hard to remember that when I am on the other side of the equation, but I just have to remember it’s payback time. The saying I made up as a parent when talking about my rambunctious boy was, “It is easier to tame enthusiasm than it is to move a rock.” Thank goodness for those with curiosity and a lust for adventure. They will make something of themselves.
Those kinds of people are not the nose-to-the-grindstone, collect-the-gold-watch-at-retirement types. Those jobs don't even exist anymore anyway. My son looks at the system, and sees a status quo that is rigged against him. He has an entrepreneur spirit that scares security-conscious me. I look forward to seeing where his future takes him. Rules or no rules.
I must admit, I am excited for the holidays. The house is decorated and I made my first batch of cookies December 4, on what turned out to be National Cookie Day. Who knew? My husband has a secret pleasure of watching all the Christmas romance stories on the Hallmark Channels. We call them Hokie-Dokiers and love every minute of these uplifting, happily ever after stories.
This is the first day it has been “chilly” i.e., in the 60’s and we don’t have the heat on yet in our Phoenix home. My hands are cold. I have no fat on my wrists or the top of my hands and they are poorly insulated. I went out and bought fingerless mittens. They have sequins sewn on them, and it makes me smile every time I look down at the keyboard and see them twinkling at me.
It’s funny how a small thing like that can keep me smiling. One year, I went on a cruise to Hawaii with my brother, his wife and my mother. Before we went, I purchased some glittery hibiscus flower stickers from a party store. You can also find them online. Pricey ones look like gold or silver paint. We settled for an inexpensive multipack for around five dollars. The women in our group rubbed them on our faces and spent the day adorned with festive highlights. We had many people smiling at us and asking where they could purchase some.
As we were getting back on the ship, one elderly woman noticed our faces and remarked to her friends, “Who would have time for that?!” I’m sure she thought we sat and got our faces painted, but so what if we did? What if we chose to waste our limited time on the island in such frivolity? I didn’t bother to comment. I wanted to use my time more wisely.
Holidays are always a time to spend with family. We will slow down and make time for each other as we play some board games. I have already convinced them to paint a picture with me. All of us are beginners when it comes to painting but it doesn’t matter. It’s the time together. Like the moments when we sit around by the light of the Christmas tree and just talk. About nothing. That’s the gift I’m looking forward to– time for frivolous things. I might even buy some stickers.
I'm melancholy today. I realize that feeling depressed is much different than clinical depression, which is a serious matter. I’m talking about the temporary sadness one feels when they want to feel sorry for themselves or the world but don’t have a reason.
On a good day, I would try to get over myself– get busy, help others, call up a friend, or watch a comedy. A bit of melancholy works for a writer, however. It taps into the ache in my chest which creates that need to write. It gives me time to be introspective if I go with those emotions. It helps me to daydream.
We own our happy feelings but have a tendency to shake off any sad ones. What if the melancholy moods were the ones where we were closest to our true selves? What if it was the time we were able to take stock of our lives and where we were going? I’m going to honor those feelings and recognize that they are a signal to slow down and be with myself for a while. I will come out the other side better in tune with myself and my aspirations. Maybe being melancholy is a good thing.
In the old days, we would tell stories we made up by the campfire. Then we graduated to reading a book by flashlight. My son is a senior in high school, but when we're on a trip, we still keep up the tradition of sharing a book.
Recently, we vacationed by staying in a cabin we rented. A fireplace replaced the campfire, but we laughed that we still had to use old fashioned wood instead of having an instant gas fireplace. The microwave and stove made cooking easy and the dishwasher made clean-up a breeze. A soft bed replaced the hip-pointers guaranteed by sleeping in a tent.
But what also changed was how we read the book. I called it up, via Kindle, off my phone. The light of the phone meant there was no need for a flashlight. No one seemed to mind its soft glow and I was happy to adjust the font size to meet my changing eyesight. But the real change came afterward.
After the chapters were read, we sat in silence looking at the fire. I wished I remembered all the words to some of the old folk songs we used to sing. After thinking about it for a moment, I remembered I still had a phone with internet access. Soon we were Googling Peter, Paul and Mary songs, as well as songs by The Eagles and more. My son didn’t recognize these, but he did request Boots of Spanish Leather by Mandolin Orange. There are some things we lose when technology invades our life. I’m happy to say this wasn’t one of them.
I have to admit, I am not a sports fan. I don’t follow any sports except when the Olympics roll around. But I managed to find the story of Sloane Stevens. She is a tennis player who was ranked 934 in the world two weeks ago. Did she let that stop her? She went on to win, win mind you, the US Open.
I love this story for two reasons. First, she didn’t let her past affect her future. How many of us think that way? We almost apologize for our place at the table. We are defeated before we begin because we don’t truly believe in our own dreams. We need to own it. We need to treat our dreams as if they are the very air we breathe- we may not be able to see them, but they are real and ours for the taking.
The second reason why I love this story is what she did when she won.
I know nothing about Ms. Stephens, I do know a role model when I see one. I look forward to finding out more.