Today I had one of those thoughts that runs through my mind from time to time...but I've actually been fortunate enough to remember it. That's because there's a lot of "stuff" packed in the ole gray matter, and I've learned that it is absolutely necessary to write things down or I'll drive myself crazy trying to recapture a wisp of whatever it was that was profound yet slipped away like vapor. I get frustrated with that and will often try to employ one of my superpowers (granted by God)...which is a photographic memory of sorts coupled with an inclination to remember things that matter not.
My other superpowers are retaining vestiges of every carb I've ever eaten, seeing things that are being missed in a given situation, and according to Big Dave...spelling. But years of remembering names, faces, directions, routes, and everything else has caused a traffic jam or twelve and the wires get crossed. That and turning 50...or so I'm told. I refuse to buy into that quite yet.
Yes, I have stored in my memory a lot of things that probably should have been left out of it since I can now look up whatever I need to know online including the list of prepositions in alphabetical order from the 7th grade, the state capitals, the soliloquy from "Hamlet" (eh, some of it, anyway) and the lyrics to some truly heinous songs from the 80s. I can remember the names of people I went to school with, several recipes (because I'm not a terribly adventurous cook), the proper care of violets, several muscle groups and what they are called, and pretty much a standard order at just about every restaurant in town. There's some bible verses, the phone numbers of some people from my hometown and numerous birthdays stuck in there as well along with the birthdays of people's children who I rarely talk to anymore...but whatever.
I mean...I have trouble recalling people's names if I met them within the past five years. But I can tell you what a friend was going to name her son in 1985 but changed it in the hospital to something entirely different. Other than freaking him out by knowing this...I can't imagine why I held on to this information.
So, retracing my steps today, I tried to think about what it was that I needed to hold onto so that I could expand on it here in this format. Knowing me, and the time of day I go to lunch, I was probably listening to talk radio. Yes. I listen to THAT guy. And I like it. Primarily because beneath all of the bluster and bravado is someone actually making sense. Is he perfect? No. But he's obviously dang good to have survived these twenty years and helped revitalize the failing AM radio band. Just saying.
Anyway, the conversation was about how people expect government to do more and more for us and how different that is from how it used to be. How people didn't expect other people to pick up their slack and that it was actually okay if we didn't have everything we ever wanted. It made me think...
Think about times that Big Dave and I did without because we couldn't do something called "vacations" because the money wasn't there. So he and I would load up in our used car and drive to the beach for the day. The entire trip would cost us $30...which now would probably equate to about $100. We did this often during the first five years of our marriage.
We also didn't own a washing machine until we'd been married for two years, and a dryer until we'd been married for four. We saved up money for a down payment on a house by living in what we affectionately referred to as the "Dalmation Arms" - a name given to it by a family member because the building was white with black mildew spots. Yes, I had a friend who had the cutest decorated house in country blue with geese and the most precious dishes to serve guests on when we were invited over for dinner. How she had curtains in her home, and how everything was utilized and had a place was a complete and total mystery to me. Twenty eight years later...I still don't have curtains in every room.
So not kidding.
At that point in time, my house was a far cry from "put together." It was functional...thanks to the fact that Big Dave's parents parted with some truly heinous brown and tan plaid living room furniture that was heavy as all get out...but worked and they were a bit tired of. Right before we moved into our new house in 1989, my mother-in-law won a little table and chairs in a drawing at a furniture store and gave us the dinette set because we didn't have anything.
Bear in mind that Big Dave came into this marriage with student loans, a black trunk, a bag with softball equipment, mattresses that you could feel the springs through if you got too close to the middle, a bed frame and a picture of "Dogs Playing Poker." Yeah, that picture didn't make it long.
Want it to be even sadder? I brought my clothes and a small black and white TV that I had in my dorm room. All of it fit into my 1978 slate blue Chevette.
Thanks to the generosity of friends and family, and the fact that I married six weeks after graduating from college, we had cookware, dishes, towels, sheets, and a few decorative items. We spent our wedding money on a honeymoon to a family beachhouse and purchased a 19" Sony TV. We had that TV until it finally died 21 years later.
Never once did we consider asking our parents for help...although from time to time they would do something for us that made it easier. And I can tell you that it never crossed our minds to ask the government for anything.
Even though we make more now, have a fine home, a pool, two dogs and an outside cat, are content to know that we have or are educating our children in the best way we could/can, and we have first-world problems like trying to pick out draperies when we (me) are clueless about such things, I still don't think about how I might get the government to give me a little "help" so that I can live the life I want that doesn't involve getting up every day and going to a job.
I really don't.
I feel that one of the things that we have done to the current generation is to give them too much because we could. We didn't want them to struggle getting out of the cocoon...so we "helped" them by cutting it a little so they can get out without as much difficulty. In the process of doing that, we have actually hindered them from developing strength in the wings that they'll need for flying off someday and creating the life that God intends for them.
We give them pedicures when they are twelve and rent them limos for the Senior Prom. We pay for Coach purses and Tori Burch flats. We give them a string of pearls for graduation and decorate their dorm rooms/apartments/homes as if Southern Living were coming to film there. And just as we think we have done an amazing job...they will inadvertently act as though our offering is "normal." They don't mean to. But it happens.
Not that doing for your kids is bad in itself. It is not. Okay, other than the purses and flats...which I think are ridiculously overpriced and I refused to buy into. We had the ability to give them more than we had, and we looked around and saw everyone else pretty much doing the same. We may have held back, or made them work, or even bought them a car when they turned 16 that was not from the current decade. But it was a far cry from what we made do with twenty or thirty short years before.
A far cry.
Don't even get me started on the fact that we might have had one or two designer (ie "Polo") shirts hanging in the closet (in our generation it was "Izod" that later reinvented itself as "Lacoste") instead of one in every color. That we might have had four dresses hanging in our closet...instead of thirty. That our idea of "tanning" was baby oil with iodine in it.
I know that the past few years have been tough, and I will not go all into it from a political standpoint. People have learned to do more with less, and there are people who truly need help to get them from Point A to Point B. I'm not looking down on that. I am also not talking about people relying on Social Security that they paid into for years and years either or those that are truly disabled or in a tough place in life. I'm really not.
I'm talking about those who are all "I'll get mine..." or who make lifestyle choices to follow a dream or career path that is valuable but may not have the financial payoff that they need to survive. Yet they pursue that path and expect everyone else to pony up for the choices that they've made while others have slugged it out in the 8-5 world missing out on raising their children 24/7 and/or dealing with people who have run their stress levels up to "Danger! Will Robinson!" and beyond.
Yes, all of us would like to follow our dreams. Some of us have to sacrifice ours to survive. And in doing so...we may earn benefits like retirement or healthcare or vacation time. I highly resent being made to feel guilty for making my choices while others made theirs...yet I'm expected to pick up their slack too. I think not.
Life is a series of choices, payoffs, and regrets. You have to do what you can live with...and not expect everyone else to make it "fair." Life is anything but fair. But it is beautiful and tragic and thrilling. So there's that.
Fair would mean that I wouldn't be as blessed as I am since I'll be taxed more or maybe it would mean that I would have to make do on far less because what I need will cost more. But I should be able to choose that. I should be able to give my time, gifts or treasure to those I deem in need of it. And due to other people making that choice for me...I may just get stuck being abused because I happened to get from Point A to Point B and it wasn't fair that others couldn't. What they fail to recognize is what I gave up along the way to get there. Time, energy, blood, sweat and tears that I'll never get back. Please remind me how this is fair...
In the families that Big Dave and I were born into, we were taught to work for what we wanted. How to shop on a sale rack for a deal. That the world wouldn't end if we didn't have everything we wanted when we wanted it in the color, size, style and price range we wanted it. We raised our children to feel the same way...although we did spoil them a little bit along the way by making it easier than we had it. Fortunately, they aren't the worse for it.
That seems to be a little of what is wrong in America today. Nobody wants to wait for anything. We want instant food, so we swing through a drive-thru. Our children begin wanting a boyfriend or girlfriend at age 12 instead of waiting until they are old enough to meet "the one." The fashion powers encourage us to dress our 7 year olds like streetwalkers, and our government tells them that they are in charge of their own bodies should they get pregnant before they really understand what that means.
We like quick dry nail polish, DVR (so we don't have to endure commercials) and messages on our phones that let us know that someone needs to interact with us. Entire industries are geared around getting it done better, cheaper, faster and more interestingly than ever before.
And for what?
I have come to the point in my life where I want to be more intentional. I want to get out of the rat race and just love the people in my life. I don't care if I ever achieve a perfect looking home or if I ever get to wear something that I feel pretty in again. What I care about is trying to just enjoy what time I have here surrounded by people and things that bring me joy.
Everything else is non-essential.
I remember back to those days when Big Dave and I had a Christmas tree that we bought at somewhere like Fred's for $19.99 decorated with colored balls and lights. How magical it was to have our own space and look at catalogs and dream.
I'm getting back to dreaming again...and being content to be without everything I ever wanted. I understand how fragile life can be sometimes when people leave or age or move. How what is aggravating beyond belief one minute is something that you pine for the next. How easy it is to get caught up in trying to do everything just right...before you realize that it is as futile as rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
As for me, I'll be trying to keep my head straight and my heart guarded. I will look up instead of "in" when I start to wonder what in the world is going on with everything I'd always taken for granted. I'll be grateful for the fact that I know how to do more with less...because that's really my default setting...truth be told.
And maybe...if I'm lucky...I can get those prepositions out of my head to make room for something far more important. Like plans for the upcoming holiday season and all that this entails. On taking care of people who need it and loving people in my circle of friends. Because that is what life is all about.
It really is.