Monday, July 7, 2014

What's On Your Clothesline?

My late grandmother used to explain it this way: If everybody put all their problems out in the open the way they hang their clothes in the backyard on a clothesline, everyone - after inspecting everyone else's - would still come back and choose their own. (Mind you, she was saying that back in those rough depression and WW ll days, when everyone was struggling and said laundry would be threadbare, patched, and hopelessly stained or faded; you could pretty much tell who was in the worst financial shape by the laundry.)

When I was a child my mom had it rough. She is temperamentally "high strung" by nature. She cared for both her parents until they died, and at the same time was raising her own three kids while Dad went out and earned the bacon. Eventually she wound up "hooked" on "nerve pills" while trying to cope. Those were very unhappy times for her and all of us. I remember her complaining constantly about the "hell" she went through at home (young kids can provide that for a parent, especially if their nerves are jangled already). We would sometimes drive down the streets on our way to church or the store and my mom would watch the houses go by and lament, "I wonder how much hell goes on in that home and that one and...." Sure, they might be all nice and tidy to all appearances from the outside. Still she wondered if the insides were full of fights and turmoil.

Recently I was reminded of those sad days while I was driving down the road with my lady friend as she was discussing how dysfunctional her family life is (and believe me, it really is). She said everybody's life has forms of craziness; everyone has at least some family tragedy or dysfunction (this, too, was said as we drove down the road looking at homes).

As I worked today I listened to my coworkers as they discussed the various problems facing them in their private lives. I thought about Grandmother. We have these problems and we somehow deal with them. We "inspect" other's laundry by airing our problems. No one seems to wish to exchange problems - not really. Our pain is a part of us.

I've often said it and I do believe it, that in my life so far I've had more than my share of good fortune and good health. Maybe I never had very high expectations of life. I was born into poverty, I'm not living hand-to-mouth now but know where my next meal is coming from and am at least financially solvent. It could all be swept away tomorrow, but it doesn't take much to make me happy. I think as long as I have a roof over my head, a place to sleep, something to eat, a ride to get me where I'm going, and maybe my old guitar, I will be fine.

I realize now that the busier your life is, the more crowded with proverbial "irons in the fire," the more potential there is for zaniness and unhappiness. Some folks can stand more stress than others. I notice the older I get the less stomach I have for pressure situations. I'm happiest now focusing on the basics and learning to accept the thousands of things that are just out of my control.

But that's me. Your laundry is okay, I suppose, while mine may show some wear and appear plain, but it's mine and I'll take it.

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