Up is Down, Down is Up

 I had a day last week with nothing scheduled. Did I spend 6 hours catching up on research? Nope. I drove to nearby city. Did I go to an art gallery or meet new people in a coffeehouse? No. I went to Trader Joes and Target and took my vacuum to the Dyson Service Center. And let me tell you, that Dyson stop was the best thing that happened to me that day. They took my vacuum right away, to the lady in an actual workshop in the back of the store. Santaland for grownups. Repair was covered under warranty, even though I didn’t bring a receipt. They gave me a new baseplate. While I waited, I got to play with the Dyson products in the little gallery in the front. 

I kicked Daughter out of my bed. I had to. I’ve been waking up at 2:30am, and then I started waking up at 12:30am. I don’t need to expose her to my insomnia. Plus, she hogs up the whole bed, and it’s not good for me to roll out of bed with a stiff back. It’s unfortunate timing, because I bought a new duvet during my excursion to nearby city, and she thinks that duvet is a marvelous thing. When she moved to her bed, I brought the new duvet over to her. She appreciated that.  I woke up this morning with the duvet on top of my bed. She must have brought it to me in the night. 

It’s these little kindnesses–that I give to them, that they give to me–that keep us going.

Garbage Day is a busy day for me. Sometimes I’m too tuckered to bring the can back up the driveway. That’s how I felt this past garbage day. I sat down, remembered the can, and figured I’d bring it up in the morning. But then I thought about my new garbage can out there. It has wheels. It’s square and fits in a nice spot–easy access for the garbage men without tipping into the street. I actually considered that someone might steal this precious garbage can. I grabbed a flashlight and fetched my can.

 Victor Frankl suggests it’s man’s search for meaning, not happiness, that keeps us going. My vacuum, that new garbage can–I count on them, and I take some pride in them, weirdly enough.

When I drove to nearby city, I took the new highway that I ran the 5k on. I recognized the scenery from the run. The uphills don’t seem like much when you’re in a car, actually, even though they felt imposing enough on the run. The downhills, though, are discernible, but they were too gradual to give me any relief during the run.

 Working and raising children on my own, with all our baggage, is hard in places that may not look hard. The “fun” stuff doesn’t sustain us the way it does for other folks, and those “downhills” can actually present their own challenges. We seem to be following some other pattern.

 Warren Wilhelm, Jr., nicknamed “Bill,” was the son of an alcoholic who, it seems, was violent. His mom made the dad leave, tried to keep in touch with him, but the dad blew it. He left their life and eventually took his own life. It’s not clear to outsiders what the dad did wrong, but he clearly did some damage. It’s telling that Warren took his mother’s maiden name when he came to adulthood and became Bill De Blasio, who won New York’s mayoral election this week on a campaign committed to racial equality.

 I invited a guest lecturer to my class this week. He started talking about his father, who was a lawyer. His father embezzled money from clients and spent a year in prison. I sat, stunned, looking at my guest speaker, who was revealing some damage in his childhood. And here he was, a man with a distinguished career, who is now the head of a social justice organization empowering people in one of our country’s roughest cities.

 Chances are, both of these guys could have coasted through life, but they were both damaged. They went on to succeed, but more than that, they display some compassion and commitment to justice. They are fighting the good fight for others.

 Plenty of people have looked at me and said we’re going to be okay. I guess it’s easy to look at us and say that. It’s not easy to pass time until we get there. There’s not a lot of brightness in our lives right now. Some good stuff happens, but we don’t benefit much from material success or leisure or all the other stuff that is supposed to be the good stuff. Nope, it’s pretty much a slog.

The trick seems to be to just keep slogging along, capture the moments when they arrive. A small kindness. A dentist appointment that isn’t a disaster. Laugh at one of my son’s witty rejoinders. Marvel at the ingenuity of the new Dyson fan. Hold those moments, then let them go. Just keep going. Bear down when things get rough, and they get rough sometimes. Not sleeping doesn’t help matters. Bear down. When someone can’t take it anymore, then forgive. When our hearts break and lay bare and wide open, use the moment to show love and compassion, because that’s when the heart can receive it, and that’s when the heart needs it. Someday, apparently, we’re all going to be okay. We might even do great things. That seems unimaginable right now, but not impossible.