I was thinking about a reply I made this morning to a dear friend’s comment on my little Christmas card. I’m going to repeat it and embellish a little here because—well, sometimes I worry that people don’t understand why I choose to write what I do. That maybe they think I’m misrepresenting my life, trying to make it all shiny and successful and American Dreamy. My friend observed that the pictures of our family at Sunday dinner were full of love. And they were because we were. But our get-togethers are not always totally harmonious. So this is what I said:
You do know we fight and get huffy and misunderstand each other and act badly, too – right? I know you know this. Because you live in a real family, too. I think we bloggy sorts don’t choose to write about those acrimonious bits because life, love, family – all are a work in progress. We strengthen ourselves and choose our path each time we recognize the brilliant loving patterns working—realizing that this is the path we want, and want badly. So we are moved to write in a state of wonder and gratitude, focusing our own hearts on what is strong, growing and healthy.
I think that the darker side of blogging is to write in the hopeless or bitter moments instead. And I think, also, that there are people – like those folks who hate and resent and love to sneer at “mommy blogs,” – who think we are just lying and bragging and distorting the realities of life by not sharing images of darkness and disappointment.
The thing is, I choose hope – and I love light – and that is where my heart will dwell. That is where I sing. Husbands and wives are never perfect – harmony is never perfect – we are not built for perfection in this world. It’s the direction the face faces, the direction the foot reaches out for a hold on the path—that decides which paths we propel ourselves along—toward light or dark, toward growth or a simmering bitterness.
I am afraid that there are people who do not want to be happy, who embrace cynicism and bitterness as though they held a lifejacket in their arms instead of a choking weight. It’s clarity, love, hope and joy that I want to grab with hands and arms and legs – and I will fight for that. Just as you do, and Rachel does and my sister does, and Donna and Linda and Dawn and Jenni, and my daughters and the rest of my truly dear friends do. And we will make it—because we are deliberately cultivating light, and we will turn and look back as we go and like where we have been, simply because we keep moving in the direction of light, our resolve lit with hope and made material in gratitude.
I capture these loving family images because I need never to lose them. Not that images can freeze anything so that it will keep forever. Nothing will keep that long in this life. But the point is, I deliberately choose these images—I choose them to define me, and then I do whatever I can, deliberately – hard-scrabble little loss as I am – to bring myself into that definition, to fit it. Sometimes this is great work. But I choose that, too.
I wanted to tell you a little more about the party group.
It’s an eclectic enclave of folks, the core of which are people we’ve known for more than thirty years. But also there are people we’ve only known for five or six years. Old college roommates. Musicians we’ve been working with for that long. Some are songwriters. Some arrangers. Some singers and players. We have electrical engineers, too. And one who used to sell radio ad time, but now does fencing material. We have famous writers and unknown writers. And people who have dedicated their lives to bringing up their children and creating the micro-cultures of home. A couple who repair cameras. Some who make stained glass windows. Several who are teachers or librarians or who work in school administration offices. Animators and artists. Illustrators. Fathers and mothers and children. Tech guys who train people on complex computer programs. Great cooks. Lousy cooks. One who is the DP on Bones. Firemen. Radio show hosts. Teachers of chemistry or dance or other things. People who have lived in Brazil, England, Argentina, France – so many countries, so many languages. People who have never lived outside the country at all. Runners. Cyclists. Horsefolk. We have brilliant crafters and people who hate crafting like poison. Some are quiet. Some are very funny. Some are close to or over seventy years old, some who are under twenty four. The things we have in common are our faith and just general good will.
And that’s what makes the party so fun. A lot of these people are close friends with each other now only because this party exists – might never have known each other at all if we hadn’t gathered them in and thrown them together. And that’s my favorite, VERY favorite part about all this. I feel like a Yenta, thank you very much.
I was just listening to a song G recorded for our dear friend, Mike McClean – it’s called, “The Greatest Thing I’ve Ever Done.” And I started thinking about that. About great things, and whether I had ever done any. And I decided I had. And I decided to try to make a list, however short. And of course, I’m putting that list right here:
1. Getting pregnant the second time. And the fourth and last time. In spite of what I knew might be coming at me.
2. Teaching. And one or two things I chose to do while I was teaching. Like standing by one of my students, who was wrongfully accused. And loving the ones I once would never have given a second look.
3. Saying no when I needed to. When it was right. When it wasn’t easy.
4. Admitting I am wrong – which I have done at least twice in my life.
5. Learning my lesson – ditto.
6. Getting out of bed on those few mornings when I was afraid to be alive.
7. Being there for my kids.
8. Living so I could go to the temple.
9. Forgetting some things I would have loved to hold onto and simmer over.
10. Planning the trips to Paris and England and Disneyworld. Not because of where we went, but because I just, for no apparent reason, cowboyed-up realized that dreams were about to slip away and actually DID something, instead of just meaning to.
11. Keeping the horses even when I was terrified of them.
12. Paying tithing. Amazed that I can let the money go.
13. Going to see my mother in the rest home for the first time.
14. Writing just a very few letters when I’d finally had enough – and eventually seeing them change the world, at least part of it.
I know this doesn’t sound like much. No statues or immortality here. But these were great things for me, because I am a small person and a big scardy cat and lazy and apt to dream instead of do. I could also make a list of the most terrible things I’ve ever done, mostly on this same under-the-radar level, but things I still hurt over. Like the time when I was in fourth grade, collecting newspapers for the paper drive in LA – the girl across the street came with me, a harmless, willing person – but at one corner, some mean little boys came up and started calling her “ree-tard,” a term still, sadly, in use today – and I denied knowing her to keep myself safe from them. I’ll never get over doing that.
Anyway, that’s what I was thinking about this morning as I fed the horses.
So I just wanted to ask you: what is the greatest thing YOU have ever done?
I think my word for 2012 may be BRAVE. If I take it on, maybe I’ll digest it.