Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Not Going Even a Tiny Bit Postal

Not Going Even a Bit Postal
After a Crushing Delivery
Cram it in the mailbox. Doesn’t fit? Doesn’t matter. The mail must be delivered. If it gets in the box, that counts as delivered, even though cramming is damaging.
I have a precious (albeit cracked and mended) cup that was wedged in a too-tight mailbox. I’ve pried packages from mailboxes. Recently, a flat package with a hard surface was folded and then pushed into the mailbox. At least the letter carrier didn’t do a complete fold and was satisfied with a bend, so the gift doesn’t have a hard crease all down the middle.
The hard crease is only the top inch of the mat of the original watercolor painting I received. I glanced at the painting for only a moment, and then I focused on the crease. Then I focused on the slight bowed shape of the painting.
The mail carrier is busy, busy. She has a schedule to meet. I’m in a Facebook group for the development where I live, so I know far too many people received damaged mail. I suppose I should be grateful that the gift even arrived at my address. I am, but I’m not grateful for the damage.
I flashed on writing a nasty note to the carrier. I imagined taking a photo of the painting with its bowed shape and crease at the top. I would print the photo, add a not-so-nice note, and place it in the mailbox with the flag up. I also would post that photo on my social media group and sit back and wait for multiple angry notifications as others shared their own mail woes. We could have a collective bitchfest/mini-rage about the mail. I also imagined reporting the carrier to the post office and having her reprimanded.
As I devised my small acts of vengeance and savored the fruits of my anger, I also imagined describing the painting rather than taking a photo. I then realized that I was so invested in being angry that I didn’t really know what the painting looked like.
That stopped me short. My energy was so caught up in anger, spreading the negativity, and contemplating acts of vengeance that I didn’t even know the basics of the painting that had only minimal damage.
I stopped complaining and looked at the painting. The multicolored flowers greet a swallowtail butterfly hovering above them. Looking closer, I realized that it isn’t exactly a swallowtail, but it has similarities. It has deep blue in several shades, so I know my gift giver paid attention when she was here. She noticed the blue throughout my house and knows it’s a color I love. She also noticed that the color isn’t overwhelming. The blue in the painting is subtle—it is only a part of the painting, just like blue is only a part of what could loosely be called the “d├ęcor” in my house. The flowers are masses of colors and shapes, just like my flowerbeds.
I spent so much energy thinking about how I would wreak vengeance and express my anger at the mail carrier, that I missed the painting. I missed the colors. I missed the attention. I missed the details.
Anger does that. It obscures most of what is happening with the red film that covers one’s eyes. It isn’t an attractive film. It’s less attractive when the film obscures reason and one then acts on the anger.
I’m relieved that I didn’t vent and complain on social media. I didn’t take photos and leave a nasty note for the letter carrier. Instead, I looked at the painting and focused on what matters to me. I focused on what kind of response I want to make in my life to things that bother me. I focused on the beauty of the painting. Does it have a flaw? Yes, but the flaw is in the mat, not the art. Will I cover the flaw when I frame it and hang it? No, I won’t. It is a good reminder to skip anger and go to what matters in my life: art, beauty, gratitude.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

I Will Have It

Why I Have Too Much Stuff
Having It vs. Using It
 “I will have it,” he said, after I asked
what he would do with it.
Propped against the stop sign, the piece of wood was no ordinary stick. It was about three feet high and had artful twisted shapes. No mere stick, it called out, “Take me. I’m cool.”
It was cool. We noticed and we wanted. It was there for the taking on that undeveloped street—or not. I turned right at the stop sign and asked, “Do you want it?”
“Yes,” he answered, “but maybe not enough to turn around and get it.”
“What will you do with it?”
“I will have it,” he said.
If we were in a comic strip, a light bulb would be shining in the bubble over my head. “Ah. There it is, the having versus the needing or using.”
I have too much stuff. The problem is that I have it. I don’t need it and often, I don’t use it. I simply have it.
I have some rose-scented dishwashing liquid. I bought it because I had to have it. Rose scents beguile and beckon me like The Odyssey’s sirens.
That rose-scented dishwashing liquid sits on my sink. It’s barely been used. Why? Because I want to have it. I tried using it to wash mere dishes, but it seemed wasteful when I pumped out the precious fluid to clean a dog food bowl or a grease-encrusted pot—kind of like casting pearls before swine. Dirty dishes are not swine, however; they are just dishes. When I consider it, that near-full bottle of soap is just soap, rose scent aside.
I know it’s just soap and I know it has a purpose and that purpose is not to take up space in my kitchen, in my psyche, in my life.
But I want to have it, even while knowing that having it is pointless if I don’t use it. It’s not a Van Gogh or priceless piece of artwork that has worth simply because it is. It’s not precious stones. It’s soap. It is for washing.
I want to use it for washing, just maybe not washing dog food bowls or empty cat food cans before they are placed in the recycling bin.
Having something like soap is use-less if it isn’t used. I know this. I know this about all the stuff I have that I don’t use.
My challenge to myself is to use the rose-scented soap. Maybe I don’t have to use it for the cup with a crusty coffee ring in the bottom. Maybe I don’t have to use it for the bowl I removed from the fridge that held too-old leftovers. Maybe I can put it in a place where the scent will linger and will remind me of the gift inherent in the soap—the scent. My challenge is to use it well rather than have it. I do need soap, so it is use-less if it sits on a sink so I can just have it.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mothering Cut Short

Mothering Cut Short
It’s that day when Americans sing the praises of mothers, past, present, and mothers-to-be. Celebrating mothers is a fine thing. Celebrations are a fine thing.
However, it is not so fine a thing that amid the chorus of “Happy Mother’s Day!” are far too many silenced voices. Those are the voices of children lost. It’s a bittersweet day for women who long to hear those voices. Bittersweet because they are mothers, but there will be no mothering of their child today. Bittersweet because mothering their child made them who they are, shaped them, taught them a love like no other. They wouldn’t trade that love for the earth’s finest riches, but they would give away the pain of loss without a second thought—if they could. They cannot.
So, today, they will have a day—but not the Mother’s Day of cards, chocolate, and peanut butter on toast served on a tray, wildflowers in a vase nearby.
They might say, “Yes, I was.” Or they might say, “Yes, I am.” They might stumble through the day with lead feet. They might walk as if on air. They might pull the covers over their heads and decide that, today, they will not walk at all.
One thing they will do today is miss their child—aged sixteen days or sixty years. Mother’s Day isn’t different in that respect; mothers who have lost miss their child every day.
Some days it’s harder. Today, it’s harder. What can you do? Love them. Love them more today. It won’t change the day. It won’t change the loss. Love might make the loss a bit lighter to carry—not only on Mother’s Day but every day.