Thursday, October 10, 2013

Those things you frame

We've all got 'em, right?  Those framed things... the Prayer of Saint Francis, the Desiderata,  "Kiss the Cook", "Live Well, Laugh Often...", that hang in the kitchen, the living room...or in the garage: "Parking for 49er's Fans Only", the basement:  "Man Cave Rules:..." or elsewhere:  "Flush!"

I've got one, given to me by someone I barely knew, just before we moved away--how's that for "no particular sentimental connection"--and every time I think I'll put it in the charity donation pile, I read it again.
It says:
Look To This Day
Look to this day:
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence.
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendour of achievement
Are but experiences of time.

For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision;
And today well-lived, makes
Yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day;
Such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!

And then I take it out of the donation pile, and put it somewhere, intending to hang it up again.  

Lately, I've been getting a little self-congratulatory.  I've been comparing NOW to where I was a year ago.
Last year at this time, I was barely stumbling along in the fog of grief and trauma, plastering an optimistic face over my panicked sense that what I was living was "the new normal" and a fear that what I saw was all there would ever be.  I did NOT want to "Look well to this day". The chaos was just too daunting. And the future seemed impossibly foggy.  I was hardly able to keep track of appointments, numbers, phone calls to return...what day of the week it was, whether my youngest child had eaten dinner.  My teenager was lost and floundering in school and in life, my 1998 minivan was coughing and dying and coming up with new ways to strand me every week.  I was sleeping about 4 hours a night between nightmares.  And so, in my determined flight into distraction from the situation, I was taking on editing jobs, writing in a blog, looking at applying to grad school, and thinking about soon entering the world of dating.  (The diagnostic term for this condition is "Nucking Futs !!"  --be sure to include both exclamation points.  It will be in the next edition of the DSM, for sure. ) 

And a year later, I'm here.  I've gotten myself a smart phone that keeps track of appointments, numbers, phone calls to return, and what day of the week it is.  I'm still working on a program to keep tabs on the nutritional intake of the youngest kiddo, but Siri's "call home" between night classes, works pretty well.  Usually said kiddo can tell me if he ate what I prepared for dinner, or made himself a peanut-butter tortilla roll-up (we DO live in California... yes, he prefers tortillas to bread) .   My replacement mini-van means that I'm no longer on a first-name basis with the operator at AAA.  Grad school is a delightful reality that keeps me in a state of nerdly bliss on those carefully-guarded study days.  And when I'm sleep-deprived these days, it's not because of nightmares, at least.  I'm less prone to distracting myself, but I am still a die-hard over-loader of the calendar.  It's just that I'm doing it more successfully now that I can remember what day it is.

And it's tempting to think that I've entered that part of the poem that says, "the bliss of growth, the glory of action, the splendor of achievement", and that I'm going to stay there for a while.

But then I get hit with the next wave-- a teenager who has managed to find his way back to "lost and floundering", some feedback from a colleague at school that keeps me humble... and I'm reading the next line, "are but experiences of time."  Nothing's permanent: not the horror, not the high-fives.  I'm on the journey, and I'm here today.  And "in its brief course, lie all the verities and realities of (my) existence".

I have another sign that reminds me that my power to control things is limited.  It hangs in the kitchen where it seems like so many family conversations occur:

 I wonder if, every once in a while, my friends and should have a kitschy philosophical wall-art trade-off.  Who knows what treasures of ancient and modern thought are hand-lettered and decorated with a ribbon, gathering dust in someone's hallway closet?