blank'/> Mirth, Melancholy, and the Mundane: June 2010

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Looking Back, Going Forward

There are two truths in my life that may seem to be unrelated, but recently I've come to see how they link together like tributaries that eventually feed the same stream.

The first truth is that I do not want children and am not sure if I ever will. I have determined three reasons for this. The first reason is that I'm too selfish; it may sound harsh, but I can honestly say that I like my life the way it is and I'm unwilling to give that up right now. I know that having children changes everything and I'd rather not bring any into the world unless I know I'm ready to sacrifice life as I know it. I know there are countless rewards in parenthood, but that is not enough to remove this basic obstacle to becoming one. The second reason is that the world is often a horrible place and I'm not sure I want to subject a child to it. I know that's a 'big picture' reason which overlooks the microcosm of the immediate family and the smaller joys that life has to offer, but that does not change the truth of the larger world. The world makes me sad in many ways, and I don't want to give it to a child. We should be doing better for the earth and for all the people in it and until we do, I'm not ready to create another generation. The last reason is that I can't think of a reason why I, personally, should have a child. I know that for many it is an amazing and powerful experience that is filled with infinite joys and beauty, and I am so happy for those who feel this way. I do not blame others for wanting children, it is just that those joys and that beauty is not enough of a seed for me to have one myself. Unlike so many who have children and should not, or have children when they are not yet ready, I have thought long and hard about this and I know that this is the right decision for me, for now. I will leave parenting to those infinitely more suited for it, and I will support and love them and their children and celebrate the moments of joy they share with me. And that will be enough.

The second truth is that my last surviving grandparent passed away last July. Four years prior to my parental grandfather's death, to the day, my grandmother left us. I lost my maternal grandmother many years ago, and my maternal grandfather died before I was born. I've also lost an aunt, my mother's youngest sibling. I do not think I have suffered any greater loss than any other who had to say goodbye to a loved one, but these losses pain me greatly, as they do my whole family. We are close knit and not very large, so every loss leaves a deep hole that can never really be filled. We toast on their birthdays, we shed tears randomly, we hear their voices in our heads, we carry mementos with us and decorate our houses with them. Sometimes, I even fancy I see grandpa disappear around a corner or grandma get swallowed within a crowd of taller people. In short, I will never forget them because they are never really gone, though I will ever mourn their tangible absence from my life.

What ties these truths together is more than just that they are both connected to family and the precious and indescribable bonds that tie a strong family together. There is a small part of my heart that feels wistful and guilty about not having children. My sister has two beautiful sons, so it isn't that, but there's something special about giving one's parents grandchildren and carrying on the family traditions, teaching another generation what it means to be a family. This is especially true in today's world, when it seems that divorce is commonplace and tragedy strikes at every and any moment. This tiny feeling of lingering regret that tugs on my heartstrings is what brings me to my grandparents. As the older generation has slipped away from me, I feel like we are also losing our chance to explore the past that went with and before them. In my grandfather's house were stacks of yellowed newspaper clippings that chronicled the weddings, births, and deaths of generation upon generation stretching behind this family of which I am so proud. It is here that I found the means to give back to them.

This is the kernel of my legacy. Instead of continuing the family tree forward down through the years to come, I am working on building the tree backwards, filling in the branches and the missing links, uncovering the roots that brought us to where we are today. This is my gift to the future of my family, this is what I will pass down. Not the living, beating heart of a child, but the means to look down through the ages at all the branches and deep roots that created the boundless love that my sister and my cousins have surrounded their children with and network of love they will feel from aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers, great aunts and great uncles, cousins, and siblings. I will carry out this labor of love with attentiveness, with devotion, and with care. It is a gift that some will appreciate more actively than others, but it is represents something that every member of our family benefits from every day of their lives, through every word and act of love that we share.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Aggravating Trifles Part I

I'm sure this entry could potentially get very long, but since this is Part I, I'm only going to pick two things. I'm fairly certain that my rants on these have already been heard, but there's something satisfying about moving beyond oral tradition into something more lasting. Anyway, the two things on this list are little quirks in the way we function in the world that make me question how much we can rely on the big things when we can't even get the little things right. So, without further ado, I shall begin what will undoubtedly be a multifaceted, multi-entry look at those aggravating little things that really don't mean anything in the big picture.

Fortune Cookie Fortunes.
Fortune cookie fortunes are not fortunes. I was so surprised to get one recently that I carry it around in my wallet, despite the fact that I accidentally ripped it in half. Think about it...when was the last time you cracked open a fortune cookie and pulled out that tiny piece of paper with a random word on it in Chinese on one side and an actual fortune on the other? It seems wrong to be surprised that one was fortunate enough to receive a fortune - that is like being surprised to find an oyster upon opening an oyster. It's a simple case of nomenclature. Now, I'm not saying that what accompanies our mini-lesson in how to say "mangoes" or "tomorrow" isn't good advice -- indeed, it makes sense that if you "speak well of others you need never whisper" and that you should "be assertive when decisive action is needed." But that's just it -- it is advice, not a fortune. The last thing I want after eating too many garlic noodles is a lecture on a tiny piece of slightly stained paper stuffed inside a free check-paperweight. This is especially true in a restaurant where, for whatever reason, they always present one more cookie than there are people at the table (which is a whole different entry about PF Chang's inability to count). However, I can't unilaterally complain; because, to be fair, there is the occasional fortune in the Advice Cookie. Sage advice from the annals of cookie wisdom aside, you can sometimes find an actual fortune, as vague and cheerily optimistic as it might be. The fortune I carry in my wallet, for instance, tells me that "a lifetime of happiness lies ahead" -- which is a pretty nice fortune, actually. Perhaps I should play those lucky numbers in the lottery. (Convenient that the annals of cookie wisdom proffer a quantity of digits which coincides neatly with many versions of the lottery). Before I do, however, let me just open this leftover fortune cookie to see what it says. Ahh... "a fool and his money are soon parted." So much for the lottery, but at least I can say "receipt" in Chinese.

Sleep Number Beds:
First, there's a logical fallacy inherent in the Sleep Number Bed philosophy that drives me nuts. It's a little complex...but it makes sense to me and it annoys me, so here it is. The commercials suggest to me that I may be suffering from back pain because my bed is not right for me. This is told in an informative sort of way -- much the way that you might be told that there could be a build-up of radon in your basement and you would never know until you became too sick to buy the product being sold. The commercial then invites me to experience a sleep number bed and get the best night's sleep I've ever had, free of said pain. Here's where I think way too much about the sales pitch and wonder about a fundamental question. Namely this: If I didn't know that it was my bed that was giving me my back pain, how can I possibly be trusted to choose a number that will alleviate it? "You didn't even know you had this, fix it." Sure, they have a nifty calculator of weight, height, and sleeping habits on their website, but one of the questions asks what kind of mattress I like. Clearly, if the commercial is to be believed, the bed I like is wrong. Maybe, on the scale of Random Numbers, they suggest one that represents the opposite of whatever I answer. The second thing about Sleep Number Beds is the fact that they are, for all intents and purposes, air mattresses. A glorified air mattress that will lighten your finances by at least $1,000 (and that's if you are lucky enough to purchase the base model on one of the 361 days of the year that mattresses are on sale) -- and that's the bottom of the barrel. If you want really fancy, you're looking at $3500 on sale. On sale! Now, don't get me wrong...I wouldn't critique something I hadn't tried (well, yes I would, but I might not blog about it). I've slept on one in a hotel (granted, hotel furniture quality might be a bit suspect, but it was a nice hotel). Settling myself against large and comfortable pillows, I held down the button and was lulled to sleep by the whir of an air pump as I set the bed to 75 on the Random Number Scale. When I woke up in the morning, it was at 20. I felt like I was camping with uncommonly nice sheets.

Maybe I can use the lucky numbers in my fortune cookie to set up the mattress next time I'm in that hotel...

Until I write just another blog...

PS - Rats love fortune cookies.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The First Entry

I've always wanted to start a blog, but I was never overly convinced I had anything of import to say. Recently, I decided that I didn't really care if and it didn't really matter if my musings were meaningful or earth-shattering. I just want to write and share some of the strange things that go through my head on any given day. I've been encouraged to go ahead with it by people whose opinions I value, as well, and that's always a good motivator.

One of the reasons I want to blog is that I have always been told I think too much (usually about the wrong things at the wrong times), and over the years I learned not to share a lot of it on account of not wanting to be ridiculed for being stranger than I was already assumed to be. (That sentence was convoluted). It's the same thing that made me stop using big words in everyday conversations and hide the books I was reading. These days, for whatever reason, I embrace my 'geekiness' and so a blog suddenly seems like a great idea. I have people in my life who genuinely seem curious about my stream of consciousness, no matter how cold or deep the water might be. Or how full of crawdads.

Being reasonably sure that there are people out there who are genuinely interested in what I have to say is, as I said, a great motivator. So, here I am. I don't know how often I will post or even what I will ultimately write about, but I can promise that it will always be honest and it will always be a reflection of who I am (for better or worse). I'm going to attempt to write fairly regularly and I'm going to attempt to not over-think the process. I am a perfectionist and tend to be editing right up until the moment I'm supposed to be doing something with whatever it is I'm writing. I'm going to endeavor NOT to do that here. Too much. Really. I don't want to polish it until it has a hole in it.

In any event...thanks for stopping by and thanks for reading. Hope you come back. :)