Sunday, December 2, 2018

Clean Up

Fact: I am the messiest cook in the history of ever.
Another Fact: I’m okay with that.

That I don’t care how big a mess I create while doing something might be attributable to my not minding the clean up step. Point of fact, I actually like the clean up stage of any project, whether cooking or crafting. I have a system. So as not to be overwhelmed, I don’t look at the whole mess, just the small section in front of me. When that is resolved, I move to the next section and then the next until I can look up and out and see everything all tidy again. It’s quite satisfying actually. 

This was something of a weird realization that rushed over me as I reordered my kitchen at the end of making Thanksgiving turkey leftover soup. First, as I assessed the chaos of my kitchen, I thought to myself that one turkey carcass being boiled for its last remaining useable essence should not have been cause for the use of so many utensils, bowls, pots and paper towels. Since it took the better part of a decorate-the-house-for-Christmas Saturday, it occurred to me that making leftover turkey soup was as time consuming and troublesome as making the original turkey dinner. 

But being an over thinker and all, as I usually do, while cleaning up the mess, even though I was bone-tired, I considered the task I launched into, regardless the complaints from my old hip, and why I didn’t really mind the clean up. Why I needed to get it done. 

This sort of thought processing requires serious introspection. I’ve always tried to stay true to myself, as Shakespeare once recommended, to know myself, the good, the bad and the ugly, so I often take stock of what I am doing and why. The why being the actual focus. So, I asked myself, why?  Why clean up - the part most people dread and groan over - is often the best phase of an endeavor for me?

My first thought was about closure. I am a problem solver so I naturally crave closure. By comparison I hate cliff hanger endings. I need a beginning and an ending. Doesn’t have to be happy like a fairytale or a Hallmark movie, but just a conclusion. A tidy wrap up. The endeavor itself, whether a meal or a work of art, is not quite as important to me as having followed through from step one concept to final putting things away. 

Clean up says, “Done!” Clean up says, “You tried, and regardless the outcome, you gave it all you had. Now move on." 

Sometimes in the cleaning up I look at the tools I used as I put them away and make notes - you might have used this instead - or- next time you can leave this step out - or - next time you will do better because now you know how you can improve this. 

Clean up says - all ready for next time!

Clean up is when you can say, I gave it what I had to give and now I intend to finish up by leaving where I did it as good as I found it, if not better. 

Clean up is when you accept that which you did, whether it resulted in a triumph or defeat, a success or failure, a bad choice or serendipitously wise move and note how it all added to you, one way or another. How you learned by the experience. How making messes is okay so long as you are being honest with yourself, others, and most particularly God, as you are also willing to finish with clean up. 

For Him,

This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day; thou canst not then be false to any man. ~ Shakespeare

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Just Thinking...Again

It’s the Ahhhh-Ha moments that keep life interesting. I had one of those recently when I picked up my 11 year old grandson, Judd, after school. He’s a talker and has no problem expressing his opinion on even the weightiest of topics. After the hi-how-was-your-day exchange he launched into his recently gained knowledge about the Vietnam War. 

Well, well, well. I launched back. You see that was the war of my youth. Just as WW2 was the war of my older sister’s youth, and Judd does love to chat with her about that historical event, I, too, have my embedded memories to share. I have what I consider my personal knowledge of all the sit-ins, protests, draft-dodging and rage expressed by my idealistic hippie peers, though I never personally participated in a demonstration. I did agree whole-heartedly that we should not be in that small country losing thousands of our young men and women for a rationale no one could clearly define and that no one would allow us to win so I sympathized.. 

My high school drama teacher wanted me to attend Kent State University because of the theater program the college offered. I didn’t go there but if I had, although not likely, I could have been in the middle of the mess when Ohio National Guard fired into a group of student protesters, killing four and wounding nine, in May of 1970. But that heart-stopping moment when I heard the news I felt a painful connection, even though I had no affiliation to the university or any student there. I didn’t even live in Ohio anymore. But it was a moment inspired by the deep empathetic emotion created in an era of high passion for what was then considered to be a righteous cause. 

I’m pretty sure Judd thought he was going to enlighten me when he opened the subject and wasn’t expecting all the things I was able to tell him about the Vietnam War in the handful of moments it took to return home. I might have unloaded a bit. Remnants of long-quelled passion perhaps? 

Summing it up and keeping it all relevant though, I told him our collective national attitude today about thanking a Vet for his/her service began during the Gulf War as a mea culpa from the terrible way the Vietnam Vets were treated when they returned after the war was ended when troops were flown in on transport planes in the middle of the night to avoid angry crowds gathered to continue beating their dead horse. 

For the record, I thought that was very wrong. I had my own opinion about who to blame for the war (that was not actually referred to as a war, rhetoric being so important to manipulate opinion and all). But the national idealistic mindset had gone from being opposed to the war to taking it out on the soldiers who had no other choice but to follow orders. Of those who returned alive, many came back to finish out forever ruined lives. Many came back damaged in all sorts of ways, physically and mentally. Many refused to speak of their life-altering experiences ever again.

Isn’t that how it always goes though? A collectively adopted opinion, whether right or wrong, senseless or not, becomes a stream of consciousness that people plug into for no other reason than everyone else is doing it because it ‘feels’ right. Passion is a highly moldable human vulnerability after all.

I seized the opportunity of that teachable moment to explain to my grandson that we make the effort today to appreciate and thank the men and women who put their lives on the line for us because there was an emotionally driven time once where we lost our way and let our passions for the idealism of the cause blind us to the reality as more than 56,000 young men and women died and many more were never the same again. Some were just kids I went to school with. That it took decades to finally come to grips with that reality so that a memorial could be erected for those lost in Vietnam is quite telling. 

As we pulled into the driveway, Judd concluded it was all political. I did mention he is only 11 didn’t I?

I read all sorts of recollections posted on social media of awful historical moments in time that constructed the reality of our national identity. We’ve had as many, if not more, bad as good getting us to where we are now.   Most all of which can be contributed to (blamed on) nothing more than our being flawed humans. Denying that is myopic. No matter how idealistic we are, which is a common state of being while forming ourselves in our aspiring youth, we can never be perfect. I know, I was there once. 

Unfortunately idealism, while it sounds good and often has great intentions, without being counter-balanced with a strong grip on the reality of being human, can and often does, send us flying off the rails leaving an inevitable trail of regrets to be picked over.

You have to get old like me to figure this out that we learn best by and through our mistakes even though it is a given we will make more before we breathe our last since there’s still so much to learn. 

The take away is: thanking a Vet today can never heal the damage done from the previous mistake but it might keep us from making that one again.

For Him,