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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Reframe Your Past in Your Mind- To Whatever Gets You Through the Night

Occasionally I think back nostalgically on my childhood, though if you ever blurt that out to anyone, I'll have to smack you. The public must believe my childhood was pure misery! Just kidding. At least on the weekends, chaos ruled my household. There were no assigned chores, I could stay in my pajamas all day without so much as a sideways glance from my Washington D.C.-commute-wearied & work-distracted lone parent, the TV played perpetual good movies on cable, or MTV played terrific music videos all day long. Those were the days, like Archie & Edith Bunker sang nearly every week for ten years. My weekend days were made up of walking twisting paths, most long-forgotten, lost to time, probably never to return to my aging-by-the-minute brain. If I managed to get dressed & go outside, that is. If exploring wasn't a part of the game plan, a long trip to the playground might be in order, perhaps taking a walk on a new path near my apartment complex might be fun, or I'd simply join a game of catch that was played on the sidewalk with a couple of casual friends. I came home for dinner when one of two things happened- one, it started to get dark, or two, my still-distracted but responsible-enough parent called out for my butt to get inside right now. The Voice of Mom was The Voice of God, as far as I was concerned, and I never disobeyed it. Nighttime always meant a few hours parked on the sofa, cuddling with Mom, watching whatever awesome movie, comedy special or great series happened to be on HBO that night. This was the 80's, after all- if you had HBO, MTV, Showtime & CBS (because watching "Dallas" was mandatory protocol on Friday nights), you were set. I remember television so fondly & distinctly (better than what happened in real life, but that'll be in another post), that you'd think that I wrote scripts for the TV show, "Dream On".

This was long before reality TV, before artists were signed to record deals who couldn't sing a note, before the channels grew so plentiful that you couldn't remember if you even had Starz or not. This was when corded phones were still the norm, cordless phones were gigantic & unreliable & TV remote controls resembled Atari game consoles. There was no HD, no LCD, no plasma. You were lucky if you had a cable box & got your sound in stereo, instead of depending upon rabbit ears or an antenna on your rooftop that could get struck by lightning & burn down your house. Owning a three-hundred-pound television, with a huge area behind a glass door for stereo equipment, the exterior made of solid wood, was considered a sign that you had made it! Lest you think I've lived a complete life of leisure, I assure you that the cleaning gods paid me back for my childhood freedom in spades, once my teens hit. This was back when you needed Pledge, a polishing cloth, Windex, paper towels & a vacuum attachment designed to clean up cloth-covered speakers just to "simply" dust the TV each week. I know, because I was the one stuck with that chore eventually! Child labor quickly became legal in my household one day. I'm still not sure why. Anyway, back to the TV. This sucker had to have wheels underneath it, because otherwise, it was unmovable without Sly Stallone picking it up on one side, and Ah-nold picking it up on the other. And if you were really lucky, the back of your TV looked like a gigantic pegboard, full of holes to let the big old machinery breathe (if it overheated, well...you were in deep). It also came with colorful little openings all over the pegboard, in "strategic" locations, made for...hmm. Maybe more speakers? A microphone? Headphones? Oh my God, I'm getting a headache trying to remember what plug went where! And there's at least ten cables back here already! Even the cable guy was scratching his head & cussing out the set the last time that he came out to hook up this monstrosity. Also, this pegboard from hell, since it was attached to a giant electromagnetic machine, was a living dust attractor & was conveniently placed against a wall with a very expensive painting over the TV, for weekends full of dust-induced pleasure! (No wonder I got chronic bronchitis when I was twenty-eight...) And like that lovely red vehicle in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", that TV, wall & painting better not even be breathed on wrong!

Maybe some of you are not from the possibly-warped & very much undisciplined school of childhood that I went to. Fun as it was(?), I learned not one time-management skill, I didn't learn how to accomplish a single chore, and I certainly did not reach any goals until my teens. Even then, I struggled with the desire for structure against the fun of chaos. Usually, chaos won, and that's probably why I'm writing this blog right now. Now, there are two sides to the coin here, as is always the case. My mental freedom as a kid, it could be argued, led to the same mental freedom that I possess now. Maybe it made me more creative, more willing to think & live outside the box. I'm not exactly conventional, and neither was my childhood. The long hours, spans of time unplanned by anyone at all, without much parenting intervening on what I did, time spent simply "being me" might actually have done me a world of good. I had a lot of time to sing, a lot of time to dance, a lot off time to pretend that I was beautiful, rich, drove a convertible & lived in California. I had lots of time to dream that I would be thin, tan, long-haired, rich & famous someday (not one dream came true, by the way, unless you count a faux tan). Maybe all that unstructured time & space even made me eventually become the skeptical being that I am today, one who always searches for the truth, not willing to settle for someone else planning my time, always shaking off the hand of suburban monotony.

For years, I've alternately looked back fondly on these memories of a loosely-woven youth; or in a more negative frame of mind, felt it was a span of wasted time that I could never get back. The lack of routine, the lack of structure, the lack of a parent that actually cared where I went every hour of the day haunts me even now sometimes. Looking through the veil of "what could have been" is a misty water-colored memory, all right. The lack of the other parent being there at all was another reason to feel I'd been denied so much that I SHOULD HAVE HAD! But then I look at the people who had all that I felt I was due (and I didn't get), and I wonder if they're really any better off for possessing what I lacked- and not having what I did (especially some freedom from the 'rents). The truth is, a lot of them have screwed up just as much- sometimes more, sometimes less- as I did. Some of them have blown opportunities that I never would've passed up, because they possessed an entitlement attitude that I didn't have. Some of them became drug addicts & went to jail, even though they seemed to have the greatest parents on earth.

My point is this- the way that you choose to look back on your life, on your past, is up to you. That sounds incredibly simple, but it often is not at all simple to implement. And don't think for a second that I've mastered the art of easy forgiveness, forgetting the negative, or viewing things in an entirely positive light. It's always a work in progress. But the idea is that I'm working on it. Okay, so I didn't learn time management skills completely until I was in my early thirties. I didn't know how to run a household easily, efficiently & completely until that time, either. So what? In the scheme of things, it's not a big deal. It is not the end of the world that I didn't have a filing system set up until I was in my mid-twenties. Some people never learn these skills at all, or learn them too late to really be of much good. My life is one that I'm sure at least a million people in this f-ed up world would LOVE to have, because it's a pretty good life.

Remember...Simplicity=Letting Go of Perfectionism. And, like it or not, letting go of perfectionism doesn't just apply to how we see the present. It applies to both how we view the past, and to our vision of the future. I cannot stress that last part enough. There is not going to be a magical day when it all comes together on earth & you never again experience no loss, no pain, no illness, no worry- I'm 99.99999% sure of that much. I certainly hope for that in a beautiful afterlife, but while on earth, troubles are going to come your way, no matter how good you are. It isn't that you deserve the troubles, or did something to bring them on- they just happen. You have to be willing to accept that your present learning comes from what happened in the past, and that, if you are wise enough to accept the life lesson, you've already won something great. You also must be willing to accept that you will make mistakes in the future, and so will people around you. You'll never get to a point when you do it all right, or when others around you do it all right, too. You cannot change others easily. Whether or not you can change them at all is debatable. What isn't debatable is that you can change yourself. Look at life in the best light possible. I'm not saying put your head in the clouds. It is possible to be both pragmatic & positive. It isn't "hope for the best, but prepare for the worst", it's " try to live in the moment & be joyous, and trust that, somehow, it'll all work out in the end". That's what I'll be trying to do, anyway.

Peace to you,

Liz

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