On Being Careful About What You Wish For

March 28, 2012 at 9:22 pm 2 comments

You’ve heard the saying:  Some days you’re the windshield, some days you’re the bug. Of course there are plenty of roles to play between those two extremes, but last week I was definitely identifying with the bug.

As for being careful what you wish for, let me back up yet another week to the two days my husband stayed home from work, ill.  His ailment was one of those weird, amorphous “things” that fit no familiar pattern.  The classic stomach flu symptoms never fully developed.  No upper respiratory stuff was going on.  He just felt lousy, slept a lot, didn’t have any appetite.  And ambition?  He might as well have been an oil reservoir with a missing drain plug. Not a drop left to be eked out.

As I scurried around doing laundry, working out, walking the dog, grocery shopping, plugging away at writing projects, cooking, serving, washing dishes, cleaning out the kitty litter box, paying bills, and organizing tax records, I paused to peek in at my snoozing husband.  “Gee,” I caught myself thinking.  “Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to have an excuse to just put on the brakes for a few days; to slow my roll and pull the rug out from under the daily grind; maybe catch up on some reading.”

I guess my husband doesn’t complain enough, because the minute I’ve finished my Tae-Bo and downed  my oatmeal the following Monday morning, I discover the true meaning of having the rug pulled out from under.  Soon I am crawling back into bed, feeling so limp and miserable that I want to cry.  I also want to throw up, but that relief is never visited upon me – and being recently educated about the casual offering up of wishes, I am reluctant to pursue the matter.  Oh, and my head aches.  A dull, persistent, wrap-all-the-way-around-the-shoulders ache that will not be massaged away.

Three hours later, Miss I Haven’t Been Sick in Six Years is slowly fluttering her way back to consciousness, and praying for forgiveness for both that boast and her thoughtless presumption that a change in routine “might be nice.”  I am not one to skip a meal, but I skipped several those first two days of high intensity wretchedness.

Having slogged through Day One disabled by fatigue and edgy from the sound of my stomach clunking out spasmic “gorka-gorka” rhythms at the mere thought of solid food, I go to bed early, feeling slightly better and pleading for continued improvement.  Come 2:43 a.m. and blam, I am ripped back to awareness.  It’s as if the original ton of bricks has been gathered up and re-released from 40 feet above my Sealy Posturepedic.

After 30 minutes of moaning and groaning, blessed sleep returns, and by sun-up I am able to work out and eat breakfast once again before Day Two shows itself to be merely a paler version of its predecessor. As the week passes and the symptoms gradually subside I continue to need plenty of rest, so I decide to wring a little something out of this unfortunate situation by chipping away at my reading pile.  Some light distraction is my goal.

At the top of the stack is a memoir, a New York Times best-seller later made into a  popular movie.  The premise of one woman’s odyssey to overcome staggering depression and self-doubt is intriguing, but the writing is mediocre – plenty of ultra-personal revelations dressed in a showy display of foul language; a rather clumsy, leftist polemic style with no hint of lyricism about it.  And self-doubt never sounded so smugly arrogant.  Oh well, keep going.  Remember – light distraction,  not grand literature.

But the further I delve into the author’s quest to “contemplate [her] own intrinsic divinity” while basting together patches from various Eastern philosophies into a wishing-well god, the more I feel as if I might as well be reading a Greek textbook.  Upside down.  I cannot relate.  I believe in a knowable God who doesn’t just plop us down on earth to stumble around and try to figure things out on our own.  I am reading Martian chronicles, and I can take nothing helpful from them to apply to my own life – a life in which I am not necessarily “the administrator of my own rescue,” as the author claims to be.

Next in the stack, a few back issues of the oldest “ladies” magazine in the country.  I settle into the comfort of my three pillows thinking, this should go better. Should, but doesn’t.  “I’ll just say it:  I believe every married woman needs a cute, sensitive, slightly flirtatious guy best friend.,” Iris Krasnow blurts right out, in my face.

I am stricken with horror.  As the survivor of several misguided relationships and now a blessed wife of almost 25-years, let me quote both my husband and Dr. Phil in a paraphrased bit of sterling advice: The minute you start taking your needs outside the relationship to be met, you are asking for trouble.  And what about that occasion when your best bud, Bud, seems to truly understand the flaming emotions your husband simply can’t appreciate in the heat of an impassioned discussion?

Sure, we need to indulge in some political parrying or anecdote-sharing with non-spouses from time-to-time, but that’s a far cry from a woman seeking out the prescribed cute and flirtatious guy best friend.  Boyfriends-with-boundaries, Ms. Krasnow quips, but who draws the line when the Modern Wife craves “unconditional support” or needs to share good news, but her husband is working late or has his attention focused on the football game.  Martian chronicles, straight from the X-Files Publishing House.  They have taken over the planet and there is no escaping their propaganda.

But wait.  I also saved a few weeks’ worth of the innocuous if shallow trivia-fest known as the Sunday Magazine Supplement.  Cotton candy for the brain.  Here I learn, on page one, that television actress Poppy Montgomery enjoyed a “’hippie’ upbringing in Australia” which led to her broad-minded perspective on marriage: “Marriage was never a priority for me.  I feel the bigger commitment is having a child together – that’s really forever.”

Probably seems idyllic and eternal to an advantaged celebrity duo, but try selling that notion to the ten million single welfare moms and the two million single welfare dads whose “forever” has evaporated into the impossible task of filling both parenting roles on their own.  With Hollywood types spouting (and modeling) their humanist rationalizations to any paparazzo who cares to inquire, it’s not surprising that these statistics are up about three-hundred percent over the past four decades.

Lighten up, lighten up.  Ah, here.  On page 13, under the heading “TV Moms Know Best.”  That should be good for a yuck or two.  Frankie Heck, from The Middle: “Sometimes moms scream things they don’t mean.”  Ha.  Not bad.  Kinda true.  Virginia Chance, from Raising Hope, advising her 23-year-old single parent son:  “Jimmy, sometimes you have to protect your child from the truth.  You’re a parent now, you have to lie – it’s part of the job.”  Uh, wha?  And that foundation of trust you’ll be needing later is to be formed…how? Not so cute.

I’ll take one last shot.  Claire Dunphy, from the wildly popular Modern Family, trying to keep three children – including teenage daughter Haley in line:  “I just don’t want my children to make the same bad mistakes I did.”  A reasonable sentiment, until:  “If Haley never wakes up on a beach in Florida half-naked, I’ve done my job.”  Hello again, nausea, my old friend.

Okay, so there is a lonely little library book at the bottom of my stack, another memoir, this one about a young woman dealing with her own cancer treatment who learns that her beloved father is fighting his own battle with the dreaded disease.  Not an uplifting theme, but good writers produce wondrous bursts of insight from such grist.  I skim over numerous low-grade obscenities and overlook a tragically jaundiced rejection of faith, but thirty pages in the F-bomb has already been dropped enough times to alert me that the author still has more growing up to do than I am willing to patiently endure. Rawness is apparently the goal; if it’s gritty and sassy, then it is authentic and “relevant.”  Or so the dust jacket blurbs insist.

The cocky tone of these self-absorbed female voices makes me mad. Then it makes me sad.  Sad because I remember being swept up in the wave of this trend in my early years, blithely scoffing at the alarmists who warned where the current of coarse language and lax morals would dump us in the end.  At nineteen, it’s easy to get sucked into the idea that each new generation must carve out a cultural niche that disregards the values of its predecessors and makes its own rules.  So here I plop, life experience having pushed me through the cracks in a demographic constructed out of misguided progressivism, and the effects stagger me.  Even at my most deluded, I would never have “wished” for this.

Short of Divine Intervention, I don’t know the way out of this mess. I do know that I need some sort of   Geiger counter for the written word, a gizmo that would lead me to the substantial and meaningful and away from the rest of it, before I get involved enough to want to “see what happens” as the story unfolds.

Most evenings, our dog (La Princessa, as my husband has dubbed her) sits curled in her fuzzy little blankie in the corner of my burgundy leather recliner as I prepare her dinner – a mound of dental-prescription crunchies topped with a heaping spoonful of beef Fancy Feast, further topped with a mound of minced, zapped hot dog or whatever we’re having for our meat course.

Even after all this pup-pleasing prep work, I often have to wave the plate under her glossy little licorice drop of a nose – like I’m a doggie sommelier wielding a plate instead of a cork – to entice her into following me into the other room for her dinner.  She’s a smart dog.  Won’t invest any effort in partaking until she knows it’s worth it.  Maybe I could try passing the items in my reading stack under her twitchy little quality-detector before I next settle in for a bit of light distraction.

I’ll let you know how that works out.  Meanwhile, I have a plentiful supply of sane and edifying volumes of O’Henry and Mark Twain and C.S. Lewis to work my way through.  Should have thought of that two weeks ago.

Entry filed under: Advice For Life. Tags: , , , .

What Color is Your Universe? An Easter Confession

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Keith Wissman  |  March 28, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    Our brain waves must be co-mangling again, I was whining just the other day how much of a struggle it is for me to find anything worthwhile to read.

    Used to read three newspapers a day and the New York Times and Chicago Tribune on weekends. Down to the Wall Street Journal six days a week and the Detroit Free Press on Sunday.

    Used to read ten magazines a month, news and financial stuff mostly, Now nothing.

    This on top of the biography, management info and journals I would read on top of working 50 to 60 hours a week + helping raise the family.

    I have tried to do more of my reading digitally but there is something about holding a dead tree in my hands.

    Don’t really know for sure if it’s me or the quality of the reading material but I think almost all of the stuff circulating today is prurient garbage. Or maybe I’m just getting even more cynical and bitter in my old age…

    • 2. kirkhams  |  March 28, 2012 at 10:37 pm

      It makes me wonder where all the readers are coming from – literally and philosophically – who put these books on the best-seller lists. Reading the glowing reviews makes me want to cry out, “But the empress is naked!!” I think there are probably a number of us still out here, hungry for substance and class in our reading material. Maybe we can organize, and lead the way back to a less crass and brassy, one-sided publishing model. (Or maybe not. But I do hate to concede that’s it’s hopeless…)

      P.S. It isn’t cynicism to expect better of those getting paid to put things in print!


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