life

Worth doing

If you say 'worth doing' I venture that most of us will fill in the the missing words for that phrase. 'Worth doing' is shorthand for ' Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well"---- the battle cry of the perfectionists. Some time ago I came across a variation on that phrase----'whatever is worth doing is worth doing poorly'---- a ray of hope for those of us who rarely achieve, or wait for, perfection.  The point, I think, was that if we have something to do, go ahead and do it, even if it means we will most likely miss the mark of perfection, or even of 'well'. After a few decades of stretching, thinking, doing, being and all that other stuff that goes into a life  I'd like to offer another alternative to the phrase: Whatever is worth doing is worth doing.  Leave off the qualifier, it's besides the point.  So would that philosophy leave us all off the hook to put no more than minimum effort into our work, our projects, our life?  Perhaps.  But that's a chance we take every day when we get out of bed.  Very few of us hit the marks of perfection in all or even most of our endeavors.

Today I read in the e-newpaper about a 94 year old Navajo woman who gets up every morning and makes pottery.  Making pottery is the way she made her living which fed her children and continues to be a valuable work-- even if her family thinks she should rest and take some time for herself after all these years.  I gatther from the article that she likes doing this 'work' which she doesn't even consider work-- it is just what she does, so why should she stop? It would be like retiring from brushing her teeth or eating lunch or putting a sweater on when it gets chilly.  It is worth doing.  The fact that this woman's work has been selling quite well for many years is beside the point.  She is doing what is worth while to her.

If we wait to perform "well" all the time, how many of us would ever try anything?  How many meals would not get cooked, or beds made, or children tucked in, or laundry cleaned?  All the good we do, all the little things that make up a life are worth doing.  If it turns out we do things 'well' once in a while, great.  But in the meantime let's keep doing all the things that are worth it.

Since this vehicle (this blog-business) is about writing and the ups and downs of ever getting any words out there---- wherever there is----share with me some of the things you think are 'worth doing' when it comes to writing or music or art or any of the bits of creativity we get to take part in every day.  Anyone want to share?  Drop me a line.  I'm told the comment box is easy to fill out.

Threads

Grandma used to pick up threads. And hairpins.  And safety pins.  She fastened the safety pins down the front of her cardigan near the button holes.  There were buttons on her sweater, Aunt Jule would make sure of that. I think she picked up bits of thread and pins because she was raised to be thrifty, to save, to never waste.  Grandma seemed so very old to me.  The big blue veins that sat on the back of her hands were covered by thin loose skin, her wedding rings held on more by her bony knuckle than by any plumpness of her fingers.  There was thread wrapped around the rings to keep them safe below her knuckle.  In their steel grey hair these sisters used hairpins, not bobby pins.  In old family pictures  I saw they once had thick plentiful hair, like I had.  Now there scalps were visible and those wide wire hairpins had so little to hold on to that they fell, into the carpet, on to the linoleum, and stayed behind when they arose from a chair. And so they had to be picked up. When I was with them, I could feel my youth--- strong, vibrant, smooth skin, fresh faced youth. 'Bursting with life' would not have been an exaggeration from these days.   I could move freely, run and jump and play all day, ride my bike with no hands, just steering with my will and the strength of my body.  I'd get up to such a speed and then glide, the air rushing through my thick hair, the breeze on my smooth skin, the muscles in my legs strong after the exertion. Sometimes Grandma would sit next to me and take my hand in hers, my hand covered in smooth pink skin, and she would just rub the back of it.  She would hold my young hand and look at our two hands together and sigh, sometimes a tear in her eye as she patted my arm.  "So nice and round you are."

Not so many years ago, I was brushing my own mother's hair, this grandmother's daughter.  My mother had more than abundant hair--- so thick and dark all my growing up years, now silver with a lovely sheen.  She kept more hair than her own mother did, but when I brushed it, I saw the patches, her scalp exposed just in places.  She grew into a similar old age to her mother, forgetful, confused, softer.  Not as formidable as the mother of my youth, but still herself.  And, as with my grandmother, I think this condition, this senility, Alzheimer's, opened a door on her life that might have stayed closed otherwise.  As with her mother, she spoke of the past, her childhood, her youth, the events of yesterday much fresher than what she just had for lunch or the names of her family who sat at the table with her.  This doorway, the defenses crumbled, brought its own gifts along with the heartache.  She would speak of things from years before, looking to find people long dead, but not to her.  They were just there, waiting for her.  And so she had to find them.

Now I am a grandmother.  My daughter has a child, a little boy.  To hold his plump little hand, his round toes, rub his soft soft cheek against my own is more than a delight.  It is a renewal of life, and yes, of course, a reminder.  Now I am the grandmother.  The one with the stories of long ago, that seem not so long ago for me--- no, long ago was for my grandmother, but of course that is ancient history to my grandson.  My youth will be the 'good old days', my daughter's youth just parts of stories we will tell.  And we will show him pictures and tell him about his Mommy when she was a little girl and his uncles will give him piggy back rides and tell him things I didnt know about his mother, things only brothers would know.  His grandfather and I will tell him stories of growing up in New York-  in that far away place he will  see on TV in any number of cop  and lawyer shows.

I have spent my life collecting stories, listening for the history and characters of grandparents and aunts and uncles I never would meet otherwise.  I have collected these treasures by asking questions, studying photographs, listening at Christmas and Thanksgiving when the older people would join us.  I suppose I am something like my Grandmother, picking up threads so as not to waste the legacy of all those we come from.