The things that once seemed important to me, as measured by the amount of time dedicated to them, have shifted over the years, with most of them falling away. How I spent the last few days, last weekend, illustrates the shift. I will get to that after I explain what I mean by importance.
Learning that Strawberries are Important
I spent so much of my life caring for others, even when it was imperfect caring. I returned to Indiana to care for my mother as she was transitioning from this life. My husband and daughter felt abandoned. I discussed the travel and caring for Mom with them, and received their approval, for the trip before I left. They forgot they had agreed to this. It was a rocky recovery. But we made it through. I kept caring even through the time when my little family came to terms with their feelings of abandonment. We all learned from it.
My learning, and my own experience is all I can speak to, finally taught me that all I can do is care. I can feel that sense of love that prods me to act. Those acts are the only honorable ones. The acts that come from a supposed obligation, or out of a twisted hope of pleasing someone so they will give affection or like you, in return, are ultimately insincere, and they stutter, and draw attention away from meaning.
It is difficult to learn some of the things I continue to learn, because I am an adult and I think my brain has atrophied. I wish I could have learned these things as a child, but I did not. I did not learn them, not because I was not loved, or cared for, my family members all cared as best they knew how, but the mid-western stoicism, the hard scrabble life, eroded all chance for extras, both physical and emotional, away from them. They just did not have much left over to give me.
Because I lived with my very vivid imagination as my primary companion for most of my life, I came to believe that the world would be better if I could get people to like me. I wanted to share my beautifully painted, orchestrated, envisioned images with them. If they don’t like you they won’t listen. I spent decades trying to do this.
It was a long, long time before I quit trying to get people to do anything. I was 32 when my daughter was born. That is when I learned to give love unconditionally. I remember thinking, “The one thing I want to be able to give my daughter is the knowledge that she is loved unconditionally.” I think I succeeded in this. It took me years longer to turn that inside out and realize that I should also give myself that same unconditional love.
Some of that came about when my mother could not give me anything but a smile when I put strawberries on her cereal during the last few months of her life. I so wished she had given herself strawberries more often.
Learning to Give Myself Strawberries
I have learned much in the fifteen years since Mama passed.
Life is fleeting, what seems permanent is not. The last two of my brothers passed away within eight years after mom.
Somehow, since that time, I have been able to relax. I no longer wait for judgment. When I do receive judgment, I most often terminate contact with the person doing the judging. Severing contact can hurt terribly, but continuing in a vicious conversation is worse, and I have had enough hurt. I want a life not filled with strife.
I try not to explain myself. I do talk about things that hurt but I do not try to wallow in, or make excuses for, the past. Even in, especially in, small things this holds true. Some wonder why I do not volunteer as much as I once did. I like living in my home without concern for retribution for my actions. I enjoy lounging around and puttering in my home. Always trying to play catch-up with chores, or apologizing for how untidy my home is, just isn’t how I want to spend my last years, if I am fortunate, on earth.
If I have pain, I take something for it, relax, and close my eyes.
If I want to write and not sweep the floor, I write.
If I want to cuddle with my dog or cat, that is what I do.
If I want to have something sweet, I have a strawberry.
I cherish my relative ease of life. I have enough to eat, a roof that does not often leak, more shoes than I need, and a daughter who calls for a long Facetime chat at least once a week. I can afford to spend my Hubster and I’s anniversary (34th!) and Father’s Day, and Juneteenth weekend doing a few fun things. Pedicures for us both. A potluck with neighbors as evening approached. Our daughter sent the Hubster donuts, my husband barbecued ribs while I made my famous potato salad, which is a secret, old Hill family recipe. We watched Flaming Hot, a modern fairy tale with a fair amount of social commentary. It was fun! Wwatch the video insert.) We tried to get tickets for a panel with Malcom X’s and Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughters, but it was sold out. We paced ourselves, enjoyed the little things in life. And we had a wonderful weekend.
So, I did not post on social media for Father’s Day. He’s been gone 37 years, he died on Christmas Day in 1986. I miss him. I don’t have to post pictures for people who did not know him. All that matters is that I loved him, and still do.
I can post one here.
I am fortunate. I had a whole weekend full of strawberries.