Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Had We World Enough And Time

"We would sit down and think which way/To walk, and pass our long love's day" Andrew Marvell
What should we do with Time? Is Time a giant sleeping underground somewhere? It’s said that God is outside of time which is why to Him “a day is as a thousand years” and vice versa. But I think like the poet Andrew Marvell who said, “at my back I always hear /Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.” I like to work and create; I love to make things, bake things, sew things, write impossibly long novels and short stories, make assorted Christmas crafts, grow flowers etc. etc., I fear not finishing. But recently I had a startling thought… What if life is not about getting things done, what if life is about something else?
What if life is about watching?
Or listening?
Or hanging out?
To these kinds of thoughts, I usually respond by snorting, "I'd rather work than sit around doing nothing." Some of you are thinking, "If only! I'd love to just be!"

Clare watching her beautiful Mommy for clues about how to be.
But what I should do with my time is a continual dilemma.
For instance, sometimes I call my elderly aunt. She’s my father’s older sister.
It’s not fun to call her. She’s mean about my mother, with whom she enjoyed a mutually accurate and unkind criticism fest. She’s unkind about my grandparents whose memories I cherish. It bothers me because the people she’s criticizing are all dead, and I think two things… 1. why keep talking about it when you could look at your own faults and humbly forgive people. Then you’d be free of the bitterness and torture…. 2. They’re dead and can’t defend themselves. I usually protest by saying something like “Aunt Pat-”
That’s all I ever get to say. That’s it.
When I talk to my aunt, the phone call lasts about an hour. And typically I say one sentence. One sentence and sometimes, I don’t even get to finish it.
My dear reader must wonder, why call her? I call for a few reasons. First, I didn’t really know her when I was younger, and I thought I’d try to get to know her. She has many good qualities – she collects wisdom the way her husband collected stamps (or was it coins?) – she has the perspective of history, a life-time of hard work and frugality which I find interesting. She loves children and has great compassion for anyone who is poor, a stranger or displaced. So I’m glad I got to know this.
Clare is probably thinking,'You mean there's more to life than mommy, daddy, milk and really cute clothes?'
Then, I thought maybe she would be able to tell me more about my father. My father died when I was fourteen. I remember him, but did I know him? Don't know. I always I long to know more. I quit actually asking her about him because such questions result in a diatribe about my mother or grandmother, but once in a while, when she’s talking about something else, she drops a nugget of gold about him.
She never speaks negatively about my father. From my Aunt Pat, I learned that my father was smart with an IQ measuring 143 (this is probably an exaggeration considering the source). But he was a terrible student. He only studied what interested him and gave the Jesuit priests who were charged with his education a fit.
And when I call her, I feel I am honoring my father. I even wonder (remember I am no theologian) if he could be pleased with this effort. I know that I failed my family, my mother in many ways. This is something I can do. And yet, it’s not really doing anything. I accomplish nothing. I just listen and try like heck not to get real mad. So in the end the only thing I’ve done is listen because I usually slam the phone down and stomp around the house for an hour muttering stuff you don’t want to hear.

I know that we all have to work and that each of us is meant to accomplish things big and little. I have goals that tug at my heart night and day. But the other side of life might be what lasts in the end.
Valerie held Clare's hands and pulled her up to sit. She loved it. They did this for about a half hour.
Today, I hung out with Valerie and Clare. We visited two dear friends. I accomplished nothing, but I loved hearing what my friends had to say. They think about so many interesting things and both of them are not prone to judging people. Such nice lovely thoughts and conversations! I loved watching Val care for her little baby girl. Clare is content to gaze at her mommy and listen when she sings. Maybe those priceless things in life --like listening and loving and getting to know each other-- inspire us to dream and to do.
Clare is already 'vocalizing' as Valerie calls her coos. Glad I didn't miss this.


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  2. Clare is so beautiful! I love the Thoughts in this post. It reminds me of my husband. I say I want to relax, by this I mean putter around and entertain myself with something. He say he wants to relax that means to get something accomplished without interruption or frustration but with a little bit of challenge to push his skill. It is one of my greatest joys that he likes to read with me, or rather will let me read to him while he does something with his hands. I am reading to him those books that most touched my heart and my thinking so that we are on the same page, if you will forgive the pun, before we start new books together.

  3. I kept thinking throughout this post that Clare is starting to REALLY look like Val. Also, she is getting so big. If only I could spend more time with her!

  4. It is a hard balancing act, isn't it? I struggle with trying to make sure I get things accomplished so that our house is in good order.. ie clothes washed, dishes done, food prepared... and yet, I also want to make sure I build in time to play, to sit and snuggle, to engage with my kids. Oddly enough, I find it is easier for me to do that away from home, as I am not tempted to try and multi task, but can then focus solely on them. Sometimes those LOOONG minutes when we are stuck waiting in the dr waiting room and playing silly games to keep ourselves entertained, sometimes, I am truly thankful for those times as there is nothing else for me to do in that little room, but play with my kids (and try to keep the noise level down)