Monday, October 31, 2011


When the elderly reminisce about childhood, there are always those of us that had to walk miles to school – uphill both ways. And then there are those of us, who with too few resources, learned long and early to ‘make do’. That is where I come from.

As a child, if a thing was needed and couldn’t be got, my parents made do through resourceful substitution of unrelated materials – a practice newly renamed ‘recycling’.

A quick and simple example is the bits of horse harness leather my Dad used to repair the plastic straps that so quickly broke on my new sandals.

And I laugh remembering the day, as a youngster, I mixed up precious sugar, and butter, and flour for cookies – and then, when I went to add the eggs – Oh My God, there were no eggs.

What to do. What to do. There had to be a fix. No one could for one moment consider throwing out those costly ingredients that I had already so deliberately blended.

I was sick, and yes, I was horrified.

But my Mother remained her usual calm self and simply scooped a cup of snow from a fluffy drift by the outside stoop and added it to the ingredients.

“Do we need to pray for a miracle?” I asked immediately reflecting on the Biblical tale of the water that turned into wine.

“It probably wouldn’t do any harm,” she said, with a laugh.

I didn’t consider praying about it, but maybe my Mother did. Maybe she prayed for a ‘water-wine’…I mean ‘snow-egg’ miracle. I’ll never know cause I never asked. Still irregardless, something special happened that day because those sugar cookies were some of the best that I have ever made.

And so, raised in this environment, I quite smugly consider myself a journeywoman in the industrial art of Making-Do.

And this Halloween, I needed to be.

Last week I made the dreaded trip to town to buy a pumpkin. Usually grow my own but this year, I forgot to plant pumpkins.

And so, for probably the first time in my life, I was on the hunt to find and purchase a lovely fat orange pumpkin.

But all I found was one store with a bin of about 8 pumpkins. They were not orange, they were dusky brackish brown. On many stem root was so advanced that the wizened and blackened stems has committed hari-kari by diving into the mouldy and blackened interior of their relevant pumpkin cadavers.

With Halloween a week away, there was nothing in that bin with a hope to retain the slightest semblance to a pumpkin for five days – so back home I went – empty-handed.

But we can make do. Yes we can. So here is my Halloween display for this year. It’s not all I hoped it would be, but then, Halloween is supposed to be a bit morbid, but not quite so morbid as those pumpkin cadavers they were selling in town.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Stop Feeling Sorry for Yourself!

I am done with it. I’ll have no more of it. I am finally old enough to freely think, openly speak, and indiscriminately choose my own course of thought and action. And that means, at long last, I can finally, without guilt or impediment, feel sorry for myself. As sorry as I want to feel. Oh yes, I can and I will.

Though having avoided such an exercise for a lifetime, when I test this new thing that I avoided doing in my past, how shall it be tested, developed, controlled, and instated? Am I suppose to weep, wring my hands, get a monster lump in my throat, or just do a mental laundry list of everyone’s injustices to me? I really don’t know since I’ve never been here before.

And if it is a good thing, and I somehow think it is, should I find comfort and recovery in it? I expect I will because I’ve never felt comfort or recovery in not feeling sorry for myself -- just utter frustration.

I still remember my Mother forcing me to have an afternoon nap when I was just a toddler. I ranted and roared, balled up my quilt, and fired it repeatedly out of my little bed, crying and loudly wailing all the while, “I am NOT tired. I do not need a nap.”

And her response was, “Stop feeling sorry for yourself. You are going to have a nap.”

What did she mean by that silliness? It had nothing to do with anything. The only thing that had something to do with anything is “I did not need a nap!” For all I knew maybe when you ball up your quilt and throw it on the floor, you are feeling sorry for yourself. Well, if that was the case, why didn’t she say so?

That’s when it started and I’ve heard it at every unfortunate moment in my life ever since. Whenever, as a child, an adolescent, an adult, even as an elderly, I have expressed a strong and true desire to do something that did not fit within another’s framework, [i.e. to nap, to leave the party early or avoid it all together, to eat, to knit, to withdraw], I was accused of feeling sorry for myself and badgered with the same old meaningless jargon -- “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.“ And I no more understand it now than I did back then.

I can only assume that if you feeling really bad and bite your lip, you are not feeling sorry for yourself. But, on the other hand, if you are feeling really bad and say, “Oh woe is me,” you are engaged in an activity more disgusting than playing with yourself.

The experts say that feeling sorry for oneself can lead to depressive and dysfunctional behaviour. Of course any sophisticated learned academia would never allow themselves to go there, so how could they know?

What could be worse than a depressed and dysfunctional academic? Particularly when splashing about in a puddle of their own specialty and expertise. God forbid.

As for me, I’ve never been there in that supposedly quicksand bog of feeling sorry for myself cause no one would allow me to be. But guess what, this is as I initially said, not going to continue. I am going to feel sorry for myself, because not feeling sorry for myself is exactly causing, you guessed it, depressed and dysfunctional behaviour.

Experts must be wrong, they have to be because they are theorizing these things, but I am living them and have been living them, this often woeful life without self-pity for more than fifty years.

And with that (my out loud confession of a ‘woeful life’) I slip into the comforting and nurturing halls of self-pity. It’s very nice here -- warm, comforting, nurturing. I think I’ll stay awhile.

I might even let you know next time we talk, how it’s working for me.