|I'M ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN...I THINK...
2 January 2002
There are times I almost think
--"The King and
I am not sure of what I absolutely know.
Very often find confusion
In conclusion I concluded long ago
In my head are many facts
That, as a student, I have studied to procure,
In my head are many facts..
Of which I wish I was more certain I was sure!
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
The January topic for the On Display collaboration is "What are you
sure of?" The topic was suggested by an Oprah Winfrey show, presented after the 9/11
disaster, an event that made everyone in this country begin to question what there was in
life that they really could cling to. Where would stability come in a world which suddenly
seems to have no foundation any more. We Americans have always watched disasters around
the world, smug in our own knowledge that "it could never happen here." But now
it has happened here and what are we sure of any more?
Anyone who has experienced a major tragedy knows
that it causes you to rethink the preconceived notions you've always held.
As a child, I was certain of the stability of my
parents' marriage. In the 40s you didn't see that many divorces, especially among Catholic
families, and despite the tension in the house, it never occurred to me that there was any
other way to live. My sister and I would grow up, watch our parents grow old, and we would
always have that family unit to be a part of. My "bestest" friends would always
be there and life would go on pretty much the way it always had.
As a young girl, I was absolutely certain that I
would grow up, marry, raise a family, watch them marry and raise children of their own,
and that by the time I was my current age, I would spend my time baking cookies with my
grandchildren and enjoying retirement.
I was certain that I lived in a country which could
always protect me and that disasters happened to "other people."
I believed in a happily ever after.
I don't know what I believe any more.
My carefully constructed mental scenario began to
disintegrate fairly early, just out of high school when my best friend Judy Lucchesi
dropped me like a hot potato without ever giving me a reason why. We had spent the better
part of our later grammar school years together, had fought over Stephen Calegari
together, snapped each other's bra strap when we were big enough to get bras. I knew we'd
be friends forever. But I haven't seen her in over 40 years. I occasionally wonder
whatever happened to her--and whatever happend to us.
The sister I knew I'd have forever was murdered in
1971. The scenario had already shifted a bit. We wouldn't raise our children together, but
we liked her partner and never questioned her sexual orientation. It never occurred to me
that an argument between the two women would result in several bullets to Karen's head,
ending her life 7 weeks later, without her ever regaining consciousness.
Life sorta fell apart after that. My mother told me
later that she read that when parents don't grieve the death of a chid together, it
eventually pulls the marriage apart. Karen's death was certainly the straw that broke the
back of my parents' long-troubled marriage. Though I fully supported my mother's decision
to leave, my foundation was shaken. I had my own family by then, but the lifeline I had to
stability was gone.
Over the years there have been periods of certainty
and periods of uncertainty. Other friends have walked out of my life, sometimes giving a
reason, sometimes not. And then, of course, there were those two high-magnitude events in
1996 and 1999 with the death of David and Paul. Not only was I not bouncing grandchildren
on my knee, we didn't even have two of our own children any more.
And in between those two events came the loss of a
job I loved for 10 years, which I thought I would stay with forever. Who knew what an HMO
takeover could cause?
I don't meant to paint my life in greys and blacks.
There are definitely more yellows and reds in this life than there are blacks. But the
point of all this is that the only thing I am truly sure of any more is change. You
can't hang on to things forever. People die, relationships change, jobs come and go,
nations attack nations. There is nothing in one's life that is guaranteed to remain safe
and consistent. Sometimes we kid ourselves into seeing life the way we wish it were, which
often leads to pain and sadness.
The best chance anyone has for a happy life is to
accept that change is inevitable, and to learn to look to yourself, not to others, to
provide your "center," your peace, your happiness, your stability. If there are
others who contribute to it, for a time, as there have been so many in mine, consider
yourself blessed indeed. But if you can find peace within yourself, you can weather the
storms of change without and it won't matter if there is nothing else in life that you are
absolutely sure of.
Here's a quote I picked up on Wilma's Word which seems
appropriate to this entry:
Thought for today:
No matter what has happened in the past, that is over. No matter how much you wish the
past had been different, you cannot change what has already happened. Don't mourn over
what is done; rejoice that there is still a future!"
from A Soft Pillow for a Tired Heart by Barbara Johnson
Note that I added a new feature below. I'm
trying out "guestmap."
Check it out--and sign in, please!