How to live in an unjust world (The answer involves Angry Birds)

My stepdad asked my mom if I’m depressed. Perhaps jokingly. He thought I’d been writing about a lot of hard stuff lately.

I don’t feel depressed. But I have been feeling a bone-deep sensitivity. And it’s had me thinking about fairness. I’ve heard that the happiest people understand that life is not fair. That life isn’t even about fairness.

I’ve never understood this, and I fear it will be my undoing, that I’ll become an angry, cynical old woman. Because while I understand logically that I cannot change the world, that I cannot make life fair, my heart does not. My heart aches, too much I think, when a child dies of cancer. Can a heart ache too much over this? Maybe not. Maybe I’m just envious that while others can redirect their thinking, can avoid thinking about awful things that happen to people they don’t know, I have a hard time with it. Perseverating, my mom used to call it while I was growing up. “Don’t perseverate,” she’d tell me. But perseverate is what I do, and it’s part of what helps me write, it’s part of the same urge that makes me want to write in the first place—to document, to bear witness. I think about things—I think them through until I can almost feel what it’s like to be that other person, to be a mother watching her son die.

It’s gotten worse, much worse, since I had children. Heartaches over injustices last longer, penetrate deeper. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by all that is wrong with the world. I don’t want this to happen. I don’t want to hate the world, to hate the people who make it this way, who don’t join in the effort to make it a better place.

I used to be a bright-eyed idealist. Now I’m a beaten and battered idealist. Note—still an idealist. I’m often as passionate about all that is great. But the world is crushing. Simply crushing. And I’ve got to figure out a way to hold myself up.

Come hell or high water, I will have a hopeful post for you next time.

***I wrote the above draft, then closed my computer and went to pick up my son from school. I brought him home, we played, and then I wrote this, which is your promised hopeful post. Warning: It involves various “I’m thankful” phrases:

I am thankful that I hear my two children playing upstairs right now. My son is directing my daughter on how to play with his Angry Bird stuffed animals.

I am thankful we just shared lunch together and grouped my son’s dinosaurs by time period (his idea). I got to do that—to sit, in the middle of a Monday, on a soft couch in our cozy house and play dinosaurs with my son while my daughter, who is fighting a cold, snuggled against me with her blanket. The magic of being an at-home mom.

I am thankful for my husband, who still writes me notes.

I am thankful for winter in all its ferocity this year, for the moon on the snow last night, and the bare branches against the sky.

I am thankful we do not have to travel for the holidays. We get to wake up Christmas morning with our children; they’ll wait on the stairs while I make coffee first (I learned to prioritize from my mother). They’ll beg and plead and when I have a hot cup in one hand and my video camera in the other, I’ll say, “Okay, sweeties. It’s time,” and they’ll come tripping down the stairs to the Christmas tree.

I am thankful that my son just walked downstairs with two round Angry Birds stuffed under his shirt and said, “Look at me! I have fat nipples!”

There is nothing—nothing—like six-year-old humor to lighten things up.


Moaning Minnie

My husband and I don’t get along with the days after Christmas. Not only are we tired from the revelry and suffering from post-Christmas blues, but something usually goes awry in our home. One year, the water heater broke and flooded our entire carpeted basement, for instance.

Today, our television broke and our washing machine leaked several gallons of water for no apparent reason. We also got word that my husband’s mother has the flu, so they will not be coming tomorrow as planned but will be a day or two late. Since they were coming to sit for our children, we scrambled to patch together a few other sitters.

But did I tell you the washing machine miraculously started working again just fine and my husband already has a new television in place, bought on sale, and–oh by the way–the reason my in-laws are coming to babysit is that my husband and I are going to England and Wales for twelve days?

I’ll shut up now. Happy New Year and I’ll see you in 2013.


My Adornables

It’s fun to see who your childhood friends grow up to be, isn’t it? Especially if you haven’t talked to them in awhile. Some surprise you–the overly cheery cheerleader who now kicks tush and takes names as a corporate executive, the aggressive defensive tackle who becomes a stay-at-home dad. My friends–the ones I toddled the neighborhood with, jumped rope with, and traded notes with–have become teachers, designers, therapists, zookeepers, moms, and entrepreneurs.

One entrepreneur is Cheryl and her business is MyAdornables, which creates custom room decor. Now, she isn’t a surprise–she used to doodle on every inch of paper placed in front of her. Just a year or two ago, I found a scrap of paper inside a textbook on which she’d drawn a cartoon image of the earth with a highway strapped across it. The caption, in her perfect writing, read, “Power to the Pavers!” For some reason, the image is just so….professional. It’s like a New Yorker political cartoon. And I remember sitting in study hall and placing it there inside the book because I just couldn’t throw it away.

And while one purpose of writing about her today is that she re-blogged one of my recent posts on her new blog, really I’d just like to cheer her on and drive some traffic her way. She doesn’t need it–she’s been a success for a while. (Ever heard of Momastery? Glennon Melton writes one of the most-read blogs in the world and has a new book out soon. Well, Glennon has one of Cheryl’s signs hanging in her kitchen. I realize I sound geeky-blogger here; just trust me.)

Check out MyAdornables and my post HERE. You can click the Facebook button to get to the shop’s page. While you’re there, start thinking Christmas gifts, newborn gifts, christening gifts, Hanukkah gifts…