Why Even Bother?

Life is confusing.  And hard.

Especially explaining it to your children.  About how life doesn’t have to be fair.  About how most of the time it’s not.  And no amount of indignation is going to change that.

People make poor choices.  Every moment of every day, someone is making a poor choice.  A choice that may or may not have any consequences.  For them.

And yes, I know.  You have gotten caught at anything you’ve ever tried.  You’re the one who always gets caught and “they” never do.

It’s something of a catchphrase around here–“Sometimes it just be’s like that.”

And no amount of indignation is going to change it.

It’s like the deputy who sat at the end of our street yesterday.  Our DEAD END STREET.   And he waited.  Turns out he was watching for folks who did not come to a complete stop.  At the last stop sign before the last cul-de-sac on a cul-de-sac.  Ahem.  Slow day in town I guess.   (Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about safety, but his three hours at the end of the street seemed a little excessive-we seriously don’t have that many folks in and out around here.)  Anyway, there are people who do the California roll every single time at that stop sign and they totally missed getting caught by him yesterday.  Maybe they didn’t come home during his hours with us, or maybe they saw him in time.  Whatever, they didn’t get in trouble.  And then there were others–the mom rushing home to check on something or the dad who came home quickly to meet his daughter’s bus–who might always come to a complete stop, but yesterday, well…..not so much.  And they got a warning or a ticket or whatever.  They got busted.  And the others? Most likely will continue to roll through and maybe nothing will ever come of it.

And worrying over it won’t do any of us a bit of good.  It just is what it is.

I get being angry.  I get the frustration.  Princess thinks Cooter never gets in trouble for what he does and vice versa.  The truth is each one of them gets reprimanded when and where appropriate and repercussions follow.  But in the big, outside world, I’ve known folks who seemed charming and delightful but were mean as snakes on the inside and no one ever held them accountable for their actions.  Maybe no one ever will.  I have to let it go.  The eating me up inside only makes me hollow.  Doesn’t hurt them one little bit.  And that’s why I know I have to stop.

So why bother?  If it doesn’t even matter, maybe I can get away with it too.  Is that what you are thinking?  I guess I can understand that.  But I’ve been thinking on it and I read something today that made me think on it even more.

In “Whistling Past the Graveyard” by Susan Crandall, one character has the potential to be in real big trouble even though what happened was done to protect the lives of others and it just couldn’t be helped, really.  A friend tells this character to go on, run, that the tracks would be covered.  The person who could be in all that trouble replies, “…..A body can’t run from what they done.  They carry it with them inside.  It fester and spread like poison if it’s buried.  It gotta be out in the air where it can heal…..Someday you understand that too.”  (p. 262)

Amen.  If you done it, you done it, and you have to carry that in your heart.  It really doesn’t matter if you get caught or not.  It has to be let out for you to be able to live and breathe and move on.  For you to be whole.

So what is life all about?  Why bother? Why do the right thing, why make any effort at all if you don’t have a cheering section for all those right things you’ve done in life?  Why try if the only time you slip up, there’s suddenly a glaring spotlight on that and no one remembers everything else you did that was right?

Eula in “Whistling Past the Graveyard” had an answer for that too.

“Well, now, we can all do better.  That’s why we get up every day, to try and do better with the good Lord’s help.”  (p. 242)

That right there.  Truth.

That’s why you do what’s right.  Not so you can be noticed.  Not because we are afraid of being in trouble or getting caught or what other people will think.  Because of that.  Because we can.  Because we know better.

I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth repeating.  Mama and Daddy used to say quite often, “If you know better, do better, and folks will like you better.”

And another reason, from C. S. Lewis:

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That’s what it’s about.  No matter who is or isn’t watching, do what you know is right.  And if you aren’t sure, do the best you have with what you have in that moment.  It won’t always be easy, but it will always be the thing to do so you can get up and face that mirror day after day, look yourself in the eye and hear the echoes of folks in the past, and know that you have nothing to answer for that you haven’t already.  And that is worth more than gold or silver or whatever is the next big thing.  That is worth everything.

Why We Usually Run Out of Ketchup

English: A bottle of Heinz ketchup

English: A bottle of Heinz ketchup (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s just not on my radar.

I live in a house of ketchup eaters.  Of which I am not one.  At all.

I grew up with them too.  Sister loved ketchup so much she would eat it on everything from eggs to the Friday night fishsticks.  (We didn’t have them every Friday, but when we did have them it was usually a Friday.)  I don’t remember how old I was when I turned away from ketchup, but I do remember why.

Ketchup is red.  (Well except for that weird phase they went through about ten or twelve years ago where they marketed purple and green ketchups, yeah, RED.)

Blood is red.

In my very young mind, I could not comprehend that vessels contained the blood in our body.  I figured that it was all just in there hanging out together.  I also didn’t understand that our food wasn’t in there free floating.  Put it all together and I decided not to eat ketchup because how on earth would the doctors distinguish the blood from the ketchup if I got sick?

Ummm okay, did I mention that I was very young?

That same youth and lack of comprehension about how the world worked was what made me afraid when I realized we were not inside the dome of the earth–that we were actually standing on the outside of the planet and the only thing holding us in place was something called “gravity.”  All of a sudden I felt so small and vulnerable.  And very hopeful that gravity would never stop working.

Fear is an interesting interpreter isn’t it?  Fear that comes from not knowing, not understanding.  It filters everything through the unknown and comes out on the other end creating stress and worry and exhaustion.  And strange habits.

Like not eating ketchup.

Oh sure I’ve eaten it since then.  And occasionally I find it tasty.  But mostly I don’t care for it, and I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t because a tiny bit of that worry from when I was small still lingers.  Not rational, but maybe.

This morning I woke up at 5:30 to the sound of our Princess sniffling.  I’m afraid she’s gone from allergy symptoms to a full-blown cold.  (Can I say how unfond I am of ragweed?)  It was then that I noticed that my bedroom door was only opened about six inches.  Hmmmmm, I thought, that was odd.  My bathroom door was near about closed. Even odder.  I went to check on Princess, found her awake, and asked her if she had pushed the doors to.  Waiting for her answer, I was thinking, “Please say yes.  Please say yes.”  But instead she answered in her sleepy voice, “No.”

Oh boy.

I spent the next hour, in the darkness, fighting fear with common sense.  I knew that no one had broken in, but the darkness and the unknown kept pushing the common sense and what I did know back against a wall.

Fear.  It’s why I Iose sleep some nights.  It’s why I often don’t try new things and why I avoid old ones.  And once upon a time, it was why I stayed indoors and tried not to go outside very much at all.  Fear is why I avoid my front porch when Aragog’s successor’s web is visible, and it’s why I panic when our Princess starts getting sick.  Fear, it is the impediment to living life fully.

I have spent many years working on the fears that come along irrationally.  And not all fears are.  (To paraphrase my Mama, “Sometimes if you aren’t fearful, you don’t understand the situation.”)  It’s the irrational ones that I want to eke out into extinction.  When even my plans and dreams get filtered through the lens of fear, it is time to do something.

I love this story.  It is endearing and eye-opening and heartbreaking all at the same time.  And joyful--there's joy in there too.

I love this story. It is endearing and eye-opening and heartbreaking all at the same time. And joyful–there’s joy in there too.

I’m reading a book recommended by my friend and wonderful writer, Karen Spears Zacharias–“Whistling By the Graveyard” by Susan Crandall.  The main character, nine-year old Starla, tells it like this: “Whistling past the graveyard.  That’s what Daddy called it when you did something to keep your mind off your most worstest fear.”

Whistling past the graveyard.  Yes.  I know what that feels like.  Only usually for me it’s a way of breathing.  Or whispering the same words over and over to bring me peace and comfort when I’m most afraid.  Or it’s picking up the phone and calling……Sister, Mess Cat, Bubba, my Aunt, a friend, someone I love and trust.  Just to keep me distracted long enough to get over the wave of fear and worry that can come without a moment’s notice.

It’s time I start whistling more and worrying less.  Let go of those fears that cripple me and my ability to take the next step in whatever it is.

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I love this quote by John Wayne.  Yessir.  That’s what it is.  And I’m thinking after all the times I’ve given in to the fear in my life, it’s time that I learn to saddle up.  There is not right or wrong in the trying; it’s just important that I do it.

So in addition to finishing the book I am reading, I need to learn to saddle up regardless.  It might be scary and it might be way out of my comfort zone, but that’s what true courage looks like.  In the face of fear, not in its absence.

Oh yeah, and one more thing for that to-do list.   Add ketchup to my shopping list.  I think we might just be out.  And tomorrow is very likely going to be fish stick Saturday, and goodness knows these folks can eat some ketchup.  I might even have some myself.