Would you buy a 72” flat-screen television just to watch the Super Bowl and return it for a refund the next day? I didn’t think so, because we’re not that crazy, but, apparently, some people are. What kind of people think that their television screen isn’t big enough on which to watch a football game once a year? First World People, that’s who. Who are these sorry folks? I hate to tell you this, but we are.
If you grew up in the US in the 1950s, you undoubtedly were scolded by a parent, who survived the Great Depression, for not eating your peas/liver and onions/prunes with “There are children starving in Europe/Africa/China who would love to have it.” If you were smart, you gritted your teeth to restrain the words, “Then, send it over to them” from leaving your lips. Duly admonished, however, the guilt probably sank in a little, because there wasn’t much that a 9-year old in Eisenhower’s America could do about world famine other than to fret, briefly, on the possibility that there was a world beyond what was shown to us on television.
My father also used to remind us that “Everything is relative” and “This, too, shall pass.” Throughout my life, I’ve tried to temper my frustrations and sorrows by putting them in perspective. Is this surmountable? How do I make this better? Is this really as bad as I think it is? Sometimes, it is, so I have also learned to deal with it humorously.
For example, when my father died after a devastating two years of ALS (remember last summer’s ice bucket challenge?), My Mother and I, accompanied by my uncle, stood with the funeral director looking at caskets and vaults.
“In this end, we place a time capsule with the deceased’s name, place and date of birth, and place and date of death.”
“Oh,” My Mother the history buff quipped, “is that so when they dig us all up in a thousand years, there won’t be any mystery about who we were? Maybe they’ll confuse us with someone important.” We snickered together.
The funeral director smiled uncertainly and moved on to the vaults, describing how they were made out of the same material as football helmets.
“Well, that’s perfect for Daddy,” I chimed in. “He played football in high school and will feel right at home.” My Mother and I laughed, while the funeral director and my uncle exchanged sympathetic looks of the “Poor-little-women-in-their-grief” variety.
People were equally disconcerted when The Veterinarian died unexpectedly, yet I didn’t go to pieces. (Yes, I saw the looks on the faces of people who don’t know me very well.) First of all, my faith swooped in and picked me up. The first thing I did was pray and ask God to take over. As always, God did. The second thing I could hear was my beloved husband’s voice say, “Don’t panic. When you panic, you’ve lost.” In my head, I heard My Mother’s voice say, “Keep going.” In every way, my life had prepared me for that moment. And when, within days, I was beset with confounding legal issues and was diagnosed with hypertension, I was able to keep moving forward, when some around me could only react with fear. I truly felt joy at the outpouring of love from the hundreds of people who offered condolences in person or by mail. (And that, ladies and gentleman, is how to celebrate a life lived generously.) The stories that were shared lifted my spirits in ways that no pharmaceutical ever could.
In the first weeks, I found that I couldn’t concentrate enough to read. I discovered humorous crime novels. In a matter of weeks, I read every book Janet Evanovich ever wrote. I read funny “chick lit” from Mary Kay Andrews, Sophie Kinsella, and the wacky vampires of MaryJanice Davidson, stuff I had never read before. I tuned my satellite radio to the comedy channels. The sound of laughter, even if it was only my own, was the sound of life. It balanced the sorrow and stress and misery, while the prayers of so many kept me afloat. I put my life back in perspective.
This week, The Daughter and I are on vacation in a delightfully sunny haven. Mostly sunny, I should say. Yesterday, we had some clouds and scattered rain as we sat by the pool, reading and contemplating what to have for lunch. We were aware that, while we were complaining of only having 3-6 hours of sunshine, back home, 3-6” of snow were forecast. There wasn’t much that we could do about it other than to fret, briefly, on the possibility that our family and friends were frantically searching grocery stores for MBTp. Still, the clouds cut into our pool time, so we sighed and compiled some First World Problems. If any of these are make-or-break problems for you, you need to lighten up! If we’ve forgotten any, feel free to add them using “Reply.”
First World Problems
You’re the only second grader who doesn’t have a smartphone.
Your Hawaiian vacation rental is garden-view, not oceanfront.
Your dishwasher doesn’t have a stainless steel interior.
Your refrigerator doesn’t have ice in the door.
Your kitchen countertops are Formica.
Your twins share a bedroom.
Your cable plan doesn’t include HBO.
Your new diet doesn’t allow McDonald’s.
Your pre-packaged salad isn’t “organic.”
Your “Parmesan” cheese was made in Wisconsin.
Your Caribbean vacation is 80° and partly cloudy.
You’re forced to stream iTunes, because Pandora doesn’t work outside the US.
Your server gives you an extra cocktail for free.
You have to drive to three different stores to find chipotle-and-lime tortilla chips.
You’re on vacation, and you still have to empty the dishwasher.
Today, The Daughter and I decided that Jane Austen, as broadminded as she was for the early 19th century, would be dumbfounded by the modern world of courtship. Austen’s heroines find themselves looking for love in all the right places, in their social milieu. They encounter posers, narcissists, damaged heroes, philanderers, the aristocracy, and ne’er-do-wells. Luckily for them, they encounter them at church, parties, and dances, in shops or at tea, face-to-face, to size up the character of their romantic prospects through their friends, families, manners, speech, and dress.
Alas, dear Reader, today we encounter them hiding behind fake photos, fake profiles, and false modesty traveling at the speed of light through the Great Unknown to my computer. I receive at least four to five introductory emails each day that just say, “Textme1235555555,” as if I have been lobotomized and am sitting with cellphone in hand. Men actually say they are looking for “a lady with benefits,” which is an oxymoron, if I’ve ever heard one. Their photographic introductions show them bare-chested, in wifebeaters, squinting into their cellphone camera lenses, and one just posted a photo of only his legs and feet. I don’t want to know why.
Actually, on chemistry*com, probably 85% of the profiles don’t even have a photo, which is really a pig in a poke, if you ask me. “Ask him for a photo” it says. Some, like a guy calling himself “mensadoc,” are “Still thinking of something to write,” according to the site. Really? You’re a member of Mensa, have a doctoral degree, and can’t put together a photo and 200 words about yourself? Slacker.
In my new profile on chemistry, I say, “I’m that cute, ladylike-but-sassy girl in your high school English class.” Someone emailed, “Hey, cute sassy girl! We can swing through the trees like Tarzan and Jane.” Excuse me?! Another man wrote to me and said that in my photos I appear, “cute, patient, and gentle.” Oh, dear. I suppose I’ve oversold myself and will have to make it clear that I am only one of the three. Looks are deceiving on this end of the internet, too. I read on a website called “online dating tips” that it’s trite to describe yourself as “funny.” Well, I am funny. That’s one of my great strengths, n’est-ce pas? But this, too, shall pass, so, who am I to complain? Life is good (mostly). Soli Deo Gloria!