Acceptance of What Is Can Be Learned

Cabbage with holes           I began at an early age to learn my role as a would be peacemaker. My parents were both very special and wonderful people, yet they had a lot of differences and often had trouble bridging them. As the eldest and only child by a number of years I had a good deal of practice as a kind of go between for them when there were difficulties to be dealt with. In addition I often found myself with my hands over my ears while my parents attempted to resolve their differences at the top of their lungs. Loving both of them dearly, I was often at a loss as to how to make things better. Most of all I had to deal with my desire for things to be different, and my inability to make this happen.

Fast forward to the present. I recently found myself in the midst of a situation that was very uncomfortable, yet that I could nothing to change. Like all the other times in my life going back to when I was a small child and this was the case, it felt very similar. So in addition I had to deal with these echoes from the past as well as the experience of the present. My nature as a peacemaker, has always made it difficult for me to deal with conflict. This time, as I often do, instead of facing the situation that I was confronted with squarely, I kept wishing things were different.

To be sure that is a natural reaction. Few among us are willing to face a difficult situation without feeling regret as well as the desire to change it in some way to make things easier on everyone. Yet sometimes even with the best of intentions from all concerned, whatever is going on will continue. If I could have accepted this, I would have been better able to come to terms with what was happening. As it was, I had to work hard just to stay calm and keep from trying to help. I have been reflecting on this ever since.

The best that anyone can gain from dealing with a situation where one can do nothing is to allow for a greater sense of compassion to emerge in the heart. A wise woman once quoted me this ancient Hebrew saying: “If there were no grief to hollow out our hearts, where would there be room for joy?” As I have grown older and experienced more grief as well as regret, which is a precursor to grief, I have recognized that there is a treasure to be gained from it. Yet the treasure must be dug out from beneath the stubborn, unyielding crust of denial.

The denial can only be dealt with by my conscious acceptance of my inability to make anything different. As I accept what is and interweave it with threads of compassion, I can come to terms with my own sense of powerlessness, as well as with the pride that weeps over that, and the need to simply let go. The road cannot always be smooth. If there is no grit under the wheals, they will slip and slide without progress. The sandpaper that smooths the rough wood brings out the beauty of the grain. As I allow it to my heart can surely learn to grow.

A Saving Nature

Woodenspoon1

As far as I remember my dad wasn’t one to save things, quite the contrary. He was much more inclined to throw things out. On the other hand, I have a tendency to save anything I think might be useful or could be helpful in time of need—like extra food. I believe I inherited my saving nature from my mother. Once when I visited her in their weekend cottage in Maine I helped her clear out a closet. In the process I found at least three irons, and several toasters she had bought at yard sales and stored against future need. I kidded her about it and she told me quite seriously that they might come in handy one day, and she was happy to have them.

Another time, when I visited her in South Carolina where she lived after my father passed on, I was rummaging in her kitchen when I saw she had a number of broken items in her kitchen drawers. I asked her about them and she assured me that they could be fixed one day and used again. There was something even more useful in her bathroom. My parents loved to travel and wherever they went, my mother collected the little bottles of shampoo, conditioner, lotion and whatever else that were provided by the places they stayed. They were all lined up in rows on her bathroom sink, filling the entire flat part around the basin.

Perhaps for her they were souvenirs of her trips with my father because she never did use them. She also had rows of empty toilet paper cardboard tubes stacked next to the toilet. I didn’t ask her why because I am sure she would have had a good reason for why she kept them. A while ago I noticed I had quite a collection of little bottles saved from trips myself, and I decided that rather than purchase shampoo and conditioner I would use them. I didn’t want to be like my mother, hoarding something in case of need and then never getting to make use of it. I have come to realize that as we get older we must be careful not to take on our parents’ habits.

There is nothing wrong in being of a saving nature; however, to save something indefinitely is counter productive. When we were moving to our current apartment I discovered I had quite a lot of canned and boxed food that was out of date on the shelves of my former pantry. Now I realize I need to go through things more often to make sure I use what I have in a timely manner.

My father used to kid my mother because she had kept some linen sheets exactly as she had received them as a wedding present. He would ask her if she was saving them for her next husband. I have been thinking more about my mother’s habit lately and resolving to make use of what I have. After all, what she might not have realized was that once something is gone it may often be replaced by what is even better.

Tasha Halpert

 

 

Assumptions are Deceiving

Bell at Wilbraham best I was fortunate to be able to go to a small private school located in an old mansion with lovely grounds. I had gone to the kindergarten in a small, separate building built especially for that purpose. Now I was excited to be in first grade, going to the real school with the big kids. Because the school was in a nearby town, and my dad needed our only automobile, my parents paid for me to ride with others in an old station wagon driven by the school custodian, Mr. Clews.

There was plenty of room on the grounds of the school for swings, seesaws, and a large wooden slide that was packed with snow for sledding in the winter. As well there were places to play hide and seek. All this surrounded a large white building at least three stories high with four columns in the front.

There were long granite steps going up to an impressive front door that opened onto a grand hall with a double staircase curving down on either side of the central fireplace. The principal’s office was in a small room on the right of the door. The secretary’s office with the small school library was on the left.

While at five I was a bit young for my class, I was excited and happy to be learning to read and write. In my small school the first grade was made up of perhaps ten or twelve boys and girls. I can still see the classroom: the desks, in rows of three across and four down were made all in one piece. They were green metal with light brown, slightly curved plywood seats.

High on the walls were long black cardboard strips of the alphabet and the numbers one to nine. There was a green blackboard, and there were two large windows on one side of the room. We learned to read from small boring books about children called Dick and Jane and their dog Spot. We were also given arithmetic workbooks. When I looked at mine I noticed that a mistake had been made and with all of my five-year-old diligence I set out to correct it.

As I looked at the workbook and judged from what I had learned so far, I saw that on pages later in it, something had been left out: the long part of all the plus signs. I took it upon my self to correct these incorrect plus signs, carefully crossing them one by one with my pencil. Unbeknownst to me they were not supposed to be plus signs. I had not yet learned about subtraction, only addition. To my dismay when we got to those pages I had a lot of erasing to do.

This may have been my first introduction to what can happen when I act on an assumption rather than from actual knowledge or understanding. It certainly wasn’t my last. All my life I have had to deal with my tendency to leap to conclusions without looking carefully where I might land. However, as I got to know myself better, watching for this tendency has been helpful in training my mind to pay attention. The problem with assumptions is that once one discovers one has messed up one must invariably clean up the mess.

Tasha Halpert