The Wisdom of Dr. Suess

And when you’re in a Slump,

you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98% and 1/4 guaranteed.)
From Oh, the Places You’ll Go
Ahhhhhh.  The timeless wisdom of Dr. Suess.  He continually reminds us – in the most friendly of ways – of the ups and downs of life.  We silly humans promptly forget and wonder why it isn’t roses all of the time.  What happened to the roses?  Weren’t we guaranteed roses?  Where are those stinkin’ roses!  We want our money back!!!
Life is what it is, and for sure, it ain’t always roses. 
Early on in this newest adventure in my already adventure-filled life, I was warned by a veteran fire-survivor of all the silly things that people would say in response to our tragedy.  At the top of her list was any sentence beginning with the words, “At least you… (fill in the blank)”.  I could comprehend then – and now I understand completely how this is absolutely not a good way to begin a sentence with anyone who has gone through a recent trauma.  It lands as an insistence that we “should” be grateful at a time where either a) we know that already, or b) we definitely are not ready to hear that, or c) we want you shut your pie hole (and you know I mean that in the most loving of ways…).
I quickly learned to brace for the relatively frequent barrage of “at least you _____” statements.  I smile and nod, or I say nothing, or I change the subject… quickly.  My closest and dearest have transformed this overused retort into something funny.  “Well, at least you are hot.  Or at least you don’t have to worry about anybody reading any of your childhood journals.  At least you don’t have to worry about who will clean out your stuff when you die…”
In my debut as a stand-up comic last week (yes, you may laugh now at the mere thought), I riffed on the ripe material that emanates from the well-meaning yet clueless folks who utter these words.  Then to my surprise, yesterday I received an “at least” statement with an open heart as it came form the lovely man who, with his crew of two, spent 3 backbreaking days constructing a beautiful flagstone patio for us.  Javier is the epitome of hardworking.  Over the time we had together, we learned a little about his life.  Moving from Mexico to Colorado as a small child, his family owned a large ranch in the Southern part of the state for many years.  Married twice and supporting a family, Javier works by day at a landscaping supply yard and by night (and all weekend too), at his own business of installing patios as well as remodeling and finish work on houses.  Busy doesn’t begin to describe it.  Early mornings, late evenings, non-stop work, who knows when this man sleeps.  Vacation is probably not in his vocabulary.
On Saturday, after finishing most of the patio, Javier and his crew posed for pictures in our driveway capturing the vast vista behind them.  He returned for a brief stop yesterday morning as he had run out of “Breeze” which fills in the crevices between the stones and our patio seemed to grow larger than originally planned.  Driving all the way up here for a 15-minute job, he didn’t miss a beat and generously brought a chainsaw, as he knew that David wanted to take down a small tree that was shading our solar panels.  At one point, I asked his age and he said, “44”.  A bit surprised due to his gray hair and weathered face, I said, “Oh, we are older than you are.”  He, without spite, responded, “yes, but you don’t do the kind of work I do.”  I heartily agreed.
As he was preparing to depart, he took one last gaze at our panoramic view, the burn not registering as a detraction in any way, and these words came out of his mouth, “At least you…”  I, in turn, watched my heart open to this man as he finished, “… have this land and this view.”  I, again, heartily agreed with Javier.
Yes, at least we do have this land and this view.  We are quite fortunate.  We have freedoms that many don’t.  We live in a beautiful and serene place even with its most recent scars and destruction.  Herein lies the rich fabric of life that Dr. Suess points to.  I can realize my blessings and still have my slumps.  I can be grateful for how relatively “easy” we have it compared to so many others and I can let go of needing to experience that gratitude at every moment.
Yesterday at my 12-step meeting the topic was “letting go”, a common theme of conversation around the rooms.  It’s always interesting to hear the many different perspectives on this topic.  Some are short and sweet, others are a tall order.  Many parables were shared to illustrate the simplicity of letting go coupled with our innate ability to complicate and resist anything simple.  Letting go really does sound easy.  And most of us know that it’s not.  It is simple; it is not easy.  We can let go – and then a few minutes (or seconds) later, pick it right back up again.  For many of us, like a ravenous dog with a bone, we gnaw away until our teeth chip and our gums bleed.
After one particularly moving share, I reconfirmed my knowledge that I will ultimately let go.  I will do it, it will happen, this too shall pass and yadda yadda.  This is the big picture view.  In the small picture view, where most of us live, I need to be where I am.  It goes like this:
Let go, pick it back up, let go again…. Ahhhh space and freedom.  Trigger trigger trigger.  Shit!!!!!!!!!  Breathe.  Let go.  Ok, got it.  I am letting go.  Peace.  Wait a minute – what did you say?  Spiral spiral spiral.  Oh, you didn’t mean “that”?   You really love me?  Ok, I understand.  I feel happy!  We really are ok.  What, the septic is leaking?  Again?  Fuck it all.  God does hate me.  What’s wrong with world?  Why is there so much suffering???  Wow, that’s a beautiful flower.  Ooooh, did you see that baby deer.  Boy, I love my dogs.  Oh no, I have a sore throat, maybe I am getting sick.  Shit.  God does hate me.   There isn’t even a God anyway.  Nothing makes sense.  I am sleepy.  I love my cozy bed in Flame.  So glad to have my feather pillow.  Ahhhh.  Life is good.   Right now.  In this moment.  I hope nothing happens today…
The monkey mind is our constant companion.  Some have an easier time keeping it in its cage and remembering that it tells us a pack of lies.  Others have what we call in 12-step rooms, a “built in forgetter”.  In 1989, I learned this simplest of explanations for the insanity.  I simply forget.  I forget over and over and over and over again.  And, then I remember, when I remember.  Sometimes, I remember more quickly, sometimes it takes me a while.  With a long-term dedication to a path of personal growth comes the experience of having walked through many fires in our lives.  Once we walk through enough fires, we begin to know on some higher level that one day, we will be ok again.  And one day, we will see the gifts.  And one day, the event will recede into the distance becoming part of our history but not informing everything we think, say or do.
One of the most important things I am letting go of today is how letting go should look.  For this human, letting go is a process not a one-time event.  I am like the weather – sometimes sunny, sometimes cloudy.  Sometimes blowing stink, sometimes pitter-pattering cool drops of rain.  I will open my heart to those like Javier and allow myself to view my world through his kind eyes.  And, sometimes I will wake up grumpy and argue with my husband for no apparent reason.  I will then back up and remember that he is my favorite person in the whole wide world and all I really want is for him to be happy.  And, I will pat his head, offer more coffee and make my amends.  Later, I may moan and groan on hold at customer service.  I will pat my dogs and be elatedly grateful for their presence.  I will celebrate the small amount of “old” things I carried out of my house like my wool turtle neck sweater and hand woven blanket.
I will forget, then I will remember, then I will forget again.  And, one day, I will remember longer.
Just don’t push your luck by beginning any sentence with “at least”.  At least for the time being, unless your name happens to be Javier, k?
  • Ellen Moore
    Posted at 22:17h, 16 July Reply

    You know, I was telling one of my friends about your loss and subsequent struggle, and this person doesn’t know you but has seen you or seen pictures of you, and was bemoaning his loneliness and actually did say “At least she’s hot.”
    And I really wanted to hit this person for being so self-absorbed, but am glad to share this with you because now you know that even strangers are commenting on your hotness, and how that should make up for losing your house. Which I’m sure will make everything all better.

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