Saturday, December 3, 2011

Optimism and Cynicism


I have to be reminded not to be cynical.

This morning I read of a politician in New Hampshire who admitted that the voter-ID law he wanted passed is designed to discourage young voters who would otherwise vote along liberal lines. I felt my mood sour. I listen to the nonsense about Herman Cain, a man who really has no place in a modern-day Presidential campaign, and get all pissy because he's going to be run out of the primary due to an affair rather than his more egregious sexual harassment habit. The people supporting him not only don't believe he sexually harassed anyone but that sexual harassment doesn't exist.

Yesterday, listening to Science Friday on NPR, Ira Flatow talked with Dr. Andrew Weil. The doctor suggested that most cases of mild depression could be adequately treated through regular exercise and doses of fish oil. The conversation immediately shifted to fish oil, a pill that could cure depression! Exercise, an active attempt to change one's life, was just too much to ask. Why move when I can buy health in a bottle? Ugh.

Yet, each morning the sun comes up, the day begins and I have to make decisions about how to face and interpret the world. This morning is no different. I have decisions to make. Factoring into those decisions is my schedule which is packed today though it's a weekend. My daughters have dance rehearsal this morning, my youngest has her birthday party with friends, then my family and my wife's family come to celebrate with dinner and cake.

This time right now, sitting in my basement office typing at seven in the morning, is likely the only solitude I can expect until after nine o'clock tonight.

The house will have to be cleaned, the laundry done, errands will have to be run. It's going to be a busy day and there's all that nonsense about Republicans and fish oil running through my head too.

I have it in mind to get in the car right now and drive. Just get away from all of it. Bring a book, a notebook, pen, and laptop. I wouldn't need much else. I have it in mind to run away because it's all too much.

Of course I won't. And since I won't, I have decisions to make. In the past I have let this cynical mood settle over me. I have hidden in the office long after the writing was done. I have avoided facing the day hoping childishly it would resolve itself into some other form while I was hiding. This plan has never once worked for me and I would expect to learn from that lesson, yet I'm sitting here, even now, contemplating it.

The only thing that has ever worked is to get up and move. The dishwasher needs emptying and it's easy work. The downstairs floors will need sweeping. Again, that's easy work, especially if I put music on. The laundry almost does itself. I just have to load it into the washer, add detergent, and spin a dial. An hour later I can throw it in the dryer.

And so on.

I often have the feeling that I want life to be more, to be better than it is. I don't want to have things like the laundry on my to-do list. When, I ask, will the laundry be done? The answer is, of course, never, but it's the way in which I say "never" that matters. I can say it like the seven-year-old boy who lives in me: "I'm never going to finish doing the laundry!" and then stomp to my room, slam the door, and throw myself on the bed screaming, or I can say it like a man who understands something about the world: "I'm never going to finish doing the laundry." Then I can grab the next load and put it in the machine knowing that laundry isn't something that gets done so much as it is something I am always in the process of doing.

Life is like that: never done, always doing.

Republicans will keep coming, trying to keep people from voting. Men will harass women and there will be those who say that it is nothing to bother ourselves over. And people will look for the magic pill that makes life easy. I have to remember that life goes on and that each morning I have to choose to engage in that life. I don't have to stop all the evil and there will be unpleasant tasks, but life is good so long as I stay in motion. I simply have to keep pushing forward with hope and a commitment to write on.