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Mama was a rollin' stone - The Fucking Bluebird of Goddamn Happiness [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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Mama was a rollin' stone [Jul. 7th, 2010|09:26 pm]
Cat's entry for today got me thinking. She writes about the popularity of end-times thinking and how it's a symptom of the need to be more than just extras in the story of life. It's a great entry; you should read it if you haven't.

I think most everyone has moments of wishing their life was a sweeping tale of grandeur, and realizing that it's never going to be. But in the moments of realizing that my mortal coil is already more than halfway through its shuffle, I find that there is a part of me that wonders why I'm still willing to play the game: pay the bills, do the laundry, wash the dishes, water the lawn. I'm not creating a legacy. This is not the house my children grew up in and where they will raise their children. The house Erin grew up in was sold almost a decade ago; the house Amy grew up in will be sold next winter when her dad leaves Massachusetts. Ferrett's ancestral homes are gone now; mine have been gone for decades.

We aren't really building anything that will last. Even if we are carried out the front door feet first, neither of our kids has any attachment to Cleveland. They would sell the house and go on with their own rootless lives.

When I contemplate all that, continuing down the path of daily living feels absurd.

In my mind I sell the house, yard sale the stuff, buy a van, and just take off. I can see myself and Ferrett giving each other wild-eyed, "we're doing something crazy again" grins, then reaching out to squeeze each others hand and then him letting mine go so I can turn the ignition key. And then rolling out, seeking adventure, visiting friends all over the country, watching the sun rise over one ocean and set over another, writing about what we see and the people we meet.

I imagine what I would choose to take with me: my computer, certainly, and the iPhone - communication is important! Books I know we will read again and again - that would probably be the hardest thing to pare down. Magic cards would be another tough one to pare down. And some fiber arts stuff. That and some clothes is about all we could manage. We'd be light. Flexible. Ready to roll.

And then I think about what we'd be leaving behind. There would have to be a storage unit for the things we couldn't give up: family heirlooms, certain art pieces. The stuff isn't really that hard to deal with.

But the people. The people would be tough. All our loves would be long-distance ones, and much longer distance than they are now. That would be hard. I would probably see my own kids about as much as I can expect to now, what with them grown, but I wouldn't have anyplace to be Mom to them. And I would miss watching our um-children grow up. And miss all the wonderful friendships that grow from the simple hanging out and being available. And what if someday there are grandchildren to be loved and spoiled? Suddenly all that freedom feels kind of empty.

So. My fate is not to be one of the immortals. In 75 years there probably won't be anyone who remembers much about me (though the internet provides us with a better shot at immortality, the chances of anyone actually reading the LJ archives is pretty damned low). But that doesn't mean that there's no motivation for me to stay in my life.

The life on the road? It would be fun for a while, but not forever. Ultimately, this life does make me happy. Lacking a legacy, that's probably the best I can hope for. So I unpack the van, move back into the house, and feel grateful for my life.

[User Picture]From: vespurrs
2010-07-08 01:49 am (UTC)
You've put into words something that's been niggling at me for several days now. Thank you.
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[User Picture]From: walkertxkitty
2010-07-08 02:14 am (UTC)
I don't know about everyone else, but with my health so bad I'm not guaranteed another day (no one is, really, but I KNOW it) so I set out to make each and every day one of sweeping grandeur...even if it's just looking at the clouds and admiring the sky or taking time to stroke one of the cats for a while.

My life is my life and evidently it's enough as I've often been told that I make even the most mundane things like going to Wal-Mart sound like grand adventures.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-08 02:20 am (UTC)
That's a great attitude.
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[User Picture]From: walkertxkitty
2010-07-08 02:42 am (UTC)
It was a hard one to achieve. I hate to sound like a cheese-ball but one day during my meditation time I had that epiphany. I don't always succeed at it, but most of the time I manage.
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[User Picture]From: kisekinotenshi
2010-07-08 02:34 am (UTC)
I have the opposite view. I've always figured my life would be one of traveling, not settling down, having to rid myself of extraneous junk so I could make the next move without killing myself. And I am happy with that life. I want to travel everywhere, to see the beauty in other countries and otherwise enjoy myself immensely. But part of me wonders what it would be like to nest. To have lots of big things that are hard to move because I would stay where I was. In reality I'm sure I would get restless with that, but it's a nice dream.

Of course, I'm also fairly sure I'll have a whirlwind of torrid love affairs but never find anyone to spend my life with, SO. XD Expectations at my age are kind of silly in general.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-08 03:12 pm (UTC)
It's interesting the difference in world views.
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[User Picture]From: yndy
2010-07-08 04:49 am (UTC)
But you are leaving a legacy... even if it's just passing on your DNA - or leaving ideas that are expressed in words that might be the seeds that germinate in someone else's mind to become eternal art? Well...

Remember that Van Gogh never knew of his own greatness in his lifetime.

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-08 03:15 pm (UTC)
Perhaps. Every life is valuable, after all.
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From: wildcelticrose
2010-07-08 05:03 am (UTC)
I spent the first half of my life on the wild crazy road trip.

I am very much enjoying walking out my back door into my lovely garden and building a home (for the umpteenth and hopefully final time)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-08 03:16 pm (UTC)
It's been great watching you build up your home.
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[User Picture]From: ccr1138
2010-07-08 05:48 am (UTC)
I used to feel guilty because OMG WHY AM I WASTING MY TALENT NOT DOING IMPORTANT EARTH-SHATTERING STUFF? Then I realized that this, too, is vanity and a striving after wind. The same for not seeing the Great Wall of China or whatever other grand, romantic adventure I might have on my "bucket list."

But now I think if I'd rather sit and watch old episodes of Bones while my husband rubs my feet, that's just as good. What is better than to eat, to drink, and to enjoy oneself? It is the gift of God!
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[User Picture]From: jeffpalmatier
2010-07-08 06:36 am (UTC)
My own answer to this question is that it's a balancing act for me. On one hand, I've learned to enjoy the seemingly small stuff. However, because of my Type A personality, I would go nuts if I didn't spend at least some of my time chasing some of the grand goals I have. It's definitely partly vanity on my part, but I figure if I don't take it to an extreme where I can't enjoy smelling the roses, then I'm not doing harm to myself and others.
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[User Picture]From: jeffpalmatier
2010-07-08 06:29 am (UTC)
I've spent the last so many months scanning our family photos, including a cache from my mom's family. It gave me a real sense of mortality because I realized that just as my family had our lives, these people who grew up in early part of the 20th century also had their lives . . . and now they're largely gone. As disconcerting as it was for me to face, I've tended to give my own nuclear family's photos files detailed titles because I realize that years down the road, some ancestor will be looking through them who might not know who the hell these people were. I got the same general sense walking through a cemetery recently. Gah!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-08 03:20 pm (UTC)
It's very true. The heirlooms that are precious to me are from an ancestor my children have never met. Passing on that legacy is kind of hard.
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-07-08 06:53 am (UTC)
I think Thornton Wilder was right: Our pedestrian, everyday lives are more valuable than we can possibly realize, even if we try. I do not think this is inconsistent with their being pedestrian and everyday.

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[User Picture]From: pachamama
2010-07-08 11:51 am (UTC)
In 75 years there probably won't be anyone who remembers much about me

Maybe not in a known attributable way. But what I find fascinating is the depth and breadth of the unattributed legacy we leave behind -- the phrases your daughters will use with their daughters and their daughters with theirs; the expressions and hand movements, the style of chopping vegetables and preferred combinations of spices, the preference for line-dried or tumble-dried clothes, a million different details that make up what we are like that we pass on every day to those around us, without them necessarily even being aware of it.

I love it that my daughter sings the same lullaby to her dolls that my Dad sang to me and his Dad to him. She has no memory of her grandfather or greatgrandfather, but the song still has meaning for her, of comfort and love and clean cotton sheets, that she will pass on to her children, and they to theirs. And so my Dad, and my grandfather, live on in that.

Edited at 2010-07-08 11:52 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-08 03:21 pm (UTC)
That's just lovely.
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[User Picture]From: reasie
2010-07-08 03:01 pm (UTC)
I think my blog entry today kinda goes along with this - sorry so rude to self-pimp.

Though mine has nothing to do with legacies. ;)

I guess, if you're worried about what you'll leave behind you, then you must be doing all right enough not to worry about what's ahead of you. Eh?

Or to be terribly Buddhist about it, we must let go of our desire for permanence (legacy)!
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[User Picture]From: gows
2010-07-08 05:12 pm (UTC)

When I was 21 and my sister was 18, my parents left us to move onto the family sailboat. They left the state within three weeks of my sister graduating from high school. In that time, my mother retired (my father already had), my sister and I moved into a place together, and they sold off or put into storage just about everything they had.

For the next fifteen years, the longest time I ever spent in the same vicinity with my parents was perhaps two months. Weeks would go by without any communication from them, usually prefaced by things like "hi, we're sailing from Mexico to Borneo over the next month; if six weeks goes by and you don't hear from us, you and your sister are co-executors of our wills." They spent roughly five years in Mexico, sailed across the Pacific, a year and a half in New Zealand, and two years in Australia. There was a very real chance that they wouldn't make it back for my sister's wedding.

I spent six years without ever laying eyes on my parents, and I am inordinately proud of them. I am also much stronger and more independent for it. They have friends all over the world now, and are living their own lives.
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[User Picture]From: uncacreamy
2010-07-08 09:37 pm (UTC)
Interesting how things can be all different. My mom did something similar, picked up and moved when I became 18. Instead, I felt abandoned. This is a cool story, and it makes me wanna do the same.:)
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[User Picture]From: gows
2010-07-08 11:54 pm (UTC)
I think being prepared for it made all the difference in the world. My parents talked about taking a sabbatical and sailing around the world when I was in jr. high (they'd had their first boat since I was 9). I was glad they stayed and waited until my sister and I got through school, but the retire-and-move-onto-the-boat plan had been unfurling for the previous four years, which was when my father was able to take early retirement.

It also helps that my sister and I had some pretty incredible support systems in place--including each other. I never had any resentment towards them, just a lot of pride.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-08 10:28 pm (UTC)
That's amazingly cool.
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[User Picture]From: gows
2010-07-08 11:56 pm (UTC)
*nods* Like I said, I'm terribly proud of my parents. I had some pretty gnarly health problems in my teens and early 20s, but I'm glad they went and had their own lives. It gave my sister and I a lot more freedom and permission to be ourselves, rather than my parents trying to relive their desires through us.
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[User Picture]From: smartlikeatruck
2010-07-08 06:15 pm (UTC)
Oddly, my obsession with end times lies in the *after*, in the survivors. I love stories of feral houses, feral dogs, feral people. I yearn for a return to survival, though I know that I might not survive.

The thing that keeps me tied to my home is people. Without people who depend on me, I would be gone and away. I do not own anything of much value. I rent my home. My job is good, but it is a job. Part of me is a pacing cat in a cage, waiting for someone to accidentally leave the door open.
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[User Picture]From: corvaxgirl
2010-07-08 06:18 pm (UTC)
I've been thinking about what I want my legacy to be. At the end of the day, strangely I want it to be my sister and I shuffling in a second kitchen that I will some day make her build in her house, cooking our grandmothers and great aunts recipes, squabbling with each other and crossly shooing out children in some kind of fabulous matched set housecoat.

I may not have children, but it's what our grandmothers and greataunts did, it's likely what we'll do and hopefully one of our punk ass younger relatives will too and so on and so on.

That makes me happy in some kind of strange way.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-08 10:38 pm (UTC)
That sounds really cool.
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[User Picture]From: cynic51
2010-07-10 02:38 am (UTC)
75 years? Feh. There'll still be plenty of your friends around.
125 years? Now THAT'S hard.
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