Only a Yardstick Away
To say that I may have overcomplicated my life is a marvel of understatement. I overthink everything from how many minutes to steep my tea in the morning to whether we should withdraw from the Mideast yesterday and what it would look like now if we had.
I do not make this assertion for your pity or your admiration. It is just who I am, having survived a most peculiar upbringing by assuming that anything that looked good could and would be snatched away from me if I were not vigilant.
I have learned that what I perceive as reality is not reality at all but my version of it. Yours is yours and his is his and so on until we reach the last human or sentient being on the planet. My thoughts about reality as it may or may not exist are on automatic pilot unless or until I become mindful—a condition which comes and goes with less regularity than the tides, full moons, and the tantrums of a two year old.
Thus it is that every once in awhile something happens in a flash of time and I am metaphorically transported to that moment in time when I was allowed to perceive life as it really was (at the moment of birth) before it began to become altered by circumstance.
For one rather large instance, my mother was white but my daily caregivers and feeders and diaper-changers were black. Life starts to get complicated, especially in 1940’s Louisiana on the eve of global conflagration, genocide and atomic fission. It would be a safe guess to opine that my mother was horrifically concerned with the fate of my father who was commanding a destroyer escort in the North Atlantic during part of that early period.
I have no doubt but that your lives were equally confusing early on—being loved and harshly disciplined ought to be enough to mess up any child with zero life experience. Being born totally self-involved can bring about all forms of conflict when one’s early needs are not met on time and in the right measure, whatever the hell that is.
And so that is the long way to the point, which is very simple—simplicity itself. I have begun to pay attention to the weaker signals from inner space….the little bings which barely rise above audible.
This morning’s siren call of the absurdly simple occurred when I needed to measure something in our bedroom—the diagonal of our TV set which had developed a black line 1”x 8” that came and went whenever there was something interesting to see on that part of the screen. In order to replace this piece of highly complex equipment, I needed nothing more complicated than a yardstick.
Instinctively I headed for the door to the garage, knowing from over 40 years of experience that my wife had always hung a yardstick just inside the door to a garage or a cellar depending what our domiciles looked like. The yardstick was and is the same one for at least that long.
As soon as I laid hands on it, I stopped and smiled.
What a gift. How insanely stupidly awesomely simple that my wife had always done this, making our lives better in the most insignificantly significant ways. It doesn’t cure cancer or settle our arguments about which broadcaster’s grammar is worse than another’s.
It is simply the placeholder for all those miracles in our daily lives which rarely get thanks. (Something we used to call “Taking for Granite” when we spoke in baby talk from 1961 to 1965 inclusive.) A car that always starts when you have to go someplace. Hot water when you need it. Enough peanut butter to cover the last Saltine in the cupboard. A washing machine you don’t have to sit on to keep it from walking out of the closet.
The list is endless, but in my daily life rarely do I do what I did: I felt incredibly grateful that we had a yardstick and we always knew where it was.
Who’s got it better than us?