File drawers occasionally need a good cleanout
Monday, November 11, 2013 4:07 AM
There's a longtime habit that I have only occasionally considered trying to break. However, I never really am serious about that, because it provides me with some worthwhile things such as laughs, learning and entertainment.
I guess everyone who aspires to be a writer of some sort has this habit to a greater or lesser extent. It is the catchall place where I stow the notes to myself and other items of interest such as newspaper or magazine clippings. I jot down great quotations I have heard, jokes and examples of behaviors that either amused or appalled me. Any of those could become fodder for a future article or speech.
My recent drawer cleaning brought that file to the surface and some of its items will go the way of the recycle bin, but not before I get another laugh, or shake my head in wonder, or groan in dismay.
One of those is a newspaper clipping from the Bangkok Post titled "More the merrier." It told about a 66-year-old man in India's remote northeast who has 39 wives, 94 children and 33 grandchildren - "and wouldn't mind having more." Evidently they all live together in a huge building with 100 rooms. The man said, "I once married 10 women in one year." The wives take turns cooking and the daughters clean the house and do the laundry. The men do outdoor jobs. There was no mention of the source of income for the 167-member family. As we say here in Minnesota, uffda!
I love the comic strip "Pickles," likely because the old couple is often mirroring our own lives. In one I had saved in my file, they (Earl and Opal) were sitting on the couch. He said, "Change is part of life. Life is one long series of changes. We're always changing, all of us. The only constant in life is change. When you're through changing, you're through." In the last frame, Opal turned to him as he pushed the TV remote one more time and said, "All I said was 'Can't you just pick one channel and stay with it?'"
Another interesting thing in that file was four paycheck stubs from Spouse Roger's summer job in 1959, between his freshman and sophomore years of college. Recently he was doing his own drawer cleaning and showed them to me; I said I'd like to keep them because maybe sometime I'd do an article about hard work. That's how they ended up in my file. I've never found more to say about hard work that wouldn't sound like the usual litany of "when we were young, we had to work really hard," so I'm giving them back to him, in case he wants to continue to save them.
What was impressive about those check stubs was the number of hours he worked: the four two-week periods of these stubs showed him as having worked 138.25 hours the first two weeks, 117 hours the second period, 122 the third and 162.5 the fourth. That's an average of about 68.5 hours per week, at a salary of just over a dollar an hour. And it was not an easy job. Again, uffda.
I had saved some quotes of good advice or to think about, such as Leo Durocher saying, "You don't save a pitcher for tomorrow. It may rain." Or Maya Angelou who said, "I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights."
I thought about that: it also is about a person's basic optimistic or pessimistic outlook and the two - problem-solving and optimism/pessimism - are closely related.
Sometimes what catches my attention is a beautiful description that also says something worth thinking about. Jim Butcher, in his novel, "Storm Front," wrote one of those paragraphs. It reads, "(there was) rain in sheets on the old building above me. It created and swayed in the spring thunderstorm and wind, timbers gently flexing, wise enough with age to give a little rather than put up a stubborn resistance until they broke. I could probably stand to learn something from that."
Lovely and a good lesson.
Perhaps the most inspiring of the things I found during this current cleanout was the story of Nick Vujicic, a 30-year-old who was born without arms or legs. He's published a book, "Unstoppable," about his life. The article I had saved ("Attitude of Gratitude," USA Weekend, Dec. 28-30, 2012) quoted him as saying that it was the "three Fs" that "got him through: friends, family and faith."
He has obviously not had an easy life, but he said, "Success is that much sweeter when you have struggled to reach it...You don't know what you are capable of until you try." And if you fail at something, "you have a decision: Do you give up or do you try again?" Obviously, he kept on trying.
Once again, that file was good for some humor and certainly food for thought. I also tossed a few items that made me wonder why they were in there.
Now the file goes back into the drawer to start accumulating again until next time.