Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Condiment Placebo

It is now 12 days until Christmas in a season I am working hard not to celebrate. The one echoing emotion that slaps me in the head multiple times a day every single day is that I really miss my Mom. She was such a strong structuring influence in my life, and there are days I just feel lost without her there to advise me, console me, or give me a really sharp kick in my ass. I need the latter more often than I care to admit. The good news is my Mom did her job really well. I am prepared to be without her.
Parents, please take note of this idea:

  Your one purpose in life is to get your children ready to live their lives well in a world without you. 

I hope not to fail in that mission. If I succeed in any small fashion for my girls, mine will be a life well lived. 
I find myself, like everyone else, stressed about the normal ebb and flow in life. I try to keep as much as I can under control. I budget carefully. I try to stay ahead of the daily troubles like laundry and dirty dishes. I work on the bigger issues diligently such as watching what I eat a bit and trying to get some decent exercise. Then things come along that I cannot do a thing about and I am suddenly blown out of the water. Mom suddenly dying as an example...
Anyway, I have all these great memories of Mom moments. So many of them weren't meant to teach me anything but stuck with me none the less. The story I am about to tell here is one prominent example. I will give this disclaimer. Human memory is unreliable at best. My Dad or my oldest daughter may tell this story slightly differently. I would just about bet the kid would. The further in life, I get from events the easier it is to paint them in a better light than how I felt when they happened. I may tell one of those stories too as I have just hit an inspiration.
We had been living in Germany a month or so when Mom really caught all the differences between groceries there and here. Oh, there would be surprises along the way. We attempted to find safe and familiar things to cook.
Mom made dinner. I honestly do not remember what the entree was. I know we had french fries on the side. Taila started to complain about how something tasted funny. That was the way things were in Germany for me. If it was something from home, say french fries, they were really close but not quite right. That was much worse than the things that were just completely different. 
I remember dinner being sort of tense. It wasn't an unpleasant setting by any means. Dad was stressed about work. I was decompressing from 10 years of suppressing emotions. (This is how I spent my time in Germany. That, taking pictures, writing, and growing out my hair.) Taila hated school a little less (from my perspective) than before or after that time. Still, the kid was complaining about the food as kids are want to do. 
After about 3 times answering for the meal, my Mother was fed up. She got increasingly aggravated. Taila launched one last complaint and Mom barked back," Well, you can put some ketchup on it and deal with it." Taila was furious. Mom was savage. Dad and I laughed until the other two joined in. It became a repeated mantra in our household. I don't think the kid really appreciated it since she felt like the victim of the statement. Lately, I wish she would apply it.
There is a ton of wisdom behind that short, smart-assed statement. It meant," Eat is because it is what we have." It also meant, "Find a way to work with what you have rather than wishing for the things you do not." I like the idea of it meaning, "If it is good enough for the rest of us, it is plenty good enough for you." My Mom probably just was tired of hearing complaints about her hard work and meant literally," Drown it and ketchup and it will taste fine." 
"Eat it because it is what we have," is an important sentiment. That is probably the foundation of practical and pragmatic. It is the base idea of, "Beggars cannot be choosers." It is also the motivation behind making good choices that allow you to surround yourself with desirable things. I find spoiled people very frustrating. I am blessed to live in a place where a little bit of hustle and hard work allow me to make nearly infinite choices and avoid most of the things I don't like. I understand that there are places in the world where this freedom is not available. I don't lose sight of that and it helps me to be less entitled.
"Find a way to work with what you have rather than wishing for things you do not," is about it not being a good idea to get German Chocolate Wet Cake for every meal. Ok, maybe that is not the literal underlying idea. Let me try that one again.
There are tons of things about myself that I would have changed along the way. I would not have been quite so tall. I think 5'10" sounds absolutely perfect. I would have liked to have straight hair so I could style it more easily. I would like to have naturally, perfectly straight teeth. 
In my youth, I lamented all these things and a few others. At one point I really hated the way my toenails were shaped. Over time I learned to really appreciate every aspect of myself. I have a lot of swagger about my height, my broad shoulders, and my great head of wavy, impossible hair. That didn't come from other people admiring me. It came from me believing in myself and making what I had my own. All of the wishes for impossible changes just tore at my self-esteem. 
I have had the same problem over the years with falling in and out of love quickly with my transportation. I always want something faster, more fuel efficient, roomier, or with a special feature like four-wheel drive. Now, a few cars over the years have bit the dust. I killed the Cougar rather spectacularly. I got rid of my Explorer though for no real reason. I wasn't really using it at the time. I wanted to buy a motorcycle. Now I find myself wanting a vehicle to pull a camper, drive in the snow, and has more room for me and the family. Not all my moves are well thought out. I would have been better off to make do with what I already had.
Lastly, I like the equality of the idea of," Put some Ketchup on it and deal with it." I was eating the food. Mom was eating the food. Dad was eating the food. It was good enough for us. It was plenty good enough for Taila. This sentiment applies to situations where the system applies rules to everyone to be fair. I see no point in complaining about things that everyone else has to deal with. Mom taught me long ago that life isn't fair, but it is funny to me how many people complain about the rules and measures that try to make it that way.
I have trouble feeling sympathy for people who complain rather than dealing with the things everyone else deals with. You need money. You are probably going to have to have a job that meets that need. The job is going to have requirements that you have to maintain. If you aren't willing or able to meet them, you will end up having to find a job that you can succeed in holding. 
You will have happy days and sad. You will struggle financially. You will struggle emotionally. You are likely to have a spiritual crisis or three along the way. You may even get treated unfairly in some new and unique way. Eventually, you are going to die. 
There is nothing you can do about any of it. You might as well make the best of it. When it is hard to chew on that is when you have to, "put some ketchup on it, and deal with it." I love the grim determination of the phrase so much. It answers pretty much every problem. 


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