2008/01/11

Character is ... not dead yet

You've heard it, right? Or - maybe seen it, as you drove by some church with a sign board out front or as a caption to an inspirational photo in a magazine? "Character is what you are when nobody's looking."

This is not good news to me. I remembered this little homespun truism this morning, and it actually kept me from falling back to sleep - which is why I'm awake a full hour and a half before I need to be.

A week from tomorrow will be the first anniversary of this blog. This month also marks the end of a year during which our youngest child finished and then graduated from the local high school, after entering in his sophomore year after being homeschooled up to that point.

A year ago he hadn't yet done the theater thing, or the moving out and getting a job and an apartment in the city thing, or the getting rid of his really awful car thing. In fact, I don't think he'd bought the really awful car yet. Now he just wishes someone else would buy it. His life has changed a lot in the past year. Tri-Met bus schedules have become a part of his day. If you felt the tension level in the universe ease a bit, it's because I'm calmer now that the boy's not driving a semi-reliable old Camaro around the city.

Maybe he's the reason I am not pleased to note my own character right now. He's the Man of Action these days, and since I was actually here when he turned into that, you'd think I'd know how to take a little action myself.

Last year at this time all I could think about was the unending hours of quiet and solitude that seemed to be spreading out in the distance. Last year I still thought highly enough of myself that I imagined getting to the Elysian fields ("the final resting place of the souls of the heroic and the virtuous. It is associated with the Christian Heaven," according to Wikipedia) of post-mommy days, and there I would be free to roam and explore and find things and write things and get into better shape and have a job for a little income, and generally have this life of light and refreshment and peace. But those are the words for dead people too. Apparently, my great goal was to get to where good and virtuous dead people go. Perfect. Just perfect. (I'm tired, but seriously. I don't think I'm that tired.)

Within the last year, I found the fields I could see off in the distance, all right. And with a keen sense of outrage, I now announce to you that these fields are not self-tilling, the harvest doesn't come in just because the ground is fertile, and (this is the worst part) the damn things have to be weeded! Work. That's what's out here. Actual work. And not the fun kind either. No endless hours of doing exactly what I please. Just endless hours.

Well, I'm not dead yet. Like the victims of the plague, I hear, "Bring out your dead! Bring out your dead!" and I feel myself being bundled into the wheelbarrow - I can almost hear myself saying, "I'm not dead yet!"

This morning I got out of bed when the answer thumped me. "You will be."

I used to be so confused by Monty Python. It's all starting to make sense now. (That can't be good.)

Well ... now for something completely different. So embarrassingly clich├ęd to be doing this in January. "Character is what you are when nobody's looking." (shut up!) It comes down to this, does it? No one left to tell me what to do because I'm the child, and no one left to tell me what to do because I'm the mom. What's left is the endless stretch of nearly boundless time and space and opportunity, and no one's telling me what to do with it. (I think that's why people can't seem to make themselves retire when they should! They don't know what to do out here in Youdecide!)

No one looking. Just me here. (Does it echo out here?)

All the years of activity so far have taught me how to do a lot of things - but I don't think I ever really learned to choose which things to do. And I've been out here for awhile now. Apparently nobody else is going to show up to direct this show. Even in a field of dreams, you gotta build it before they will come. Dang.

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