Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Letting go of Ideals

I posted something on Facebook the other day and my daughter actually called and said "What did you mean by that? I was just wondering." The post was this: "Sometimes we have to let go of our ideals and then we can become open to the ideal."
Well, as I explained to her it had everything to do with making something out of what you had if you couldn't realistically get what you want.
Don't get me wrong; There is nothing wrong with striving and nothing wrong with pursuing a 'dream'. But sometimes, as we all know, things are a little out of reach, and we have to accept that. My particular post was regarding my gardening work. I would love to have enough money to put in luscious flower beds, very ornate edges, lush green grass and have to do nothing more than to sit back and 'watch the grass grow' to use a very tired cliche. But that isn't possible. So I used what I had. That amounted to a random mish-mash of old river stones, some old brick, and plants that had escaped their original beds and had decided to re-locate out in the lawn. As I worked I began to forget how lazy I wanted to be and began to appreciate how much I actually enjoyed feeling the dirt on my hands and began to see that what I was doing was more satisfying than what my original "ideal" was. After hours of labor intensive work I stood back and saw what I had done- all by myself, and had to sigh with content and found a smile etched on my face.
The rocks looked perfect, the new flower bed I had created with a few of the escapees and the addition of some very simple little bedding plants looked as if they belonged... as if they were meant to be there. And they were. Each plant was mine, it knew my soil, the rocks were weathered and soft looking and the old bricks had an inviting coat of soft green mossy algae. It looked old, and comfortable, and settled. Rather like myself, I'll admit.
Too often we forget that not all that glitters is gold, and I mean gold as in good. Sometimes the aged, worn, and lacking the shine of newness is cast aside, left to ruin, uncared for, and forgotten about in search of the exciting and new thing...like sports cars, new furniture, modern art, and sometimes even people.
The old masters will never cease to impress the true art lover. The glow of old oils can't be duplicated or outdone. It's easy to stare for long moments, even hours, at a painting centuries old because there is depth, warmth, a melding of colors that almost perfectly mimic nature or real life. You can almost watch the blush begin to blossom in the cheeks of a young girl, and practically smell the fragrance of a vase of flowers on the old, deeply polished table in a still life painting. You can hear the leaves rustle over the blacksmith in that famous painting. There is a reason that these paintings are hanging in museums - they are timeless classics... Timeless class.

Old cars - They don't build them like they used to.

Ask the collector who scours the country looking for the old Chevelles, or the Corvettes. They run good, they're dependable, they're easy to fix... The new cars are sleek, fast, shiny, expensive, and they look good and run good for a year or two. Eventually the switch is going to go out that rolls the window down, or the electronic ignition will go bad - the "brain" in the new computerized cars can die, and then you're looking at a few hundred, if not a thousand or more to get your new and improved model running again. The older classics might need a new knob on the window crank handle, it might need a new radiator hose, a new oil filter or maybe even a new transmission on occasion... but they're all fixable, easy to repair, and usually you can fix them right in your own back yard. Not the new models. You have to practically own a mini NASA to figure out the problem and then the left wing of a major hospital to do the surgery to repair the 5000.00 water pump as well as 14 hours to get to it.

Ask the guy who hungers for one of the earlier Harley Davidsons. He'd pass by a thousand new ones on the showroom floor to get to the old model because they're classic, they're precious, they're unique, and they're worth every dime he'll spend.
The new motorcycles, or "Bikes" as they are called cost thousands, and occasionally they cost thousands to repair when they break down and they break down far more frequently than they ought to for the money they cost.

The ideal is to own the newest, the fastest, the brightest, that most modern - at least for some people. For awhile I longed for a sweet little sporty looking Jaguar. I wanted a forest green exterior with a white leather interior. One day on the interstate I passed "my" car... broke down on the side of the road, the hood up, and I cruised by in my little old Neon, just as happy as I could be. Further down the road I saw another one... broke down and the driver angrily slamming the door and walking around to the hood.

My ideal changed. I loved my little Neon right then more than I ever did. She's old and beat up, her paint is dulling a little, her headlights are dim, but I know when I put the key in she is going to start and she is going to go as long as I need for her to go. I give her some gas, some oil, some TLC now and then, and we get by just fine. In fact we got by those two Jaguars at 55 MPH without a hitch.

When it comes to people some of us are guilty of wanting the sleek, the shiny, the fast, the smooth and the classy. Good looks, great smiles, nice hair, - hair- period, slim, trim, flawless, beards, no beards, muscles, great bodies - nice feet, nice hands, blondes (usually bleached), and a great tan with vivid tan lines...

But those ideal people, those that were absolutely the perfect guy or the perfect girl, will eventually break down. The smile will be framed by tiny little wrinkles, the hair will thin and disappear, the tan will fade, the great body will give way to gravity, the slim trimness will require constant dieting as the body ages, and the muscles will sag, soften, and the feet and hands will roughen with use - and if they don't then you're going to be putting out a lot of money on a maid or a gardener... But you have to ask yourself, if all of that which attracted you to that "ideal" person were to disappear or fade, and if all you were left with was what was inside, is it something you can live with? If those lovely 'perks' required a constant investment to keep it and if you fell on tough times and couldn't afford it, would you like what was under that shiny coat of paint?

Honesty, good sense, decency, a good heart, a happy attitude, the ability to accept and be comfortable with who they are and who you are, the total lack of the need for constant ego stroking, the lack of dependence on the dollar to be who they really are, and the incentive to do what it takes to keep you happy instead of the other way around - That's classic. That's collectible. That is timeless... That is what you should raise your ideals to...

My parents were young once. Pretty and handsome... but that was what was outside. My mother could cook.  My daddy knew how to make a living. They were real. When times were hard they worked together to make it through... When mom got sick, daddy took over and took care of her. He invested a little TLC and polished her, gave her what she needed, and never faltered in his love for her. He didn't care that she'd grown old and gray, fat, wrinkled and slow. He loved her. She was his classic collectible, if you will.

When he took sick, she loved him. She cared for him. She bathed him, and held him when he was so sick from the chemotherapy. She loved him even after his beautiful curly hair fell out years earlier and he was almost bald. She loved him even more when the drugs took all of his hair.When he was young and strong, she loved him when he spent hours in the shed building her bookcases and record cabinets and his boats,  and she loved him when he lost his strong muscles and had only a weak back and sore, calloused hands from constant hoeing in the garden.
Sometimes the ideal is only a pretty shell and what is inside can be dark and colorless and even ugly - Bad attitudes, discontent, a tendency to be malicious and hurtful, selfish and self centered, thoughtless, and a disregard for the feelings of others can be hidden by a sweet smile and a nice appearance...

So don't set your standards on what you see. Look inside, ask yourself if your choice - your ideal, will be able to weather the tests and trials of life and time. Can you count on them? Do you want them to count on you? Will they stand beside you and behind you when the storms rage and when life isn't a bowl of peaches?

The old weathered rock lining my flower bed will be there LONG after the cute little wooden or plastic border edging that I'd originally thought would be best for my garden...It's sturdy, strong, beautiful in it's varied color and form and it's a compliment to the shrubs and flowers that it contains.

I realized my ideal wasn't what I wanted after all. It was what I had...


  1. Wonderful post and good advice. My daughter had a Neon one time and it had the most comfortable seats. We drove from Austin to Lubbock to a funeral in it.

  2. Thank you Paula! I love my Neon, too!

  3. I really love this post. It's a good feeling when you can be grateful for what you have and not have the pressure to acquire. So many more people would be so much more content if they took your advice. It's too bad that it takes so long to get to this point in life; so many years wasted trying to compete and feeling not good enough takes away the enjoyment of the present.

  4. Sue, wonderful post. I must say, I have to agree with all that you wrote. So many people are not content with what they have, but are constantly pursuing, or longing for, what they don't have. Without true inner peace and happiness with yourself, regardless of what a person may obtain, there will be no contentment. I am finding that by "downsizing" here in recently, much more contentment than I have ever known.

  5. Thank you Michelle. You're right - we forget to be grateful for what we have becuse we are too often focused on what we don't have, or even worse, what we want. We all need to take a lookk around and take stock of how wealthy we are to have enough, and occasionally perhaps a little more.

  6. I appreciate that, Joe. We should all be a little more content with less, for sure. If we could all focus on bettering ourselves instead of our getting ahead, we'd be a much better person and we'd have the true riches - contentment, peace, friends, and clear consciences. I thought of you and all you've been through and I know your life has become far better with less, and I am sure you must be happier than you have been in years because of it.

  7. Wow!! When my husband was first diagnosed with Cancer we both felt like our world just came to a crashing halt. Little did we know we would discover our deep love and care for each other, learn each other's strengths and courage, learn who we could count on and who we couldn't, learn that our family could become such strangers and strangers could become our family. No, I didn't think my "married" status would so quickly become changed to "widow" status, what that would mean or how I would make it on my own with 4 children. However, I am discovering who Jenny is...the Jenny Ron helped shape. That Jenny was able to give love and teach love to an old friend who never knew that's what it was all about. That makes me smile.

  8. That's what this is all about, Jenny. Taking something that seems hopeless and negative and learning that you have the strength to get through it, and then to find out you've grown from it. We take something that seems to be broken and find that there is truly a treasure within. As sad as losing your husband is, I know that you have had to step up to a higher level of understanding and found strengths you never thought you had. You have new ideals now... and the power to achieve them.