Wednesday, December 7, 2016

How do we Live and Let Live?

People love rules. People love breaking rules.  In both instances, the effort seems to be aimed at achieving  a more comfortable existence.

 I have been wondering lately, as I observe both myself and the rest of you, what are the factors that make a society what it is or becomes or is becoming. How do we fit in with one another?

And when I look at myself, I am glad I have a memoir written by my great, or maybe great-great grandfather on his life in the New World, the family's push west, his desire to contribute to the communities he lived in. I inherit some of that, and it is both nature and nurture, I think, that molds that part of me. We do, mostly, what we know.

Society, however, continues to confound me. We have thrown away so many customs. And yet we cling to the strangest civilities.

Young families in general no longer eat at the table and talk about their actions and thoughts together. They may do that on trays watching tv together, or they may do it in families where parents have the kids pitch in on the chores. Sometimes they do that in the car, although more likely, they will be on their phones if not driving, or listening to music.

Only in rural communities do you have the chance of developing lifelong friends in school. In communities that are growing, kids are in different classrooms each year and get a lunch break only with their own class. A best friend last year eating with another classroom group isn't allowed to come eat with you, or continue the friendship at school.  More freedom comes in higher grades, but that also means more lunchroom times.  My granddaughters have had lunch half-hours that began as early as 10:30 a.m. (they were starving when school got out) or as late as 1:30 p.m.  For some reason, probably control issues, they don't get a whole hour.  My granddaughters have chosen lunch items based on how quickly they can eat them and allow for a possible potty break and/or time to actually wash their hands.

We have experimented with acknowledging everyone for participating School districts have in some instances withheld trophies, and even letter grades in the name of self-esteem. This clashes with pride in achievement.  On the other hand, kindness so often is not taught, except as not bullying. Children are no longer taught to say thank you.  I do notice which high school graduates call, e-mail--and most still actually write notes--when I gift their graduations. I take note. The ones who are taught to respond, even reciprocate with kindnesses to others, seem to move ahead with more ease. Certainly with more grace.  They have better chances for a good life.  Don't parents see that? Maybe they don't know. 

We talk about good manners between the sexes, and I don't think many of those rules have changed overmuch from my girlhood more than half a century ago. Why?  I can understand a woman my age still enjoying the opened doors, the careful seating, the little touches of love to one another.   For us single elders, not relevant, often as not.  It mostly depends on who can move more easily. Sometimes women help old men.

As a longtime single woman, I interact with men in volunteer activities I belong to, or in the occasional neighborhood or church activity where I come alone and the men come with their wives.
The only single men I know socially are in their 80s, and widowed. At their ages, they don't eat much, so it doesn't matter if we have a potluck get-together and they don't bring anything. Although, sometimes, they do.

The social life of married couples has nothing at all to do with most single women.  Exception: women of wealth, or political clout, or positions of authority.  I just realized last night I cannot remember when I last walked down a sidewalk with a man socially, but it certainly was a decade or more ago. Society doesn't work that way.  And except in cities, we don't have many sidewalks!

It came up because I was surprised some women still appreciate a man who walks alongside between the woman and the street. I thought that had long ago fallen by the wayside, and for younger women, it probably has.

I am surprised that in most marriages, both parents still expect the wife, exclusively, to be the one to take off work if the kids get sick.  My former husband and I shared sick child care. But he was, largely, a feminist.

I have been bemused in recent years that the fact that one is an introvert is being examined as possibly an aberrant trait. I got a peek at why on a recent cruise.

With 5,000 on board, and 12-14 decks, only on the third level could I gain access to outside doors that put me on an open deck,  five or ten feet from the rail and maybe 18-20 feet above the water. It became my sanctuary, a place where I could go sit, write (I will copy some of it for blogs later) and just watch the sea, the sky, the horizon. It was warm, and breezy. I could smell the ocean. I could hear it. I could sit there for an hour and not see more than 10-20 people. Some came to smoke. Some wanted to show their kids the ocean. They would stand at look for a minute or two and go back inside, into all the activities and music, and shopping and business that was a totally enclosed city, except for the Lido deck, where they could swim and sun within enclosed walls.

I went on some excursions to explore the places where we stopped. I shopped a little. I walked and walked. My roommate and I visited, sometimes ate together, and her family group of 9 plus me always ate dinner together and discussed our day.  It was so very pleasant.

I needed that outside deck, with the vastness of sea and sky to soak up. It made my trip worth it.  The ship rocked me at night like a cradle. I slept so very well.

I don't think it is my ego talking. I do observe quite well. I  have, quietly and steadily, been living my own life for years. Slowly I have made minute changes from the norm. I learned on this cruise I am indeed an individual who enjoys so many cultures and subcultures in life, fitting for awhile now here, now there.
The only culture I am absolutely true to, however, is the one I live in when I close the front door and throw the lock. Gracie and Brody, I could say, know me best.

Years ago,someone asked me why I question so many actions and ideas, and accept others without question. I still don't know the answer, but I know when I don't question, my comfort level is high. What I question usually rubs some pointy place on my personality, on my ownself. That goes back to being an individual fingerprint on the world, perhaps.

 I am still asking, "I wonder why this doesn't seem to fit."   I find it vastly entertaining to contemplate.

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