Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Superlatives

These are days when even the smallest of accomplishments, like brushing my teeth, or making the epic trek to the coffee shop for a spot of breakfast and human interaction, are worth celebrating.

My Mom says I think in black and white.  It would be perhaps more accurate to say I think in superlatives.  Things are either the best or the worst, thrilling or excruciating or wondrous or harrowing—never just goodish or okay.  And when I do something, whether it's thinking or writing or teaching or hiking or crocheting an afghan, I always want to do it more or further or differently than anyone has before.  I want to find something new, make something astonishing, be something brave.

Perhaps it comes of having a large vocabulary.  Average is such a boring word.

But in these days, these short dark days of midwinter when brain and body rebel against the lack of warmth and sun, my superlatives work against me.  The Pit of Despair is far too ready a cliché—and though I don't mind clichés as a rule, I'd rather not live in one.  So pitlike and despairy, with no running water or anything.

Just makes it that much harder to brush my teeth.

So I try to lay aside the superlatives, at least a little, and to be content (another boring word) with the reality of accomplishing very little things, in very short spurts and with many rests.  More than that, to congratulate myself for doing so.  To celebrate it.  Because I have made the effort.  I have kept on trying.  I haven't given up or given in.

Perhaps the superlatives are useful these days after all.

I mean, suppose I were to judge the things I do, not on their impact on the world at large (who cares about that anyway) but on what goes into them?

If the amount of effort spent on a task were reflected in its impressiveness, I've probably climbed Mount Everest at least once this winter.  I've definitely slain a few dragons.  Maybe written a novel or two.  Probably gone whitewater rafting, and ballooning, and to Mars.

I can live with that.  I can live with a trip to Mars.

The folks there know just how I take my coffee.  It's great.

2 comments:

  1. Keep trekking on, dear friend! I must disagree with you, however, regarding your description of the word "content." It is not a boring word; in fact it can be a quite exciting word. For it is a word very like the word "content." See, you couldn't tell the difference, could you? It is merely the difference between placing the emphasis on the second and first syllables respectively. That similarity, which may have been quite accidental, speaks to an important truth: being content is a peaceful, restful state that need not be passive, but can be quite fruitful. If one is seeking always for some perfect, someday, if-only-it-were-this-way-then-I-could-be-what-I-ought-to-be state, then one doesn't see those climbs up Mount Everest and slayings of dragons and so on that you describe. Being content means that one finds that glory. At least that is how I see it.

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