Though I was in data processing back in the late 60’s when the “tiny minded” computer was as big as a refrigerator, I still have to keep that hard copy “just in case”. I was going through and organizing the files of essays I’ve written and I found slotted just behind them, a folder I’ve had for years, a folder titled “Guides to Life!” - note that exclamation point. Perhaps I marked it that way to signal to anyone in the future who’d have to go through and clean out my files: “This is some good stuff.”
The oldest article, Lessons from Aunt Grace, dates back to a Reader’s Digest from 1984. The wonderful essay, written by Nardi Reeder Campion, and later included in a compendium of life lessons called Chicken Soup for the Single’s Soul, was a lesson in how to conduct a simple, fulfilling life.
The latest article, by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, is from Time magazine in 2010, and is “an essay exclusively adapted for Time from his new memoir.” He was writing about the American Presidents he’s known and about our country. The one line I thought outstanding was this one about the American ideal, our optimism and achievement: “There is always one…test of a nation’s position: Are people trying to get into it, or to get out of it? I think we know the answer to that in America’s case, and that ideal is the reason.” Wonderful comment, don’t you think?
In these past few years, unlike with my own works that I’ve got to safeguard on paper – talk about an obsession! – I’ve also amassed a larger, but maybe less selective and less important group of articles bookmarked on line. To paraphrase the saying about books: so many articles, so much information for an information junkie; so little time.”
The printed articles I’ve collected – I counted them, there are only a dozen in the folder – are on such subjects as nice ways to say no, choosing the right words to help you help others, how to write effective letters, and how one woman shed her shame and obsession about her body. (I really related to that one.)
At this point, the most interesting to me of those saved articles is one from Woman’s Day in 1994 titled “Little Griefs.” If you’re a regular follower of this blog you might have read the essay I called “Smashing”. That one concerned big griefs and big beefs. Little griefs, this old article says, also deserve rituals: perhaps not the big deals required for a death or a divorce, but small, personally designed ceremonies.
Such rituals, whether or not they have an audience, and usually they don’t, provide comfort and solace when little griefs, like the death of a pet, the loss of a treasured item, or even having your feelings hurt, strike home. “Feelings need acknowledgement, and will pester us when we give them their due.” The old rhyme of “Sticks and stones may break my bones…” can be wrong: names can harm people. Having a personal ritual to help dispel little griefs is an excellent idea. Wouldn’t it be a nice idea to work with a child on their own grief-dispelling ritual? That’s something you could give them to help carry them all through life.
I just may work on a little ritual of my own.