Monday, May 25, 2009

Nothing and thus something?

A new approach.
I am going to start writing with the intention of saying nothing, thus lowering expectations to zero and relieving myself of any responsibility to produce something. In fact, I may have to delete this if it accidentally becomes something, which would mean I had failed yet again.
Of course, 'something' has to be defined before that decision can be made.

Something: a certain undetermined or unspecified thing

Now wait. Does that make sense to you?

How can I know if this blog has morphed from nothing to something, if 'something' is undetermined or unspecified? By that definition, it is already something, and must be deleted.
Hang on, there's a second definition.

a person or thing of some value or consequence: He is really something! This writer has something to say and she says it well.

Well, exactly. But that is the question, not the answer. Who says she wrote something of value? I may think this is becoming something and you may think it is absolutely nothing. You may already know the meaning of something, and have no need of this pithy and profound examination of the word.

Luckily, I am the only one reading this, and I have decided it is unequivocally 'nothing', and thus may be posted. If at some future date, someone protests that it is indeed something, even if of dubious value, I will reconsider-- unless I determine that they are no one.

Fly Me To the Moon

I’m starting to feel sorry for Nancy Pelosi and the CIA. I mean, can you remember where you were on September 12, 2002? I can’t remember what I did this morning-- and it’s only lunchtime.

I recently experienced the disconcerting phenomenon of questionable memories firsthand. A friend asked me to write a column for our new high school alumni site.

“I’d love to!” I said. “I remember those years perfectly-- being head cheerleader, president of the student body, editor of the school newspaper! I loved it when the algebra teacher got stumped by an equation and asked me for help. And remember when I won the Pulitzer for my article on bias in the 9th grade? What would you like me to write about first?”

My friend responded, somewhat nervously, that he didn’t remember a Pulitzer, and as for algebra, well, he had been in my class and knew I almost failed, and wasn’t Sally the editor of the newspaper anyway?

Really? That’s not how I remember it.

We are the stars of our own lives, and it’s always a shock to find out that seldom do others care about our plotline. They are too busy acting out their own dramas, like the girl in that cell phone ad. “This is a movie about MY life! Made by ME! Full of Adventure! Intrigue! Romance! ”

As Aldous Huxley said, “Every man's memory is his private literature.” Who can blame any of us if we take a little literary license here and there, rewrite an unhappy ending, embellish a boring story, even add entire chapters? So when my friend pointed out that, no, I had not won the state science fair by discovering a cure for cancer my junior year, I began to understand the pressure poor Nancy must be feeling. Why was someone questioning MY LIFE BY ME?

My children accuse me of embellishing all the time. Where I remember rising at dawn to have hot, nourishing breakfasts waiting for them every morning after swim practice, they remember a box of cold, stale cereal. In fact, to hear them tell it, they raised themselves, without benefit of maternal involvement.
“Did you even live here then?” says my older son.
“Don’t you remember?” says his brother. “We used to see her fingerprints in the dust on the furniture.”
Very funny.
Not that I can blame them. Memory not only embellishes, it can mysteriously erase entire days from our lives - so why not delete your own mother?

A while back (who remembers when?) my husband and I attended a show at the Kennedy Center in DC with some old friends. Someone asked if we had been there before.

“We saw "Westside Story" here twenty five years ago,” said my husband.

What? What was he talking about? I had never seen "Westside Story" on stage in my life. I said as much. My husband said of course I had, and then meanly threw in a gratuitous memory of a nice dinner at my favorite restaurant before the show. I accused him of seeing another woman. He muttered something about senility. Before it could get nastier, another couple said they remembered us driving up from school to see the show. I pretended I suddenly recalled the trip, because I could tell they were starting to give some consideration to the senility comment, but the truth is, I don’t. Not a thing. Not a note. Not a line. Obviously I forgot to put film in my mental camera for that one.

Of course, now my husband is reminding me of all the wonderful vacations we have taken over the years- Las Vegas, Europe, China, the moon. “It’s such a shame you can‘t remember,” he says, shaking his head sadly. “We had such a good time, too.”

As Nancy and the CIA are finding out, there is a point when some hard documentation is needed to distinguish the small happy embellishments from the complete script rewrites. Of course, it's more important for them to verify the truth of their claims than it is for me to prove the accuracy of my SAT scores (which I could have sworn were 1600, but which my brother says were--well--lower). After all, I’m not responsible for the moral decline of an entire nation. I think I should be, given my high school qualifications, but my friend swears I wasn’t president of the student body, either.

I’ve asked my husband for hard proof of all those vacations. I want dates, receipts, ticket stubs, witnesses.
I'm especially interested in that moon trip.