Big and Meaningful Post

My friend and cousin-by-marriage Leslie sent me an e-mail after she read the post about my mom's comments about blogging. (Actually, I got a lot of e-mail about that post. Maybe we all have the same mother.) Anyway, my mom had been sort of vaguely insulting about the mundane content of my blog and Leslie asked, "Does your mom fill you with the need to make sure everything you do is BIG and MEANINGFUL?"

Now that I think about it, that's exactly how I feel. Although my mom has been very supportive of my decision to quit my job. She sees the mothering of my children as a Big and Meaningful thing to do and anything that takes away from that is bad, so my paying job as the Big and Meaningful Editor of a Magazine had to go. She was proud of me for having that job, though, and she sent copies of the magazine to friends and relatives. She likes that I have published a book (although I don't think she's read it, since she's be a subscriber to the column since its inception.) So, basically, I think she thinks I should be doing Big and Meaningful things that produce something.

You know what? I fully subscribe to that view. I mean, BOTH views: that my job as a mother should be the Biggest and most Meaningful thing in my life right now (given that it's a pretty finite period of time and it's flying by) and also, that I should only be doing Big and Meaningful Things.

"So, what's the problem?" you're thinking. "You are doing a Big and Meaningful thing by mothering your children and you think you should only be doing Big and Meaningful things. Sounds like a win-win."

Well, but the thing is that my brain appears to be giving me schizophrenic messages about what's Big and Meaningful. In the back of my brain is this little voice that tells me all the ways in which my life is small and insignificant, because making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and using a flower-shaped cookie cutter on it is apparently not the stuff of Big and Meaningful. Sitting outside and watching the roly-polies (roly polies are so cool) is not the stuff of Big and Meaningful. Laundry? Nope. Grocery shopping? Nope. Blogging? Um, hellooo. Like, NOT.

It seems to me that our whole country is engaged in this schizophrenic madness. It's not enough anymore to just have a hobby --now we have to do EXTREME hobbies. It's not enough to have a small house on a small piece of land --now we all want McMansions with waterfall pools and electric bills equal to the yearly budgets of small countries. We can't just watch the evening news --now it's 24 hours a day, all news, all the time. It's not enough to work a normal work week and then go home --we're all working more and more hours every week. It's gotten to where that's EXPECTED of us! And if that's the new "normal," what's NEXT?

Even my husband, who is really incredibly supportive, doesn't really think that sitting here healing from my reconstructive foot surgery is really, well, enough. He's asked me several times, "So, when do you start your comeback?" But then again, he's the first person to tell me to get off of my foot. It's a strange expectation that, although he's not sure exactly what I should be doing, he's pretty sure I should be doing more. Schizophrenic, I tell you.

I think I subscribe to this feeling that I'm not doing enough things that are Big and Meaningful, and I'm pretty sure I always have. So, I started a parenting COLUMN some six and a half years ago, not a BLOG. (Doesn't "Column" sound so much more B and M than "Blog?") And when I decided to start knitting, I didn't just quietly knit a pair of socks --oh no, I bought books and created a stash and now insist on showing everyone that I am PRODUCING something. Because I wouldn't want anyone to think that I was just sitting here being still and enjoying it.

I believe that the joy of ours lives happens when we weave together all of these small moments—the flower-shaped PB and J and the roly-polies and the fleeting sticky kisses of toddlers. The worst thing about this belief that everything should be Big and Meaningful is that it robs us of the pure enjoyment of small things—of small moments-- that define the joy of our lives.

At least, it robs ME. Leslie seems to have figured it out. "I live to be small. I find it to be very empowering. Like a stitch in a sock. Big is overrated."


Ei said…
Oh man did I need this one today. I can't even begin to TELL you. I'll tell you nursing the wounds of a divorce, having your parenting hours cut to half time more or less against your will, being a boring little accountant,I haven't been feeling big or meaningful. Ok,maybe big. But that is a whole different story. I've found I've been putting myself on bizzare little "Get over it/Prove you are better than he treated you" missions. And I was killing myself doing it.

You are big and meaningful to me Barb. Thanks.
LaDonna said…
Ditto what Ei said! I'm a tiny cog in a large corporate machine and let me tell you, the more I hear about what those supposedly Big and Meaningful executives go through to make their Big and Meaningful paychecks, the less I want to be one of them. I'll be happy as a little fish in a big pond. As long as I'm Big and Meaningful to my kids and my hubby, I'm good with that.

Thanks, Barb!
Tiffany said…
Hm. Seems that in briefly laying off and seeing through the need to do big and meaningful, you've done something big and meaningful to at least a few people (and this post hasn't been around very long). Maybe there's something for us all to learn from that, too, hm? This post is kind of like...a flower-shaped peanut butter sandwich for everyone.
Anonymous said…
Knitting can be a form of meditation, a way of making peace for yourself and around you. It can also be an art form. I wouldn't be quick to conclude that knitting isn't something big and meaningful just yet. However, into every life there comes the small and routine. Everybody has dishes to wash and bathrooms to clean, no matter what else they do.
Anonymous said…
Raising your kids is the most Big and Meaningful thing you can ever do and don't let anyone ever tell you different.
I do agree that there is a kind of schizophrenia in this society where everyone has to do something meaningful at every waking moment - I don't get it! I have people who say to me that they must be doing something important every waking moment or they feel guilty. Reading a book, knitting, talking with friends and family, puttering in the garden,taking a walk, playing with children; all those things are no longer considered important - actually I think that they are the most important things of all.
Suna Kendall said…

I came to look at your sock (it is a fine sock) then I read this and enjoyed it--if my mom were alive she'd wonder why I "waste" my time blogging, too (though she spent most of her time smoking and watching soap operas in the 60s).

I pretty much blog for me--so I can remember things that happened, little moments with my teens, ups and downs as I try to get back into the working world after spending over a decade at home with the kids. And the mundane adds up to a life!

So does knitting, for that matter. A process that I love, and some others look askance at (why is she ALWAYS knitting?). Little stitches add up to something.

So...hi from a fellow Austin knitter who just stumbled on your blog.