Saturday, January 22, 2011

The recital of the grievances revisited

Remember George Costanza's father with his official Recital of the Grievances as the family holds the aluminum Festivus pole? I was listening to the Car Guys this morning, one of them recalling a terrible injustice done him by a college teacher, and the other brother says I'm glad you're really over that, and it was only what? forty years ago?

Struck me as hilarious, how in the recesses of our psyches, we cling to rotten things people said decades ago, and still get indignant. The kid who pushed us down in kindergarten! the boy who shoved our elbow and RUINED our drawing in third grade! some of us are so old that the culprits have probably gone to their reward and they're in heaven pushing people down and shoving their elbows.

However, I always like to think things from the opposite, too, just makes it interesting. And I notice the things people have said decades ago that were so helpful and terrific and probably the speakers never knew how much they helped.

Like the boss who, nearly forty years ago, when I was desperately giving up smoking, having discovered it was doing a job on my son's sinuses, poor little kid, bad mom, and after six weeks of frantic trying not to smoke, my smoker boss commented one lunchhour as she lit up, you never went back to it, did you? With that moment, I realized I was considered an ex-smoker. And it made it a whole lot easier to be one.

So, a belated thanks, Jean!

Or the patient sharing a hospital room, as I was recovering from major surgery in my forties, struggling to get back some strength, feeling about ninety, and waiting for tests to tell me if my condition was malignant. Viola, aged nearly ninety in real life, not just feeling like it, commented, oh you're doing better every day! but then you're just a little girl, aren't you? how wonderful to have someone think I was just a kid. It set me up for a terrific recovery.

Thanks, Viola. I know you've been gathered in, but I have never forgotten you.

I doubt if they knew their impact any more than the bee in our picture, going about the daily round, doing their best, knows his impact on his surroundings.


  1. You brought it home to me so clearly. When one's mind brings up an unfortunate turn of phrase (be it someone else's, or one's own), the thing to do is immediately think of someone who said something nice, uplifting, encouraging, whatever. I shall try to do that. Thanks Liz.

  2. How well I know what you mean...umpteen years ago a teacher said to me "You will never be an artist but you will probably get pleasure from trying". At the time I wasn't concerned about being an artist but just about learning how to do oil painting. Nevertheless those words have haunted me since. I'm sure that teacher didn't klnow how her comments would reverberate thoughout my life. Aw shucks..I wish I could get over it. Especieally the word "probably". Oh Rats...I'm getting worked up all over again! and that happened about 40 years ago. I hope I didn't do anything like that to anyone else.

  3. So, so true! And how like you to remember and offer up your gratitude after so long. Lovely shot, too.

    I remember the CEO's new admin assistant being brought around and introduced to everyone in the office. I was going through a particularly bad time - feeling mousy and insignificant in the grand scheme of things - and I don't recall how the conversation started but she was relaying some of her favorite memory tricks for remembering names. Out of the blue she pointed to me and changed my outlook with the words ... "Now, I already know you are a shaker and a mover around here - and just looking at you I see I need to think of something bright, colorful and exotic!"


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