Dear Lily June,
In case you’ve forgotten (and, as you’re only eight months old when I’m writing this, I suppose I can forgive you some hiccups in memory), I’ve been trying to become a 21st century female Benjamin Franklin. But like pushing my soul in a wheelbarrow over the cobblestone streets of colonial Philadelphia, the progress has been slow-going.
I started off by failing at becoming temperate. (I know so little about it, actually, that I had to Google what the adjective form of Temperance was, because I kept wanting to type the absolute nonsense word “temperant.”) At at the end of that post, I promised to post the following week on Silence. Now, here we are, two weeks later…
You could say I’m not a week late at all on this post. You could say I’ve just been practicing at being more Silent. Eh? Eh?
Okay, so part of the reason I’ve remained mum on “avoiding all trifling conversation” is because I haven’t been able to. Franklin only knows if I ever will be able to. But let’s talk about how I’ve failed, shall we, Lily? Maybe you’ll learn something about what you shouldn’t learn from me.
I still have been waking up at 5:00am-ish.
I feel pretty proud of this considering that I’ve been sick with three separate illnesses lately–an infection that lead to a drug interaction and now, an unrelated cold. Because most mornings I would rather just wrap my beefy body into a blanket burrito and dream of cheese, the fact that I emerge, a horrifyingly sleepy butterfly from a beautiful comforter cocoon is nothing short of miraculous.
Hello, mixed metaphors. I dare you, Lily, to use “burrito” and “butterfly” in the same sentence someday and make some semblance of sense. It could be my rambling incoherence is caused by another new development: I’ve cut out coffee entirely this week (due to the pain I was experiencing as part of my IC). Even Benjamin Franklin didn’t have to be Benjamin Franklin without the help of the wakey-wakey-bean, so take that you amazing inventor, you.
I have started asking myself “What Good shall I do this day?”
Knowing that we’re actually going to do something legitimately good for others at the end of the week–with our Family Bucket List–and give groceries to a local food bank, has made this easy.
And as no capital-G Good is done alone, here are the folks who (I think) have done Good right along with me, by responding to my plea to donate to this worthy cause. [Note: If you’re not on the list but should be, toot your own Good-Doing Horn and tell me! Some comments seemed a little ambiguous, so I wasn’t sure if you were telling me you gave or not]:
- Steve of My Journey Through the Best Presidential Biographies–I’m not a reviewer, and I was never much good in school with history. And yet, this guy’s reviews of presidential biographies fascinate me.
- Jesska of not throwing stones–The fact that this chick gave to others when she herself can barely even see lately makes her like what happens when you cross Stevie Wonder and Mother Theresa into the body of a glassblower.
- pennyforyourthotsblog–I’m going to be honest. I haven’t visited this blog yet, but it’s on my list of Future Must Reads, especially considering the author was willing to help others at the plea of an absolute stranger. I’m humbled, “penny.”
- Amy of wordskeepmesane–Oh, friend I’ve never meet. We “meet” again. Thank you, truly. Is there anything you do that doesn’t inspire me?
- Linda of lindalanger6–Moving. Witty. Poignant. Brief. She’s a blogger for whom, when I finish a post, I angrily scream at my computer, “That’s it? It’s over?! Then I read it again. Rinse. Repeat.
- Janey of Janey Does Blogging–She describes herself as a “snarky bitch,” only I find, in reading her posts, I really wish I knew her IRL and could befriend her. I’ll snark with you if you snark with me.
So maybe I’d rather Franklin had asked, What Good can We do This Week? Because being good by myself on the daily? That’s a forefather feat that has totally escaped me.
I haven’t been charting my progress. But I have been a bit more
Temperant Temperate. I think.
Your dad and I, Lily (during the one hour a night we get during the week) have been spending our time lately cramming our pie-holes full of delectability. But here’s the good news. Our snacks have all been good for us, and not a one of them eaten to “dullness” (whatever that means). Veggie trays; baked zucchini; even this recipe for snacky English muffins that I found from another blogger that turned out–and like too much salt, I use this expression sparingly–Uh. Maze. Zing.
Temperance Down, in only two months to Franklin’s proposed week? Hey, I gotta be me, Lily.
While I’m killing Temperance, though, I’ve been dying with Silence.
I had some small victories. A coworker (who shall remain nameless) did something repulsive to his office (which shall not be elaborated on) and I told no one (unless you count that vague allusion. Dang it!). It’s very unlike me to hold my tongue for anything, and when another secretary told me, the buck stopped there. I cackled knowingly, but passed nothing along. That counts, right?
Another time, two secretaries, Sherry & Kat, swarmed to me like gossipy bees talking about our colleagues and hoping to elicit some gossip honey from me. Luckily, I was eating salad at the time, and I said, with some lettuce in my teeth, “I’m just glad I’m still chewing” to hold them off. And they turned back to each other, and I was able to finish my meal in peace, without mocking another human being.
But I’ve also had some pretty huge defeats. Sherry was mocking the grammar of an email sent to her by a neighbor and I joined along without thinking about what the email was saying: It was trying to raise funds for another family whose house had burned down. Probably as a result of the hell-fires that had been reaching up for me. I felt terrible for the rest of the day, really guilty, and I carried that home into conversations with your dad where I got really grumpy.
And I was, to use a euphemism for being a b!tch, less than perfectly patient with a student who was insisting she had an appointment where I work, when I could see in the schedule it wasn’t there. She said, “Whoever works at the desk must have screwed up,” and I snapped back, “You mean, me. It’s me. I’m the one who always sits here” (though it turned out she’d been referring to a student worker who staffs my desk when I’m at lunch). When I told your dad about the argument and that I had been really rude, he said, tellingly, “You’re not rude. You’ve never been rude. But you can be mean…”
Cue another round of arguments where, if I’d been at my most Franklinesque, I might have cut out the triffling and resorted to some diplomacy. Instead, it gave me something to think about, and I realized, especially at work, I’m becoming more and more like the clip in Steel Magnolias where Clairee tells Truvy,
“Well, as somebody always said, If you can’t say anything nice about anybody, come sit by me.”
That’s not the example I want to set for you or the woman I want to (at least full-time) be. So I need to keep working, ultimately, on curbing my tendencies as a gossip queen.
And in the spirit of introspection, it occurs to me that the reason we secretaries never have anything nice to say about others is because we’re often treated by our “superiors” as their mothers, maids and therapists at best and their dumping grounds of professional bullying at worst. And it helps to blow off steam so we three–Sherry, Kat, and me–don’t end up standing around a cauldron stirring poison and cackling, “Double, double toil and trouble…”
I think there’s such a thing as a healthy degree of snark, so long as it doesn’t become the emotional spark that leads to a verbal brushfire. I need to work on being more discerning about holding my tongue, so maybe, when I’m supposed to be focusing on Order next week, I’ll totally screw that virtue up and fix Silence instead, like I did with Temperance this week.
At least I’ve still got Franklin nights down.
My evenings have still been spent lately “putting things in their places.” And if you count singing songs about diapers and dookies, Lily (and who wouldn’t?!), I’m also getting in some conversation. And chain-watching Parks & Rec episodes on Netflix while you nap in the crook of my arm definitely counts as an excellent–albeit fairly unFranklin– “diversion.” So all in all, I’m like Franklin if he were an apartment dwelling mommy wrist-deep in poopie with access to streaming television.
So, really, how Franklin have I been this week?
I’m going to say that I’m getting a D. Neither completely abysmal nor stunningly miraculous. Put that on my tombstone someday, will you, Lily?
[P.S. I challenge anyone reading this blog–you, too, Lily, someday!–to take on Franklin Fridays with me. Next week, it’s time to take on Order, which Franklin defines as
“Let all your Things have their Places. Let each Part of your Business have its Time.”
For me, this means I’m really going to try to ramp myself up to take on Franklin’s full schedule, as seen on page 4 of the pdf here. I’ll also have to bust my hump to keep our apartment, Lily, looking semi-clean.
In the meantime anyone reading (Bueller? Bueller?) if you end up kicking temperance’s or silence’s collective butts, let me know. Or if, throughout this next week (from Friday, February 5 through Friday, February 12), you end up owning (pwning?) Order, let me know! If you end up trying it, leave me a comment. Or, better yet, if you end up writing about it for real-real, let me know, and I’ll link to your blog. I dare you to be more Franklin than me. Go be Orderly!]
- “Benjamin Franklin – Join or Die” by Benjamin Franklin – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3g05315. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Benjamin_Franklin_-_Join_or_Die.jpg#/media/File:Benjamin_Franklin_-_Join_or_Die.jpg
- Franklin, Benjamin. “From The Autobiography.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Vol. A. Ed. Nina Baym. 7th ed. New York: Norton & Company, 2007. 522-534. Print.