Sunday, February 3, 2008


I am feeling very philosophical this morning, so skip this if you are looking for a quilt related entry.
My brother has lost his job again. It's not the first time it's happened, but he is in danger of losing his house, his wife and his son. He's pressuring my mom to give him the money to bail himself out yet again. I look at the problems he is having in his life, and there is not a single one that is not the direct result of the decisions he has made. I know that some people lose jobs and houses through bad luck and situations out of their control, my brother is not one of those. He is capable and able of doing a job, paying the bills, raising a son, he just doesn't do it.
So what is it about some people that makes them get up and go to work everyday, and pay the bills and do the million other things that have to be done, while others live in crisis mode, never able to meet a deadline?
I don't feel like I do anything extraordinary on a daily basis. I get up and help get the kids off to school, sometimes I run and then I go to work. I go to work and then pick up the kids, we do homework and play or read. We make diner and then have baths before bed. If there is time we might watch a little TV. On weekends we spend time as a family, maybe work on a project, and do the usual things everyone does on weekends like grocery shopping, mowing the yard, and laundry. It doesn't seem like anything special. Not everything goes according to plan, but we adjust and move one.
So what is it about my life that allows me stability and routine and calm, while my brother is constantly in putting out fires and handling emergencies? There has to be some identifiable difference, something I could point to and say, why don't you try doing "this" it works really well for us. I just keep coming back to the conclusion that there isn't a thing that you can do, because each individual decision is so small.
Taken one at a time you wonder how such simple things can add up to a life direction.
How many truly major decisions do we make in our life? Who to marry, where to live, maybe what kind of job to take. But there aren't a lot of those. Most of the choices that present themselves on a daily basis are so mundane that they must be insignificant. What time do I need to get up to make it to work on time, am I going to buy fast food for lunch or bring a bag lunch, Am I going to buy a new pair of bluejeans while they are on sale, am I going to write a check to the people at Visa. How can such trivial details define our lives?
I don't know how it can be, but I know for a fact that those trivial differences define the chasm between me and my brother. Everyone thinks idly that it would be nice to call in sick to work today, most people go to work anyway. We all have jobs that require a certain amount of time and skill, but most people manage to find a job that matches their abilities and interests. They bring home a paycheck, and it is usually enough to cover the needs and a few wants. Everyone has bills, needs food, has to cook, clean and run errands. Why do some people do it, while others become overwhelmed by the magnitude of it.
I am constantly amazed at how much stuff is required to keep a household running. The paperwork, the logistics, the planning. I'm not saying I do it flawlessly, sometimes balls get dropped. But how do you manage to drop so many balls that it all falls apart? How do you start paying so much attention to the wants that the needs get neglected.
I look at people who go through bitter awful divorces and wonder the same things. How do you look at that person, the one you vowed to love forever, raised children with, and start hating them. What is that thing that changes, that makes you bitter. Is there a moment when you shift, or is it small, like tiny drops of water that eventually collect into a stream?
So my question is, can you learn the skills necessary for running a successful life? Is there someone who can train you in the minutia? I know that there are life coaches, people who come in and offer advice and encouragement. Is that what my brother needs? Is there any way to change the flow of the minutia so that it is leading somewhere else, or do the bad decisions collect and weigh us down even if we try to change?
I'm rambling now, and I know that I'm not in any position to sit in judgment of someone else's life. I just look at my brother and my nephew and wish I could make things better. And I know that sending him a check to cover the mortgage will not change the direction of his life. It will just reassure him that he'll have someone to ask the next time things fall apart


Norma said...

You really hit a nerve here. I have asked myself those same questions time and time again and have no answers. How did you learn and he didn't with the same home and parents? Is there a gene that you inherited and he did not" Is he a rebel or against structure and conforming? Beats me! Just think what a great place the world would be if we all took care of the general day today business of living.

Kathy Wagner said...

Very interesting post! Wish I had the answers, but I am the same as you and I have a brother just like you! I guess that diversity is what makes life so fun...if everyone was like me/us, it might be a little boring :) Stable and happy though!

Penny said...

I think most families have the situation you describe. The fact that your brother would even consider going to his mother says that at the end of the day, working,to him, is an option. He has a fall back. How many of us, when we honestly think it is optional, are going to get up early every morning and go do something we really don't want to do?

You have my sympathy. I feel your pain.

BitnByAQuiltingBug said...

What a great post. It really is the smallest of choices that define what ones life is. I have an adopted son, soon to be 18 and these are the very issues we deal with. Small decisions that create utter havoc in all of our lives. He lacks the abilty or chooses to ignore the consequences of each and every choice he makes. How can someone do that? I know that if I choose not to pay a bill on time, there will be consequences. I don't understand the mindset of never thinking ahead. You really nailed it on this post....thanks!