It’s Not Your Mother’s Fault

It’s Not Your Mother’s Fault: Vol. 1 Issue 3

We get a truckload of Christmas cards, which is wonderful. Many are sent by people from early in our marriage who stay in touch via an exchange of cards. Some people have a tradition of inserting a “family letter” detailing the past year, as if we should be catching up on episodes we’ve missed of Breaking Bad or Dexter. (The last time I printed such a sentiment, some people were incensed that I wouldn’t appreciate these exegeses. I expect the same backlash now!)

I find these epistles to be interesting only to the sender and usually merely read the card, but my wife insists that these are effective missives to “catch up” with acquaintances, though I’ve seen her eyes glaze over in the middle or reading of a fourth cousin’s marriage to a deputy assistant librarian in Raleigh who once met the hairdresser for one of Rihanna’s backup singers.

However, I have noticed something of interest in these Pauline letters (“The second letter of St. Paul to the Weisses,” if you follow the Gospels): Most are filled with accomplishments and pride, and occasionally the unfortunate loss of loved ones, or the status of those in the military. But some are unremitting in their unrelenting expostulation of misfortune, calamity, and setback. They make Job seem well off by comparison (and, in fact, one writer this year, ignoring hubris, cited Job as having nothing on him).

A single letter writer (often electronically, sort of the antithesis of the personal holiday greeting) will go on about lost opportunities, illnesses, natural disaster—everything short of locusts, though I don’t read all the letters carefully, so who knows? I’m reminded of Al Capp’s famous “Li’l Abner” character, Joe Btfsplk, who had a perpetual black cloud over his head, carrying the world’s worst jinx.

Why are you sending others your litany of miseries? Surely all of us have our stories, our losses, our grievous wounds. Some have suffered deaths and horrible illnesses. Why are you so special as to have to broadcast your every bad hair day, hiccup, and unfair traffic ticket to the rest of us?

I know this sounds harsh, but share tragedy, much less minor misfortune, with your family and those who are close friends. Share with others some happiness, some optimism, some uplift. Your fourth cousin’s wedding is preferable to my learning that someone vandalized your car.

Some issues are meant to share, some you have to bear. Your mother probably told you to “grow up” and “stop crying” and “you’ll have to accept it.” She was right. What happens to you isn’t her fault, much less mine. We all have to deal with adversity.

But as my mother said: “Better to spread some joy. Would it kill you?”

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

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