What is necessary

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Fill what’s empty. Empty what’s full. Scratch what itches.

When I first heard this, I thought it was incredibly selfish. I thought it meant that you should do what you want and not worry about anyone else. Do what looks right, what feels right.

I sat with it for a while. I decided that my first reaction was shallow. I decided to go outside my comfort zone. I looked at the world outside instead of just what’s easiest.

Fill what’s empty. What is empty? We have a library that’s short of books and a lot of used bookstores. I went to the library, got a list of books they wanted, and I went looking. I brought them 150 books. Average cost of $2 a book, so it certainly hit my savings account, but it was worth it to bring in boxes and boxes to the librarians I like so much. Now they’re sending me lists and I bring them books whenever I can. It’s getting less empty.

Empty what’s full. That was harder. I looked around trying to find something that needed to be emptied. I ended up at the local no-kill shelter. I started working on training dogs, getting them to be very polite, gentle animals, comfortable in any situation. I’ve gotten six dogs adopted so far and I am working with the seven most frantic dogs in the shelter. They’re getting better. They’re calming down. It’s working.

Scratch what itches. I think that means do what brings you joy. I had an itch; I stopped working, and I was bored. I am not bored now. I go digging for interesting books, train challenging dogs, cook good food in small amounts for myself (which, let me tell you, isn’t as easy as it sounds), and I wake up in the morning looking forward to the experiences of the day. I’m getting enough sleep and a lot of exercise. I’m coming out of my funk.

I retired and a year later my husband died. All of our plans went down the drain. Now I fill what’s empty, empty what’s full, and scratch what itches, and two years after his death, I am learning a different kind of happiness, alone, but okay. It isn’t easy. I still miss him every day. I think about things that I want to talk to him about. I write to him, kind of. I suppose I should say I write, and I write as if I am writing to him. I know he’s gone. I think, though, that he would be happy to see me learning to live again.

Starting over is hard. I am glad I have found a few small things that make it easier.


For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Tara Roberts gave me this prompt: “I have a simple philosophy. Fill what’s empty. Empty what’s full. And scratch where it itches.” – Alice Roosevelt Longworth (You don’t have to use the actual quote.).

 I gave Cameron this prompt: One of life’s best coping mechanisms is to know the difference between an inconvenience and a problem. – Robert Fulghum