From Prosaic Arises Life's Sudden Poetry

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By Donna Britt
Friday, July 22, 2005

Warning: No heart-stopping news or ire-producing opinions about "important" issues will be found in this column. It's about real life, which is -- surprise! -- boring.

Blame it on the cherries. I'd found some sweet, darkly crimson ones and was removing the pits for my 9-year-old's lunch when the self-recriminations started. Was this yet another of the ridiculous, unnecessary things that I do that will only spoil my son? I wondered.

Then I remembered: Spending one minute picking out pits is preferable to spending 15 minutes spot-treating and scrubbing the resulting stains on my kid's shirt if he bites them out.

I know -- dull stuff. Then it hit me: This is my life.

My life: beating myself up over fruit for my son and other equally yawn-inducing moments.

Surprise.

We think of our lives as bigger. Looking back, we focus on the fun, the painful or the exciting: on our jobs' highs and lows, the vacations we took, our dizzying love affairs and their devastating breakups. We remember laugh-filled weddings and tear-soaked funerals; humiliating defeats, heart-bursting triumphs and hurts we barely survived.

We remember highlights.

In reality, the cherries reminded me, we spend most of our precious, unrepeatable lives more mundanely. Human existence is an endless loop of inane self-conversations: about what bag lunches -- and missed homework and our kids' careers -- say about our parenting; the world's precarious state; our fellow drivers' incompetence; our neighbors' idiocy; the dismaying state of our finances; our weight or our to-do lists.

Our lives aren't just boring thoughts. They're stultifying, endlessly repeated actions: standing in line at the grocery or department store. Sitting in traffic. Tooth brushing, hand washing and toilet sitting. Turning off the TV, picking up the underwear or washing the office coffeepots that other folks should have.

Our lives are deciding, once and for all, to skip the extra brownie, bacon cheeseburger or third glass of wine. And having it anyway.

Surprise -- those TV shows with all the grinning, hugging, dancing, hysterically happy people? They're lying. Life is . . . pitting cherries.


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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