I was talking with a neighbor the other day. He is a good guy. I believe he is in his late 50s. It came up a while back that he raised his kids as a single dad. He had 3 kids he raised and then he remarried and had a 4th. I didn't ask him what happened. It is quite rare to hear about a single father. It just doesn't happen so often. The other day when I was talking with him he was talking with me about how he is concerned about one of his family members who is having some problems. Over the course of the conversation I made an observation about how much work he is always doing on his lawn and how nice it looks. He told me he does it to "stay sane" as an escape. He said that when he was raising his kids alone he did the same thing. He was always cleaning and staying busy.
Some years back we lived in a house near a very large house, it was a family. They had everything. They were very wealthy. They had 2 children. One had severe problems. They were wheelchair bound and they suffered from severe developmental problems. They had a full-time nurse that took care of their disabled child. He, the father, spent all day outside constantly working on his yard. He would always be tearing things up, adding new shrubs or bushes. He was constantly doing massive yard work. He wasn't just mowing his grass. They had lots of money and he was spending it constantly working on his yard, changing it in all sorts of ways. The majority of his days he was outside doing something on his yard.
There is a lot I could write about the wealthy family. I think I could write almost a book about this family. I spoke with him, the father, quite a bit and had some fairly close conversations with him. There is much to talk about with regards to the nurse they employed, their wealth, their circumstances etc... their lives. I am not saying anything with any sort of hubris or moralizing. Life is complicated for us all, and we can only understand so much of it and so much of that which is ours to understand. Within that humble understanding, there is so much I could write. I think about them quite a bit. Maybe I will write about them one day, but not now.
I think about both of these cases and how for both of these men, constantly working, staying busy was a kind of therapy. I think that it is also important to note they were working on landscaping. They spent their time working on something they could direct. It was something which they had a sort of real control over. This is their way of coping with life spinning out of control or perhaps life becoming something that they wish it wasn't. My current neighbor is aware of this, he said so himself in fewer words. The other man, I don't know. He was a very interesting case.
We all need a way to feel in control. In so many ways we feel so out of control. We feel the world spinning out of control, we feel as though we have less control of our destiny than we wish we had. We may feel as though we work in jobs or in circumstances that demand too much of us and at the end of the day we have nothing left to give to either our job or ourselves. We seek some way, even a small way, that we can exercise control over the/our world.
Everyone has their own struggles in life. Some obsess over them to their own short term obvious detriment and others ignore them to their own long term hidden detriment. To me, it seems a simple, plain, private humble acknowledgement allows us to proceed a degree of dignity and grace. We don't need to show the world everything. We don't need to reveal everything about ourselves to everyone, all the time. Nevertheless, I think about the hidden aspect of our everyday struggles. I think about how we all react to them in different ways. Some of us cope in negative ways, some in positive ways. Some in ways that are a bit of both. We all react to a world out of our control by longing for control, somewhere, even if hidden.
For us, our style and dress is obviously a manifestation of this on one side of things. We cannot control the architecture of the world. We cannot control the grand political systems that loom over us. We cannot save a falling world from itself. But, we can control ourselves and even if we can't control all of ourselves, we can at least control that which we put on ourselves. We can control the face we show to the world. We can control our own personal aesthetic. We can control our aesthetic world. We can, to some degree, reject the outer world, and do so in a way which sends a message back into that descending world. In rejection and control we can send some message back out, a message like the light from a lighthouse. Singular, and still, even if alone.