The ID channel has the same commercials over and over. I have them mostly memorized. One in particular, though, caught my attention when it dawned on me that it made no sense. There is a certain pharmaceutical wonder that is advertised ad nauseam. The song played in the background chants annoyingly, “Nothing is everything.” First of all, where is Barry Manilow when you need him? We need a catchy hook-line or beat or something. This is just annoying. But it’s in my head, so I guess from an advertising standpoint, it worked. Then I have to think, what on earth does the repetition of, “Nothing is everything,” have to do with this drug? It was then I realized that the medicine is for a skin condition. Ahhhh, this makes sense. Having nothing on your skin means everything to them. I can understand that. I dig it.
What else is a perfect nothing? Sometimes on Mondays, my classes and I will discuss what we did that weekend. They love to tell me about going to the mall, or the movies, or whatever shenanigans they got into. Sometimes, you’ll have the rare kid who asks me about my weekend. How novel for a child to be concerned about someone other than themselves, but these are usually the clever kids who realize if they get me talking then they don’t have to work. Well played, kid. Well played.
I might say, “I had a great weekend! I caught up on Jeopardy on my DVR. I got some soup made and canned it. I started making a quilt. I went to church, and I got to nap!” And the kids look at me with lax jaws, stunned that I consider that a good weekend. No, I didn’t leave the house. It was glorious. One day, one boy actually said, “It’s funny how you can be so happy with such a boring weekend.” But that poor child doesn’t realize yet what I already do: Nothing is everything.
The thought of all this was further spurred last week when I caught up with some former neighbors who have moved to sunny, exciting California. You know what their wild, weekly ritual is with their friends out there? They get together and watch “The Bachelor.” This is what I’m talking about! So terribly, excruciatingly mundane, and yet how wonderful. A standing date for primetime TV. How simple. It makes me smile to think of it.
Nothing really is everything. When there is an absence of trouble or drama, sometimes it’s hard to notice the fantastic peace, because peace doesn’t announce itself as stress does. Trouble is a heavy, greasy, rotten, thick cloud that wraps itself up in your hair and follows you all around. Stress and bad times explode on your lap and smear themselves hatefully on your face. They rush in with a stomping racket like a violent robber and take the peace out with them. They leave you crying or worried and wishing the peace would come back. Where did the stress hide the peace? Where did she go?
Sometimes you go so long without peace in the house, you forget her perfume. You don’t know the exact minute when peace shows up. She’s so quiet; she’s there awhile before you take notice. She sneaks in the back door and sits down beside you on the couch and snuggles up against you. She doesn’t make a noise, unless it’s a warm, contented sigh. You have to listen for it, though. She doesn’t call first. She has no blaring smell like a drug-store perfume, but a faint, passing, precious whiff, like Mommy’s towels hung on the April clothes line. You have to stick your face in it to take it all in, but when you do…oh!
In the past, I have, like most people at one time or another, been down and sad. Some times were worse than others. Life happens. Maybe it doesn’t mean you’re clinically depressed, but when you’re going through something, it’s natural to be down about it. That’s how stuff works. That’s where we get the term heavy, man.
When I was very, very down, it was hard to care about anything. These times are perhaps another column, but I will always remember how I knew that I was getting over it. I knew things were looking up when I began to care about little things. When I was down, I only took care of what was absolutely necessary and cared little about anything else. I knew I was feeling better when I found myself taking an interest in mundane things, like decorating my kitchen.
I didn’t realize it until then. Peace had snuck in, and I didn’t even hear the door close.
The power was off Friday night for most of the evening. While I don’t enjoy a lack of juice, it didn’t annoy me as much as usual. The still gloaming and last breath of winter was somehow bittersweet, especially knowing it wouldn’t be long. Sometimes, a little nothing can be everything.
A teacher and mother, Meagan Morehead Bradshaw lives on a farm in Bland County; contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.