Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dolley's Advice

Hi Bloggy Friends.

Recently I finished reading A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation. I started it a long time ago, but had to set it aside when things started to heat up at school.

Dolley was a fascinating lady; full of interesting anecdotes about life. One of the ones that struck me most was a statement she made from her death bed, when a beloved niece came to her for advice about a problem she was having. "My dear," Dolley said, "do not trouble yourself about it, there is nothing in this world worth caring for." Probing her even more the niece asked, "Aunt, you who have lived so long, do you think so?" Dolley then emphasized her point. "Yes! Believe me, I who have lived in it so long, repeat to you that there is nothing in it worth caring for."

This was a very bold statement that could be taken in several different directions. Had Dolley turned into a bitter old crab at the end of her life, and actually meant that NOTHING was worth caring for? Is anything worth caring for? I believe there is.

I believe Dolley was trying to articulate to her niece that she shouldn't sweat the small stuff. There's no need to ponder over petty things, like a brief altercation with a friend, or whether or not you have shoes to match an outfit your dying to wear on Saturday night. If we allow ourselves to stress over little things, then we are missing the big picture - which I believe is that we have a short time here, so why not enjoy every second of it. There are things, however, that I do believe are worth caring about. What about our loved ones? our health? people who are in need?

Though her advice may initially seem negative to some, I find it to be quite refreshing. Could you imagine a life where we could be so carefree; moving along from day to day living only within that moment. But is it even possible to live that way now? Perhaps Dolley's statement takes on a whole new meaning in this day and age. Everyday we are faced with another tragedy to contemplate, whether it be a plane crash, the shooting of innocent human beings, or millions of starving, sick children in Africa. There seems to be a lot more to care about now than there was in the past. We've created a big, fast-paced, in your face kind of world that won't allow us to slow down and just "be." Oh, but wouldn't that be nice.

I wanted to share this with you today, because I found it intriguing. It is a small quote, but it leaves a lot to contemplate. I find it fascinating that at the end of her life, after she had time to ponder over the things that really mattered, she came up with a statement like this. What are your thoughts?

I hope you all have a great day. I'll chat with you soon.

Love, Josh


Bill Fogle said...

God, here it is 11 p.m. and I'm sober as a judge. This has got to stop.

My response to her statement is complicated, and grimly Existential (what did you expect?!). I believe we believe what we need to when we need to. So, facing death, of course Dolly felt the things of life are worthless. She needed to think that. We're all survivors, and even dying is a bitch. For some people it lasts for years, their bodies slowly shutting down, etc.

At the same time, I agree that there is a wonderful release about her statement, a tremendous freedom that could only come at the end of life. Dolly wanted to free her niece from the care she probably felt her whole life. "Don't make the same mistake I did," etc. One of the last things my mom said to me was "Take care of yourself ... don't end up like me."

Dolly was probably forgetting when she was first in love, or when she had first arrived to the White House.

Anonymous said...

We are making a PBS movie about Dolley Madison.

She also gave wonderful advice to her niece to the effect not blame the fate -- we all have a lot of control over our own lives.

She is a great character

Jeffrey said...

Josh, I agree with your take within the context of "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff". Mom said to me about two years ago, "Don't take yourself too seriously". Was she implying I was vain, arrogant, or less than caring of others? No. Upon probing for further explanation, it was the same advice being given by Dolley.