Quick thoughts: The impact of doing nothing?

My parents didn’t come to my pottery show last weekend. It wasn’t that I do these all the time — this was my first show  — or that they were out of town or had something of vital importance going on. My mom’s offhand comment: “Other things got in the way. You know how that goes.”

I’m actually pretty hurt about this. I shouldn’t be. I was never neglected or abused, but I was the kid whose parents refused to buy any crappy school fundraisers on the grounds that they weren’t a good deal. As a teenager, my closest emotional relationship was with the cat. My friend’s mother basically adopted me in high school. My father bitterly opposed my marriage. And so, not surprisingly, it was my friends who came to my pottery show and supported my studio. I am so grateful to have people in my life who fill in the gaps that my parents left. Even so, I think I’m sufficiently emotionally dysfunctional to make it a very, very good thing that I won’t be having kids.

Most of my blog is about considering the impact of my actions, but this incident made it painfully obvious that what we don’t do also has an impact. Often unseen, and sometimes hard to see. This week  I find myself wondering: what is the impact of not acting more forcefully to mitigate climate change right now? What is the impact of not going out to join the Occupy forces? What is the impact of not coming to any meaningful conclusions at the Durban climate change conference?

It’s probably not good to get too hung up on this question. Obviously, there isn’t much I could have done to change the outcome of Durban and plenty of other factors in our continuing headlong rush towards climate change. But if you need some motivation to keep pushing yourself to do more, taking a look at the probable results of inaction seems like a pretty effective way to go.


10 responses to this post.

  1. Oh Jennifer, I am so sorry. That is so totally shitty on the part of your parental units (with behavior like that, they don’t deserve to be called “parents”.)

    I’ve gotta say, though, I can relate WAY more than I’d like to be able to. Throughout my life my parents have vacillated wildly between callous indifference, and hyper-critical boundary-less meddling. My father never attended a single ballet recital or sports game, and I still remember him greeting me after one of the few of my orchestra concerts that he bothered to attend, saying how some of the players must have tin ears because everything was so badly out of tune. This was followed by my stepmother making a horrible face and comparing my violin playing to fingernails on a chalkboard. And they wonder why I never auditioned for the symphony…

    Then, for some reason that still escapes me, when I was in my early 20’s and had my first real professional paid concert as a singer-songwriter, I made the hideous mistake of inviting them to attend. I guess some part of me was still longing for some sort of approval. As you can imagine, the reception was much the same. That was 20 years ago, and it still makes me so mad that I want to cry.

    Anyhow, I guess there are some advantages to the callously indifferent side of the coin, if you know what I mean. At this point in my life, I simply don’t invite my parents to participate in anything that matters to me, because either they won’t show up or they’ll be total jerks.

    And in terms of the real point of your post. All I can say is this…

    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.

    ~Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)


    • Hey there, Eco Cat Lady,

      Wow. I think you win the crappy parent competition. Mine really aren’t horrible people. They’ve just never been exactly supportive, and as I was raised to be a polite person and to never ask for more than was offered, I never learned how to ask for what I needed. Every subsequent relationship I’ve had has been affected by that, in one way or another.

      I feel very fortunate to have a second family that gives without being asked, but as Kevin likes to point out, I’m going to have to start communicating better eventually.


  2. Ugh. Nothing stings more than when parents disappoint. Considering every child knows what it feels like to want the approval of their parents, you’d think when those kids grow up and have families of their own, they’d do things differently. But they never do. They perpetuate the same cycle of hurt over and over again. I’m sorry you had to go through that, and I’m so glad to hear your friends were there to support you. If half the continent weren’t separating us, I’d have been there, too. 🙂

    As for the impact of doing nothing, yeah, that motivates me fairly often. All it takes is looking around and seeing cigarette butts being tossed onto the ground, endless plastic water bottles piled up in recycling bins and trash cans, and shoppers in malls coming home with a dozen brand new bags. Those are the small things. If people can’t even take action on small things, aren’t we screwed for the bigger issues, too? Like I said, this motivates me fairly often, but until you wrote about it I hadn’t really thought about it that way. Generally I just feel frustrated!


    • Hi Andrea,

      It is definitely unfortunate the way we perpetuate how we were treated as kids. I sometimes find myself doing to Kevin what my parents did to me, and it’s weirdly hard to stop even when I realize what I’m doing. Freud would have a field day!

      I had to go to the mall earlier this week. It was fairly traumatic. I often forget how aberrant my lifestyle is within my culture. Definitely a wake up call. I’m hopeful that I won’t have to go back for several years, if ever — if I hadn’t put things off until the last minute, I certainly wouldn’t have had to!


  3. Ugh. Didn’t want to read and run but have little to say that can offer comfort. I can relate. It freakin’ hurts. And I’m sorry you had to endure that rejection again… (((HUGS))) And for what it’s worth, if I’d been local, you bet your arse I’d have been there to oooh and aaaah over your creations 🙂


    • Thanks, Mrs Green! Your daughter is lucky to have you for a mother. 🙂 Maybe someday I’ll be good enough to do international pottery shows!


  4. Posted by Julie Andrea on 12/17/2011 at 08:24

    Oh my, I feel your pain, really I do. I’m so sorry your parents were a letdown. Do you have an etsy site, are you able to sell your works online? Because, you know, many people have a “family of CHOICE” and a “family of BIRTH” … your family of choice may turn out to be your biggest fans, all over the world, if you sell your creations online. Just a thought ..

    The impact of doing nothing .. summed up in one of my favourite lines from a song by Rush is: “.. if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice”.

    Keep your chin up sweetie, better days ahead. 🙂

    Hugs, if you want one,
    Julie Andrea


    • Thank you, Julie Andrea! I’ve thought about opening up an Etsy shop eventually, but right now I don’t have much stock — just sold most of what I had, and I’m not very prolific. It might happen eventually. I’m pretty good at letting go of what I make, so it’s just a matter of making more of it!

      I have a wonderful family of choice that consists of my spouse, my cat, and my good friend and her family. Her mother came to my show and pretty much bought me out, which definitely made my mother’s indifference less hurtful.


  5. I’m sorry that your parents weren’t there to support you. I wish all parents would understand that their actions, or lack thereof, have such an impact on their children. A thought which helps me when I feel let down by my parents is that I know they love me. Beyond that, they are doing the best they can. It may not always be what I would wish for but … I know they aren’t intentionally trying to hurt me … they just don’t always get it. I can forget it and overlook it because at the core, they would never try to hurt me. I believe they genuinely want what’s best for me … it’s just that our ideas of what that is don’t always mesh.

    On another topic, I want to wish you a wonderful holiday. I have so enjoyed blogging with you and I appreciate the insight you share on living green. Happy 2012!!


    • Hi Smallfootprints,

      I think that’s a very reasonable way to look at it. My parents aren’t jerks (well, not most of the time), and they mean well. They didn’t deserve to be saddled with a hypersensitive child, and maybe I didn’t deserve to be saddled with semi-oblivious parents, but there it is.

      Happy holidays to you, too! I’m slowly getting back in the blogging groove and hope to have some great new stuff up soon.


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