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A Pretty Damn Good Life

Last weekend, I started my Saturday in my garden with my great-nephew M. He stayed over the night before – I was at a campaign meeting and didn’t get home until 11:00 pm, so we didn’t see much of each other – but we started the morning together in my garden, with him clipping the flowers off of my collards and mustard greens (they’re bolting, but hey, they’re still good, fresh food) and me watering the seeds I’ve started for my summer vegetable garden. I pulled a carrot out of the ground, washed it, and we both ate it, remarking at how sweet it was and so unlike the slightly bitter carrots we get in the store.

After going out to breakfast with M and BMNB, we all went to “Clayfest” in Lincoln, which included “Camp Clay,” a free event where kids could get as much wet clay as they wanted to do with it as they pleased. As I was sitting at a table that sunny Saturday listening to M and BMNB playfully argue over what M should do with the clay, (I finally told BMNB, “Get your own clay!”), I thought to myself:

You’ve got a pretty damn good life.

Mind you, I didn’t say perfect life. What makes my life a pretty damn good one at this point is that I’ve let go of a lot of things and no longer allow the perfect to get in the way of the good.

Yes, my house is a mess and I have grain beetles in my pantry (Who knew?). I still haven’t unpacked and organized things to my liking. But my roses are in bloom and fragrant as ever (Heirloom and Fragrant Cloud, to be exact). I can pay my bills, even with this freakin’ furlough. I’m not hungry – in fact, I’m overweight. My husband adores me and I adore him. I live in a nice neighborhood where my neighbors share in lawn care duties and weeding of each other’s properties.

But I’ve let go of a lot.

I’ve let go of the aspiration that I will find my work thrilling and motivating. My job doesn’t excite me. The practice of law doesn’t excite me. I like the people I work with, I like most of the work I do, but I can’t say I went to law school to do what I’m doing or that it propels me out of bed in the morning. I’ve long stopped trying to live up to others’ career aspirations for me, too. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard, “I thought you’d be on the bench by now,” without anyone ever asking me, “Do you want to be a judge?” The answer is “no.” Quite frankly, I don’t know what I want to do, and I know that my civil rights forebears, like my late soror Dorothy Height, would probably be disappointed in my current lack of direction given all of the educational capital that’s been invested in me. But I’m happier than I’ve been in a long, long time. Although I’m sure this is my last attorney job, I might stay in it for as long as it supports the kind of life I want – the ability to put my family first without a lot of pushback, as in private sector legal practice. My job does allow me a great deal of flexibility, and I work in a very parent-friendly workplace, which gets me to my second point:

I’ve let go of the idea that there’s a perfect time to start a family. There isn’t. You just do it. BMNB and I have probably waited far too long, longer than most, but that’s been the tenor of our lives – we’re late bloomers and over-achievers, always trying to get our ducks in a row before we embark on something huge. But not this time. So we’ve started to plough ahead on the adoption front, and I’m excited and scared all at the same time. And I wonder whether I’ll even care as much about my career when we have kids in the house. My advice to anyone, whether you’re single, married, or just breathing, is that if you want kids, go make some or go get some. There is no perfect moment to start a family.

I’ve let go of the idea that I would be wealthy. Mind you, I wasn’t chasing wealth for the purpose of buying oodles of crap. I wanted to be financially secure in order to be free to do whatever the hell I wanted. And deep down inside, I think I expected that that was what others expected of me. But as I look down the dual paths of retirement planning and child raising/college saving, unless I become the Donald Trump of Placer County in selling real estate, the likelihood that I’m going to be wealthy isn’t very high if I stay in my current position. Mind you, BMNB and I make a comfortable living for two folks with no kids. But the idea that one day I won’t have to watch my pennies, invest and save aggressively, clip coupons, or shop meat sales at Safeway is gone. I’d rather be less well off and surrounded by happy kids. My definition of happiness has definitely changed.

I’ve let go of the idea that I’m going to be a size eight. Now, I just want to be healthy and feel good. I’ve got this one body (I’m starting to sound like a “Boniva” commercial here), and I’ve got to stop waging war against it. It serves me, and I need to serve it, no matter what size it is.

I’ve let go of the idea that I have a lot of time left to do the things I want to do. I don’t. Nobody really does. I was listening to Joan Rivers on “Forum” on my way to work, and she said that she lives well because she believes you only live once. As a Jew, she remarked that they believe in “heaven and hell, all right here on earth.” I’m one of those people who puts fun things off until I can pay cash and I constantly say, “We can’t afford that right now.” Well, to borrow from an old civil rights refrain, “If not now, when?” I’m not saying I’m going to run out and charge a bunch of trips and rack up oodles of debt. I am saying that I’m going to find a middle ground and plan for more fun. As nerdy as it sounds, I’m looking forward to studying places with my kids and then traveling to those places, like Civil War battlegrounds, Washington D.C., California missions, the Underground Railroad, and the like. BMNB and I love to travel, and I want to build more of that into our lives.

I’ve taken a break from achievement and gone off on a path of fun. Right now, I’m running a local political campaign and I’m having a blast! I’m using all of my skills – writing, organization, planning, creativity – to put together a winning strategy for a candidate I believe in, and I’m meeting all kinds of intriguing and passionate people along the way. I don’t know where this might lead down the line, but right now, I’m having more fun at this than at trying to figure out my career path.

We finished our Saturday with a trip to the library (M loves to read – gotta love that in an 8 year-old), two trips to Burger King (don’t ask), and an evening watching kid videos we borrowed from the library for free -- Shrek, Madagascar, one of those Narnia movies – while I crocheted an afghan for his cousin. The next day, consonant with Donkey’s prescription for a good sleepover, I made waffles – buttermilk waffles from scratch, mind you. I’ve spoiled M to the point that he expects waffles from scratch when he stays with us. But the smile on his face when he eats them is more than worth it.

Yep, I’ve got a pretty damn good life, and it took an 8 year-old to remind me of that


ZeroGravity said…
Love this blog. Children can teach us more about ourselves than we realize, if only we take a moment from our cramped lives to notice.
Thanks! The older I get, the more I learn from children. Who knew?
Anonymous said…
"Mind you, I didn’t say perfect life. What makes my life a pretty damn good one at this point is that I’ve let go of a lot of things and no longer allow the perfect to get in the way of the good."

Great thoughts - LOVE IT! :-)

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