I have a friend who will not go to restaurants that specialize in food from other cultures. He’s perfectly content with his hamburgers and his French fries and his macaroni and cheese. He likes his vegetables plain and unseasoned, with no fancy sauces, and his salads should only contain lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumber. He can’t imagine how a vegetarian entrée could be as satisfying as steak and potatoes, and he certainly won’t try something that he couldn’t figure out how to prepare himself.
I weep for him.
Eating like that would be akin to living in a library and only reading The Great Gatsby. Great book, and all, but oh, what you are missing! What adventures, what knowledge, what delights are set before you! How can you ignore them?
I also have friends who have never bothered to get a passport. What would be the point? They have no curiosity whatsoever about the wider world. And it’s not a financial issue. They can afford to travel. They just choose not to. It’s maddening.
These friends appear content. And I do envy the fact that they seem to be convinced that they’ve found everything they could ever need or want out of life. That confidence is not mine.
But I think I’d find their lives extremely boring. I enjoy having new experiences. No, I don’t love every single thing I try. (One word: Wasabi.) But I never regret trying.
I like to go places where I’ve never been. I love learning about different points of view. I adore new sights, sounds, tastes.
Life is a fully stocked buffet laid out before you. What a gift! Revel in the abundance! Don’t just stop and smell the roses. Check out the corpse flowers, too, if you get a chance, just to see what their stinky smell is like.
Be adventurous. Eat life! Because this delicious buffet is only opened to you for a finite amount of time. And there’s nothing worse than wasting food.
It never occurred to me that going to college wasn’t mandatory. My mother had been drumming it into my head since the age of six. You will go to college. College was the next grade after 12th. That was what one did.
I don’t know why, but it shocked me that everyone didn’t feel that way. Many of my high school friends never went for higher education. They had other goals in life. Now I know that there’s nothing wrong with that.
It wasn’t until I met someone with no ambition at all that I realized how important goals truly are. This guy will probably always live in the same city. He’ll always have the same job, and the same struggles. He is so stuck in the past that he never looks toward the future. He works toward nothing. He looks forward to nothing. He never gets excited about anything. He has absolutely no imagination. He doesn’t want anything because he thinks he doesn’t deserve it. He never takes risks because he is too afraid of failure.
He is the most boring human being I’ve ever met. Being in his presence is depressing. I feel sorry for him. But I also have no respect for him.
Ambition is what makes life worth living. Striving for something is why you get out of bed in the morning. And your goals don’t have to be financial. That’s no yardstick to use to measure your life. Accumulation of stuff is meaningless. You goals should be about achieving something, or going somewhere, or creating something, or checking something off your bucket list. Those goals should be unique to you.
I’m not telling you what goals to have. I’m just saying, for heaven’s sake, have some. Otherwise, what’s the point?
A few weeks ago, I wrote The Geometry of Love, about a living demonstration of how all of us cross paths in random ways, and as we do, our influence widens. The demonstration has certainly had an impact on me in terms of how I view the world. But there was one detail I left out at the time, because it was a profound experience, and I needed time to digest it.
I didn’t participate in the experiment myself. I observed from the sidelines. But when they were asking for volunteers, I noticed an elderly couple sitting in front of me. Her arm shot up right away. She looked like she was in her late 80’s. She might have been 4’6” tall, and as fragile as a baby bird. Her husband grabbed her arm and tried to talk her out of it, because it involved spinning, and it was extremely obvious that this woman had balance issues. But no, she was anxious to get in there and participate. And so she did. He looked on with concern, but he didn’t stop her.
As she spun and wove amongst the other participants, she had a look of pure delight on her face. It made me smile. She was living her life, and having new experiences. But halfway through the demo, she came back to her seat and held her husband’s hand. She knew her limits.
I sat behind her and thought, “Wow. I want to be that woman in 30 years. I want to get in there and still try new things, even if it’s perhaps more of a challenge than I may be capable of meeting. I want to interact. I want to experience life. I want to go, and do, and see, and feel, and touch. I don’t want my advanced age to be my cage.”
But I also want someone to look out for me. I want him not to hold me back, but I want him to care, and I want him to be a safe place to return to when I realize I’ve gone as far as I can go. I want someone who will still hold my hand in my 80’s.
I’m proud to say that I’m pretty positive that I’ve found that man, dear reader, and I’m marrying him today. It just goes to show that it’s never too late to find your person. Wish me luck!
When I start surfing Wikipedia, I often wash up on some rather strange shores. It turns out that they have a biographical category that kind of gives me the creeps. According to the explanation, “Persons of advanced age (over 90) for whom no documentation has existed for a decade or longer can be placed in Category: Possibly living people.”
Not that I have a Wikipedia page, but please, Lord, if I ever do, don’t ever let me get placed in that category! If I manage to make it to 90 and no one has heard anything from me in a decade, then I’m not living right.
I don’t want to be warehoused. I don’t want to be utterly alone. I don’t want to vegetate. Granted, I probably won’t be climbing Mount Everest, but I hope I’m still voicing my opinion, learning new things, and raising the occasional hell. Otherwise, what’s the point?
I want to live, not just kill time. I want people to be able to look at me and say, “Yep. She’s definitely alive. Heaven help us.”
The other morning, I went into the kitchen to fix some breakfast for me and my dog, and the entire room was full of rainbows. It didn’t last long, and no, I wasn’t hallucinating. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
Diamond-like drops of water were hanging down from the awning outside my window, and the sun was out for a change, and at the perfect angle to cast its light through those drops, causing the rainbows. The mirror in the kitchen also happened to multiply them. I stood there for a moment, embraced by color, thinking how wonderful it is to be alive. What a wonderful life I’ve had and am still having!
Afterward, while poaching an egg, I wondered if my loved ones know I feel that way. You see, I do struggle with depression. I have done so my entire life. I suspect I’m better at hiding that from strangers than I am from the people who are closest to me. I can see how it would be easy to assume I lead a joyless existence.
That’s the beauty of having a blog. You get to put your thoughts and feelings out there for all to see. So, in the event I’m run over by a bus tomorrow, here, for the record, is how I feel about my life.
On the whole, I try to look at every day as a precious gift. I’ve been given ample opportunity to learn and to travel and to experience amazing things. I’ve loved a lot of people, and I’ve been loved in return. I’ve had quite a bit of good luck, having been born in a relatively free country with relatively good opportunities, at a time in this nation’s history when women have had relatively few restrictions, and I have cherished that independence.
If anything, I’ve eaten too well. I’ve mostly experienced decent shelter. I have taken advantage of the brain that I was born with. Even in my darkest hours (and there have been plenty of those), I have never forgotten that most people are far less fortunate than I have been, and I try not to forget that I’ve done very little to deserve this privilege.
There have been enough unexpected rainbows in my life to make me feel grateful. I am, right here and now, happy with how my life has turned out, and excited about what’s to come. Because of that, I fully intend to look both ways before stepping into any bus lanes. I hope you will do the same, dear reader.
I go to work. I come home. I start dinner. I sit on my back porch in my fifteen dollar red plastic Adirondack chair, and put my feet up on my brown plastic thrift shop stool.
My dog Quagmire jumps on my lap. Sometimes I ask him to tell me about his day. He’s never very forthcoming.
I enjoy the sunshine when I have it. I enjoy the rain, too. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I just sit and think about the fact that I’m not spending any money at this exact moment, and that’s a relief.
When dinner’s ready, I eat it, in my Adirondack chair, this time sans Quagmire, unless you count his baleful stare from the back stoop. (He’s been fed, but to hear him tell it, it’s never enough.)
I look at the lawn and tell myself I really ought to mow. I water my flowers. I do that much.
I go inside and put my dirty dishes on the growing pile in the sink. Maybe I take a bath. Maybe not. If I have a pimple, I pop it. Etc.
I change into a tank top and climb into bed. Maybe I watch Hulu. Maybe I check Facebook. Maybe I text a friend. Sooner or later I just spoon with Quagmire and go to sleep. As I drift off, I think about how lucky I am.
The next day, I wake up, get dressed, poach myself an egg, feed the dog and go to work. My life isn’t exciting. But it’s enough for me.
I’m on the brink of amazing change, and it all stemmed from a giraffe. You just never know when a figurative cue ball will send your eight ball careening off in an entirely different direction. That’s what makes life so exciting.
I have been watching April the Giraffe’s live feed on Youtube since February. I watched her pregnant belly as the baby kicked. I watched any number of contractions. She kept me company at least 8 hours a day. She became a big part of my life. So when I woke up on April 15th to discover that the birth was in progress, I got really, really excited.
Unfortunately, I still had to go to work. I broke all land speed records getting there, believe you me! And then I immediately logged back on again. Fortunately, the front hooves and the head where the only things that had made it into the world up to that point, so I got to watch the rest of the birth, live.
I’m not ashamed to say I cried some ugly, joyful tears when her calf finally made his entrance, and even more when he stood up an hour later. Life, man. Life! You know? What a miracle it is.
And just like that, I realized I hadn’t been living, not really, for quite some time. It occurred to me that life is like a flowing river, and we float downstream with it. As we go, we see things come toward us and we experience them and then they recede into the past.
But that’s only if you’re facing forward. Many things can cause you to face backwards. Trauma. Grief. Fear. Depression. They all cause you to focus on the past. And if you’re like me, you get stuck there, and try to recreate the past in your present. You want to get back to where you were before everything went so wrong.
The problem with that is you’re still floating down the river. Life goes on. But now you’re not seeing it. Because you’re facing backwards, by the time current events flash past your peripheral vision, they’re already a thing of the past. That’s no way to live.
Time to face forward again. Live in the present. Plan for the future. And don’t do so as half a person, presenting yourself to the world as a broken shadow of your former self.
For example, if you’re grieving, don’t avoid music or experiences that you shared with the person you lost. Why are you narrowing your horizons like that? Would the person you lost want you to only be half of yourself? No. You’re still alive, and to have healthy relationships moving forward, you need to be able to give the next person ALL of you. Yes, grief changes you, and that’s okay. But it shouldn’t limit you, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for continuing down the stream.
So I’m making a conscious effort to face forward again. I’m house hunting, and I’m exercising, and I’m eating right. I’m trying really hard to live in the now. Because life is happening right now, and it’s a precious and limited commodity. I plan to make the most of it, rather than putting it on hold.
And I got all that from a giraffe. Imagine that.
As my friend Carole likes to say, “Onward and upward, into the future!”
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