Living

Look, I have miserable days too. That is the nature of life.

Yesterday, I woke up with a smiling baby in my face and foggy, misty mountains out my window (we all know this is my favorite thing), and somehow the morning still fell apart. That smiling baby sometimes screams. My perfectly darling toddler is sometimes not. Sometimes I get mad at my hair or I spill my coffee or Roscoe is on my last nerve. Just when you think you've potty-trained, you're cleaning poop up off the floor--right in front of the toilet.

There are even days with far greater troubles. I've worried about the future. I've stressed over finances. I've lost loved ones. I've questioned all the elements I assumed were holding me together as a person.

You know, this is our human experience. And those sorts of days can really get me down like anyone else. They seem to pop up in waves and it's like life is just unbearable for a minute. I'm a firm believer in wallowing if need be, so you do. You sulk and you pout and you yell at God or however else you like to burn off your anger. Then that's that and life moves on. It always does.

I think "life seems too perfect" is a really unfair accusation. We are all humans together and so let's just assume that we are all having bad days now and again. But we are all humans together and so we are all making choices about what will effect our attitudes, what will consume our attention, what we allow to reside in the corners of our minds. 

This is a lesson I've only learned through growing older. Before, I just assumed that if I was doing everything right, then everything would look and feel right--to me and to everyone else. So when I hit that life space where nothing was as I envisioned, my natural conclusion was that it was wrong. It made me sad. It made me overly analytical. It made me tired. (Self-inflicted depression takes a lot of energy.) And I felt the need to express this to the world because life was oh-so-dreadful and it was time to discuss what to do after we'd messed everything up (you know, at the ripe age of 23). 

Things aren't messed up. 

Mornings are new.

Do you know how to use new mornings? You make the choice to make it better. 

Guess what. Maybe it won't be. I willed yesterday morning to be better, and it was still stupid. 

So I chose to make today better. Stay tuned.

And I've come to this place where these are the things I want to remember, so they are the things I want to share. When I look back on my life, like everyone else everywhere, I can just assume that there were hard periods, times where nothing seemed right. But I'd rather pay homage to what I did with those experiences by recording the beautiful and good pieces, by sharing the lessons learned, and by keeping those tough parts in perspective. They are only small pieces of the whole.

In an overly philosophical vein, I suppose it makes sense to compare life to an ocean. Because of course it's cliche, as many metaphors are, but our life experiences do ebb and flow. They are calm and they are stormy; they are deep and they are shallow; they are in and they are out; and sometimes they are full of life or quieter than any other place on earth. But when you step back and take it all in, it really is a breathtaking thing, isn't it? That's how I want to see my life when I'm in it, it's how I want to remember my life at the end, and it's how I hope I convey my life to others. 

Never perfect, never wrong, just living.

O Glory

He told me his name was Tom while he wiped a tear from his cheek before it crept under the flap of his sheepskin hunter's hat. He wasn't crying. It was just that those kind, ice blue eyes probably had seen more than 70 years, and they could no longer fight the cold wind that cruelly bit into them.

"I'm here every day," he said, big smile on his face. "7 to 9." At first I thought it was an odd corner to choose, but even while we were standing there together he made $5.

I pulled my coat around my bare ears. I was glad he had that hat. His aged skin could surely not face this weather unprotected. I handed him a mug of hot chocolate. His eyes saddened.

"Thank you, dear, but I can't drink that."

I thought, "Lactose intolerant?" So I said, "I made it with water, not milk." He looked at me quizzically.

"No, thanks. Coffee hurts my stomach."

"Oh! It's hot chocolate though." His face lit up and he took the mug from me. "I just thought it would keep you warm today," I offered.

"Thank you. I stay pretty bundled up too." He watched me set two paper bags down by his own bag (a small travel case that contained all of his worldly possessions).

"I made you a little lunch, just in case you need it."

"Thanks again," he said, all the while smiling. And then I lost it, so I told him to have a good day and practically ran back to the car. I couldn't contain myself and my husband sat with me for a moment while I gained composure.

Then he got out to talk to Tom again. I watched in the rear-view mirror.

"Are you certain there's nothing else we can do for you?" he asked him.

"Oh, I just try to raise $10 here every day. That's all. If I can, I've got a warm, safe place to stay with a nice bed and where I can get a shower and a shave." My husband responded with an affirming nod.

Tom kept talking. "I don't go to those other shelters because you can't make it there unless you're rough and tough and young. Otherwise they take your shoes and your clothes or they hurt you. That's why I keep my stuff with me," he said pointing to the bag.

He went on talking about needing a prayer; he said he didn't need a ride to church on Sunday because he had a friend who took him. They shook hands. We drove away. He waved at us from the cold, lonely sidewalk while we scooted away in our warm car.

And even though it was practically masochism, I kept him on my mind. I imagined the time in his life when he had a family and a job and a house and wondered how it happened that those things were no more. Now he was too old to get a job and his wife was probably gone. I questioned why they'd never had children or if they had how on earth they could allow this to happen to their father.

My thoughts went on and on and my insides churned with actual physical pain. These were the kind of days and times when old phrases like, "I'll fly away, O glory," made sense and I daydreamed about a heaven with no pain or tears or abandoned people.

So many days I wonder, "How can You bear to watch us and what we've done with Your world? We toss aside and fight for ourselves and wage war with eyes and guns. Even now I'm selfishly longing to be removed from this place of pain instead of pushing through for Tom."

My husband effortlessly steered the car into a parallel parking spot right in front of our apartment. I loved our apartment. And inside were dirty dishes and a cozy bed and my adorable dog. I reminded myself of all the happiness allowed me in this world, and today I press on with that in mind.

Door Opener

You know in a dream when all of the sudden--FLASH--you're somewhere, and you don't know how you got there or why the location changed or what the relevance of the new place is? Well, this was that.

I was standing in an endless hallway, and it was such a tease. There were about a thousand doors. Each door had mirrors all around it so that the thousand doors looked like a million doors. I had no idea how I was going to peek in all of the doors. I couldn't finish it in a lifetime.

But, nevertheless, I started opening all the doors; except I wasn't doing this. I was watching myself do this. I knew that it was me, but it was more the optimal me--longer, thicker hair; longer, thinner legs; and I could walk gracefully like a ballerina. I've always wanted to be a ballerina, but I trip over the air, so that is impossible.

I kept opening doors, but I was doing it so quickly, that what was inside some spaces, I barely noticed. I just kept looking ahead at all the doors I needed to open, fearing I'd never make it; or I kept looking behind at all the doors I'd already opened, regretting that I didn't pay closer attention to what was inside.

Then I just stopped. I put my hand over my eyes. I spun around and around and around, and was silly-dizzy in the head. I stuck my finger out and pointed and opened my eyes. I went into that door.

When I peeked inside, it was me! I was running around a communications room with story boards in hand and talking on an iPhone. I checked out the covers of an award-winning magazine hanging on the wall. I watched in awe of what I was accomplishing and how successful I was.

I tore myself away and looked in another door. There I was again, quietly painting a gorgeous room in a charming Victorian house, grasping my enormously pregnant stomach with a huge smile on my face. Photos of a happy, home-style life lined the walls.

In the next door, I was in another country. I don't know where, but it was different. I was in a sleek suit, walking into a building made of glass and steel. Something important obviously took place in those walls, and then I realized it was a type of agency with an impressive list of clients.

The next door revealed me and my pretty little sister, sitting in an artist's loft, going over some of her incredible photos and redesigning our web page. There were mannequins and coffee mugs and poster frames and all sorts of knick-knacks scattered all about our creative space.

Feeling all Plath-like, I sat down.

I stared down the hall at all the doors I hadn't even opened yet.

And I just wondered how on earth I would ever choose to go inside of one and stay.