On this perfect day in May, I give myself a break from everything: from worrying about what to do about my mother as she ages, to feeling, for the first time, that there may not be enough years left to read all the books I want to read, or to find my perfect mate, or to see all I want to see, or that my stomach is no longer flat and muscle-lined – and of course, from worry that I don’t possess enough time or talent to leave behind a legacy of published writing.
To all that worry I say: Fuck it. The sun is brilliant. The sky blue and clear as a diamond chip. The air, the kind that reminds you of being six and riding your bike in the driveway. Then you go eat a popsicle and play in the grass. There is no worry. Today, I give myself a perfect day of freedom to match the sun and sky.
I accomplish things: I exercise, I get an oil change for my car and don’t let the guy talk me into spending more money than I have to – I really don’t need to pre-buy 10 oil changes for $100. I take hours to clean my house, a step at a time, without worrying if I’ll finish the entire house.
I open windows and watch little Mia close her eyes and sniff the spring breezes blowing across the living room, the bedroom, the kitchen. Mia has such a beautiful little cat face and it’s so wonderful to see her content, as she is not a happy-go-lucky-soul, as is her son, Timmy. I scour the kitchen. The bunny watches me. The cats disappear for naps. I fix a shelf in a cabinet that fell down two weeks ago with hardware I bought from Lowes. I put the Cheerios back on the top shelf. I reclaim this house as my home. Clean this, clean that, fix this, fix that, a little at a time, and a little at a time this house will come back to me as a home I love, rather than a burden I carry on my back.
Apparently, I stir up some good karma as my neighbor, Ed, says to me, “I have a new mailbox and post for you. I’ll put it in this afternoon.” I never asked for a new mailbox and post, but I need them. My mailbox is cheap plastic starting to crack; the faded red flag droops when you try to put it up for outgoing mail. Karma brings Ed and a new mailbox on a new post on a perfect day. It looks good. Ed also fixes my bike. He won’t take any money. I buy us ice coffees and we share some laughs in the sunshine.
I find myself saying at different points in the day: Take care of what you have and cherish it, rather than bemoan that which you wish you had. I know this isn’t an original thought. I think there are bumper stickers with this theme. I wish I could tell you my revelation was more profound than a bumper sticker, but it wasn’t.
Lately, I’ve been thinking I need something else, a different life, or a change of location, or a new person to fill my needs. But today, I sweep with the broom and say, “This is your home, not your burden.” I vacuum the old carpeting and think: This is a place of comfort for you, where it’s quiet and the cats are happy. I dust and polish and say, “There’s so much more that needs to be done to this house, but it’s a project, to be accomplished a little at a time, like putting that cabinet shelf back up in the cabinet.” Every little bit counts, like the new mailbox sitting atop its new post. I’m going to buy sticky numbers to put on my new mailbox so people who visit can find the house more easily. After living in this house for ten years, I’m finally putting the address on the mailbox. Today I also bought a drill. I’ve never owned a drill. Sometimes, discovering what you need can take a long time.
For much of the week, I was living in a menopausal haze of anger. I lost a friend or two this week, but that’s okay. Sometimes we outgrow friendships. That doesn’t mean we didn’t love these friends and perhaps we still do. Outgrowing means it’s time to move on, to find more of what it is you need because it takes so long to find it. I’m pretty sure the people on the other end of my anger think I’m a lying bitch or an unreliable person, but that’s okay. We do whatever we need to do and think what we need to think in order to survive. Emotional survival is not so easy, not when you’re young, not when you’re middle aged, and not when you’re old, I imagine.
Today I gave myself permission to take care of my house, my family, myself, and not worry about publishing an essay or a book or who I may have hurt or who has hurt me. Today I allowed myself to breathe in the air, feel the sun on my shoulders, and see the sky over my head. I didn’t worry that the years will whiz by and I’ll turn around and be eighty like my mother. I didn’t worry that if I eat this or that I might gain weight. I did not worry that as a writer, I may never be good enough.
And because I let go of such pressure-filled dreams and nightmares, I can sit in my bed on a Saturday night and write this, not caring if it’s good, not caring if it doesn’t live up to the writing standards expected of me as an MFA graduate. I really don’t care. Tonight I’ll write whatever I want.
I also made a decision about my mother. I said, “This is her home, too, for as long as she wants to be here.” A few weeks back I was angry and thought about putting her in an independent living community for the elderly. It’s a nice place where she’d make many friends. I may tell her about it, but she does not have to leave this home or the cats unless she wants to do so. I was inspired by and moved to this decision in part by reading of the passing of Robert Clark Young’s mother this week. He has worked so hard to give both of his parents a comfortable and dignified life in their senior years and during their illnesses. This week, he lost his mother. But she did not leave home until it was her time to die. Robert made it so she could be home until the very end. I want to do that, too. Thank you to the sun and thank you to Robert for this revelation.
I don’t have everything I want, but on a perfect day, I want what I have.