Do You Ever Wish…

Standard

…you lived a completely different life?

I’ll get back to that question, and I’ll get back to why I’m asking soon enough.

But first, some context.

I was toying with this idea for a post for a while.  But I wasn’t sure where it was going to go.  It was way too amorphous to try to give it any shape, let alone sharpen it to a fine point.

This afternoon, I was driving along…the sun was shining, I felt happy…seven feet of black snow piled up on the side of the road be damned.  I was ripping it up to 2Pac & Dr. Dre’s California Love…I was killing it.  I caught a glimpse of myself in my rearview mirror and I felt myself simultaneously comfortable and lost at the intersection of who I am (an almost 48 year old woman) and how I was acting (like a 14-year old boy) and before I even knew what was happening, that song ended, I changed the station, and I was belting out Melissa Manchester’s “Don’t Cry Out Loud.”  There was a good run on 70s on 7, as I continued to lay out on “Shake Your Groove Thing” and “The Gambler.”  

Who am I?  What am I doing?

Why am I asking?

And why do I care?

Which brings me back to my opening question.  Do you ever wish you lived a completely different life?

(Although I’ll definitely need to circle back at some point to why DCOL and The Gambler are awesome songs.)

I was at a conference in Detroit a few months ago, and part of the event involved dinner and a tour of The Willard…an old lumber baron’s house converted into a restaurant with a top-floor bar called the Ghost Bar.  Notoriously haunted, the place is a big draw.  When we were there, it was pointed out that the bar was full of med school students from nearby Wayne State University.

As we passed through, and I watched their interactions, I asked my girlfriend (she was at the same conference) “do you ever wish you lived a completely different life?”  I had barely gotten the question out when she answered, forcefully and emphatically, “No!”  And she did it in a way that made we wonder whether I had just asked the most ridiculous question ever.  I tried to explain, despite my happiness, that I sometimes wish I lived a completely different life.  And I know that’s a strange concept.  Because if I lived a completely different life, everything would be completely different.  And if I’m happy now, why would I want it completely different?

And in that conversation, I was reminded of the danger of absolutes.  And I also was reminded of the random yet deliberate chain of events that this life is. If I did some things differently, would I be in this same spot, but as happy?  Happier?  A different spot, but unhappy?  Or happier?

Why am I asking?

And why do I care?

Because I do.  That’s why.

It just has all kind of come together and got me thinking.  Who cares?  I did what I did for whatever reasons and none of it matters because it’s done.  Did I do the best I could?  Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t, and sometimes I can justify things by saying that I did the best I could at the time.

In the end, what’s done is done.  So the only reason I should care about what I did or didn’t do is irrelevant except for the extent to which it influences what I do.  I realized it there in my car as I was simply going with it.  Enjoying the sun despite the snow.  Feeling the warmth despite the frigid temperatures.

I think of all the direct and indirect pressure on us all right now.  All this conventional “wisdom” telling us that “all” we need to do to be happy is this or that.  I call bullshit.

There’s no magic bullet.  There’s no quick-study course tha’s going to help any of us get a license to be happy.

But in that moment of existential conflict, I realized all that mattered is what I chose to do in that moment, who I chose to be, and how I chose to respond to myself.

Do I buy that happiness is a choice?  I do.  And this is a good reminder that it is:

“Happiness is a choice that requires effort at times.” ~Aeschylus

So today I was feeling happy without explanation and rather than question why or whether I should be, I hopped in the shower and surfed that wave of existential crisis right down to a local beer store and enjoyed a nice tasting, made a purchase, hit the library, and hustled home to sit and enjoy this choice to be happy.

Don’t listen to anyone elsee, unless it helps you to be happy.  

And if you’re wondering what it looked like, my existential crisis looked like this (I was smiling broadly on the inside):



Snowbservations, Continued: Number 11

Standard

The list from an earlier post grows with this: 

 11) When someone stops and waves you out, smile broadly.  Wave vigorously.  Holler thank you.  Show a shred of gratitude. 

 Gratitude.  Probably one of the more taken-for-granted things out there.  Remember to practice gratitude regularly.  It does wonders in shaping one’s attitude, perspective, and outlook.      

I’m not telling you what to do, but I’m suggesting you try.  They say that it’s not the happy people who are grateful but rather the grateful people who are happy.

Take that food for thought and nibble on it, please.

Snowbservations, Random Order

Standard

We’re socked in in the Northeast, 7+ feet of snow in three weeks. I have no idea what the back of my house looks like. My pool cover, advertised as strong enough to hold an elephant, appears not strong enough to hold all this snow. Tempers are short. Snow banks are tall.

Here are some things that I’ve observed from my vantage point, while driving around town feeling like I’m inside a ginormous come of vanilla soft serve:

1) I’ve said this before but it bears repeating. Four-wheel DRIVE does not equal four-wheel STOP. If you’re up my ass and hit a patch of ice it doesn’t matter squat whether you have rear-wheel or 100-wheel drive. So back off. And slow down.

2) Having a plow on the front of your truck does not provide immunity from following basic traffic rules and regulations.

3) Chances are that you had to inch out from behind a ginormous snowbank at some point today. Keep that in mind when you choose between leaning on the horn and giving me the finger me or stopping and cutting me a break while I’m trying to inch out from behind one of my own.

4) If you live in or are on vacation somewhere warm, I’m very happy for you. I don’t need to see pictures of your good time right now. I’ll like them all when you do post them, just please keep them to yourself until August or so.

5) Brush the snow off of your effing car.

6) If your life circumstances compel you to drive on a major highway with an oversized mattress tied to the roof of your undersized car, think about using your hazards and popping over to the right lane.

7) Pedestrians. Walking in the road. Wearing black. At night. Headphones on. Heads down, texting. Hello? And WTF?

8) Good manners are always in style. Do unto others. Don’t be an a$$hole. Stuff like that. Stick to the basics.

9) We’re all in the same boat, or rather we’re all on the same toboggan. So when someone asks how you are or whatever, don’t state the obvious. It’s snowy for everyone. Cold for everyone. Bad driving. Etc. Etc. Etc. Try “Great, thanks” and smile. Actually feels good.

10) If you are driving and must drop off or pick up a passenger, please do not do so in the middle of an intersection…especially if the light is green.

Straight temperature are single digits, wind chills below zero. Ice everywhere. It would be so easy to be miserable.

But…

…I have a choice.

The days are getting longer. It’s light well after 5pm.

The roads are a mess, so running outside is out of the questions; I joined a gym.

And I’m choosing to focus on the pretty. Like this:

IMG_2546

I leave you with Walt Whitman:

“Happiness, not in another place, but this place…not for another hour, but for this hour.

Find the happy, in this place, in this hour.

Head-to-Head With Old Man Winter

Standard

I know. If you don’t like the weather in New England, wait five minutes.

I know. If you don’t like winter in New England, move.

I know.

I love all four seasons, I really do. Well actually I love three and I tolerate the fourth because it allows me to enjoy the others.

We’re getting pummeled with snow right now, a multi-day event that will put two feet of new snow on top of our three+ feet of old snow. It’s cold. Windy. Boring. A lot of work. But it is what it is. I’m over it. Winter isn’t over it. And here we are in a standoff.

Which has given me some time to think about stuff in a different way. And reminded me about choice. Snow removal can be a bitch or it can be exercise. It can be cold or it can be fresh air. And the winter, this at-times intolerable thing that I choose to tolerate, it’s a nice reminder of how sometimes we need to do things we don’t want to do in order to enjoy the things that matter.

Removing two feet of snow is on the road to green grass and blue sky and crocuses…which lead to warm sun, ocean waves and sand…which then lead to vibrant reds and oranges, crisp air, golden skies…I could complain about the snow, or I could embrace the season that’s a doorway to the other seasons, seasons which bring profound joy. I think I’ll embrace it, sit by the fire, be glad that my driveway is clear (for now), and be profoundly grateful, in this very moment.