10.16.2011

On life building.

The past five weekends have been blessings. We haven't traveled. We've woken up every Saturday morning here in Brooklyn, showered, dressed and walked to the bagel store where we order our usual and sit outside the bookstore as we watch the dogs pass by. The other week, two minuscule dogs passed with a hip owner.

"That's the worst thing I've ever seen," I said.

"But here comes the best thing," Chris said. A golden retriever carrying a newspaper in his mouth approached us, his owner leading him proudly along Court Street. It was, indeed, the best thing ever.

If bagels and Saturday mornings and dog watching are simple pleasures, what of the more complex? The weather this morning was so good that we decided to take a walk, a loop down by Brooklyn Bridge Park and back. During this walk, we discussed the pros and cons of planning large life changes in advance.

For you see, dear reader, the large life changes don't stop after the wedding. An entire journey of adulthood and its highs and lows stretches out before us. How will our kids go to college? When should we have those kids? Where will we call home? And what about global warming!?!

Sometimes I think one of the hardest things to wrap your brain around is that your life can be what you want it to be. It is so much easier to hide behind things like history and other people's judgements and what you feel allowed to do. But the tricky thing is to not only realize that the world is your oyster, but to personally select that oyster's size, color and shape.

What kind of life would you like to have? Wouldn't it almost be easier if you were handed one to live instead?

Of course, this is what almost every generation had before us. Their fathers and grandfathers were farmers and so they followed suit. Their mothers and grandmothers stayed home and so did they. In an small honest way, I envy these lack of choices. I envy the opportunity to make the best of a situation rather than construct the situation myself. Because of course, at the end of the today, the fate of my happiness rests in no one else's hands but my own.

*

A long time ago, my sister was a vegan. And she didn't just actively love lettuce; she also actively hated humans who used animal products. Maybe hate is a strong word. Except there was that time she used the duck cookie cutter to protest foie gras during Christmas... so, maybe not.

I digress.

Although I was somewhat weirded out by her faith to the animal activist community, the part that scared me the most was how fervently she believed in it. She had no doubt in her mind and I'd never seen her so inspired and passionate. I was confused about how to proceed and our relationship vacillated between my desire to learn more about something she cared about and our arguments about brainwashing. At one point, she said point-blank: "You know what your problem is? You never have any opinions."

This sentence has stayed with me for over ten years. I'm sure that today, even she would swat the statement away. But there was something to that, something that I fear even sitting here today. If I am too understanding and too flexible, I do myself no service. If I accept any life plan that comes my way, I do myself no favors. 

The strongest option is to choose. To define a life. To share that vision with others and say "here's what's happening." Because in the strength, there is conviction... and in the conviction, there is the power to make it happen.

*

Next weekend, we break the streak. We're headed down to DC and Baltimore for our annual fall trip. We won't be having bagels and we won't be watching dogs, but the memory of these past five weekends stays lit in our bellies, a reminder of what a quiet life could be like. 

I'm already anticipating the kinds of life conversations we'll have with my siblings, the kinds of talks that open doors to the next phases. Thanksgiving and Christmas and my parents' 35th anniversary next year. And, of course, on beyond that.

Cheers to a new week, a new stretch of successes and a bunch of opinions. I think I am learning to have them.

3 comments:

yitznewton said...

Hi Jen,

I've been lurking for a couple months, since I saw your talk at Asbury Agile advertised. Congrats on your getting married!

Your sister's remark struck me; I relate to not having opinions. Have you ever looked into personality typology? My Myers-Briggs type is INTP, and it's my impression that especially someone with an EN_P type would be inclined away from opinions - more open-ended. Researching typology has been really helpful to me for understanding myself and others much better.

Jen said...

@yitz Fascinating! I'm an ENFP... maybe that has something to do with it!

Thanks for the comment- will I see you at Asbury Agile this week?

yitznewton said...

No, I can't make it, my loss. Enjoy!