But it got me thinking.
A quick scan of the last twenty some years produced a montage of moments--
Moving in 4th grade
The death of both grandfathers
A year-long mystery illness in 6th grade
Frog dissections in 7th grade--heck, middle school as a whole
9 years of conditioning sprints
11 years of projects and exams
Applying to college
Waiting for graduation
Overcoming injuries, surgeries, and physical therapy
Interviewing for my first real job
Moving to New York City
Surviving September 11, then looking for job back home
Choosing to leave NYC and readjusting to life in Ohio
Overcoming Dengue Fever
Recovering from a car accident
Training for a marathon
Recovering from more injuries
Applying to grad schools
Moving to Cleveland to go to grad school
Experiencing loneliness and fly infestation in my apartment building
Racking up more loans, more heartbreak, and hours without sleep
Getting through my first few years of teaching
Adding car payments to my budget
Getting over my grandmother's death
Experiencing more heartbreak, more injuries, and another surgery
Enduring more disappointments, more loneliness, and a super long power outage
Getting past the beginning stage of a relationship so I could figure out if it was going to last
Wanting to be engaged
Planning a wedding
Surviving our first year of marriage in a 740 square foot condo
Trying to sell our condo and coming up with a down payment for a house...
Wanting pain to end, waiting for life to begin, figuring out how to handle each new bend in my road.
Sure, every situation struck me acutely in the moment it attacked. Digging, twisting, wrenching me to worry and fear and wish. At each peak, my challenges/worries each assumed a post as gatekeeper, holding me back from the life I waited my whole life to embrace, a life I imagined others were experiencing, a life I wanted so desperately to get.
Laura, once you get beyond this, I told myself, you will see the beacon of light, you will tap your toes on your very own yellow brick road where the air will reek of greener grass, and the skies will be occupied by chirpier birds, and every empty inch of your heart will be flooded with love. Don't stop believin', my little inner voice told me, because if you hang in there--if you keep pursuing the happiness you learned was yours when you memorized the preamble in 8th grade--you will eventually find it. Just you wait...
Until what? Until I reach the next level? Until I kill all of the monsters and collect all of the coins? Until I find more obstacles, more difficulties, more dreams, more goals, more challenges, more life? More chances to ignore the beauty of the life that holds me? Or the opportunities to be thankful for how lucky I am? More wishing past something I will eventually yearn to have back when I find myself short on heartbeats and low on breath?
Of course I look forward to the day when J and I have a fire to cuddle beside, when we don't have to clean our house every morning and pretend like no one lives here. When we can put off dusting and vacuuming one more day so we can watch our baby giggle and play catch with our dog. When we can have space for family and friends to stay with us, and a place to go outside and grill.
My friend's mom is right. I should also be thankful for today. For fewer square feet to clean. For the thirty-some bars and restaurants within blocks of our front door. For Saturday and Sunday mornings when we can sleep as late as we want, when we can go out to dinner without hiring a babysitter, when we can travel to visit family without worrying about a pet, or packing a baby bag, or hoping our child won't burst into tears on the airplane.
Never again will we be in this space in our lives. Never again will we have so much freedom, so much promise, so much life to live--so we need to make sure we enjoy the freedom we have. We need to live each space in our lives--joyful and difficult. We need to stop dreading weather reports, grunting over repair bills or complaining about not having enough space. We need to be happy for the space we do have. We need to find the good lacing each challenge, the opportunities that peek through the cracks of each struggle. We need to be happy for what each gatekeeper teaches us, without focusing our eyes on the mythical road that rests beyond the reach of his trident.
My friend's mom is right. Life is a series of as soon as we get past this'es. And so today, I took a little peek around our condo, and filed its details deeply into my memory. That way, when J and I sit down with our grandkids, we will be able to adequately tell them about the incredible year we spent in the Short North--and every bit of it will be true.
Then, I laughed at previous traumas and played out what came next. I saw where I grew strong, where I became wiser, where I should have paused and enjoyed every single heart beat of anticipation, or quelled any unnecessary fear. I realized that I have the power to triumph over any challenge I face, but that power must be renewed every single time I take a breath. It's me who must define my attitude, and it's me who must embrace my life.