When I was 16 or so, I was pretty sure I knew the secret to life. I was pretty darn proud of myself about it too. Little me, a teenager from Jersey, knowing the secret to life. I could have set up a tent and charged people ten bucks to tell them my life secrets, I was that confident at the time. I seriously wish I still had that confidence because with my 15 more years of wisdom, I could be rich this way. So the secret to life. Ready? Wait for it…
…the secret to life, by my 16-year-old self, is living. That’s quite simply it. You live. Against all odds. You do have a choice, of course, but it seems that most people choose to battle their tragedies, illnesses and intense pain of loss with the big and small things that make us alive. The laughter of a child. The laughter of your own child. The feel of the sun on your shoulders. A view of a valley of autumn foliage from the top of a mountain. Snickerdoodles. I have no idea where that one came from, but yes, snickerdoodles could be a secret to living. Remember, this isn’t the most highly evolved theory…
I have spent my life knowing I’d have children. I never went through a phase, either long or for 30 seconds, in which I didn’t want children. And I truly believe that if my path thus far hadn’t been somewhat easy, I would have done anything to be a mom. I know that might sound stupid since I don’t know what it’s like to struggle – to be aging and single, to be infertile, to be destitute. However, in the means I’ve been given and the way I was raised, I believe I would find a way. I’d visit a sperm bank or ask a male friend for help. I’d apply to adopt. I firmly believe I would fight the fight of my life to have children. Or, heck. A child. It only takes one. I wanted a child or children specifically for the purpose of showing them the secret to life.
My grandiose 16-year-old version of the secret to life. Living with joy and laughter and knowledge and kindness. Power. The power that comes with knowledge and kindness. And a great head of hair. It’s so easy for many people, and definitely me, to get caught up in the exhaustion and stress of daily living. I’m lucky in that I want to spend my days with Scarlet and I do spend my days with Scarlet, but not without compromise of time and money. I’d love to say that every day we have together is sunshine and rainbows and lollipops. And that I never lose patience and that I’ve never wanted to lay on the couch all day while she fends for herself. Nope, never. And I’m beyond ok with not measuring up to unrealistic expectations. Always.
What I’m not ok with is losing not only myself but my original plans for parenting so soon in this process. She’s two now. I don’t want to say, “In a minute – I’m busy” when she sweetly asks me to color with her. Sometimes I do. And I don’t think I need to spend 100% of our time together drinking her in. Frankly, we’d both get sick of that. I need to take care of myself too. And sometimes I do respond with, “Uh-huh” when I hear her rambling about something. I used to hate when parents did that! I wanted to slap them and say, “God, look. Look what you have in front of you. It’s a miracle. Enjoy it, dipsh*t!”
Sometimes, I’m a dipsh*t. Sometimes, you have to be.
The other day Steve Winwood’s “While You See A Chance, Take It” came on the radio and I felt like the radio gods were speaking just to me. I can get so stressed lately – the new house, the new car, the chance to be a professional photographer. Ooooh-ooooh, scary! I have opportunities that many people don’t have. Why don’t I just have a panic attack about it right here and now! Ok I will, thank you much. This is what I mean about being a dipsh*t. Not sometimes. Often.
So we drink in the cool fall air and we revel in each other’s laughter. When she asks me to throw some leaves in her face but I’m too busy…reading US Weekly (love)…goshdarnit, I will put down the magazine and throw leaves in her face. And photograph it! I don’t have to do everything she asks of me, but god, I need to show her the joys of living.
She already knows them, of course. I need to show her that I do too. That I’m not always a dipsh*t. Only part-time.
Over the last few days, Scarlet has played therapist several times. She has put light in people’s dark days. She has said, seemingly out of nowhere, to hurt people in our lives, “I’m so happy to see you.” She has thrown her arms around people who needed it most. This kid will have her own secret to life by three, I suppose. She’ll be published by four!
And I made her! I take partial credit, for making her, and maybe an iota of credit for making her this magical way:
I was sad, I admit, when she was no longer a “baby.” The baby-to-toddler transformation stung a bit. I was just so proud to have a baby. I loved counting her age in weeks and having people admire her in my sling. Little did I know she’d one day stop elderly people on the street and say, “Hiiiii! Are you happy?” Yup. She did that yesterday. Proud, I was.
When Steve Winwood’s “While You See A Chance, Take It” came on the radio, we were driving around our town admiring a mountain top in front of us. In our new minivan, Scarlet can see much more of the road than she’s ever seen and I’m not sure she had ever seen the top of Mt. Tom while driving. So I asked her if she wanted to climb that mountain. She said, “Sure!” as game as ever. So we did. And it was worth it.
When a beautiful mountain is looming in front of us, but I’d rather huddle under a blanket on my couch and be scared of the grand life ahead of me, I’ll shake myself out of the fear. Climb every mountain. You’re lucky when you have the chance.
Oh, these chances to be alive, to feel the breeze through our hair, to climb that looming mountain ahead of us on the road. Sometimes you just do it. Take the left turn into the mountain top entrance. Enjoy your new car and embrace your new house. Keep getting those photography clients. Stop ignoring your cute, curly-haired toddler. See a chance. Take it.
Just call me a Reformed Dipsh*t. Or a Recovering Dipsh*t. Yeah. I like that.
*Scarlet was only ignored three times in the fervent making of this blog post.*