Tuesday, October 11, 2011


One of my Facebook friends posted this last week:

40 miles of trails, all dirt. Two wheels, no engine (except my legs). Huge vistas. Gold autumn leaves. Blue sky. Home to green chili stew, a Myrcenary microbrew, my dawgs and cats and the love of my life. A perfect day. So grateful.

I left this comment: "This sounds like pretttty much my perfect day."

Then I thought: uh, I think. That would be enjoyable, right? Or is that just something I used to like and now I like something else? What do I like?

Yup, it's official: I don't even know what a perfect day is anymore. I count a weekend good if I:

  1. Clean all the things;
  2. Get a good long run in and sling some dirt and branches around in the back;
  3. Spend some quality one-on-one time with the kids; and/or
  4. Do something. Like: take the kids to a new park, go for a hike, go camping/skiing, etc.

For example, this past weekend we did this. Enjoyable? Yes. Life-affirming? Hmm.
I mean, these aren't bad. Family time, tending the home hearth, exploring the great world around--in a rather small-scale and time-limited way, but still: out! about! breathing the open air etc.! These are the things of which a good life is made. So what if a good weekend falls into two categories: good because it helps me get rested and caught up to face another week, or good because for at least a few hours I get to step off the endless merry-go-round of routine. So what if while I'd call a weekend like this good, I'd hardly reach for the superlative "perfect." Good is good. To paraphrase Annie Dillard, a day spent tinkering in the yard and playing educational games with the kids isn't necessarily a good day, but a life spent doing such things is a good life.
I used to dream about having a place to garden. Now I have it. It's nice.
Then why does this life feel so limited? Why do I read my (childless, freelance writer) friend's post and sigh deeply, wistfully, as though I am sitting in my cell at San Quentin and watching a little biplane fly by, perhaps with the occupants inside laughing and clinking champagne glasses?

(Grass is greener. Duh.)

Well, fine. There probably is a grass-is-greener element. Maybe if I were living a life in which I could see a beautiful fall day and decide to hit the trails for a 40-mile bike ride, I would be thinking wistfully of Life with a Family or Life with Affordable Health Insurance/ 401k/ steady paycheck that didn't require hustle. Or maybe I would be living my dream life. I really don't know. (I'm pretty sure I would miss having the kids, despite all their whining and meMEme-ness and preferred habitat: suburban big city-ness. The steady paycheck, though. Hmm. If I could have "paycheck," hold the "steady"--well.)
I really would miss this guy. Most of the time.
I'm going to have to file this post under "things to think about later," though, because wistfulness aside, I'm not planning to jettison any part of my life right now. The 40-mile bike ride, and the life that can easily expand to accommodate it, will have to wait. Is this selling out? I suppose so. Jack Kerouac would not approve, or Katherine Mansfield, or Percy Bysshe Shelly. But I'm not living in a Beat novel. My life is more like Trollope. And even though the romantic Beat poet living in my psychic attic may wail and rage, I can't really hear her right now, because the kids are making too much noise. What I want most of all at this particular (fifteen-year) moment in my life is to provide a steady stable for them to bed down in. Prudence and moderation: these are actually my desires right now (can you believe I'm saying this?)

He appreciates it, though. You can really tell.

1 comment:

Kate/High Altitude Gardening said...

Well, you're certainly not alone with these thoughts. Everybody goes through these stages and chapters. I used to really suffer in autumn because I was a young Mom and all of my single friends were out biking through the colorful foliage. I was home changing diapers. So, save your pennies. And hire an overnight sitter. (Better yet! Get them invited to a slumber party!) And, then go do something utterly selfish. For at least an hour, or two...