This is what life does. It gives you four children, spread over eight years, and you wonder how you got yourself into this mess and if you’ll ever, ever get out of it and you pray to G-d to clean it up so that you can take a small break, just a breath really every so often, not even that often, but enough to take in small sips of quiet air untarnished by squeaky cries of “mommy mommy mommy…” And then one day you realize you don’t want it to be clean. You look up from the apple you’re slicing – “with cinnamon please Mom” – and see four faces, so different yet all undeniably yours, and you not-so-suddenly but very, very completely understand how much you love this mess that’s yours and oh please G-d keep me in it, just like this: slicing apples, spilling milk, “Don’t hit your brother,” school lunches and a new pair of shoes every other week.
This is what life does. It gives you a friend who gives you a mug. Olive green and cream, monogrammed with a swirly lower-case burgundy ‘n.’ It’s slightly rounded in the center and a little larger than usual, and is the perfect size and shape for holding in your two hands. You drink tea from it every single day, and every day you marvel at how she knew you always wanted that mug. Even though you never told her.
This is what life does. It wakes you with an alarm that sounds like loud crickets chirping in your ear. Rude. It’s still dark outside and you wonder, not for the first time, if you are certifiably crazy. It’s 5am and if you hurry you can make it to the supermarket and get your grocery shopping done before your 6am workout. That is crazy. But doable. And no fight for parking. It gets you in a dark, candle-lit spin studio with ten other women way before the sun rises and there is something warrior-like and badass about it. Maybe it’s not so crazy. The spin instructor is the perfect amount of inspiring and kick-your-butt and she urges you to “take ease in the recovery” and to appreciate what it means to “endure instead of push ahead or back off.” These are wise, essential words to hear at 6am… or any time.
This is what life does. It makes you smile and remember your grandmother whom you loved with all your heart. She was the only gran you knew who said “shit” and she let you stroke the soft, crinkly skin under her neck. She wrote you quirky, amusing letters which she would fax to you across the miles. Her fish ball recipe is included in one. You make them a few times but they will never taste as good as hers. Nothing will. And that’s okay. Life gives you memories of Granny Mary’s ginger cake and long, meandering walks with her on the beach, collecting shells. And a blanket that is over 20 years old crocheted by her long and knobbly fingers, the ones that look exactly like yours.
This is what life does. It hands you a book and says, “Read this!” So you do, and you are lost in the world of its words and images and characters and story, and reading is easily your greatest and simplest pleasure. You never want it to end and you hope that one day you will write a book that people will love to read as much as you love to write.
This is what life does. It holds you in a time zone on the other side of the world, far far away from the ones that you love. And no matter how hard you try to catch up to the time difference between you, it’s always too early or too late and days and then weeks go by without hearing her voice and your one urgent hope is that you get to talk to each other before the baby’s born.
This is what life does. It draws you to the scale day after day, weighing and measuring and calculating BMI and body fat percentage, and did the red wine and dark chocolate last night show up on your hips this morning. And what if it did? Would that be so terrible? And you know without a doubt that it would. It would be terrible. And the next morning you step on the scale again.
This is what life does. It presents you with every possible opportunity, affords you luxuries you take for granted like water and electricity and soap and Internet on-demand and TV and a car and easy access to any food you want and and and. And it gives others nothing. And when things go wrong for you, you say #fwp (first world problems) and feel bad and uncomfortable for having when most of the world does not.
This is what life does. It gives you a page and you write 800 words on it and you want so much to make a difference in the lives of thousands but all you can really do is make a difference in your own.
Inspired by the poem “Starfish” by Eleanor Lerman and by the prompt “What Life Does” by Linda Schreyer.