I want what you have
I’ve been having a kind of shitty time lately – mostly buckling under the stress of all the things I am trying to carry in my life and being very overwhelmed by how little money I have to do it all with. Sometimes when I get sick, like when I am laid low with the flu, I think I will never again be well, and that this is the new normal, as though I will spend the rest of my life headachey, sniffling, exhausted, and lying on the couch shivering. So this financial low time feels to me much like the flu does, as though this is new normal, and I will never again be well.
I am trying to be a good sport about it. We make our own bread and muffins; when I didn’t have the gas money to drive my kid to Campbell River for a hockey game, I asked her if she’d prefer to stay home and watch cartoons or go to the game. She chose cartoons, like it was a treat, and I didn’t have to say I just didn’t have the gas.
Like all people who struggle, I never thought that it would happen to me. I had a big vision for my life; this vision did not involve me, less than three weeks from my thirty-eighth birthday, having 14 dollars in the bank, over-whelmed with homework, trying to complete a university degree I should have finished nearly twenty years ago. No… by now I should have had a published novel (or two), a beautiful home in several acres of woods, a series of J.Crew-wearing lovers who all adored me, a woodstove, a large and bouyant dog, a canoe.
Frankly, most people I know have made it work out for themselves. Looking at what they have allows me plenty of opportunity to kick myself, hard, in the shins. I live much of the time in a constant state of mental flogging, which is about as useful as you can imagine that it is. Whenever I get stuck in all of the “I want what you have”s and the “if only”s and the “woe is me”s, I like to turn it around a little bit.
This usually involves drinking a nice dark cup of black coffee. (I negatively judge people who don’t drink their coffee black. FYI. Keep this in mind if we ever go out for coffee together.) Then, when I get to school, I park at the top parking lot on 5th street and walk down the road. From there, there is a view of the city and the ocean, of the sun rise, of light reflecting off the water, of ferries chugging across the bay, that stops me in my tracks. Every day. Without fail. I am stopped in my tracks. I get to see this, I breathe, stunned again as I was stunned the first time I saw it. I just get to see this. How did I get so lucky to live here? To go to school here? How did we get so lucky that this is our world?
It’s pretty hard for me to find time to do any homework, what with the running of children to hockey games (normally. Campbell River doesn’t count) and hockey practice, to school and home again, to appointment and friends houses; what with the parenting, the shopping, the at-school-meetings for them, the reading of books, the making of muffins. And as I drive my kids to these games which cut about 12 hours out of each and every one of my weeks, I say, I love taking you guys to hockey games! Thank you so much for being in hockey! and I mean it, because I do love taking them to hockey games, more than I can possibly describe.
It’s hard being in university and not having any money; I’m not going to lie about that. But I have everything in my life that I actually want – children, a beautiful view, a chance to go to university, friends, homemade bread, two black cats, and hockey games. I wouldn’t say no to winning the lottery, don’t get me wrong, but it’s nice to remember that I am exactly where I choose to be in my own life, with exactly who I chose. I have learned a little cautionary tale about credit card debt, I’m not going to lie, but I dunno if, knowing what I know now, I would go back to when I was 18 and do it all ‘right’ the first time. If I hadn’t dropped out of university in a haze of marijuana smoke back when I was 19, I’m going to guess I never would have moved to Vancouver, and thus never would have met the man who would become my children’s father, and thus never would have had my kids, nor would have lived in Denmark, Indiana, Maryland, and even Nanaimo. I never, then, would stop on 5th street, breathless from the view.
For all of that, it turns out I am thrilled to be exactly where I am with exactly what I have for as long as I get to have it, for as long as I get to experience it, even though there’s no acreage nor dog nor sweater-wearing -J.Crew-model boyfriend. And just like I have recovered (so far) each time I am laid low with the flu, I expect that I will not spend the entirety of my life with a shortage of gas money. But if I do? Meh… in the scheme of things, this life is still pretty good.