I think it’s important to keep a positive outlook on life. I mean, sure, yeah. Be realistic, don’t be positive to the point of cultivating ignorance or denying reality. It’s a balance beam to walk, but I think it’s important.
I mean, I could sit around and mope about stuff that sucks but is outside of my control: the economy, the current state of our nation in global relations, the pervasive and sickening nature of homophobia, sexism, and racism, the fact that I live next to psychotic neighbors, the fact that some (not all) of the inter-familial relationships are tense and feel like constantly navigating shifting sands of accidental insults, and so on and so forth. I could mope about these tensions, but I just don’t see the point on dwelling on them. Why?
Well, on the larger global/ political/ social policy scale, I do what I can. I donate to causes I support, I add my voice to the discussion, I contact my representatives, and I vote. I work within the system we have, and for now, that’s the best I can do.
As for the personal life-stresses outside of my control, well, I do what I can there, too, but I can’t control other people’s reactions and responses. I know I do not intend harm or insult. If someone insults me, or I find them a negative influence in my life, my stance is to first try talking about it and resolving the issue. If that doesn’t work, I pull away and stop interacting with them until such time as the issue has passed. Usually, this works fine just fine.
But there are rare cases where pulling away from someone is chancy and difficult. Usually this is in those relationships you don’t actually want to end end; you’d just prefer a little more understanding, respect, and equitable treatment. But occasionally, it happens in a situation you’d never expect, like neighbors. I tend to think of neighbors as people you smile and wave at when you’re out front, or people you can borrow an egg/ cup of sugar from in a tight spot. People who you have a nodding acquaintance with, but you don’t get too involved or friendly with. So it’s a bit weird to be in what I think qualifies as a neighborhood feud, although I’m not sure if it counts as a feud if I’m just trying really hard to avoid and ignore them, and they just keep trying to get us to pay attention to them.
Honestly, it reminds me of the stereotypical grade school crush, except instead of pulling pigtails or stealing tater tots they were ding-dong-ditching our door and stealing x-box controllers. And instead of the teacher telling them to knock it off, we had to get a restraining order. And instead of them then surreptitiously throwing spitballs at us, they instead fire airsoft bb’s at our window and throw trash in our yard and knock over our kid’s snow creations . . . so, just like a really awkward, unwanted, embarrassing grade school crush, but with more violence.
Anyway, I could dwell on this stuff. I could waste my days feeling angry and frustrated over issues both global and personal that are outside of my control, but who needs that? I have a great life, and once I’m secure in my own mind that I’ve done everything in my power to make my world a better place, it’s so much more fun to focus on the things I love about my life.
So as I approach my 32nd birthday, I want to list all a portion of all the wonderful things in my life that I’m grateful for:
- My husband of 11 years. Sometimes I look at John and I am just blown away, because it seems too right, too perfect, too storybook. How does someone just luck into a relationship this great? How many people are lucky enough to find a partner who is such a perfect match for them in intellect, interests, and values (not to mention the physical/ intimate compatibility). I keep expecting the world to crash down around me, because being married to him is so overall awesome it just feels like something bad has to happen to balance it out.
- Kidling. Our son was a bit of a surprise. The next year, we began trying to have another, which went on for about two years. Then I realized I was trying to have a second child for all the wrong reasons — I wanted a “redo” on my pregnancy, birth, and early parenting experiences. I wanted to do pregnancy yoga and get henna on my pregnancy belly, and have a natural labor water birth and use cloth diapers from the get-go. I realized I didn’t want to have another kid so much for the kid as for me, and that’s not the right reason (for me) to have a kid. Plus, as kids go, I won the lottery — Kidling is generous, obedient, empathetic, polite, friendly, goofy, and intelligent. Sometimes Kidling asks why he’s an only child, and I tell him the truth: I hit the jackpot with him, so I don’t need to keep trying.
- John’s job. Sometimes John gets bored and frustrated at the repetitiveness and lack of challenge at his job. Sometimes I think he wishes he’d gotten a degree in computer sciences, engineering, or urban design. But as far as lucked-into-jobs go, this is another hit-the-jackpot situation. His employer provides awesome employee benefits, enviable pay, and all these great perks lifestyle/ health perks for employees. Plus, he gets almost as many paid holidays as state workers and a bonus twice a year. His hard work and fantastic employer has made all our hobbies, vacations, and enjoyments possible, and I’m really proud of how hard he’s worked to get to his current position in the company. He started out as a part-time temp worker, and his dedication to hard work, leadership skills, and creative problem solving had him at full-time less than a year after being hired. From that point, he’s stayed on a path of progression and growth throughout his time at the company. I’m really proud of him.
- My origin family. I know that sounds like a super hero (or super villain) way to phrase it, but there is a difference between the family one is born into and the family one chooses/ starts. I am one of those uniquely lucky individuals who not only ended up choosing a great family, but I also was born into a great family. As I’ve grown up, met new people, and listened to their stories, I’ve come to realize that a lot of people suffer their family relationships out of a sense of duty or guilt. I was lucky enough to be born into a supportive, communicative, loving family.
- My friends. My friends tend to be introverts, like me. They understand needing solitude. They’re readers, like me. They like to discuss author and genre and publishing and e-readers. They laugh at (and make) literary and linguistic jokes. They’re intelligent and passionate, and one is never starved for vibrant and stimulating conversation around them.
- Modern tech. It’s so awesome to live in this day and age. Think about the transition we’ve made, as a society. In the 1980’s – 90’s, the internet wasn’t commonly available to everyone and personal computers (and printers!) were stupidly expensive and slow. We listened to music on boomboxes and audio tapes and record players. Our t.v. was a basic tube t.v. with a roof antenna and a VCR. By the 1990’s, we were using CD’s regularly, and DVD’s were becoming well known. Personal computers were getting more common, and everyone had at least some access to the internet thanks to AOL’s pervasive CD’s. Now we having streaming movies and tv programs, streaming music and internet radio, e-books and high-speed internet. We have mini-computers (smartphones) with GPS now!
- Feminism. I used to think feminism was for man-hating freaks. Then I took a class called Women in Literature, and I learned about the sacrifices made so we could get where we are today. My interest was sparked, and this issue has been a passion of mine ever since.
- My pets. When I was younger, I thought I was not an animal person and specifically not a dog person. Turns out I was wrong. My kid sister was the one who actually pointed out to me that I brought home most of our childhood pets, and I’ve always collected strays. I don’t know how that fact escaped me, but somehow I’d thought of each of those strays as family pets that I just happened to discover first. If it wasn’t for my husband, I probably wouldn’t have challenged the not-a-dog-person assertion, but I did, and for that I am so glad. I can’t imagine my life without Sirius, Dmitri, Hope, and Arwen.
- My motorcycle. I can’t even really explain what riding a motorcycle is like, except it’s brilliant. I love everything about it. I can’t imagine my world without the freedom, joy, and beauty my motorcycle brings into my life.
These are just a few of the things in my life that make me happy, obviously.