This post has me thinking. Thinking, and feeling grateful.
I think it is easy to sometimes lose perspective on what a 'simple' life means. More than once this summer, as I've groped for the alarm clock at 6:30 or tried to clear my foggy head on the early morning T ride so I can catch the commuter rail to Lincoln, I can't help but mentally lament this lifestyle, this type of work that eats up so much of our waking hours, and leaves little left over at the end of the day. And yet I need to constantly remind myself to be grateful for this: for this summer, where I have the flexibility to work 3 different jobs that all speak to interests of mine, and where the work is varied enough that I am more than stimulated 80% of the time; for the ability to live on my own, set my own schedule, come and go and do as I please with my evenings, whether that is out dragon boating on the Charles or watching countless hours of Battlestar Galactica as the sewing machine hums in the background. I've neglected cooking and cleaning dreadfully because sometimes I just get so darn tired of the endless repetition of it all, but truly it is a gift to be able to live life as we choose, and not as others choose for us, dirty dishes and all.
I remember my first day volunteering out in Lincoln, amongst all that greenery. I just felt so incredibly lucky to be seeing a different side of Boston. Meeting people who cared about the same things. I remember thinking, "Hang on to this feeling, Jessica. You'll take it for granted soon enough." Sure, there are some moments where I dread work. I dread it because I am still not in my comfort zone there yet, and that induces dread. But you know what? We grow most when we're just shy of that comfort zone. It's a good place to be.
There are times when I am standing at the kitchen sink and just want to scream at the thought of chopping up more vegetables, or at the prospect of eating my own cooking for another night. I forget what a privilege it is to have such control over my meals. What a privilege it is, indeed, to have contemplated so early in life what I really value, to be trying to live a life congruent with my values. Eating local, eating slow, it is truly something lucky to be able to do, and never forget that with it comes the "burden" of washing dishes upon dishes, constant creation and reinvention, finding new ways to eat the same vegetables that pop up in the CSA box. Everything in life has a less desirable side; lucky that we live in a nation where we have some modicum of control over which 'less desirable's we let in the door.
I know some people for whom, if they found themselves low on food money, wouldn't think twice about getting themselves asked out on dates for free meals. Me, when I find myself low on food money, I crack open the beans and rice. There are days when I wish I could be the type of person who would get the free meals, but ultimately I know that's not who I am. It's never been who I am. And as much as I still don't understand about myself, this much I do know: there is some as of yet unfamiliar spirit that guides me through the decisions I make, one that holds me to standards that are at turns frustrating and elating, and I never feel good when I make a decision that goes against that voice's principles or ideals.
I've started to realize that the times I feel most at odds with myself, when I am most down on myself for not having "achieved" enough or not having reached high enough, these moments come about because I am using external, societal barometers to measure my own worth. It is not really my inner self that wants a big house or a large salary or a really prestigious job, but the sense that, somehow, if I don't chase that dream, I am missing out on the rewards that come to those who play the game, that I am not living up to my potential to get into the fray with elbows swinging and emerge victorious, 6 figure salary in one hand and years of self-loathing in the other.
In truth I am happier now than I was before. And by that, I mean a baseline sort of happiness and contentment. I do notice the small things in life more, and they do make me happier. When I can keep my own on the big picture - MY big picture, as I define it - life is good. I just, I've never been good at prioritizing and am very easily distracted. It's in my nature. And so even though I've learned these lessons time and again, keep spiraling back to them as I inch forward [or sideways, or upside down] in life, it is good to have those little reminders.
Photographs from 6/17/09 walk in Lincoln and around Walden Pond. One of the best days of summer so far.