Tuesday, February 23, 2010
My four-year-old will occasionally (okay, often) ask me if he can have something or do something "some time." And since he's not asking for a specific "some time," it's easy for me to say, "Sure . . . some time." His response is always an enthusiastic "Yessss!!!"
My thirteen-year-old and I had somewhere to go the other night. It was cold and snowy out, and we'd all been warm and comfortable inside. As we were on our way, he said, "Tonight's one of those nights I'd rather just have stayed home. What about you?" I told him that, yes, part of me definitely would rather have hung out at home, especially given the weather, but that when I'm not feeling excited about something, I try to remind myself that maybe I'll learn something new wherever I'm going. Maybe I'll find out something I didn't know about someone before. Maybe I'll see a fresh perspective on something old. And if I can go with that attitude, I'm more likely to be glad I went at all.
I can't always respond with an enthusiastic "Yessss!!!" to whatever life may throw at me. I'm not a Polyanna. I had a friend once who used to say she looked at everything in life as a blessing. Everything. Good or bad, glorious or painful, she felt it was from God and therefore could be a blessing in her life if she just learned how it was supposed to be a blessing. I disagree. Some things that fly at you simply suck. There's no happy way to look at losing a parent or a spouse or a child. There's no happy way to look at the heartache of someone you love. There's no happy way to look at the suffering all around us.
Ursula LeGuin wrote, "The only thing that makes life possible is a permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next."
Hope and possibility are not the same thing. Hope is concrete. It's a surety that what comes next is going to be good and right. Possibility is admitting you have no idea what comes next, but maybe it's going to be something great or incredible or fascinating or Yesss!!!-worthy.
I was talking with my mom the other night and she mentioned an old friend my father and she used love to visit. Mom said, "Your father always enjoyed visiting her, although I don't know why. They had nothing in common." I told her that's precisely why he enjoyed visiting her--because he didn't know what to expect, didn't know what she'd tell him that he never knew, didn't know what life perspective she might offer that he'd never considered. My closest friends are very much like me in at least one or two ways, but nothing like me in most ways; that's why I love them so much. Talking with them ignites me and challenges me and helps me grow. Why else would we want to be around each other? It's the same with my three sisters. We're all so different in so many ways, but we love each other and laugh with each other and are always excited about spending time together.
My husband asked me once if I wished he sang or played the piano or wrote or read the same books I do--just so we'd have these things in common. Absolutely not. I do all of those, so why do I need him to? How boring would our lives together be if we were mirror images of each other? If we didn't feel we had something to learn from each other?
I stayed up way too late last night to finish a book that won't be released for another week or so. It's titled Before I Fall and is by Lauren Oliver. It's about a senior in high school who dies in a car crash and then relives her last day seven times. She figures out that she won't be able to change the ending. She's going to die even if she avoids getting into that car--she's never going to make it to the next day. She also figures out that doesn't mean her last day can't hold possibilities--that she can't change something, can't grow, can't be enthusiastic about waking up that morning. Again.
As a writer, I can hope I'll get published. But it's the possibility I might get published that makes me enthusiastic, that makes me say "Yessss!!!" when I've finished a good scene, that keeps me going whether the news is good or bad.
And as a mom, it's the possibility my kids' lives hold in store that make me happy to get up each morning so I can make sure we're ready for when their "some time" becomes now.