I’ve tried to be a good person most of my life. I followed the rules. I used my manners. I brushed regularly. I felt shame and experienced painful self-consciousness, tried not to speak out of turn, rationalized slights and setbacks, worked constantly to be better, thinner, kinder, and more invisible. I said “yes” when I felt “no”. And I dealt with all the depression that comes from striving so hard to be right and good and never feeling like I was quite good enough (you know – being human and all).
This summer, I took a couple months off from giving a shit about anything. My child is alive and happy. I’m still employed. My husband remains kind and patient with me. Even my garden survived, evolving into a feral jungle of mismatched flowers and surprise vegetables. The other shoe did not drop. The great disaster that I’ve been holding at bay never happened. I’ve decided to give a shit again, but not as much and not necessarily about the same things.
I took a break from writing and read books instead. I took a break from trying to employ proper parenting methods and yelled my head off. I stopped trying to be more attractive, improve my love life, my weight, my hair, my intelligence, my home. I watched dragonflies darting and diving across a Canadian sky. I swam with minnows. I sank my teeth into juicy watermelon. I listened to live music. I walked with my family at dusk and watched my child whiz by on her bike, so exuberant in her newly discovered freedom. I breathed. In and out.
Re-energized and re-focused, I’ve returned with a stronger sense of direction and with some lessons learned. Here is what I learned while my brain went on vacation:
1. If you pull up your Under Armour compression shorts high enough, they work just like Spanx.
2. Put on your sunscreen before you put it on anyone else. Ouch!
3. Don’t try to low block a tall person’s kick in taekwondo unless you like tenderizing your arm.
4. If you are going to weight train until muscle failure at the Y, wait a few before trying to ride your bike home. Thank goodness for helmets.
5. Don’t discuss 50 Shades of Grey with anyone who liked the book (insert retching sound here).
6. If you make the Mean Green Juice touted in the movie “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead”, expect to have kale breath. Ach.
7. Even when you think no little ears are listening, it’s not a good idea to refer to your cats as “little hairy bastards”. Your kid will surprise you with their newly acquired vocabulary when you least expect it.
8. No one is indispensable. The world will not fall apart when you stop trying so hard.
9. When you don’t know the answers and you’re stuck, just put your body in motion and your brain in park. You’ll be surprised what emerges out of the fog.
10. If you want to be a writer, write. And there it is.