Monday, October 30, 2006

Lesson 13: Beware the Demon Tequila

Everyone has their tequila story. Mine begins with me and a boyfriend sitting on the livingroom floor in front of the fireplace with a cutting board, some limes and a bottle of Jose Cuervo between us, and ends with me waking up still sitting upright on the livingroom floor with an empty bottle, some lime rinds and one last, undrunk shot between us.

That was years ago. I don't drink tequila all that often because of that night. Sure, I love a margarita now and then. But two or three maggies and I'm done.

So why I can't remember any of this when someone breaks out a bottle and asks "Wanna do some shots?", I have no idea.

Because, like the dumb ass that I am, I inevitably will respond with: "Sure! What can it hurt?"

What it comes down to is that I hate being left out of the fun. I'll participate in just about anything at any time, even if it comes close to killing me. That's not necessarily a winning trait.

I guess what I'm saying is: Don't be surprised if someday you read about my demise on the annual Darwin awards list.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Lesson 12: Money Can't Buy Me Love

When I think about the times I was truly happy, they're often associated with times I was subjected to abject poverty.

That's not to say that I love being poor. Stuffing bags of rice and oatmeal and jars of honey into a baby stroller and walking out of the supermarket so my kids could eat wasn't necessarily fun. Exciting, sure, but not fun.

I've had to steal to survive. But I've also lived on the other end of the financial spectrum. I've broken in a new car. I've been approved for a mortgage. I've squirreled money away in a 401K.

But oddly, living a middle-class lifestyle didn't make me happy. And it should have. I struggled and fought hard to climb the social strata. I spent years buried in text books pursuing a degree I thought for sure would give me the edge I needed to be financially successful.

And here I am, years later, looking back at the things that have made me happy, and it's not the money or the status or the lifestyle that did it.

It's the people.

When I have money, I'm usually working a 10-hour day to get it. I sit alone in my car commuting. I sit alone in my cubicle staring at a silent computer screen. I keep commuting and sitting each day because each hour brings just a little more cash to the bank.

But what I really yearn for is relationships. When you're poor, relationships are all you've got.

I never stole alone. I went with my equally destitute sister-in-law, my best friend, my brother. We ate meagerly together. We commiserated together. We made the best of our situation together.

Without money to pay for cable, buy gas for the car or go out to eat, I spent time with my family. I spent time reading with my sons, acting out stories in impromptu living room plays, listening to music or family musicians play guitar and piano, hiking, tending a garden ... living with others.

There's no time for that in a world governed by 9-to-5 calendars, long commutes and papers to push. There's no time for people. There's no time for love.

So I'm calling one of my best friends tonight on the way home. And I'm telling my roommates how much I appreciate them when I get home. And I'm curling up in bed with my youngest son and reading him to sleep tonight.

Sure, it's nice to have money in the bank to cover the bills. But when you really need help, people are worth a lot more than a savings account.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Lesson 11: Never Take the Little Things for Granted

It's easy to forget that there are things that make life so much nicer until and unless you are forced to go without them.

For me, those things are simple. "To Do" notepads for my cubicle. Taco truck tacos. Pizza made with real provolone. Curbs and gutters and street lamps.

And toilet seat covers.

One of the first things I noticed when I crossed the Mississippi was the lack of toilet seat covers in public restrooms. I may not care for the flat, brown, smog-ridden state that is California.

But I do love the fact that every public restroom has toilet seat covers.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Lesson 10: If the Box Fits, Quit Bitching About It

I’m back in a cubicle again – after a few years of believing I’d never crawl back into the corporate clutch. Yet here I am typing away at business jargon completely amazed at myself for being so flexible and selling out so easily. Yeah, I'm copywriting and editing for a living, so I'm happy, but damn, I never thought I'd be staring at four cubicle walls again.

It’s funny the things an empty bank account will make you do.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Lesson 9: Wherever You Go, There You Are

I went back to the ranch a couple of weeks ago.

I lived there once, ten years ago, as a hippy, part of a commune of hippies who attempted to grow their own food and make a living off the land. It never worked out that way (too many weeds, if you know what I mean).

It was a tough time for me. I was pregnant with my youngest son, and had no idea where my life was heading. But I grew close to the other hippies in the commune and I learned many lessons then: How to throw rune stones; How to live without electricity; How to cook falafel; How to load a bowl; How to separate recyclable plastics by grade; How to grow long leg hair.

When I left, I left that life behind. I started eating meat again. I quit smoking. I divorced my hippy husband and went back to college. I tried to forget my life there. It was painful to live there, and just as painful to leave.

So a couple of weeks ago, when I went back to visit, I prepared myself. I took reinforcements. I took a case of beer (to soften the blow). I took a hardened heart.

It was exactly as I remembered it. My ex-husband and his brother were still there, sitting underneath a big oak tree near the field where they were still attempting to grow vegetables and make a living off the land (now the deer are interrupting their plans, though). Nothing had changed.

Nothing, but me. I'm a writer now, not just a dreamer. I'm a college graduate (well, sort of), with a career and a closet full of suits and heels.

But more than that, I am a woman grown, with a son in high school and a five-year plan (that changes as the seasons change, but we don't need to talk about that right now). And I'm happy.

Finally. Happy. To live in the moment. To be where I am, doing what I am doing. Living. Changing. Thriving.

The ranch is beautiful. It will always be. But the world is so much wider than that place. And I am so grateful to have left the ranch, to have seen some small part of the world.