Thursday, October 07, 2004

Paths back to joy

I've been thinking about the discussion on the desperate-housewife story. (Both here and at worldmagblog.) And I realized I have two big advantages in staying out of the slough. Two things that help me set aside the bad things, savor the good things, and enjoy life. Even on days when the baby is sick and I'm sick and the house is an intractable mess and I do something really stupid that costs us all the money I've managed to save.

They're not nice things. Nothing cozy and fun like calling up a friend and having a good chat, or raiding a secret stash of chocolate. They are, in fact, the two most difficult things in my life. The two things that if I could wave a magic wand and change, I would.

One is DOB's physical problems. Now granted, there are times when they just add to the things I have to whine about. But they also help me in several ways. I'm sure it would be difficult for me (and I suspect that it is difficult for many young mothers) if my husband were still bursting with all the youthful vigor that I had before I started having kids, coming home from a day of desk work full of pent-up energy while I just wanted to collapse in a puddle. There are days when I think this would be nice--"Why can't my husband have the strength to wait on me hand and foot, like everyone else's? Oh wait . . . "--but on the whole I think the contrast would be depressing, especially since I've always felt the need to keep up with anyone in the vicinity. It's not a problem around here. If anything, I have quite a bit more stamina and energy, and the greater physical demands of my work make things just about even, leaving us both collapsed in a puddle simultaneously. Logistically it causes some problems, but emotionally it makes things easier.

DOB's challenges also help me put up with the physical difficulties and changes that come with bearing children. There will come a day when I give birth for the last time, wean my last baby, and am not constantly tied down with little children. There will never come a day when he can walk freely or run. If he can deal with permanent handicaps, I can deal with temporary ones. His attitude also encourages me (not that he doesn't gripe occasionally, too): he never gives up on doing something he loves just because it's hard. If he can't run, at least he can pitch and bat. If he can't do sales appointments all day, at least he can make the calls. It encourages me to find ways to keep up on the things I want to do, even if I can't right now do them to the extent I would like.

The other thing that helps me keep looking back up is my mother's death. Coming when and as it did, it overshadowed our whole courtship, engagement and marriage. Every time we were together, we were acutely aware that we had no idea, and no right to demand, that we would ever see each other again. All we had was right now to enjoy. Add to that the paranoia of early parenthood, and hardly a day goes by when I don't ponder how fragile life is. I don't know if I'll have seventy years more to spend with these people, or only today; I do know that however long I have, it won't be long enough. So when I pick my baby up or see my husband drag home exhausted, I smile. Every time (well, almost). Because I don't know if it's the last smile I'll be able to give them.

Life is too short to be miserable. I want to keep remembering that.


the Joneses said...

Amen. -- SJ

Kevin & Amy said...

Thanks for sharing - your last comment is so true. Life is what we make it and making it happy is the best thing we can do. -Amy