Grateful for choices

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Went to hot yoga yesterday, the first time in months. The focus for the class was “gratitude.” Just what I needed! Talking with a friend yesterday afternoon had already got me thinking about the unhappiness that’s caused by comparing oneself to others (see the lovely Soule Mama). Caught up in wishing I had sheep and five homeschooled children and cupboards of freshly preserved home-grown goodness, I completely ignore and minimize all the goodness in my own life, right here and now.

Comparing lives is foolish, and possibly even worse than that — insidious. Now, that isn’t to say that inspiration can’t be found from investigating with interest the choices other people make. I wonder what the distinction is between comparison and inspiration. Is it my own frame of mind?

Here’s a good reminder as I go about my every day activities: I’m doing things that I’ve chosen to do, that I enjoy doing (mostly), and that, by necessity, cancel out my ability to do other things. There is only so much time and energy in one life (or in one family’s life).

Here are a few choices we’ve made:

We live in the city, a very short walk to the uptown core (because I also dislike driving and relying on cars). Therefore, we don’t live in the country on many rolling acres with paddocks and fields and a truck patch and barn. Nevertheless, we enjoy a lively herb garden, and lots of fresh tomatoes from our patches around the yards, front and back.

I write, and I need quiet time on my own to do it. Therefore, we’ve chosen not to homeschool our children, the responsibility for which would fall on me. Nevertheless, the kids have lots of freedom in the summertime, and also pursue extra-curricular activities they enjoy.

I love exercising: swimming, training to run long distance, taking early morning classes with friends. Therefore, most of my free time, which could otherwise be spent baking muffins before breakfast or canning food or tending a garden, is allotted to exercise instead. Nevertheless, I bake bread fairly often and cook locally sourced meals from scratch.

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A few random footnotes.

Here’s a very funny essay by writer Lauren B. Davis: 10 questions never to ask a writer. I especially liked number 1. Sigh.

As I’ve hinted, I’ve been writing. In fact, I’ve been writing pretty steadily. But I think it’s pre-writing, telling the basic story to myself in order to understand my characters more deeply, so that I can distill their lives into something more meaningful. As with The Juliet Stories, I wrote many early layers of politics, of explication, of developing characters and relationships and plot that did not make it into the book itself. This is necessary writing, but it isn’t the most satisfying. Every time you sit down to write, you want to believe you’re landing on the perfect shape and form. Instantly. But that’s rare, if not impossible. A deep rich work requires deep rich work. The book that deserves to be read will come out of the disheartening and ultimately invisible work underpinning it. I write in hope!

One more tiny thing. If you’re so inclined, CBC Books is inviting readers to nominate books they’d like to see on The Giller Prize list. Here’s an entry from someone who nominated The Juliet Stories. Want to join in?

Camp kids
Party time

4 Comments

  1. I hear you about the comparison or inspiration debate. I have a couple of good friends, myself included, who are following Soule Mama. I have 3 children under the age of 7 and I constantly wonder how she does it all. My friends have come to the conclusion that she probably doesn’t clean that often, she sleeps a little and she only shows pictures of her less chaotic life. And her husband is at home.
    i try to keep her as an inspiration and not a comparison but it is hard. I really like your list of what you are grateful for and what you are accomplishing in your life. Which is a lot. You do a lot more than most people in a day. But it is hard to recognize that when you are in it. I am the same way. I know I do a lot but there is always more… Thank you for your blog. I really enjoy reading it. LIbby

    Reply
    • Hi Libby,
      Thanks for commenting. There is always more … agreed! And I try to remind myself that I wouldn’t really want to get done finding things to do and accomplish. New challenges are good, especially when they spring from a place of positive and optimistic energy rather than doubt or anxiety. It is hard to recognize what we’re managing when we’re the ones managing it …

      Reply
  2. I like this post. I’m with you on the preserves, though I know there is no time in my day or space in my kitchen for them. And I’d even like my own little sheep. But I’ve never felt the homeschooling-lust, never ever. Terrifying. Am glad that in some areas, I totally know my limits. I do wish that I could have Elizabeth Mitchell come to perform in my living room though http://www.soulemama.com/soulemama/2011/09/the-music.html

    Reply
  3. I like your statements of fact, followed by the “therefore” and “nevertheless.” A useful exercise – I’ll have to try it. I think I’m finding that adult life is more about choices than I want it to be. . .

    Reply

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