Thursday, June 4, 2015

What If You Had a Perfect Life?

It's just a bit over an hour until bedtime and I'm starting this post. Not really the best idea, but I've never been bright. I've had this crazy thought bugging me all day today: What if...? Yeah, I know, that kind of thinking rarely leads to anything good. Like "what if I knelt on this bar stool to clean the ceiling fan blades?" or " what if I use the pruners on the Christmas tree after I string and plug in the lights?" True stories. But today is different. Today I have been thinking "what if I had had a perfect life?" You know, the kind of life that starts in a single family home in the suburbs, a loving mom and dad, family vacations and a new car every couple of years.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, our twelve-year old and I took a trip to the Cape May Zoo. An hour and thirty of seemingly endless pines along Route 55. It brought to mind summer day trips to the beach when I was a kid. With visions of sand castles dancing in our heads, we'd don our suits as Mom and Dad loaded up the scratch-n-dent family truckster with coolers, towels and an extra dose of patience. My dad would guide our land yacht carefully onto the ferry and we'd bail out into the fumes of what would one day be known as an "enormous carbon footprint." Once in "Jersey" (nothing new about it) we'd wait for what seemed light years to disembark and get going once again. Somewhere about mile marker 666, our not-so-gently-used station wagon would give up the ghost, and we'd find ourselves sitting by the road, dressed in bathing suits that were never to see sea, eating a picnic lunch, and posing for a Polaroid. Not quite perfect.

In a perfect life, I would have gone on to college. I would have buckled down and gotten good grades. I would have graduated and found employment -- scratch that -- employment would have come looking for me. What kind of employment? The kind that requires long hours, no paycheck, vomit spewing from a tiny child at speeds that would make Junior envious, hours-long conversations that begin and end with intelligent debate like "nuh-uh, I love you more," and days of sitting in the darkness of an auditorium watching take after take of "Rockin' Robin?" Probably not. This is supposed to be a perfect life, after all.

My marriage would have been great -- a wonderful love story -- and we never would have needed lawyers or doctors or counselors or police officers or funeral directors or any of those awful people that you're only happy to see when you are at your absolute worst. And the truth is, we probably would have died thinking everyone has, should have, or could have a life like ours.

But we know now that things don't happen that way -- even to people who think they are doing everything they possibly can to avoid them. Struggling a bit through life has given me a heart for the underdog. Watch any horse race or boxing match and know I'm rooting for the one with the hard luck story. Finding myself needing the services of social workers and police officers on more than one occasion has caused me to realize that I am not "above that sort of thing." The first few (20) years of adulthood were not exactly stellar for me, and I got exactly what I was asking for, but I've also gotten covered in stink from garbage that didn't come from my can. It's not easy to need help, but we all do now and again, because we're people, and there's no shame in it. Not going to college has taught me that secondary education is both a scam and the key to unlock the endless possibilities this world holds, but it is not a one-size-fits-all deal. And the best jobs are sometimes the ones that use up every ounce of you and replace it with a much better, much wiser, much happier but much sleepier person. I've learned marriage is hard when you try to do it for yourself and by yourself. Only in the throes of an imperfect life would one learn how important it is to forgive, to be selective about your friendships, and to always make sure you're mad at the right person. And, lastly, those hot days beside the flat, sandy roads of New Jersey have taught me that memories are made in our hearts and minds, not in our plans -- and that Triple A is always worth the money!

So, as I wrap this up, for bedtime calls, I will leave you with this:

I hope your life is as perfectly imperfect as mine!

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