One of my favorite sayings is this: If you do what you've always done, you get what you've always gotten.
Sometimes the husband throws that back at me when I decide to sleep rather than get up early for a run. And I use the term "run" lightly, since I rarely run and if I do, it's for a very, very short period of time. You marathoners have me mystified. I'm not joking. I can't fathom doing that for hours on end. I just think my hands would swell and my feet would go numb and I'd just be like, oh Jesus, I'm EXHAUSTED (and come to think of it, a little ornery), and then I'd step off the trail and into the first Starbucks for an iced green tea and a comfy chair.
Everything tends to jiggle when I bounce repeatedly like that, and it just doesn't feel good. I don't imagine it looks very good either, especially from behind. But if I don't run, the jiggle won't go away. Get up early and run, defeat jiggle. Stay in bed and sleep, jiggle is happy and well-rested, but ever present.
Vicious circle. Anyway.
I did something different lately and in the process, proved my saying to be true.
(No. I didn't run a marathon. Do you have short term memory loss?)
I went with Nine and her Brownie troop a couple weeks ago to make, serve, and eat dinner with families who are currently homeless.
Families. No home.
Let that one sink in the next time you send your Chardonnay back for being too buttery.
One young woman we ate dinner with had four kids, and the youngest one was just a few weeks old. I smelled her daughter's sweet, tiny, little baby head (stop it, you know you sniff baby heads too, and if you don't you're missing out on one heavenly scent) and flashed back to when my own girls were tiny and we were all snuggled up with blankets and diapers and everything else we needed close at hand.
Do you remember when you first had your baby, or got your puppy, or whatever it is you pour your heart into? How vulnerable you felt and how many hours you spent awake worrying or feeding or caring for that being? And have you ever had a total piece of shit day and the whole time thought to yourself, man, I just can't wait to go home? I just want to kick off my jeans and put my slippers on and watch a movie, or read a book, or call a friend, or plant some flowers, or pour a cocktail, or something that makes me feel like me again.
Well, for these families, at this time in their lives, that's simply not an option. Neither is privacy, or freedom, or organic vegetables from the farmer's market, or a light heart. How must it feel to explain to your school-age child that they are going to sleep in a tent at a church for the next two weeks, and after that, well, we just aren't sure where we might sleep?
As I sat with that young mother and her newborn, I struggled to find something to say that would open a neutral conversation. I asked about her children, their ages, school. But I couldn't bring myself to ask if she had a husband there with her, because really, that was none of my business. I didn't want to ask if she'd had a good day, or if she was enjoying being at the church, or if she's exhausted with the newborn, because come on, what could those answers be?
Maybe she feels blessed that she's somewhere other than outside with her babies. I have a feeling if I was in her shoes I'd be spending all of my time and energy on trying not to break down in tears, and I wouldn't be able to hold my head up and be gracious while some smiling, well-meaning stranger was asking me about my life, because all I would be thinking about, apart from what got me there, would be the fact that I know when that smiling, well-meaning stranger leaves, she's going to a warm, comfortable place and I'm going to my tent, to look through my box of belongings and put my kids to bed on the floor.
Instead of doing what we always do, which is discuss why "Eeeeew" is not an appreciated response to the meal I prepared, we went and did what we never do instead, and got what we rarely get. A really, really good shift in perspective. It was good for Nine to see and understand first hand that if these little kids didn't particularly care for chicken with apricots, or rice, or salad, well, they were about to learn to, because making some noodles or having a bowl of cereal instead just wasn't an option.
And we learned that hopping into a car with friends can feel like a luxury, as can going home to a little house full of equal amounts of love and luck and blessings and dirty laundry and paw prints and ponytail bands.
Turns out I live in the lap of luxury. Sure, it's got dog hair all over it, but now more than ever, it feels just right to me.