So a while back I joked about writing a book that would lead others down the path of Radical Mediocrity that I now tread. It was to be entitled, “How To Get Out Of Working For The Man” and subtitled, “Hope You Like Camping!” but I don’t think I can call it that after all, because once you’ve read the cover that would be pretty much all I had to say.
Last night I was sitting in a very familiar place, at the dining table of my Other Mom, the mom of the two girls I grew up next door to, the woman who gave me high-minded ideas that I was not exposed to at home, such as the idea that dinner could be served in courses and contain ingredients that were foreign to the authors of the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, such as capers. I still do not know what the hell capers actually are, but they do compliment home grown tomatoes very nicely with a little olive oil. Up until my Other Mom served tomatoes this way, I considered them mainly as projectiles for late-summer target practice and as the sort of demon that took over our entire home in August because no matter how often my mum grew tomatoes, she would always plant more than our neighborhood could consume and we’d resort to taking full paper shopping bags of them to church to unload on unsuspecting fellow parishioners.
Anyway, I’ve spent many hours at this table before, discussing matters of great social importance with my Other Mom, because unlike my own mother, we can enjoy these chats because we occasionally agree on some things. Or at least, the values we use to steer by are more common, and so the chats are more enjoyable. Also we’re both relentlessly snobby about our food, so that makes us good company for each other.
Last night we were discussing some churchgoing weirdoes who have a particular way of running their families, and they’ve been in a news a bit recently. I’m not going to go into specifics about these people, because it distracts from the point, but the point (which ultimately, we agreed on as usual) is that whatever choices you make in your family – indeed, in your life – are yours to make. There’s really nothing anyone can say about the choices you make for your family that are going to reach a lot of people, because frankly, the person living most intimately with your choices is you. Even parents are entitled to make mistakes, because everyone else is.
There are plenty of people who will call you a baby murderer for daring to eat sushi as a pregnant woman, believe it or not, and those people will actually have enough science in the world to back them up so that they don’t sound completely loony if they’re looked at in the most charitable possible light. But I have no sympathy for those people because unless it’s their own pregnant body to which they are referring, they have no right to intrude on someone’s private experience of life.
All of life is a risk. Every action you take contains some level of risk. The risk to accept is the one you personally can live with. That’s all there is to life at all: everything is choice, and all else falls away.
What do I choose, in this moment, to do for myself and the world around me? I’m thinking I may as well be generous with myself while I have self to give. We’re only borrowing consciousness for the little while we’re here. Eventually, we give it all back, all at once, and whatever we didn’t use goes with us.
What I got tired of was wasting consciousness on managing my Stuff, because every time I went through a junque shop I would see household items that saw everyday use that lasted far longer than the original users of those tools could ever have had need for. The Stuff will outlive me. I don’t need to worry about the Stuff. The Stuff will take care of itself. I don’t need to collect it, or own it, or use it, or save it, or maintain it if I don’t want to. I do have to give something of myself before the last day of my life arrives and it becomes too late to do anything worthwhile but tell the people I love that I loved them, and not because they haven’t heard it often enough, but because it should be the last thing a person does (I think). And I only even get to do that if time and circumstances allow.
So why do I live like this? Why do I cram myself into 160 square feet and bike everywhere and make tea on a camp stove and avoid shopping for almost anything that is in my power to avoid and spend ridiculous percentages of what little money I do make on traveling to see friends and family? Because when I think about what I care about in life, what I enjoy about being alive, this is the only path that my choices lead me down. It just makes me happy to do this. Happy is all I need.