I took the calendar to my office this morning and was struck by today’s message:
In these last couple of months, I’ve realized some things about myself. Relevant to this discussion is that I realized that I want to live and to really live. I’ve had seasons of thinking that a car crash wouldn’t be so bad as long as I didn’t survive it. Or that a random act of violence would be better spent on me than someone who loved her life. I haven’t always loved mine. I have loved my family and my friends. But I have not always loved my life. These days, I love my life.
I’ve been at my current law firm job only since July of this year. But where I work now was home to me for nearly eleven years – from 1996 until 2007. I know my managing partner. I know his heart. I know the man I consider to be my “big boss.” I know his kindness. I love the people I work with and get to be around these days. I am handling cases that are perfect for me and my personality. I left this place voluntarily four years ago, and it took just the right alignment of the stars for me to find my way back. But I did and I am happier now than I have ever been in my legal career. I know it has everything to do with this place. And I am terribly grateful.
I also love my writing work. I started a writing business this year. I have worked with people to write letters, websites, blog postings, and speeches. I’ve also written some articles, mostly profiles of interesting people. Putting words together is fun for me. I’m surprised sometimes how much people do not enjoy this thing that I love. I’m reminded that we are all different. We are wired differently and built for different tasks, and I believe from the depths of my heart that I was wired to write and to do so happily. It’s been a gift for me to launch this business and get to see it grow. Again, stars had to align just so for this business to come together, but they did.
In addition to loving what I get to do, I live in a wonderful city near my family, and I have wonderful friends. But this year, I discovered that life is bigger than the people and places I know. I recently travelled to Europe for the first time. I’ve spent many weekends in other towns across the country, usually with people I love but sometimes alone, and I have found pure joy in living out of a suitcase and exploring the unfamiliar and the unknown.
Nothing about my life is as I thought it would be fifteen or twenty years ago. I fully expected that I would graduate law school, marry a man I “loved” for the better part of a decade, and have more kids than any one person probably should. I didn’t expect to spend more than a decade actually working as a lawyer. I never expected to own my own business. I didn’t expect to be a triathlete or an Ironman. I didn’t expect to have opportunities or even the desire to travel the world. My life isn’t as I planned it, but I know that I am lucky to have the freedoms and abilities that I have.
That doesn’t mean life is easy. This year in particular, I’ve experienced some rifts that have torn my heart to pieces. I have felt an isolation from people I love. I have been on the receiving end of words and actions that will haunt me always. My cousin Eileen Ghali recently posted a poem called “Branded.” It begins:
I wish you had been more careful
With those words that you flung out
At me today
I guess you didn’t realize
That they were red hot
Though spoken in “jest”
Or in a quiet voice
They were red hot
And they seared my heart
Branding me with the word
I relate to her words. I have been branded this year, and branding hurts.
But even in the face of the rifts, the isolation, and the things I can’t forget, I have experienced and continue to experience…joy. Pure joy.
I spent the weekend in Portland with Erin. On New Year’s Day, we had an hour to kill, and we debated how that hour should be spent. Thinking about my to do list and hers, I thought we should work. Erin suggested we head out into the sunshine and shoot hoops. At five foot two, I have not shot hoops in years. But we picked up her basketball and went to the park and spent about forty minutes playing this game of my youth – this game I had adored in elementary school when, at five foot two, I was taller than most of the girls in my class.
Yes, the cost of living is high. But it is absolutely worth every cent.