Monday, April 13, 2015

Life is what you make it.

Life is what you make it.  

This is a hard concept to understand as a young person.  When you're 10, 12, 14, 16...time moves slow.  Your parents don't know anything, 30 is old, 40 is ancient, and appreciating what you have today because it may not be there tomorrow doesn't exist in the underdeveloped, teenage brain.  It's taken me nearly 45 years to discover this and at times I still regress.

I was recently reminded of this on a trip to Washington DC, when we--the parental units, opted to head North for Spring Break while the rest of the country headed South to the land of all things Mouseketeer.  We opted for historical and educational versus princess tea parties and character parades.  The children would have preferred hats with ears.

We rented a turn of the century row house in the NE quadrant of the city in a neighborhood currently undergoing gentrification.  It sat on a loud, busy corner where sirens screamed throughout the night.  And with the constant hustle and bustle that comes with being planted in the middle of a busy metropolitan area that never sleeps, it could have significantly benefited from blackout shades.  In describing the home, I'm reminded of a Mother Goose rhyme:

There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile;
He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a crooked little house.

Yes.  The house was crooked.  Very crooked.  It had crooked floors and crooked walls, but I didn't mind.  With every out of square corner or creak in the floor, I imagined the life this house had lived for the past hundred years, the things that it had witnessed, and I felt alive.  I was now part of it's history. I fed off the energy of the city and relished feeling like I was in the epicenter of something really significant, something newsworthy.   And for one night I was--as I witnessed a barrage of police cars scream through the narrow streets ending a high speed pursuit just blocks away.   It certainly wasn't a four star resort.  It was better.  And thankfully my children didn't complain about the sights or sounds or lack of room service once. The house was equipped with television and wi-fi and all was good in teenage-brain land.

We spent five, over-scheduled days in the city, and as anyone who is familiar with DC knows, that was not enough.  We filled our days with tours, museums, monuments and memorials covering more than thirty miles on foot and canvassing even more distance by train and yet we left with miles and miles still undiscovered. 

Arlington National Cemetery
The majority of children today and even my own Generation X cannot fully comprehend the sacrifices that the generations before us made for our freedoms.  It, however, becomes a little more comprehendible when you stand facing a wall with more than 58,000 names engraved in memoriam or stand before a field of gold stars representing lives lost with the words, "Here We Mark The Price Of Freedom."  A humbleness befalls you as you walk amongst a backdrop of simple white, marble headstones that date back to the Civil War, and stand silently in reverence as a funeral procession passes for service men still being buried today.  The 45 year old me understood how hallowed the ground beneath my feet was.  I'm not sure the 16 year old me would have.  

At times during the week, the teenage brains preferred to sleep as the landscape of America the Beautiful passed by.  At times they needed to be told to put away the electronic devices.  And, at times they needed to be reminded that life does not offer guarantees, take advantage while the opportunity presents itself.   Life is what you make it.  You can spend your hours brooding.  You can spend your hours mindlessly in front of a computer screen.  You can choose to be unhappy, ungrateful and selfish or you can choose the opposite.  It took me a long time to figure that out and without my yoga practice, I'm not sure I would have ever arrived.  Today I choose happiness. Today I choose to be grateful.  
Because life is what I make it.

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