I realized while on vacation how much my life has changed over the years. I commented on Facebook that I was going down the New York Thruway and thought “Here I am, a poor farm girl who used to put cardboard in her shoes to cover the holes in them, and I’m speeding down the Thruway in a new car, with matching luggage in the trunk, on my way to watch my grandchild graduate from high school.” Amazing!
When I was much younger I often went through times when I just thought my life was the pits and wasn’t going to get any better. I hated being poor and ugly and restrained by my mother’s stupid rules. (I never said I was a good child!) I was such a drama queen. My diary entries from some of those years read like a soap opera script. When my cat died it was the end of the world. When my boyfriend traded me for another girl it was the end of the world. When we moved to Oklahoma it was the end of the world.
My mother often tried to convince me that life changes and that things would get better. We’d move to some dump and she’d hang curtains and plant flowers and make the best of it. I thought she was blind sometimes or naive, but she was just a positive person who had learned to make the best of any situation. I was a slow learner.
I don’t think I really got my act together until I moved in with my grandmother after my divorce. Grandma Bea was a “no nonsense” person who had lived through some of life’s harshest times- her father’s early death, the Depression, miscarriages, her husband’s drinking, her son’s incarceration, poverty- and managed to change her life and circumstances dramatically through hard work and determination. She made it clear that there would not be any drama in her house! I could follow in her footsteps and change my life, or I could get my butt busted. Her favorite saying was “I’ll take you over my checkered apron”, although I can’t ever remember anyone actually being whipped by her. Even though the threat of physical punishment was an idle one, the thought of disappointing her was somehow worse. I shaped up quickly.
My path to the good life has not always been easy. And some would say that I have totally missed the mark. I still live in a rented house. (We’ve owned two in the past.) I still lack a lot of the amenities that many people think are necessities. I still have family problems and health problems and money problems. But who doesn’t? I learned that lesson from my four years as a housekeeper for wealthy doctors and stock brokers and CEOs. Their homes and cars and clothes were things to envy, but their lives were truly no different than mine. One woman had a painful neurological problem the best doctors couldn’t seem to solve; another had a drinking, cheating husband; another had bratty, uncontrollable children; another was obsessed with proving to everyone that she was worthy of her wealth. My years cleaning houses opened my eyes to the limitations of money. Money might make misery more comfortable, but it doesn’t really buy happiness.
So…today I consider myself living the good life. I have faith in God’s plan for me. I have a home that is comfortable and peaceful. I have a husband who is my best friend. I have children who are intelligent, creative, and hard-working. I have grandchildren who are sweet and intelligent and healthy. I have a job I love. I have friends who are understanding and supportive. I am healthy and happy. But more important- I have the will and the faith and the power to endure whatever comes my way. That is the real heart of the “good life”: the understanding that the circumstances of life may not be perfect or permanent, but as long as I am alive, I can appreciate and enjoy my blessings. I can work hard to change the things I don’t like. I can solve problems.
My life is good. I hope you feel the same way about yours.
(The sunset last night was spectacular! Gary and I both took photos of it.)