You know those emails that beg you to appreciate life by depicting starving children and war-torn countries? Usually, I find them patronizing and heavy-handed, and delete them without much thought. (Which is out of character for me, because I have made an art form of finding people worse off than I.) But I received one the other day that crawled under my skin, the images making their way to my heart and refusing to go away. Perhaps because my last post was so poor-me, or maybe because Grace has been crankier than usual, or possibly because I was still feeling sick and tired. For whatever reason, the message hit its target and resonated with me, and forced me to realized that my glass is WAY more than half full. (I know — who am I and what have I done with Laurel's body?)
My next post was going to be a rant about those who complain: about having to spend hundreds of dollars on unnecessary crap for their kids because Grandma and Grandpa won't pony up the cash, about having a fender bender in their gas-guzzling SUV and having to shell out $$$ for a deductible AND a rental, about being strapped by the mortgage on their vacation home, about not being able to find exactly the right pair of shoes for a party. (I have done several of the above.) But my heart isn't in it, because I realize it's all a matter of perspective. We all struggle; who decides what is a legitimate gripe and what is not?
One of the things I love about Portland is its lack of snobbery. When I lived in Chicago, almost all of my friends were college graduates who worked in advertising (yawn). When I moved to Portland, I realized that people here do what they need to do to make a living and spend the rest of their time pursuing passions: wind-surfing, mountain climbing, horseback riding, bicycling, animals and yes, writing. What a relief it was to just be myself and have a diverse group of friends who didn't judge one another based on their income. (Don't get me wrong, there is a faction in Portland that lives to go out at night and be fabulous; they are easy to avoid by not going to the Pearl District at night, particularly on weekends or the first Thursday of every month.)
The friend tree has had a few prunings over the years, most recently those who are social climbers and are unable to empathize with someone downwardly mobile (that would be me). And by social climber, I don't mean someone with money. One of my favorite people in the world has more money than all of my friends put together, but keeps it real. In fact, she says, "I love you" more than anyone I know, and means it. But friends who are more interested in the right neighborhoods and schools and social circles disappoint me, and bore me. I was a rung on the ladder, and am therefore no longer needed. (I'm not losing sleep over this.)
I have a home. I have a strange and wonderful nuclear family. I have friends who know what it means to struggle, and who have been so supportive over the last year, I don't know how I will ever repay them. I have enough savings to pay rent and fill my fridge with food (organic or not). And I have a passion, one so strong it makes me sorry for those who don't. It's time to get back to writing, to leave behind the inconsequential speed bumps that have slowed my progress, and keep my eye on the final destination.
Ultimately, it's time to focus on helping others again, something I used to do without a second thought but have failed to do even as others were helping me. If you have a moment, please visit this website, and if you are fortunate enough that you can help, please do so. Lisa has been my inspiration for months now (which would surely make her barf if the chemo hasn't already), and I can't imagine remaining so positively... positive in her situation. Also, when she's healthy, I plan to impose on her with a visit and a horseback ride, so the sooner, the better.
Oh — and for the record, I love you. All of you.