I just got back from visiting my oldest friend and her children, the oldest of which is my goddaughter. It was, as often as not, this friend that I would be playing with in my small town, and it is her companionship which is among the most constant in my memory. We played games no-one else could have (because, truly, they were the stuff of our own imaginations) and I do not remember not being her friend. My mother often remarks how like sisters we were, how like each other from the start. But we grew up and our lives went very different directions, and I often think her life is the one I didn't choose. Mine is the one where I live alone in a grad school cocoon. Her's is the one with children and husband and house. And it's beautiful.
It seems that one of the many gifts of this friendship is to remind me of how many ways my life could have turned out. It's sometimes tempting to see the choices I've made as the only right choices, ones that are somehow better than all the others I could have made. At least, better for me. But I don't think that's true, and that's comforting somehow. I could have made the same choices that my friend made and have days that curl around the sound of children shrieking with laughter and called it good. Every choice I make isn't the choice that will decide, once and for all, if my life will be a happy one. It doesn't all hang quite so precipitously in the balance.
It's good to be reminded how much of life is about the moment you live within, not the moment that came before or comes later and the decisions you made then. They don't define us as much as we might think. At my friend's house, they dance a lot. Q, the goddaughter, is two, and likes to run around in circles, happy to be moving to music. (That's her dancing, up top.) She doesn't think much of the way I dance. The first night I danced with her, she placed one hand seriously on my arm and said, "Stop. Don't shake your booty." I laughed loud and hard and then started to run in circles with her, matching her happy wiggles with my own.
I'm trying to bring a little of that home with me. I'm trying to remember to wiggle and dance and be happy because this moment is happy, not because it's right according to a big picture assessment of what my life should be like. I just returned from my community garden plot, and as I pulled in to the parking lot beside it, I discovered that they were clearing the water mains and the gutters were running fast with water released from its prison. I stepped out of my car and into a giant puddle and cursed. And then I inhaled the smell of a summer afternoon and felt the water on my ankle and looked around. No-one was watching, so I jumped up and down in the gutters until my sandals sloshed and my clothes had been splashed and my adult life was very good.