I’m in the middle of the men’s clothing section, holding a pair of pants with a 50” waist, looking to see if there is a larger size. That’s when it hits me; I cannot not believe I am doing this.
Because when I set out upon my life, making the choices I’ve made, I never, ever thought I’d be spending a Friday afternoon at Goodwill looking for clothes to outfit a llama. This is where life has taken me.
The pants, the plaid shirt, the rainbow suspenders we’re buying are all for my ten-year-old daughter and the llama she’s showing at the 4-H fair. Tonight they will compete with a good 25 other kids in the costume contest. They will be nerds. God help me.
I like animals as much as the next person but dressing one up has never been on my agenda. As I drive my daughter and her friend back to the llama barn, I ponder how so much of what I do or have done in my life is not of my plans.
I Did Not Sign Up for This.
Never did I sign up to diaper a twelve-year-old dog with bladder cancer or calm another through epileptic seizures. Not once did I think I’d build a Trojan War horse out of Popsicle sticks, make a poster of our family tree or assist in an experiment on how hamsters react to music (this, believe it or not, went to the regional science fair). My future vision of myself never included waxing wood floors, picking Cheerios and change out of couch cushions, or sleeping on a cement floor at a Girl Scout camp out. Yet I have indeed spent hours of my life doing such things.
Why? Because it’s what needs to be done. Animals need care. Children need help learning how to complete projects. Dinner must be made, bills must be paid and the laundry is always, always in wait. Such things are what life is made of. We spend most of our time doing what needs to be done, and whatever time is left we devote to our pursuits of choice.
I admit there are times when I am resentful. I long for more time to do what I want. I dream of quiet days alone to write, the freedom to cook gourmet meals instead of hamburgers, time to read more. But such thoughts take me nowhere. I am not a martyr. I do take time for myself. I get out with friends, go to movies, read late into the night. And deep down I understand this: the minutia and difficult tasks of life often lead us to the good stuff.
Life Rewards Us.
The good stuff is the reward. Knowing your dog felt a comforting presence as her body shook out of control. Seeing the smile on your child’s face as she discovers hard work paid off. Finding peace because the clothes are washed, the house is (somewhat) clean, and the bills are (mostly) paid. There is a certain joy to be found here. The heart honors our hard work when it is done with good intention.
It’s why I’m empathetic when my sick child vomits all over me. How I experience pride when seeing my byline on an article I’ve written, even though I gave up sleep to get it done. Why I cherish the memory of holding my sick grandmother’s hand as she asked me if she was dying. I didn’t have the answers for her, but at least I could be there.
This is where life takes you.
My daughter placed third in the costume contest. My house is wreck, I’m behind in my work and writing, yet I am proud, excited for my child. And just maybe this matters more than reading a good book.
As we waited for her after, my husband leaned over and said, “ You know, back when we were in college, I never pictured us here.” I understood completely. I could not suppress my smile, “I know, right?”