It was a big week in our household. My older son turned 17. He was a little bummed about it. “It’s the last birthday of my childhood.”
“Being an adult isn’t so bad,” I told him. “Honestly, the taxes and bill paying really aren’t a big deal.”
“I’m reading 1984,” he responded.
A year ago he and I did a little road trip up the California coast. There was stuff going on then as well (there is always stuff going on, especially when you’re a teenager), and being outside, just the two of us, did wonders for clearing our heads. So the evening before his birthday we went for a hike along the Potomac River. We found a gathering of frogs by the C&O canal and scrambled and stumbled and laughed and got nice and muddy. We talked about lots of things and then had burgers and onion rings in Friendship Heights and he asked me interesting questions about his childhood and I talked about some of the things I would have done differently.
Many, many, many years ago, when this very guy was a serious-faced toddler, he was diagnosed with “Infantile Anorexia,” which basically means he didn’t eat. I was really young and nervous and totally totally freaking out all the time. I’d mix enfamil into Hagen Daz so that he’d get calories, and chase him with it. Some days it worked, some days he ate nothing. It made me nuts. Six years later, when his brother was a toddler, his pediatrician told me: “It’s not about what he eats in one meal or in one day, it’s what he eats over a couple of days.” It was such a relief.
You don’t have to hit all the targets every single day.
Sometimes I spend the day rushing from one thing to another, other days I make time to laugh and get on the telephone and talk to my sister and read a book. Some days I snap at people I adore, other days I am kind even to the cubicle monsters obsessed with paper. Some evenings I stay up too late, watching stupid shows on Netflix (or worse: scrolling through Instagram or Facebook) other evenings I manage to go to yoga and be in bed by 9 pm. I never ever have a perfect day–the sort where I eat right and read three chapters and write something I feel good about and go to work and work out and have a rich, meaningful conversation with someone I love and am in bed early enough to rise, rested, before the sun is up. It’s just not possible.
I know you’ve been following my instructions from week before last intently and now you’ve got pages of notes. Or at least 42 sensory memories from the past week. Pick seven that represent things that made you feel like your best self, then write into those. Make them visceral, let us smell and taste them. Here’s Lucille Clifton: