Monday, September 24, 2007

A Little Life

Lee with our friend, Wendy, and pal, Fanny, at her family cabin. A little bit of the little life this weekend.

Reading. I am happy watching him read.

I can tell it's autumn. My tendency for introversion picks up steam. I become melancholic and reflective and there's something that seems right about it. Although I wrote this piece a month ago when I was almost falling apart, I just re-read it and the sentiment is more meaningful now than even then. I'll tell you why at the end.

A Little Life

In July, while blissfully in Florence with my husband, Lee, he told me a story of one of the girls in his sixth grade class. The students, an intimate group of twelve, at a Waldorf school in LA – well, Santa Monica, to be precise - were discussing their futures. Lee was eves dropping. Now, this is LA. Dreams are big here. Movie mogul, movie star with twenty Oscars, captains of takeovers, that kind of thing. Then the quiet Ileana spoke with confidence, “I just want a job I like and a nice little life.”

I have thought of that story almost daily since I heard it and today, during the sixth sun salutation that I was doing on the bare wood floor of my apartment, the story popped into my head again and the thought of it almost brought me to tears. Of course, I know that yoga can do a number on the emotions, too. Especially when one has been as lax about a practice as I have been over the past few months. It brings up “stuff,” they will warn you.

As if that were not enough to ponder, I remembered the dream I had this morning and it stopped me dead in my downward dog. I won’t share it here because I am “working with the images” as a Jungian might say, and don’t want to “taint” it by externalizing them. I need to keep them private until something meaningful bubbles up out of the shadows of my psyche. So far, it seems to have something to do with loss of innocence, trust, and grieving undeveloped dreams. Together, this pointed me to my own youthful dreams. I wanted to be an actress once. I wanted to be rich. I wanted to famous. I wanted great love. One out of four isn’t bad, I guess.

All summer, Lee and I have been struggling with where he / we would live next year. We have lived apart for three years now while he attended graduate school in California and taught in Santa Monica. He has a couple offers, one in Minneapolis where I continue to live. I missed him terribly at times. He missed me. And, if truth be told, we also both grew, leaping, or was it free-falling, toward authentic moments of what the Jungians call individuation. It has been liberating.

But for me, the time in Italy with Lee only reminded me of how deeply I miss him in the morning, over coffee, at the end of the day, over wine, dinner and crawling into bed. Little things. I want a little life. I don’t want to jet off to LA to see my husband anymore. It has lost its luster. My whole summer has been one of too muchness. Too much travel, too much work, too much tired and worry about the future. Too much wine to take away the worry and too much wakefulness in the middle of the night dueling with the demons. It seems a fervent effort to be more than I am, a last chance at the big deal. But, why? What is the point?

Now, at 50-something, I begin to see the value of the little life. My father said “I love you” to me today for maybe only the second time in my life. My daughter, who leaves for her freshman year at college next week, is cooking polenta and caprese salad for me tonight. This is the little life I want.

The dream was a stark reminder that infantile dreams of grandiosity must die, and grief is required, but a poignant grief, a beautiful grief that is midwifed by an omniscient future, a future we don’t yet know but need. There are still things I care deeply about doing with whatever is left with my life. But a nice little life sounds good. How does a twelve year old get so smart?

Post script. On Sept. 3 my husband moved home, came back to Minneapolis. I have my little life back again.

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