Real life. Real life right now looks like a tumbled stack of Jenga blocks. We’re all standing around with the last piece in our hands – stunned – wondering what in the hell happened. We had our next move planned out, then crash. The world caved in. Luckily, we’re crafty, we know how to build that tower back up again one block at a time. We wish we didn’t have to start again, find a new way of doing things, but that’s the only way to play the game. Crash. Build the blocks back up. Crash. Build the blocks back up again, one at a time. One foot in front of the other. There are new paths to trodden.
Real life looks like a rust-coloured puppy sleeping beside me in his crate as I type at my bedroom desk. It’s a manual on my left called Writer’s Market 2017, because at that time I had already begun thinking about publishing my book. The thought process continues, and I’m doing something about it, I am. On my right, real life is a scrawled in notebook, with a miscellaneous total, $444.89, barely legible on an otherwise blank page. The amount we are owed from the AirBnb in Guadeloupe, the Caribbean island we never visited because of rising concerns over something called Coronavirus…I think (hope) that money is coming back to us, but we have to wait for it. We have to wait. Like everything else right now. Unless.
When I woke up this morning, I looked in the mirror. This IS real life, I thought. This moment. There is no before to preoccupy us, only what comes next and only what is now. I often think in terms of “real-life” being when my kids go back to school and when my husband drives to work, but if traveling the world and traveling in general have taught me anything it is that this is real life happening, right at this moment. Wherever you are. So make the best of it. Curl into your place on this earth like a warm bed with flannel sheets and a down comforter. Nestle in with a favourite book and turn each page anticipating the next conflict, the next turn of events, because that’s what life is – a grand adventure. Choose your story wisely, boldly. Revel in the details.
Real-life is my husband’s melodic voice, his version of Twinkle-twinkle Little Star, accompanied by Elyse on the piano, floating up the staircase to the beat of my heart. Real life is a polar pocket of arctic air descending on us in May – MAY! Real life is sometimes crushing: no money, no time, no space, no success, many failures. Real life isn’t always great and often feels worse.
But in front of the mirror, the realization was that we can’t wait for life to start again. Life is happening all around us, every minute, right this second. Working nine to five isn’t real life; it might be what you do with your days, but real life is living and breathing with the people you love. Real life is setting up a game of Jenga and delighting in all three of my girls gathering around to play. It’s sitting next to Elyse on her bed and listening to her read the book J’aime for the tenth time. It’s fluttering and sputtering my words out onto the page with today’s thoughts, not tomorrow’s, and not dwelling on yesterday’s past either. If you are waiting to become, then you will be caught in a cycle of perpetually becoming. Why not just be? Be the person you are right now, today, no regrets and no excuses.
If your real life is hard right now, I’m sorry. You certainly don’t deserve these unforeseeable circumstances, nobody does. I believe things will improve and get better. I wish you less hardship and send goodwill your way. Keep dreaming and reaching. If you believe things will get better, often they will.
I’m reminded of the Special Olympics motto, ‘Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt’. Is there a loftier goal than to bravely put ourselves out there? Life is a tough game. There are winners and there are undoubtedly losers. We inhabit different roles as the blocks get stacked against us or line up in our favour.
“When this is all over…” I hear people say, and I get that, I really do, but we still have right now to hold on to, to live in – this moment, the present, a gift. Even if it’s hard, don’t forget to live right now.
And right now looks like closed curtains, sheltering my eyes from the sun, a drained glass mug of tea, an empty can of pink grapefruit sparkling water, a cell phone in a glittery red case on its charging base; a pink pen poised and ready, pointed in my direction.