Ever heard this song?
I listened to it on the radio the other evening, and I started thinking. Especially with all the recent changes in my life – house! moving! car! – it does invite reflection. Thinking about those days, the “little apartment” in the song. Initially I thought… whatever. Too simplistic, too cliché. There are so many things I DO NOT miss… about high school, about all those little cramped apartments. But then again. Hating it while I was there was certainly a waste of time. And there were things to be appreciated, sometimes even in (occasionally more-or-less) dire circumstances.
I was going to do a brief play-by-play of each place we’ve lived before now. But how about we go a little more in depth into one instead? Divine detail and all.
Like the second apartment we lived in. It was more or less the nadir of my adult life, in various ways. You know how we all talk about broke newlyweds, about the financial troubles of early married life? Like starving students, but with the added responsibility of marriage and kids? (Not meaning to one-up starving students, that’s a tough time as well.) Anyway, that was the Second Apartment, or rather the time there. Not the tiniest place we ever lived, but certainly the tiniest kitchen. That really was crazy – we’ve never had a lot of counter space (till now) but in that one – the only place to possibly put a microwave was the top of the frig. Had to use the stovetop for extra counter in preparing food. In total that kitchen was probably the size of a small walk-in closet, maybe 4×4 feet of floor? Bitty.
The real problem with that time was the dire employment and money stress we faced. Maybe you know it – when you can’t sleep, can hardly breathe because you don’t know how you’re going to buy food, how you’ll keep a roof over your heads. The depression, the worry, the humiliation of asking family members for money because you have absolutely no choice. All exacerbated by pregnancy at the time, nausea (to this day the sound of the DVD menu music on Lilo & Stitch makes my stomach feel queasy, my daughter watched it a lot then), anxiety, guilt, paralyzing depression, sitting as if pinned to the couch. As Anne Lamott says, the X-ray apron of depression settling over your chest.
I really don’t miss those things. There’s a phrase, “Come what may – and love it,” but I don’t know how to love those things. That part was mostly desperation and misery, and I don’t see why I should have to embrace them. They SUCKED, and I’m deeply grateful (like, every day) that I’m not still stuck in them.
But I won’t deny either that there were some valuable experiences I had at the time, perspective gained, happiness experienced too. My 18 month old daughter dancing like crazy around the living room. How much I appreciated the city library. My dear husband, helping in the kitchen as much as possible to alleviate my pregnancy smell-sensitivity.
Most of all, I remember one evening, sitting in the living room with my husband and my daughter and my pregnant belly, and seeing us as if in a drawing, close and happy together; even though all around us was a yawning pit of unknown and probable disaster. Still, I thought then, was impressed then, this IS what really matters. Right now, with these people I love more than anything. This is most important.
That’s what I wish I could tell my high school self, my young married self, my current self: “Don’t bother angsting about your weight, the mess, the tiny space. Even the big things. The worry, the distress, that’s the real waste. Either act to change it or don’t, but don’t spend one more minute in guilt or obligation or self-flagellation. All that energy can be much better used elsewhere. Where? I’m not sure, but I’m eager to find out.”
It’s a common thread through all the past times I thought about in conjunction with this song – I may not want everything back, I may not want to go back to it for all the rice in China, but I do treasure memories of the people I loved, some of the lessons learned.
The perspective of learning from our trials, of seeing the light rather than the dark, is what I want to take from that. Is anything more wasted than the energy I spend wishing now away?