Tuesday, October 4, 2011

October 4, 2011 ~ Day 299
Comfort In Our Own Skin

It's funny.

It wasn't until a doctor told me last year that the skin on my body might actually swell and permanently harden (Scleroderma. It didn't happen.) that I realized how much I'd taken the benefits of living in my own skin for granted over the course of 34 years.

That is a literal statement but I mean it metaphorically as well.

There's something really powerful about (finally!) finding peace and comfort within your own skin.

Accepting all of the quirky things that make you unique... letting go of trying to be something you're not.

* * *

I've written in this blog before about the social anxiety I've faced for years when inviting folks to our home.

I used to think everything had to be perfect to have friends over. Clean. Pretty. Well decorated.

I got this from growing up in a home that was (and remains) visually perfect and flawlessly clean. My mom is amazing.

I've inherited her appreciation of beauty... but don't have that kind of bank account. Or time.

So, the lack of money used to hold us back from entertaining.

"How can we invite friends over when we don't have enough matching chairs?" I would moan. "Look at the stains on the walls!" (Our children have many unusual artistic gifts, some of which involve food. Throwing food, to be exact.)

This year, though, I've realized that I can't just sit around waiting for the next thirty years to invite our friends over when we finally have a pretty enough home to entertain in.

That just isn't going to work.

It's time to celebrate the love we have for our friends and family NOW, and to hell with the scuffed up house and shabby decorations.

Which means this weekend we are going ~ for the first time in nearly fifteen years! ~ to entertain some of the people I love most in the world here at our teeny little rental house.

They've been my mentors and kind friends for so long now, and yet this will be their very first time entering my home. I've been invited into their own gorgeous house countless times... first as teacher, then babysitter and tutor, later as friend.

What does this say about me?

What does it say that it has taken me 15 years to invite people I respect so much to my house for a simple meal?

I think it says that I've been ashamed of my home and lack of elegance. Which translates to a shame about myself.

Which is pretty ridiculous.

This equates to me looking down upon our life situation. Absurd, really - especially considering how hard my husband and I both work.

We are well educated, dedicated, motivated, innovative people who have followed the path laid before us by life. We've been so blessed in our families, lifelong friendships and education.

Money surely could have followed us, had we made other life choices. Straight out of college I was given a job as a head technical writer/manager for Oracle Corporation making excellent money with stock options and job availability around the world.

Had I chosen to stay with Oracle, I might be well on my way to a lucrative retirement by now.

My husband is a total genius and earned his degree from the same prestigious university that I attended. He singlehandedly taught himself how to code in at least four (more?) different complex computer languages and has built and run as successful small business for the past 13 years, employing several of his close friends.

Had he chosen to take his massive skill set to work for another company like Microsoft or Qualcomm, he too might be well on his way to a lucrative retirement by now.

Here's the thing though...

We're not those people. We're not the kind of folks that stay in a job for money... although we appreciate money and look forward to having more of it some day. We thrive on independence, autonomy, and changing the world in our own way.

He and I took Robert Frost's road less traveled. (One could argue that this shared value may be one of the many things that drew us to each other, and continues to keep our relationship thriving.)

I chose to teach, accepting half the salary, no stock, no retirement plan.
My husband chose to run his own show, accepting the heavy responsibility of owning a small business in a down economy while navigating the complex international dynamics that affect his chosen industry.

Along the way we've also created three beautiful, smart, athletic children. They are expensive. We wouldn't have it any other way. We adore them.

And here we are...

...in our mid-thirties, renting a house in a good school district. Stomping down anxiety attacks over how we will afford to water the enormous lawn (Rain already, won't you? It's October!!!) and hoping and planning for a time when we will at last join our friends in home ownership.

This is it, though. This is real.
This is the life we are *actually* leading, as opposed to the life we think we "should" be leading.

It's time to embrace the crazy and be proud of that.

I wish I was an artist, a gardener, a fabulous housekeeper. I wish I had painted beautiful murals on my children's bedroom walls... that I knew special tricks for getting marker out of upholstery... that I could cook like my mother-in-law.

I wish I was a lot of things, but I'm not those things.

Instead, I'll celebrate who I AM ~ a loving, devoted mother with piles of laundry to wash and fold; a dedicated tutor who thrives on teaching; a true friend who can't believe I've waited so long to invite my dear mentors into my home. (They are not judgmental at all. I have judged myself and found myself lacking... and that is such a shame.)

* * *

This blog has always been about sharing with my children the meaning of life as I see it.

Today's lesson is an important one then:

No matter how humble your home or your meal may be ~ give of yourself wholly, joyfully and proudly to others. Food, especially when prepared with love, always tastes good when shared with true friends.

Open your heart and your hearth without fear or reservation. Life is too short to worry about what other's think... Love the world, love yourself, and you will be loved.

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