Tuesday, November 15, 2011
November 15, 2011 ~ Day 341
Dividing The Pie
Think of life like a pie.
A whole, unsliced, beautiful and tasty homemade pie.
Just waiting to be served with ice cream.
When you're as young as my children - say, six years old - life is (thankfully) simple. Your pie usually gets sliced into three sections:
Even though there can be real, true struggles for a kid at the age of six in any of those arenas - wishing for a best friend, for example... or losing a parent... or struggling to learn - there are still only three big pieces of pie in your pan.
So, if you can get even two of your three categories working fairly well (say, Family and School; or Friends and Family; or School and Friends) then essentially, at least 2/3 of your pie is savory and delicious.
Overall your life may feel like it's going pretty well.
You may come to a point where you seem to have divined the recipe for success.
* * *
Ten years later at the age of 16, your pie of life may have grown a bit more complex. There are certainly more slices to which you need to devote your time and attention.
Now it may look like this:
Family... parents still together? grandparents still around to lavish you with love?
Friends... mean kids or online bullying? social scene becomes more intense
School... AP classes? SAT? College prep? Pressure!
Athletics... team games? long practices!
Clubs... you need a lot of outside interests if you want to go to college
Boyfriend/Girlfriend... this slice of the pie usually takes up a lot of time and thought
Afterschool job... finally you're making money, starting to take care of yourself
College applications... should you go to college? if so, where? how much should you spend?
...there's also that nagging question everyone you meet starts to ask you:
SO, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE?
At the age of 16 or so, most kids feel like their pie is being sliced up by too many authority figures telling them what to do. If you're one of those kids... you may dream of the day when *finally* you will be able to slice up your own pie however you want to. You may fondly recall the early days when your pie had only three slices and a full 1/3 of it was devoted to friendships.
* * *
Now skip ahead another decade. You're 26.
If everything has gone well, you're in a pretty good place. Your pie is making sense. Yes, it's sliced more carefully these days but there's still plenty of you left to dream about helping yourself to seconds and thirds.
Your pie may look something like this:
Family... are your parents still around? Independent?
Friends... you've finally settled into some lifelong friendships that you can count on
Work... you're learning a lot, growing your career and thinking about future prospects
Travel... whether for work or fun, there are many more opportunities to see the world now
Home... whether in a rented apartment or your own 'first house' you finally have your own place
Relationship... if you have one, it may be getting serious. if you don't, you're probably finally serious about looking for one
Health/Exercise... you're having fun with this... taking care of yourself, staying in shape. it feels good.
The pie at 26 has more pressure and stress than it did at 16, but also more freedom and fun. At last you DO get to cut the slices however you want to... serve yourself a cup of freshly brewed coffee that you pay for with your own income. You can eat as much whipped topping as you like, and nobody but you can decide whether to lavish your life with chocolate sauce.
* * *
Pie at 36. That's essentially where we are today.
My childhood best friend and I talked at length this morning about what our pies are like at 36. She just had a birthday two months ago. My birthday will be here in a handful of weeks. It's pie time and apparently, we're in season.
But what has happened to our pies over the last ten years?
What do they look like now?
Speaking only for myself, my pie is sliced so thinly these days there are essentially just slivers of me to go around.
36 YEAR OLD PIE
Friends... making time to see your friends becomes a complex negotiation involving bargaining and sacrifices ("I'll watch the kids for you while you go for a ride, if you can watch them for me while I get together with Debbie for coffee.")
Family... this now includes your family of origin, your in-laws and the family you've created
Work... if you're a working parent you feel torn between what you need to do for your job and the instinctual yearning to nurture your children. If you're a stay-at-home parent, you're often overwhelmed with the monotony of day-to-day life managing little beings who schizophrenically cry one minute, laugh uproariously the next, and love to shout "NO!" at you in the most difficult situations. You long for intellectual stimulation and job satisfaction.
Children... the Suns around which your planet now rotates. your new bosses ~ who will never be perfectly satisfied with your job performance. get used to it. the workload now includes:
- Helping with homework
- Positive discipline
- Mediation between siblings
Marriage... the commitment of two people to look at each other squarely in the eye every morning and every evening, see the best and worst in each other, and keep loving each other no matter what. Even when home life is dictated by the whims of small children. Even when you see each other (alone) for about 2 hours each week.
Faith... becomes so much more vital at the age of 36. Friends and family members have died. Real life has brought real crisis and loss. It becomes important to believe in something.
Pediatrician Visits... increase exponentially with every additional child. I have three children. Yesterday I joked to the nurse that we should be paying rent at their office, we come so often.
Household Work... never ends. Dishes, gardening, organizing, sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, painting, re-covering furniture, making beds, scrubbing bathtubs... on and on and on.
Saving and Budgeting... trying to get ahead. So hard with additional, "surprise" expenses. Surprise! The sewer's backed up! That will be $240! Surprise! Your 6 year old likes to take long showers... That will be $280! Surprise! Your daughter decided to scrape all the paint off of her wall with a lead toy car! That will be $2000, your entire security deposit.
Laundry... you would not BELIEVE how big how many slices of your life's pie can be devoted to laundry.
Health/Exercise... gets squeezed in here and there wherever it can fit. Often sacrificed to fulfill the needs of the family.
Sleep... suddenly becomes a crucial piece of the pie. Whole years of sleep can be lost when you have small children. If you don't carve a decent slice for sleep, nobody else will be handing it to you on a plate.
This is just my own 36 year old pie, of course,
My best friend has a different pie, with lots of different flavors and sizes. Hers is filled right now with academic pursuits, travel, conferences, proposals and pregnancy. Our slices have different titles - but here is what they have in common:
We're both sliced so thinly right now, we're never satisfied by the small amount of ourselves we can devote to any individual pursuit.
* * *
"Why is it like this?" we wonder.
"Life used to be so uncomplicated. We used to accomplish so much."
We remember the days when we sat around reading, playing Nintendo and throwing around the basketball together (she taught me to play H-O-R-S-E... back in the day when we had time to spend an entire afternoon doing stuff like that).
How did all of that change? It feels like yesterday.
Here is the answer we've come to... and maybe it applies to you too:
At the age of six our pie featured three big, tasty pieces.
Today we are using the same exact pan to serve up 20 slices.
Anyone who has ever cut a single pie into 20 slices can tell you ~ no matter how carefully you cut, it still gets messy. You'll never be fully satisfied...
...and that's ok.
Even a tiny little slice of pumpkin or apple pie can be delicious and worthwhile when you're devoting it to something important. Life is more complex nowadays but that doesn't make it worse.
There may be less of us to go around, but hey ~ a little still goes a long way.
After all, even a tiny slice of long-distance conversation with my best friend can still sweeten my entire day.