Sitting in the living room, feet tucked under my butt, warm cup of coffee moving from lip to lap, I said to my second cousin Gail, “Sometimes I feel guilty about my life.” Read without context you might conclude I had done something unlawful? Which might be true, but in this circumstance I was referring to something illusive, slightly clandestine, maybe even decadent.
Context is everything, so before you jump to judgement, let’s explore the backstory. This narrative involves an impromptu reunion with my second cousins from Missouri, Mike and Gail Severance, a sturdy branch from my mother’s lineage. In fact it was my mother’s death that resurrected the symbolic “bridge” in our relationship. The scary part? We hadn’t laid eyes on each other for over forty years.
We decided to gather at the lake house (neutral territory), my sister’s family included, each of us secretly hoping our long lost relatives wouldn’t turn out to be ax murders or worse anthropophobics.
Deep breath, drum roll…neither turned out to be true.
The last time we met I think we were all in our teens. Michael remembers thinking, “this is the cool side of the family.” A highly suspect interpretation of our brief encounter because Nancy and I are anything but cool. Regardless, we were pleased to be perceived as such, and resolved to preserve our “cool” reputation through the course of the weekend. Yeah, you can imagine how well that went, status obliterated.
I’ll admit this much, Gail and Mike are two of the most engaging, fun, kind, hardworking, salt of the earth kind of people you’ll ever meet and they’re civil. This is important. I’m not just saying that just because they’re family, or thought we were cool (okay a smidge), it’s just how they roll.
I love new places, new people, new ideas. I love cultural differences, and I’m fascinated by the truth – all the different versions of it. Martin Henderson
The first night we gathered on the back deck for wine and appetizers. This was sort of like a blind date, with no escape plan, just three couples struggling to place and categorize one another. The wine only served to mutate the process but also allows the walls to come down, truth to surface, and laughter to emerge. Jesus was definitely on to something.
“It’s funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools – friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty – and said ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do’. And mostly, against all odds, they do.” Anne Lamott
I watched how Gail and Mike held space for those important conversations where everyone on deck felt safe to share their opinions, triumphs, and concerns about life. It was like being able to take a deep breath for the first time in a while without fear of asphyxiation.
Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living in better conditions. Hafiz
We spent most of our time answering important questions. This is who I am, this is who I’m not, this is what I want, this is what I’m hoping to do with this one precious life. We’re all coming to a crossroad in our professional lives and discerning the next move is paramount if we don’t want to get captured by the king, taken out by a pawn, or cross paths with an angry horseman?
In life, as in chess, forethought wins. Charles Buxton
“I placed my marriage, my family, and my soul on the altar of productivity, of hustle, of competency and efficiency. I can’t adequately express the regret I feel for having done that, or the gratitude I feel for pulling them back down off the altar before it was too late,” says Shauna Niequist. Each of us has spent years accomplishing personal goals, raising kids, sacrificing our finances, time, and energy for the good of the family and now we’re considering new pathways. What is the future going to look like? What can I do with the time I have left?
This is what I’m finding, every day, every hour: there is a way of living that is so sweet, so full, so whole and beautiful you’ll never want to go back once you’ve tasted it. Shauna Niequist.
Gail, Larry and Mike tore up the lake with some early morning water skiing. Brave they are. I held the flag. After enjoying traditional lake-house waffles we headed over the Kelseyville for wine tasting at Boatique and Laujor. We sort of planted ourselves at Laujor with a large picnic, a few bottles of wine, and an outstanding view. Dave Lucido, owner, took extraordinary care of our table.
Our designated driver, Nancy Wood, brought us home safely, where we were joined by Jim and Sue Goudreau for dinner. For all intents and purposes this is when the party got started. The Goudreau’s provide the flavor at gatherings, and they did not disappoint, serving a variety of spicy sausages from Lodi. Yum.
Some of my happiest moments are the ones I spend with my husband, a few close relatives, and a handful of very good friends who know me well and like me anyway. Robin Marantz Henig
My favorite part of the evening was the camaraderie I saw forming around the table. I sat back, took a moment to observe the dynamics of the people gathered, the breaking of the bread, sharing of stories, but it was the laughter that drew me back in. “Laughter is carbonated holiness,” says Anne Lamott. This is as good as it gets and sometimes I’m so happy I feel guilty.
Five Reasons for choosing happiness:
Happiness and joy are contagious, time to up our game for the sake of all.
You are beloved and that’s a good enough reason to discern what makes you happy over and above what might be pleasing to others.
Life is short, especially as you near the end, don’t ride out all perfectly coiffed, and preserved, “but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” Hunter Thompson
There is coffee, you can have more, even after 2:00 pm.
When you live well your entire life becomes a vacation.
Think of building a life that has the capacity to hold both unproductive time along side our ocean of responsibilities. If I want to love deeply and well I have to learn to listen to my own interior voice, the one constantly urging me to slow down, and enjoy a second cup. I’ve heard No is a complete sentence but much of my life I have rallied against this notion. The freedom to choose is sort of astounding, the joy inexplicable, and happy is simply the consequence of choosing that which gives you life. In response to my leading statement, “I feel guilty about my life,” Gail said, “not for a minute, enjoy your life, you’ve earned it.”
I’m Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, we’ll practice saying “no.”
Anecdotes (Better word choice ~ thank you Michael):
- If you think it’s hard to meet new people, try picking up the wrong golf ball. Jack Lemmon
- Mike says, “You have to tell us what the unmentionable number 10 was in your last post.” Me, “there wasn’t one, I was trying to be funny.” Silence…
- My brother-in-law Dave Wood caught the largest bass anyone has ever seen! Bravo David!
- They’re coming back next year for a second reunion! That’s if we all survive this crazy hike I somehow got roped into? For the next eleven months I’ll be in training.
Previously published on CherylOreglia
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