The other day, I took a quick solo drive to the out-of-town public library to grab Micah some more difficult chapter books per his request. Our local library is closed for repairs and due to parking issues, I prefer driving out of town anyhow, especially if I get to do it alone.
No work, no doctor appointments, no urgent tasks to complete other than purging before another (mini) family member joins. Not having to rush from point A to point B or respond to urgent emails, running no other errand than the library run was rejuvenating.
I admired the spring flowers on our block as I walked to fetch our car.
Minutes later, I was driving on the highway with zero traffic, sun shining bright, when this ditty came on the radio:
If you wanna go and take a ride wit me
We three-wheelin in the fo’ with the gold D’s
Oh why do I live this way? (Hey, must be the money!)
HEY! Must be the money! I could imagine my girlfriends from two decades ago riding with me, turning up the volume and laughing. Even in present day mini-van with our garish McDonald’s Happy Meal emoji hanging from our rearview mirror, I felt 20-something and extra grateful for the day.
Grateful for breath, my life and the life pop-lockin’ inside of me. Grateful for the sudden surge of energy this week, after last week’s sluggishness where I would just have the kids gather ’round me in my bed. Then another great song came on:
I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow.
A wave tossed in the ocean.
A vapor in the wind.
Still You hear me when I’m calling.
Lord, You catch me when I’m falling.
And You’ve told me who I am.
I am Yours, I am Yours.
Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love and watch me rise again?
Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me?
Life truly is about the simple things. A solo drive. No traffic. Two great songs on the radio.
The night before, I needed to konk out after staying up too late to review some boring, time-sensitive documents (adult life). I could have drifted into dreamland right then but I felt jipped of my sacred, quiet time after kids had gone to bed. So I left my lamp on so that I could read just one exquisite short story from my new library book. I reread certain passages and it was time well spent. It felt like a square of fine dark chocolate or hot red tea after a meal. Recalibrated my brain.
This reminds me to add a simple joy to my day in the raw postpartum days to come, when hormones are off from nursing while adjusting to the new normal of a helpless little babe completely dependent on me.
My parents did not appear to value self-care. They believed that they could not afford to, that it was a wasteful luxury just for the unencumbered upper crust folks with margins in their lives. Or maybe that’s what they told themselves as it was too painful to admit even to themselves that they could use some sweet time just to exhale and enjoy life.
I don’t fault them for this way of thinking as they had to work as much as possible to pay for life’s necessities. They didn’t get to collect a paycheck from some air-conditioned office.
I used to follow my parents’ standards as an excuse for why I, too, thought self-care was fluffy and for folks who weren’t diligent and hard-working enough. I went so far as to judge those who prioritized self-care in a way that was foreign to me, coming from my background.
“Another massage? Another date night? Didn’t you just come back from vacation? How ’bout you take a break from taking a break?” But now I see that my parents would have fared better had they not just worked all the time, had they somehow carved out small pockets of leisure.
When my mom owned a small gift shop in Panorama City, CA, working at least six days a week, ten hours a day, she would comment that the moment she heated up her lunch, customers would barge in. And nine out of ten times, these would be annoying customers, those who would ask the price of her whole inventory with their eagle eyes and too many extended family members in tow, and then leave without a single purchase. This is why to this day, I don’t like going into someone’s small business or vendor booth just to look, chitchat, or merely compliment an item without buying.
My mom would sometimes feel chained to her store. Once, when I was in high school and visiting the store, she sighed and said, “Sometimes, I wish I could just run across the street and lie down on that patch of grass, just roll around and look at the sky.”
I now wish I had insisted that she do just that. Go right on across Roscoe Blvd., Umma, and lie down on that patch of grass in front of the old drive-in movie theater. Exhale. Watch the sky. Watch the clouds drift. Grab a cold beverage. Think about something that makes you laugh. I got you.
I remembered this when I was in Bryant Park last summer, and I purposely lie down on the grass in the middle of my day. A homeless man was to my left, damp green grass under me, and the blue sky above me.
I am going to create more “Watch the Sky” moments. Priceless.