Seven years ago, on a spring evening in Kansas City, someone asked me what I envisioned for myself in the future. Where do you see yourself in five years, he asked. What do you want?
My answer came with a swiftness which surprised us both. I want to be the best version of myself that i can possibly achieve, I said without hesitation.
His face fell. I didn’t articulate what he had wanted to hear. In fact, I failed so spectacularly that he could only reply, Nobody talks like that! What kind of pretentious liberal nonsense is that?
Except he didn’t say ‘nonsense’.
The conversation still haunts me. I spoke my truth. I could not bring myself to answer his ensuing query — who talks like that? But if I had, I would have acknowledged that I did. I talk like that.
Today I stood at the edge of the lot which I rent for my tiny house here in the California Delta. A neighbor paused in her work, clearing the recently vacated lot next to mine. I handed her the bottle of water which I had brought outside to share. We gazed at the rubble she strove to organize and haul away. We gauged whether a small abandoned set of steps might match the side of my porch where I wanted to cut an opening. She gestured to a pile of concrete blocks and a forlorn, abandoned hose caddy, speculating on their potential usefulness. Trash or treasure? The eternal dilemma. The sun climbed in the sky, warming the spring air around us.
My neighbor thanked me for the water and resumed her work. I stood for a few more minutes, watching the birds take turns in the funny little feeder hanging from my plant stand. The wind danced through the branches of the towering oaks. For that span of time, I forgot the searing pain in my back, the bright red of a test result marching in a row of black numbers on a virtual report, and the enduring problem of whether this path I have chosen will bring me to a place of peace. As I watched my neighbor steadily conquering the piles of rubble, an unexpected calm overcame me.
Now the sun slowly descends in the western sky. The Delta wind has risen its voice, calling across our meadows to the silent river continuing its endless journey to the sea. Soon night will gather around the small dwellings of this place. Another beautiful day in paradise draws to a close. I am no closer to my destiny, but I will rest easy tonight, for my road seems to be a little smoother as time passes and the breezes of this beautiful place part the murky mists of my uncertainty.
It’s the thirtieth day of the one-hundredth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.