The Fourth Lesson

 

“No, let’s sit inside. The game is on in there.” he replied.

“Ok fine.” I rolled my eyes. I almost forgot it was football Sunday, one of three days of the week where fans (mostly men from what I know), stay almost permanently tethered to a TV or phone for a glimpse of ‘the game.’

We walked into the common room, and on the far wall, I noticed a book shelf overflowing with books of different shapes and sizes. I remember the apartment complex staff sending an email about the book shelf and encouraging  residents to leave, take and read the books freely. Then. It was like a moment out of Harry Potter where one of the horcruxes kind of calls out to Harry. That or he senses its presence and is drawn to it.

There it was. A little red, hard covered book lying face down on the shelf. I picked up a book next to it and pretended to be interested until I refocused on the original target. I turned it over, and in shiny gold letters against the vibrant red cover (ahem, fight on), it read, the five people you meet in heaven. “Curious.” I thought.

I don’t know whether I suck at reading or just hate it altogether. Could be both. I credit grad school with the origin of my dislike, and quite frankly, sometimes when I try to read, I get super bored. A reader this one is not. We got our hot dogs at 2:15 pm, and by 6 pm, I read the entire thing, red cover to red cover. An easy read just shy of 200 pages, I couldn’t put the little book down, and some parts I even read aloud (I hear this helps speech).

Since my grandma died earlier this year, I find myself looking for answers. Why do certain things happen? Why is life seemingly easier/harder for different people? Why the whole fuck are we here, and what is the point of everything? Why are most choices between a rock and a shittier rock?

When she died, I didn’t allow myself to grieve, pushing aside any rogue emotion for the sake of performing well at work or to appear strong in the face of loss. I wonder if grieving then would have prevented the random crying spells now. In the middle of a restaurant after taking a bite of tempura squash. Sitting at my desk looking at an old picture. Smelling Lipton tea. Seeing flowers.

In truth, her death isn’t the only tragic occurrence this lovely year has gifted me. My current co-workers and I are suffering in an environment I wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies, including the one exacerbating the environment. We’re down a kind and gentle employee whose only solace came in leaving the workplace. I question myself almost every day. Am I crazy? Am I really not talented enough to get out of this place? More frequently, what did I do to deserve this? To be at a point where each morning feels more like a curse than another blessed chance at life.

I got to a point where I tried to imagine the future, and all I could see was more shit, exhaustion, excruciating compromise between career, parenthood and family. A couple months ago I stopped thinking about the future because any time I did, I didn’t want to do it. It felt like there was literally no point. Believe me when I say that this is  a dark and dangerous place to find oneself.

I really felt like I was living someone else’s life. That this ain’t right, and it certainly isn’t mine. Shouldn’t I be decorating my giant beautiful house somewhere with Pinteresting things bought with overflowing money from a career I love? Like Kate Hudson. Shouldn’t I be Kate Hudson? Chillin’ in comfy workout clothes all damn day, working here and there and stuffing my face at nice restaurants with my cool ass mom?

Life lately just seems hard, unfulfilling and the shitty parts, unrelenting. I came upon this book. I can’t say that it’s completely changed my outlook because I’m a little more stubborn than that, but it comforted parts of my heart and mind that I thought were irreparably shattered. It forced me to look at the parallels of my life with my grandma’s. This was hard to do because by my age, she managed to raise five children on her own after her husband’s unexpected passing. I get tangled walking the dog and trying to complete a Starbucks mobile order. Parallel? No, not even remotely. But I did pay my way through school, including completing a Masters at USC while working full time. Career-wise I’ve also been a work horse constantly taking on volunteer and side gigs in an effort to keep growing despite my current situation. I help the shit out of people too, even if it means having to put pants on and leave the apartment.

The parallel isn’t in life. It’s not supposed to be, and I don’t think she would want it that way. It’s in the qualities it takes to get through: resilience, patience, acceptance and knowing when to exercise each.

Read the little red book by Mitch Albom. I don’t know that it will have the same impact on you that it had on me, but that’s the beauty of this weird life thing. To me, the book was a convincing whisper from my grandma putting things back into perspective. For you, it might just be a random used book on the shelf.

 

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