It had honestly never occurred to me before I brushed my teeth a few moments ago that my life will never be perfect.
“Hah!” you exclaim, reading this. “Of course you knew life was painful and complicated!” Sure I did. I just didn’t know it would never be perfect.
I knew that people I loved would fall in and out of my life, pets would die, and eyesight falter. I knew that, in the midst of lovemaking, I would probably always look at my thighs, gasp, and exclaim, “Where did these come from? I must have forgotten my slender hips when I went to the drycleaner’s this afternoon!”
I knew that human existence was, yes, painful and complicated.
But I did believe that my life, that is, the timeline of events that constitute my history, was like a building. Until I found the right materials, perfected the blueprints, and laid a flawless foundation, I could keep tearing it down over and over again. I thought I could move here and there, try this and that, be a rebel or a hippie, and someday, survey the construction grounds and say, “Lo! There is my life as it should be! Build, men in overalls, build!” And until I said that, nothing that happened before it would count as part of my history or affect my future.
This attitude makes day-to-day functioning almost impossible. Instead of waking up and thinking, “Here’s another day, relatively similar to yesterday, but offering possibilities for surprise,” I wake up and think, “Here’s another day, wherein I decide whether the day after this will be completely and totally different.” Comparing blueprint to frame, estimates to receipts, surrounded by men wielding circular saws and trucks raising clouds of dust, I ask myself, What is the plan here? And is this following that plan?
I also assumed that not only was it in my power to destroy lifestyles didn’t follow the blueprints, it was my responsibility to do so- that not spotting that one badly-placed window would mean the entire city would blow up in a shower of mattresses and coffee cups, while flying corpses mutter, “Thanks, Palmer.”
That fear ever present, I’ve found every possible reason over the years to abandon buildings to the mice. I’ve deconstructed my life because my job was terrible, and because my job was great. I’ve chucked relationships that asked too much from me, and too little. I’ve moved from towns I loved and towns I hated, complained about having too little time to write, and too much, cried about being too far from my family, and too close. It’s just never enough, never right, never… perfect.
But it never will be, will it? I can never align the perfect job with the perfect relationships with the perfect income with the perfect location. Not only that, but who has time to sit around enjoying a perfect house, anyway? There are pies to bake and parties to throw. Meanwhile this house continues to go up, a hodgepodge of architectural styles, one wing faced with brick, another covered in aluminum siding, but I refuse to live in it, waiting in my tent for the demolition guys to show up.
Sane people know that their histories begin on day one, not the day they “decide” to begin them. Doing so admits the inevitable course of one’s life, something I may not be capable of doing at ten o’clock at night on a Tuesday. I’ll settle for a less-deluded delusion than I had before I brushed my teeth tonight. I’ll pretend I’m choosing to finish this house though others lay in ruins. The second floor is nearly done, and inevitably, someone will climb the stairs, set a rocking chair down near the fireplace, and call this home. Maybe that someone should be me.