I can’t seem to get my ass in gear to complete some fairly simply assignments from my book editor. Yes I’m busier than ever with my caseload at work and now I’m training for a fall marathon three or four times a week. The running helps me in too many ways to name and is a cure for insomnia. Plus, please start the violins here or just play a fucking crescendo from the saddest symphony ever, I do all of the shopping and cooking at my house. Nevermind that Fred does all the cleaning up and deals with the cat litter and trash.
I’m pretty sure if I just won the Colorado Lottery, no, it would have to be the multi-state Powerball, I could finish the rewrites of my book a lot more quickly, in between twice-weekly massages, directing a staff of nice, bright people I hired as part of my philanthropic organization, planning healthy, amazing meals with my gluten-free expert personal chef, Pietro and writing a witty blog about achieving balance in the midst of instant, enormous wealth.
But at the moment God seems to have a different plan for me, although I keep buying lottery tickets every week.
I met with my high school counselor in the spring of 1980 near the end of my junior year. For some reason my then-stepmother attended this session with me. The counselor was tired, overwhelmed and did not seem nearly as delighted with me as I was. My stepmother had an annoying habit of telling me I would not amount to much and this was my opportunity to prove to her my future was unbelievably bright. As is often the case, things did not unfold according to my plan.
I began with a concise summation of my excellent, clearly achievable goals: eventually I would be a full-time, best-selling writer living in a cabin outside of Crested Butte, working the winters as a ski patrolwoman to stave off cabin fever. To achieve that, I would go to college and medical school, have a brilliant, lucrative career as a neurosurgeon and retire at about 40. Then I would retreat to my cabin, my writing and my ski patrolling. I added I had a Plan B, which was, if medicine didn’t suit me, I would become a lawyer, have an equally brilliant and lucrative career (I wasn’t sure what lawyers did so I didn’t elaborate), retire at 40 as planned and write those bestselling novels in my cabin outside of Crested Butte. I noticed the counselor didn’t seem to pay attention and hurriedly glanced through my file. He had no superlatives to toss in my direction and instead said in a tired voice, “You should try to get into community college somewhere to get an associate’s degree in something so you won’t make minimum wage for the rest of your life. Your grades are OK but don’t show you are particularly talented in anything, or more importantly, focused on any one area. These disciplinary issues don’t help you at all. Stop mouthing off. You excel at nothing, you have no activities listed, no volunteer work and no community involvement. Colleges are not going to be interested in you, plus, as your mother (I interrupted him to say, “Stepmother!”) said, there’s no money to pay for higher education.” My stepmother nodded in agreement, looking relieved. I, meanwhile, was stunned. I figured Ivy League schools would fight over me once I applied and maybe a scholarship-laden bidding war would quickly ensue.
As we left, my stepmother told me I would have to live at home with her and the Colonel, work full-time for minimum wage and attend community college. She reiterated, as she had since I met her in 9th grade, that my financial salvation lay in marrying well.
When I called my real mother, who was in the middle of her cancer treatment doing the Gerson Therapy near Tecate, Mexico, she exploded, “Fuck them, that’s your father’s sexist bullshit permeating this whole bullshit scene! Don’t listen to another word from Mary or that fucking so-called counselor!” She made me feel instantly better and we made plans for me to come out there for the summer to help her with her 8 fresh fruit and vegetable juices per day, including raw calves’ liver juice, her laetrile, B-12 shots, organic meals of steamed veggies and brown rice and her endless coffee enemas. She said, “Ree, this college trip will come together and don’t let the bozos get you down.”
For my senior year I took three AP courses where I got As, volunteered with at-risk kids at a YoungLife camp even though I was faking my Christian affiliation, joined French Club and about 10 other clubs and wrote incredibly bad but often-published poetry for the school’s literary magazine (it helped being a co-editor). I mouthed off at my teachers less too. I was wait-listed at Dartmouth and eventually got in but was about $20,000 per year short on tuition and expenses. But then came the letter from Pacific University, the “safety” school with the nice brochure of a rolling, green campus filled with giant trees and young, happy white people, with a few Hawaiians thrown in for diversity. A full academic scholarship with conditions, most of which I met during my years there. So I am grateful for P.U.
Today I want to be able to write that I am grateful all the time for every little thing and all the obvious big things that have led me to this perfect moment on a beautiful Sunday morning. But I’m trying not to flat-out lie these days. And rumor has it the truth shall set me free.
Still, if I write a Gratitude List, I get a sliver of perspective for a few moments. I wish I knew how to make the gratitude I feel when I look at the list last but I don’t. That I have a really nice roof over my head, food in the larder, a good job, functioning wheels, a host of friends and family that love me, plus that wonderful husband and that I have an editor for my book escapes me too often. My sense of entitlement can permeate everything like a cloud of pesticide fog and it is just as poisonous.
So today, at least after the U.S. kicks Canadian ass in Olympic hockey, I will do ONE thing on my book and write down a gratitude list, maybe not in that order.
And I’ll also go out and buy a few lottery tickets for Wednesday night’s drawing.