One Sunday at church a few months ago, I was sitting on the back pew with my son. He’s nine. He has this way of whispering in my ear ever so discreetly that the entire congregation can decipher all his secrets. On this day, he grabbed my palm face up and traced the lines of my hand with a chubby thumb. He glanced up at me with those big brown eyes of his, and without missing a beat, said, “Mom, you hold your destiny in your hands!” I must have been a little stunned because I stifled a giggle and my child shushed me. Did my son just shush me? That was a first. When did my little comedian suddenly become Buddha? I sat there for a few minutes trying to take in the sermon when it dawned on me: my lifeline. My child was referring to the crease that runs down the center of my palm. Turns out my child is not some wise prodigy. He’s just watched one too many random YouTube videos.
The next day, I got up wondering what I was going to do that day. I wish I could tell you I was one of these people that had a dedicated quarantine routine, but I am not. I was not. The irony is that for someone who thrives on the security of structure and routine, I crave adventure and spontaneity. Maybe that’s a total contradiction in terms. That’s me: a walking contradiction. I perused Netflix and folded a load of towels. As I finished up the towels, a quote from Shakespeare popped into my head. “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but within ourselves.” Even if it came from a YouTube video, maybe my kid was right. We are in charge of our own happiness. I mean, I know that. It’s a cliché everybody knows. Somewhere amid this pandemic and folding the clean towels and mopping the kitchen floor, I had forgotten somehow.
After I had folded the last towel, I opened my laptop and applied for graduate school before I lost my nerve. I have a daughter finishing her first year of college and another that will be there soon enough. What was I thinking? The only thought I could muster was if I am going to work toward an advanced degree, it was now or never. I promised my college graduation self 20 years ago that I would earn a master’s degree. I literally got sick and tired of waiting around for someday. Life is happening now, and I am going to live it. I want my children to see me pursuing my dreams and living each day to the fullest. Isn’t living life on my own terms and not tethered by fear the best way to teach my children to be courageous? I thought about how many people live their entire lives with regret. How many patients stricken with COVID find themselves fighting alone? Did they leave anything unsaid? How many dedicated nurses hold a patient’s hand, solely carrying that enormous emotional weight on their shoulders, and themselves confiding in very few, if anyone?
We all say we want to be happy, but really, how many of us would rather play it safe with what’s comfortable and easy, rather than taking a chance that could truly be good for our souls? I choose to stay close to anything that challenges me and reminds me what it feels like to be alive. I am finished apologizing for wanting more, for striving for more, for pursing my own version of happiness. I will not apologize for loving deeply, feeling even more deeply, and being a goofball that cries watching moves in my own living room. I will not apologize any longer for my past. I am only looking toward the future. If I love someone, I am going to tell them and when I am angry, I will tell them. I will be good to people and allow people into my life who are good to me. No excuses. Gone are the days of spending energy on trying to convince others of my worth. That energy is better spent spreading joy and laughter and understanding to those who truly appreciate it. Happiness isn’t selfish. It is a choice. A daily choice and a healthy one. Maybe my little boy has more wisdom than I originally gave him credit. He is right, as much I can, as anyone of us can, we hold our destinies in our hands.