Last Friday, a German Heath Ledger collapsed into the chair opposite me and told me he wanted to ask me something none of the other guys had asked me yet. I was intrigued. I had met ten guys so far at speed dating, and the questions had been, largely, the same. It’s bound to be that way when you only have five minutes to talk to someone.
The ceiling panels looked as if they may be hiding some asbestos. I got a whiff of Axe. I was in the back room of a run-down comedy club, where next door, the heavily intoxicated talent climbed the stage. I wanted to take a photo of my date sheet, a piece of cardstock folded in half with the names of the daters on them and a description.
“Natalie, I… ahh” he said my name very singsongy, like NataLIE, “Ahh. What kind of vegetable would you be if you could be any kind of vegetable?”
One vodka soda deep, I gave the answer that was probably the truest: “Corn. Because you have to sort off…” Air motions. Demonstrations. “Shear the husks.” When I asked him what vegetable he would be, he said potato like it was obvious, and moved onto the next topic.
In recent years, I’ve often found myself looking for the next thing, just after something really good has happened. It’s like those pirates who were given the black spot. Their hunger was never satiated, you know? They couldn’t taste the deliciousness of their food, and no matter how much they ate, they were never full.
I’ve tried to write about my life lately. About the holiness of a moment or a person. I’ve tried to write about my new roommate, who has a pink salt lamp and a closet full of flowered clothes. I’ve tried to write about the seagulls who cry above the beautiful park I eat my lunch in. The bench that I walked away from because my co-worker was crying into her hands on the anniversary of her husband’s death, and I could think of nothing to do, except give her privacy.
Blackbirds fly to Lake Hodges over my parents’ new house every night at sunset. My grandma and I went to see Trainwreck followed by lunch at a Mexican restaurant, and as usual, she made sure we sat in the best spot and waited the least amount of time. She lost her balance in the movie theater, which has never happened before.
I think when we live day after day, year after year, we get a little deadened to things. Habit deadens us to things. We forget to be grateful for our friends, our work, our family, because we’re used to them. It’s like an addict moving from oxycontin to heroin. We start to search for bigger stimulants. Like romantic love and fame.
We should be walking out the door in the morning saying, “My God! Look at that butterfly! What a beautiful world we live in.” And then go from there. Start there. We should try to put on the appreciation a child has for the world, like it’s a shrug or a ball cap. Instead of always looking for something more.
Because we deserve to be happy. We deserve to look around and feel joy at how beautiful the world is and the mere fact that we’re a part of it.
When I was a little girl, I went to a horseback riding camp through GirlScouts. Only a few miles off the I-15 freeway, it was one of those places that defied its surroundings. The dusty wooded trails were dappled with light shining through the trees. It was quiet, and peaceful, and all of my friends and I were light in being. None of the heaviness of life had touched us yet. Not at 11 and 12 years old.
And someone took a photo of me that I think of sometimes. I was on the top bunk in my cabin, smiling without a hint of self-consciousness. I reached my arm out as far as it would go towards the camera. I formed a peace sign with my fingers. A gap had formed between my two front teeth. My baby blue Roxy shirt fit a little weird over my sports bra.
I think of this girl sometimes. See, I love this girl. I love her kind nature. Her bravery. Her sensitivity. Her dreams. And I can tell you, that girl deserves everything. She deserves a man who loves her. She deserves prosperity. She deserves happiness. And above all, she deserves her own self-approval. Kindness from herself.
And not because she’s done anything in particular. Not because she’s been published, or because she’s always done the right thing. But because she’s been kind, and cruel, and jealous and everything in between.
There are things I want in life. I hope I will look into my son’s face and maybe even see green eyes like my own. I hope I will read Moby Dick. Talk to a cartoonist about my book cover. But even if I don’t do these things, I am the little girl who sat cross-legged in front of the TV, enchanted, with the way Gidget wandered out into the waves with a longboard under her arm in a white, high-waisted bikini. I was once a little girl with a sensitive spirit. A kind nature. A brave heart. And I deserve love and happiness regardless of how good I am. That little girl deserves everything, but above all, her own self-approval and a happy life. A collection of happy moments. And we should remember that more. We aren’t good enough when. Our lives aren’t good enough when. We are, life is, good enough now. And we should be so grateful.