Friday, March 6, 2015

Living Large by Living Small: A personal manifesto.

I was thinking about that word the other day:  Manifesto.  I thought about it for so long that I started to wonder if it really means what I think it means. So I looked it up on Google.

noun: manifesto; plural noun: manifestos
a public declaration of policy and aims, especially one issued before an election by a political party or candidate.
synonyms:policy statement, mission statement, platform, (little) red book, program, declaration, proclamation, pronouncement, announcement
"a party manifesto that would change the course of world politics"

Yep, I was right.  I wasn't thinking about it in a political sense.  I'm not a very political person.  At least I'm not political on purpose.  I figure there are plenty of people deciding how the world should be run.  Although there are those who would call me lazy and accuse me of shirking my civic duty, I think there are people who are better suited for making those decisions than I.  I vote my conscience.  I follow the laws.  I do my own thing.  I guess you could say I'm a bit of a free spirit in some regards.

Don't get me wrong.  There have been times in my life when my ambitions were very high.  I have worked incredibly hard and overcome some pretty serious shit to get where I am today.  Looking back over it now almost 52 years out of the gate I wonder how I manage to still be alive.  When I consider some of the health issues I've had over the last half century that were reasonably simple to overcome with modern medicine, I realize that had I lived in the previous century I would not have made it to 25 by my reckoning.

Yep.  A lot of water has flowed under my bridge.  Some of it was pretty damn rough.  There is some more of the same sort of thing just ahead...I can feel it coming.  And that's what got me thinking.  Actually, it was a conversation on facebook that got me thinking.  Either way, the thoughts have been thunk and this is the result.

A lot of people spend their lives in an active pursuit of 'happiness.'  I say 'happiness' because that means different things to different people and what makes me happy won't even come close to making someone else happy.  There are folks that I personally know who will not stand for owning a car more than three years old or a house with fewer than four thousand square's just not good enough.  There are people in my life that work 16 hour days six or seven days a week to provide handsomely for their families and to get the personal satisfaction from their accomplishments that they seek.  I begrudge these people nothing for their choices in the way they live their lives.

I also know people who work three jobs just to make ends meet.  People, both male and female, who are raising their children solo and putting them through college even though they themselves never made it past freshman year or at best an associate's degree.  I know a woman who survived a brutally abusive childhood, escaped a subsequently abusive marriage, raised her children without help or succor from her family all while putting herself through not just college, but graduate school and eventually obtaining her doctorate.

All of these people inspire me in pretty much the same way. They know what they want and they go for it. They are all in their own way living large.

Not too long ago, only a few weeks ago in fact, my Mom asked me what I wanted out of the rest of my life.  Frankly, I haven't really been able to think past the next visit I have scheduled with her.  But her question stuck with me and in the intervening days, and I've come up with my answer.

I want to live large like these people are.  To me, that means living small.  I want a house and a garden.  I want to grow my tomatoes and peppers and onions unmolested by neighbors, landlords, and politicians.  I want a reliable little car to get me around when the weather requires it and a bicycle for when the weather demands it.  Since it seems I must work to obtain the money I require to maintain my health and my sanity, I want a job within 20 minutes' walk, 10 minutes' bike or 10 miles' drive of my home.  I want to come home at night to my dogs and my husband knowing that I can cook my dinner and put my feet up in my own living room and watch reruns on TV while crocheting yet another shawl that I'll probably never use.  I want to raise rabbits and chickens and be left alone long enough to enjoy it completely.

I want to go fishing in the cool of an early June morning and then go home to sit in my garden in the stillness of a June evening enjoying that particular slant and angle of the sunlight as it fades from afternoon to evening and then to dusk. I want to know that all the choices that I've made, the sum total of my life, have brought me to this place of comfort and peace.

And when I die, for I surely must, I want to rest in the knowledge that I lead a good life, I did no harm, I loved others, and I might even have done some good.  Because spending my life in pursuit of ever increasing dreams with the carrot dangling just out of reach is not for me.  Working for someone else's goals is not for me.  I want to make a difference in someone's life.  Someone who needs somebody to make a difference.  Someone I might not actually know.  Someone that I might not ever see again.  Someone who might not even know that they need me.  I want that difference to count for something good and real and important.

That, for me, is living large.