My husband Frank and I have this long running inside joke. Or I guess it’s really more of an observation. Anytime we go to a restaurant and a young person who is cheerful and enthusiastic waits on us, we say something to the effect of, “Aww, isn’t she cute. Life hasn’t beaten the absolute crap out of her yet.”
Like she is some exotic animal on the endangered species list. And, really, she is. Life will be coming for her quickly and its unfairness coupled with disappointment in her fellow humans is going to chip away at her optimism little by little until she’s as jaded as the rest of us.
(Wow. This column just got way dark. And I’m on vacation!)
There are wonderful people who remain perpetually positive throughout their entire lives, but I really feel like something is wrong with them. Just kidding. Kind of.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not a total Debbie Downer myself. I go through cycles of optimism and cynicism like everyone. I guess I would say I deal with life with healthy skepticism. That’s a lot of -isms!
I have been thinking a lot about this lately though. About how thick and calloused our skin gets over a lifetime. It happens slowly, and you really don’t realize it while it’s happening. But then suddenly, someone or something “uncalloused” appears, and you realize just how hardened you have become compared to the you of a decade or two or three ago.
The “uncalloused” ghost of Ashley Past has been coming in the form of Facebook memories lately. Remember how it used to ask you like what’s on your mind or something like that and it would say Ashley is… and you would fill in the blank.
The Ashley of 10 to 12 years ago was way goofier than 2021 Ashley. I would write things like “Ashley Trice is wondering if her baby can get any cuter.” Or “Ashley Trice is so excited her hot husband gets back in town today.”
I read these memories and I immediately think, “Barf. I can’t believe I wrote something so corny and put it out there so the whole world wide web can collectively roll their eyes.” But I seemed “lighter,” if that makes sense. And I miss that.
I guess it was a different time on social media though. It was before everyone was so effortlessly mean and hateful. It’s hard to remember that time. But it did exist back in the day when it was just photos of your dog, kids and food. When everyone started posting news stories and debating politics is when it turned ugly. Now I just assume half of my “friends” despise everything I post even if it’s just a photo of a sandwich. Isn’t that a terrible thing to think?
But it’s not just social media. Pessimism and self-doubt unfortunately sneak in every nook and cranny in our noggins over time.
I overheard two 20-somethings talking about their astrological signs and horoscopes the other day. They were seemingly so carefree. I remember doing that at their same age. In fact, I would read my horoscope every single day, hoping it would give me some clue about how my life would end up. So much mystery and optimism and hope. I can’t remember the last time I read one now. And I know they are totally silly, but I wonder what day was the very last time I read one? It must have been sometime between saying “I do” and changing diapers. It just seems like when we start to “know” what our lives are going to look like, or at least we think we do, we start to lose parts of ourselves.
I don’t know, maybe that is just part of getting older. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Maybe we lose part of ourselves because it’s necessary. There has to be room for new parts to grow, right?
We have been on our family vacation this week. And I have felt more like that pre-life-beating you-down Ashley than I have in a very long time. Away from the daily grind of work and hauling kids around to everything, we have slowed down and had a chance to realize just how much there is to appreciate. We’ve watched sunsets together and literally laughed until we cried. We have all acted like children this week, and I mean that in the best possible way. I know these moments aren’t going to last forever. The kids are going to grow up and go away, and it’s never going to be like this again. I am trying to savor every single moment of it.
Maybe Frank and I have had this all wrong. Maybe the true secret to happiness is not being blissfully unaware that life is going to beat you down, but knowing it is, and still wanting more of it, all of it. Because while there are always going to be a lot of things to “beat you down,” there are way more moments in life that lift you up. This week has been full of those moments, and I am so happy and thankful.
Now, if you would excuse me, there are more memories waiting to be made….
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