This I Believe

Essie - Nashville, Tennessee
Entered on March 17, 2007
Age Group: 65+


I believe we are all born lopsided and spend the rest of our lives trying to stand up straight.

Sometimes I wonder why things have taken me so long to learn. Like cleaning house without thinking my mother has won, because Lord knows I had so few ways of rebelling, and that was one. But now I find I do like order and I’ve forgiven her for trying to teach me what I needed to know.

And I wonder why it took me so long to learn to send flowers without arguing with my father about FTD extortion and all the ways corporations have thought up to make us spend money. Now I believe he was right, but these days it seems less important to have to be right than to be able to show love.

It took me a long time to learn to live in one place without wishing I were somewhere else, to write a poem without wishing I were Shakespeare, to go to work because that’s what one does without having to picture myself as a bag lady before I could get out of bed, to watch my children surpass me without envy.

I was stubborn about learning to walk the dog because he needs it without thinking I’m a bad mother if I don’t, and to take him to the vet without feeling conned because, used to, we didn’t do designer dogs and the vet was for when your dog got hurt and otherwise the county rabies round up was enough.

I had a hard time learning to do what’s prudent, like locking the doors at night or getting a mammogram or filing my income tax on time, without having to scare myself silly first; to hear Renee Fleming sing without thinking I have wasted my life; to pray, just because, without a precipitating crisis; to navigate without a map.

I know I was born lopsided, but who would have thought my little pile of withouts, paltry though it is, would be the worthy work of a lifetime?