If I were inventing life, it would be like a brand-new box of Crayola No. 64. Forget the box of chocolates from “Forrest Gump” fame. I can still feel the thrill of holding that box of crayons in my hands each fall as school began – unused, unopened – the wonders of which were yet to be realized. Opening the box was a revelation. The expanded color wheel from the old 16 to 18 offered by No. 64 took the creator to new levels. Be gone No. 48!
And then, there they were – four rows of 16 each – standing in perfect uniformity sharpened to a perfect point. Of course, there was the coveted Crayola “Red.” Those bold three letters needed no further explanation or witty adjective. Red always was my first choice out of the box and matched perfectly the hair ribbons holding my pig tails.
No. 64 is the essence of perfection and control. Four rows of 16 crayons contained in four cardboard boxes are set stadium style so each color has equal visibility almost from any angle. Simply put, it is a piece of engineering perfection. Just try to squeeze 17 where 16 belong. Unlikely, if not impossible! And the frustration brought on by broken crayons? Forget that! The built-in crayon sharpener practically ensures many more hours of creating. Anger be banished!
Ah, if life were only as controlled and transparent as a No. 64. Yeah, right, in my dreams.
I like labels.
I like neat rows.
I like the known variable.
I need order.
Newsflash! Life rarely gives us those things.
When I look back on my life prior to marriage at the age of 40, I almost laugh at the measures I undertook to keep order and control in my single life. My small apartment in the city was kept pristinely clean. The triple-digit square footage didn’t even require moving electrical outlets when vacuuming to clean all the floors. The mirrored surfaces shone to perfection. I worked hard to follow all the rules for perfect living: eat organically, workout regularly, visit the dentist quarterly, and sleep eight hours each night.
I won’t bore you with continuing down the very long list. B-o-r-i-n-g.
This was life prior to answering the three questions and doing something every day that scares me from my previous posts. It was carefully controlled living, and I undertook it to avoid as much risk as possible. After all, hadn’t I been through enough already? I had "survivor" status, right? What I have come to realize over the past decade, however, is that I wasn’t truly living. Living life by the No. 64 terms can be comfortable, but it is missing the point entirely.
Truly living is messy.
Real people are messy.
Each day is unpredictable.
I am messy.
My life began to change and 2012 happened. In the 24-hour period in which I turned 40 and married for the first time, I went from single, career girl in the city to married, stepmother in the country.
I traded in my tiny, mirrored surface apartment for a house many times the size that held children on five acres in the country. I added many titles to my name that never had existed for me: wife, stepmother, aunt, great-aunt, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, and parent/guardian. It all changed in 24 hours. It was as if life threw the box of No. 64 to the ground and stomped it into tiny wax bits. Real living with No. 64 is impossible. But, the story does not end there...
I still tried.
I still try sometimes.
Into that change I carried my No. 64 expectations with me. If I were good enough, couldn’t I keep things brilliantly clean? If I were a perfect wife and stepmother, wouldn’t everyone be happy, healthy, and comfortable. Conflict, oh that certainly wouldn’t exist. Right? Past success practically ensures future success. Doesn’t it? What once was a good decision always will be the right decision moving forward. Correct? To all of these I say – Wrong!
Life doesn’t stack up in neat rows.
When mistakes happen, there aren’t always quick fixes at our fingertips.
Life can still be painful and hard even when you make sound choices.
I struggle with all of this – even in the past 24 hours.
No. 64 still appeals to me. The idea that everything can be sharpened to perfection and have its designated place in a clearly defined row is what I think I want. It makes me less afraid. I work each day to pack No. 64 away because I know it isn’t the answer. Some days it’s easier than others. But here’s the deal, we need fear. Fear is like a tell-tale. It points us toward the right direction: true love, shaping lives, undertaking work that means something, and taking risks with the whole heart forward. You know, the messy stuff of life. The stuff that doesn’t fit into neat rows.
My sister showed me this quote yesterday, and I think about it with No. 64 on my mind.
Fear, like joy, usually means that you’re exactly where you should be,
learning what you’re ready to learn,
about to become more than who you were.
(Posted on Facebook Project Bloom. No author cited.)
Becoming more than who we were... Even the Ultimate No.152 available today can’t contain that!