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The Best of Times, the Worst of Times
By Gloria Diaz
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Fort Wayne Reader
It seems fitting that last year, the best year of my life, would be followed by the worst year of my life. Since I love contrasts, itís almost as if it was designed this way. To be honest though, I donít really like it. It has certainly been a learning experience, and hopefully the bad times will slowly ebb away, but my sharply reduced income has made me realize I appreciate the simple things in life.
Realization number one is that I appreciate my home, particularly my backyard. Sure, it could be cleaner, but I am happy I have two big trees in the yard that provide shade so that Iíve hardly had to use the air conditioner this summer. The only times I turned it on were when I was boiling some ears of corn late at night. The humidity really built up, so I turned on the A/C while I enjoyed some delicious sweet corn purchased at a parking lot in Decatur. Instead of looking forward to going out to a restaurant, which I didnít do much of these past few months, Iíd look forward to grilling burgers and hotdogs in my yard at home. Iíd take my laptop with me, so I could surf the Internet or work on some writing. I watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics outside, until I felt like going in. Extension cords are a great thing.
Realization number two is that when I really want to, I can save money. My creativity and imagination means I can come up with some cool, inexpensive presents if I want to, one-of-a-kind originals that Martha Stewart wouldnít think of, like covering a paper-machť box with scrambled Enquirer headlines, further modified with pictures of a friend. Being a pack rat and having several yearsí worth of craft items scattered around the house mean that when I want to whip up some unique fridge magnets, I can do it. Custom greeting cards arenít a problem either, with the pack of 50 blank cards I bought to make Kentucky Derby party invites six years ago. (That galloping horse stamp will turn up someday, I bet.)
Realization number three is accepting the fact that Iíll always be running behind. I didnít graduate college on time, I didnít fall in love until I was practically middle-aged, and maybe someday, Iíll have a real career, it will just take time.
Realization number four is not taking things for granted. When I was fully employed, I spent God knows how much money on restaurant food, knick-knacks and clothes I didnít use or wear, hair care products, and makeup. This summer, it came down to basics. I couldnít buy fast food today, because those six dollars I would spend could buy me a few pounds of hamburger that would last for a week or more. Putting off buying gas for my car meant I could feed my dog and the stray kitten I rescued in May. Money has become a problem, mainly because I donít have enough of it right now. As you read this, things will have probably become much better for me, but as a friend pointed out to me, you never know what the future may hold. I may be jobless as you read this; I may have bought a winning Powerball ticket and moved to Toronto. Time will tell.
Realization number five is time either goes too slow (like at work) or too fast (real life.) While watching the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games, I was scared to realize 1988 was 20 years ago. Dara Torres swimming in her fifth Olympics at 41 made me wonder what I had to show for in life. To some people, Iíve done a lot, but being super-critical of myself, Iíve done hardly anything. 1988 seems more like five years ago. But it wasnít. I was in college, had stomach problems, and started a diet and exercise plan that got a bit obsessive. After about a year of being a size seven, I wanted to eat the foods I grew up with. And I gained weight and havenít lost it since. With it came the realization that you donít have to be a size two to be in a relationship, and itís more fun to be with a guy who likes pizza and ice cream as much as you do, and is willing to share.
Realization number six is that nothing stays the same. My dreams are still there, but I may not reach them. Or I may reach them in a way that I never thought of. And Iíve learned that I seem to land on my feet. Something good happens that keeps me going. And good things can be discovered where you least expect them.
I saw a magnet ribbon on someoneís car that went against the usual ďSupport the TroopsĒ and ďFind a CureĒ slogans you see. This one read, ďJust Pretend Itís All Okay.Ē Maybe we have to, in order to get through it all.