Yesterday I turned the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything! years old. Today, I was in the mood to bake, so I was thinking while I shipped up a couple of pies and some quick bread. I have been craving pumpkin pie – as my readers will recall from my last post – and I wanted to get back into the Vintage Kitchen, so I picked up my Great-Grandma Ella’s Grange cookbook and found a recipe in it. I knew it was the right one to use, because she’d made a small note just above the title: Good.
But it got me thinking, as I was peeling apples for the other pie. I come from a long line of women who are comfortable in the kitchen, or in the garden, or hiking through miles of wilderness. They taught me, and I’m trying to teach my offspring, how to cook over open fires or how to bake a good loaf of bread, or how to use everything… even the apple peels. I could make jelly out of them. I won’t, because I don’t have the time at the moment, but I know how to use every bit of the pig except for the squeal. That’s a good metaphor for life, there. Make it do, use everything wisely, and if you can’t… do without. And be content with it.
Contentment in where you are is a difficult lesson. There’s a difference between being stagnant and in a rut, and being voraciously ambitious to the point where absolutely nothing will satisfy you. I’ve learned to be happy in situations that would make most modern Americans blench. It still makes me chuckle when I’m talking about growing up with no running water or electricity and people ask ‘what about TV?’ I really try hard not to respond with another question: ‘you’re a special kind of stupid, aren’t you?’ And you know, there’s something to be said for living off the grid. There’s also something to be said for central heat, air, hot water on demand, and internet. But I have no desire to live in a mansion. I like our modest little home, which to both the First Reader and I feels positively palatial after some of the places we’ve called home. We work hard for it, and we’ve earned our nest. It’s a good place. It feels good to come home to it after a long day of work, and to kick back on the porch chatting. Am I going to settle for this, and look no further? No, I still have dreams and goals to reach. But having a place to rest for a little before climbing onward is wonderful.
And maybe that’s the answer. To have love and support. To be able to rest and not slog ceaselessly onward with no reward in sight. What I think is a great reward might not thrill you at all. What you dream of might leave me cold. We all have bare basic minimums in life: food, shelter, water. But beyond that? I want to be out of debt so we can fully support the kids in reaching their dreams. I want to be able to give back to the community that helped me when I was struggling. It wasn’t financial, except in rare cases, but the time and kindness and encouragement cost them nothing and enriched me beyond words. So I do stuff like participating in this upcoming fundraiser for disabled veterans (I’ll put up more on this later) or private contributions when a friend is in trouble. It’s not much, now, but later? I want to be able to help without having to balance the budget first. And the stuff that doesn’t involve money – well, to be honest, time is almost harder to come up with. But I do try, by writing for MGC, and being willing to answer any and all questions about being an Indie Author and running a micro business for almost two decades now. Maybe it could help someone. maybe my talking here on the blog about surviving abuse and learning to fully live my life again will help someone. That’s my goal.
Contentment is the answer. Learning to accept that there are limitations on life, and they can be worked around. Not being willing to settle, but not whining about life circumstances always. Pushing yourself to get better, do more… but not pushing yourself into collapse and exhaustion. Baking when you have a chance, because few things are more satisfying than feeding people you love.