I have this theory…which is that as we grow older, at some point—and this might come at 30 or 60, because it’s really not about age—if we're honest and willing to be ourselves, we begin to slough off all those things in our life which are not important. Habits and interests which fail to reflect who we are. Clutter which holds no meaning. Stuff which keeps getting tangled underfoot because we really don’t care.
Such a course change requires courage, obviously, because you’re no longer hiding behind pretension, but beginning to drop the mask and reveal the real you. Egads!
Nope, such a road won't always prove easy, especially at first. It’s hard to decline to do something you’ve done before; intimidating to try something you’ve never tried, but always wanted to do. And even tougher to do this in front of your friends.
What will your friends think? Will they be disappointed? Shocked? Amused? Does your friendship thrive because of who you are…or who you’re not? By how you fit into their lives rather than they into yours?
I suggest you counter by asking yourself this…do you care? Or is it, perhaps, time to find new friends?
However, this new path has its rewards, the corollary of personal freedom, which makes room for meaning and fulfillment. Not because you've lowered your sights, or downsized your expectations; it isn’t the outgrowth of lessening values. It’s because so many things that occupied space and demanded time and energy were empty, unsatisfying, valueless. We might not have been willing to admit this, but we knew, deep down, how we really always felt. It wasn't us; didn't fit.
You see this with ever greater clarity as you begin to enjoy being yourself, as truly meaningful things start to take their rightful place—and time and space and energy becomes yours. Freedom is always a reward worth seeking. As is honesty and truth.
I thought about this while I was sitting in the rocker on my front deck, stringing and breaking a mess of half-runner beans. The river was chuckling merrily along. Cicadas were ratcheting from the hackberries and box elders. The hummingbirds were squeaking and squabbling over whose turn it was to sip sugar water from the feeder.
The beans came from an older neighbor lady up the road who sells her excess garden produce from a makeshift table in front of her garage. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, garlic, sweet corn. The price is right, and the items are fresh-picked, organically-grown, and of excellent quality. I’m lucky to have such a handy source of good vegetables.
I’d been hoping she would have extra half-runner beans this year. I grew up eating home-grown beans—half-runners, Kentucky wonders, rattkesnakes, old homesteads. Beans you had to string and break…but beans with real flavor. None of those no-work, no-taste varieties.
Cooked slowly in a kettle with a bit of salt pork for a couple of hours, until tender, and served with fresh green onions, sliced cucumbers, tomatoes still warm from the sun, and a pone of genuine cornbread—none of that sweetened stuff!—with a pat of butter slipped inside the steaming wedge. Oh, my…oh, my…oh, my!
A simple pleasure. But then, it turns out when I’m not chasing false dreams, I’m a pretty simple guy, in a maybe complicated sort of way.
And on this beautiful Sunday morning, with sunlight streaming through the sycamore leaves, the land lush and green and vibrant with life—and the old, familiar, wonderful scent of half-runner beans cooking on the kitchen stove, it's delightful fragrance occasionally wafting out to where I sit rocking on my deck to remind me of the pleasures ahead—I’m also very, very rich.