Dear Oprah: I Confess I Have Not Been 'Living My Best Life'

So I guess what I’m doing here isn’t so much fessing up to not living my best life, but asking a question: Is it possible to be living your best life, even if you’re exhausted?

Dear Oprah,

I write today as a lifelong fan. My memories of you predate any other pop culture icon I can think of, save possibly Kermit the Frog. It is precisely the longevity of your impact on my life that makes what I must admit so very difficult.

Growing up, my mother put your talk show on the TV every afternoon, and I watched from the couch, happily, like many a millennial. (I’m not a Snake Person, and it’s sad I feel the need to clarify that, but just in case some sneaky intern put that stupid extension on your computer, it’s m-i-l-l-e-n-n-i-a-l, not reptilian).

At any rate, you were always someone I looked up to, a woman whose endless unflappability, easy humor, and wondrous common sense found a loyal fan in yours truly. That admiration carried on through the years, from the initially devastating end of your titular daytime show through the successful launch of O Magazine and on into the OWN network. Super Soul Sunday? Yes. Yes, please.

And yet, despite all that, I must now confess: I have not been living my best life.

Ack! Where to begin? It’s not as if I set out to live anything less than “my best life.” Certainly, it’s an aspiration I, well... aspire to. One I think about daily.

But there’s not much time for thought, what with young children. They’re drawn to dirt and dangerous uses of furniture. They’re wily. Most importantly, they outnumber me. 

It was strange and rather upsetting to encounter a basic fact of parenthood: it is a full-time job, yes, but that’s just if you’re completing the minimum. I always imagined that the poor souls skulking about Wal-Mart, brood in tow, must be trying too hard. Look at that tired, haggard face, that stringy, unwashed hair, that baggy, fashionless outfit...  

If these desperate parents would just relax, just let their kids be kids, just get a regular shower going in their orbital path…

Then I had some children myself. And I discovered a brutal truth about time: there is never even close to enough.

I suppose it seems that “my best life” is one where I have time and financial dollars to foster sick baby goats back to health, while also homeschooling all my kiddos, with ample hours left for one-on-one muscle toning and stretching sessions, and perhaps a quilting circle with close friends too…

Feeding, clothing, and watching young children demands a full day. A load of laundry or dishes crammed in here or there is a genuine accomplishment, deserving of far more praise than it ever gets (which is, of course, none).

Going beyond that “bare minimum” is an undertaking. It is real labor — an enormous tax on the brain’s capabilities. Sometimes, it makes demands in the way of physical labor too.

If I want to, say, bake cookies with my kids, that’s another trip to the grocery store, mental energy planning ahead of time (lay out all the necessary kitchen equipment and apportioned ingredients), and extra duty on the hawkeye front (oven + kids = nerves all hella shot).

Revelation: there are days when not only is no time available for a shower, but one passes the entire 24 hours without even registering the lack of said shower at all. I was suddenly that skulking parent at the Wal-Mart — oily hair, ill-fitting clothes, free of both makeup and any semblance of sophistication...

 

Related: Signs You Might Be An Entitled Millennial Who's Ruining Everything

 

Also, I want to exercise. “Move,” to use the perfectly P.C. parlance of our time. It is part of living my best life, without question. But it’s hard out in the ‘burbs. There are sidewalks, sure, but hardly anyone uses them. More importantly, once kids no longer fit or will oblige themselves to be transported via stroller, taking a walk takes on a whole new meaning.

It’s chasing a tot on hot pavement. It’s stopping every five seconds to examine a new bug, or flower, or blade of grass, or crack in the concrete.

There’s a lot of exertion, and it is exhausting. But exercise? Alas, it is not.

I think if I had a few hours to really imagine “my best life,” I would conclude that dream time with something similar to Apricot Lane Farms, and I can admit that now. There would be sheep, a pig, some chickens, plenty of trees, shiplap barns, and not a computer or television screen in sight. (Basically, Joanna Gaines.)

But acreage is pricey, animals too, and having an at least elementary knowledge of farming, or even vague notion of weather patterns, does seem a prerequisite if one is to take up living off the land.

I don’t know where I’d do pilates or pure barre or adult ballet out on a farm, either. Should my crops and livestock sales prove profitable, I suppose I could hire a private instructor. Set up a gorgeous, sunlit studio on the premises…

Of course, it’s been ages since I’ve done pilates or pure barre or adult ballet here, and there are ready-made options at my disposal.

I suppose it seems that “my best life” is one where I have time and financial dollars to foster sick baby goats back to health, while also homeschooling all my kiddos, with ample hours left for one-on-one muscle toning and stretching sessions, and perhaps a quilting circle with close friends too…

To be totally frank with you, Oprah, living my best life also includes being featured on your Super Soul Sunday show, since my childhood dream of one day appearing as a featured guest on your weekday talk show is, sadly, no longer an option.

And yet, if all cards are on the table now… there are moments when I’m putting the little ones to sleep, and their tiny hand catches mine, and they sleep whisper some offhand thought about their favorite sea creature, and I really think: this is my best life.

There’s a tree outside my window that might look at first like every other tree on this street, and the next one over, and the one after that. But the truth is, it’s quite different. There’s a baby hummingbird that perches on the same branch, every morning, for no reason I can ascertain, except that it prefers this tree in particular above all the others.

And I watch that little bird and sometimes have to wonder: could this really not be living my best life?

I know my generation is struggling: with bills, with relationships, with mental health, with general cynicism, with just about everything.

And still: I talk with my friends, and coworkers, and they are funny and kind and open-minded, open-hearted… desperately hopeful.

It makes me wonder: if we are not living our best lives, then how to explain all that goodness in the face of crummy times?

So I guess what I’m doing here isn’t so much fessing up to not living my best life, but asking a question: Is it possible to be living your best life, even if you’re exhausted?

Even if you don’t “move” so much anymore?

Even if you don’t take daily ginormous risks?

Even if you sometimes don’t leave a ten block radius for days?

Even if most anyone else looking in from the outside would sanely judge your daily use of time “inefficient,” “too predictable,” or even “depressing”?

I hope the answer is yes.

Sincerely,

Questioning What LMBL Even Means Anymore

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Image Credit: Flickr/Vic


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