Whenever you are faced with a choice between liberty and security, choose liberty. Otherwise you will end up with neither. People who sell their souls for the promise of a secure job and a secure salary are spat out as soon as they become dispensable. The more loyal to an institution you are, the more exploitable, and ultimately expendable, you become…You know you have only one life. You know it is a precious, extraordinary, unrepeatable thing: the product of billions of years of serendipity and evolution. So why waste it by handing it over to the living dead? —George Monbiot
It’s easy to ghost through our waking life. Play the part of a somnambulant — a body that moves mechanically, with no purpose or passion. We live to be cartographed and programmed, and we cleave all too delicately to the everyday certainties that threaten to undo us: the traffic that is relentless, the job we slumber to, the boss who is possibly psychopathic, the beloved with whom we settle because considering options becomes a tiresome proposition.
My pop suffers from stiffened joints that make it sometimes difficult for him to walk, and when I press him on this, when I ask him to see a doctor, he says he’d rather carry this discomfort because the risk taken to learn that he may be sick, that something may be gravely wrong is too much from him to bear. So he chooses to live with this disquiet, this numb leg and the stiffness on a limb that used to move nimble, quick. I’m quiet as I know how far I can push him, that there might be a moment where his silence matches my own.
I have a friend who tells me she’s getting OUT. She says this in a voice that implies she’s speaking in all caps, and she often sends me notes reaffirming her need to quit his job. But the money’s so damn good, and it’s not all that bad, even during the dark moments when it is that bad. Sometimes she tells me that she’s an adult and it’s not like we’re twenty-three anymore; it’s not as if the world is still filled with so much possibility. There are mortgages to pay, purses to buy, expensive meds to refill. She sells herself a lemon life, and she’s masterful at it. Other times, late, she sends me texts and tells me that she lives vicariously through me, a single artist who can indulge in such flights! of! fancy!, and I have to remind her of my $130,000 student loan debt, the five-figure credit card debt, and, oh by the way, this artist has been working as a professional marketer for seventeen years. There is no flight of fancy. There is no ticker tape of golden skin on a Fijian beach, rather there is a decision to live your life uncomfortably comfortable or live your life with all the bandaids ripped off. And this puts me to thinking that sometimes a mortgage is not too far from a mortuary, and that safe is probably the more dangerous of all the four-letter words. Safe tells you that the world no longer glints and gleams, that there is no Santa Claus. Safe tells you that in 401K, we trust. Safe tells you that you’re an adult now, you can no longer dream now, the world is closing in on you now. Safe tells us you that your story has already been written.
We chose the hand we know we can play rather than the terrain undiscovered.
Seven years ago, I stopped drinking and told myself that I’d lead a safe, controlled life. I created routines, only cleave to that which was familiar, and I told myself to get serious about the business of being an adult. Because I’m someone who observes the extremes, I interpreted safe as the antithesis of reckless. No longer would I be the twenty-five-year old who brought drugs on a plane and woke up in a different state. No longer would I play detective with crumbled up receipts and call records. I got a cat and I lived this very vibrant and verbose life, online, but rarely did I leave my phone. And for a while this worked until my home and office resembled one another in the sense that they resembled the inside of a tomb. I wasn’t living life, I was hiding it from it with over 140-character count witticism and perfectly composed blog post. Exasperated, a friend once shouted through tears that I was impenetrable, and even after listening to my friend in pain nothing registered. I couldn’t feel anything, and it would be a year later until I’d realize that I traded in one form of anaesthesia (alcohol) for another (solitary confinement). It would be two years later until I’d started the long road to repair that friendship, to open all the doors and let people in.
When I read George Monbiot’s article, I paused because it reminded me that there is no joy living in the extremes, of inhabiting a word until it becomes you, and you are only defined by how you are not living. His words articulated that there is something brilliant and beautiful in the middle of reckless and safe, that there is color and sound and feeling in taking giant leaps of self-faith. As a woman inching toward 40 I’m finding that I need to revisit children’s books because they remind me that a story survives on its own velocity, that it can always be retold and rewritten as long as it’s good. As long as that story keeps a child’s eyes wide, but then softly sings them into a slumber.
So far I’ve booked trips to Ireland (a journey with my pop who’s from Dublin) and India this year, and while I still don’t know how my story ends, I like the art of writing it, and rewriting it as I go.
All this thought while working from home, making biscuits.
INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of A Pastry Affair.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) cold butter
2 tbsp fresh dill, minced
1 cup (4 ounces) cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 + 2 tbsp cup heavy cream
1/3 cup milk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees (220 degrees C).
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or with two forks until mixture resembles a coarse sand. Mix in the fresh dill and cheddar cheese. Gradually pour in the heavy cream and milk, mixing until just combined.
Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface and bring together until it forms a ball. If you need to knead the dough to bring it together, do so but no more than 10-12 times. Flatten the dough ball to roughly an 1-inch thick round and, using a 2-inch round cookie cutter or drinking glass of equivalent size dipped in flour, cut out biscuits until all dough is used. Place biscuits on a baking sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until tops of biscuits are lightly browned.