good life by lydia petersen
Part of cultivating a good life is doing the things we used to do.
I love to cook, but you wouldn’t know it from my freezer that looks like an aisle at Costco. It used to be lined with food-saver bags of soups, sauces, and the start to a lot of home-cooked meals to come. I went from being a small town, stay-at-home, homeschooling, hobbying (not really a word, I know) mom of six little ones to now running a business in what feels like a very new life halfway across the country. I’ve traded comfy yoga pants and t-shirts for dry cleaned suits and blouses. Instead of having my family together for three meals a day, we all pack a lunch and I eat in my office. My days are different now.
My new life isn’t a surprise. I chose it. I’m living it. In many ways I love it, but maybe it crept up on me a little and I had forgotten a bit of what used to be my everyday life. Sadly, I wasn’t the only one to notice. My 11 year old couldn’t have been more insightful when she said,
“Mom, we’re not the same people we used to be because we don’t do the things we used to do.”
So much of her life had changed, too. She longed for the familiar parts of who we were, just as I did, but couldn’t articulate. For months I repeated her words countless times in my head, but never translated them into action.
Then there was a sale on chicken. How could I not buy eleven pounds? It was on sale! My husband teased me that it was sure to go to waste, so perhaps to prove him wrong, I started a pot of soup on a quiet Sunday evening. Standing over the stove, I thought of my daughter’s words again and felt like the person I used to be. I had set out to cook one pot of soup, but the old me would never have stopped there. In that moment I realized how much I missed myself, and I wanted to keep cooking.
Soon my kids were at my side, sliding stools around looking for the next thing to chop or stir. The trash can was brimming with vegetable peelings and cans. One side of the counter was filled with what was to go into the pots and the other filled with preparations for when it came out. There was a large dinner plate next to the stove because one little spoon rest wasn’t enough. With several dishes going at once, my taste buds were on their recognizable journey — Thailand, Italy, Mexico…and Virginia. I was using the knife I bought with a girlfriend when we went to a just-for-fun, week-long cooking school together four years ago. My feet felt tired, not from wearing heels all day, but from being barefoot on the tile floor. I welcomed feeling like the same person, the same family, doing the things we used to do. This was about more than a pot of soup. We felt connected.
If someone asked you what your hobbies and interests are, would the answer be a list of things you love, but haven’t actually done in years? Are there activities you enjoy as a family, but the demands of life have gotten in the way? What did you do with your spouse when you were dating?
Maybe it’s time to pull out the instrument from high school and play a duet with your 6th grader. Try your hand at some watercolored tulips. Teach your grandkids to fish. Reread your favorite book and remember why you love it. Dust off your sports equipment. Be deliberate. Be creative. Look for ways to include the people you love in the things you used to do and be willing to join in their interests as well.
I enjoy learning new things, but sometimes I feel like an old dog that needs to do an old trick. I not only want to see the everyday but do a little more of what used to be my everyday.
Note from Becky
When I first read Lydia’s words, I found myself tearing up. Part of that is because I connect so much with what she is saying. Part of it is because she writes so poignantly and honestly that I felt like I was right there with her in the kitchen. And part of it is because Lydia and I are deeply connected and I love her so darn much. We met about 30 years ago and we’ve been best friends ever since. She is my very dearest childhood friend. We shared many sleepovers and road trips together. We painted each others’ nails, bought plenty of matching outfits, cooked and sewed together, passed notes in church, and for sure made lists about what qualities we wanted our future husbands to have.
As it turns out, we both married pretty remarkable men who have also become very good friends. I consider Lydia one of the greatest blessings in my life. I know the “old her” she’s talking about, just as well as I know the “person she is now.” Her lifestyle may have taken a huge shift in recent years, but she is still Lydia — kind, intentional, warm, intelligent, and crazy talented. I am completely inspired to reconnect with some of the things I used to do.