My favorite one-liner of all time is in the movie As Good as It Gets, the noodle salad line:
“It’s not true. Some of us have great stories, pretty stories that take place at lakes with boats and friends and noodle salad. Just no one in this car. But, a lot of people, that’s their story. Good times, noodle salad. What makes it so hard is not that you had it bad, but that you’re that pissed that so many others had it good. ”
My childhood was, interesting… Yes, that’s the word for it. On one hand I had everything I could ask for: Good looks, intelligence, a dad who made a lot of money and a mom who wasn’t afraid to spend it – everything should have been perfect. Unfortunately the other side of that coin was really dark, it was the part that gave me the push I needed to drop into full-blown alcoholism before I was old enough to buy alcohol on my own.
Fast forward 21 years of recovery, fixing that which was wrong with me and I can paint a pretty awesome picture of my life. To sum it up in a few short words; Work harder, play harder, love well and let the rest work out in the wash. I’m not perfect but I am good enough for government work and my life is pretty much, finally, good times and noodle salad. Now, would someone else see my life as being all that great? Well, it’s 3:15 am and I’m writing this post rather than sleeping. At 5 am I’ll get in the shower, get ready for work where I’ll climb on top of a mountain of a job that I’m behind the eight ball on and only have eight weeks to complete, whilst playing Monopoly with real money that I don’t have and can’t afford to lose. On the bright side, I’ll leave the office for home at about 3 pm so I can get home and get ready for the Tuesday night club ride. We’ll start the warm up lap (7-10 miles) at 5:10 and the real ride (30 or 33 miles depending) at 6. After, around 7:30, I’ll pack up my bike and head over to Burger King for my favorite Tuesday night dinner. I’ll eat in the car while listening to the Tigers’ game on the radio. After dinner I’ll head home, shower, watch most of the rest of the game and fall asleep on the couch. Tomorrow I’ll do it all over again. There’s a lot of risk in my life, but the rewards are pretty cool too, and my recovery from alcoholism makes the whole ball of wax fun and possible…
Then there are nights like last night… I left from the office and headed home to pick up my wife and kids. After we were all ready, we got in the car and headed down to meet my sister, her son, husband and his daughter for a night of laser tag. To say it was a good time would be an understatement, it was an absolute blast. We played family against family first, then the top two (my wife and my brother-in-law’s daughter) picked teams. After two games we stuck around and played arcade games and skeeball before heading over to my sister’s place for dinner (subs, salad and, humorously enough, noodle salad). Afterward, we sat around and chatted about the evening, keeping an eye on the Tigers game. It was one of those noodle salad nights. No, we weren’t spending an evening enjoying caviar on a yacht in Lake Huron, it was just a simple family evening and we all had a blast.
Here’s the deal: My enjoyment of life isn’t about that highfalutin flash. Sure that’s nice every now and again but where it’s really at, where I find happiness, is in enjoying my life within my means, simply. My happiness is noodle salad, my wife and kids and time spent with my family. For me, that really is as good as it gets (at least for now – only God knows what’s in store for me…).
To Thine Own Self Be True…
All too often we find ourselves competing with the Jones’es. This family can afford a vacation to the Bahamas, that family has a big brand new house… So and so has a brand new sports car and that lady down the street has a $15,000 race bike. When we look at these material things, rarely do we look at what must be given up to afford such things. This is akin to comparing what you feel like on the inside to someone else’s “outside” material possessions. I know what I have, what I can afford and what I can’t. I could have a nicer car and a bigger house and some sweet vacations but at what cost? The price for having more stuff is working longer hours or worse, having my wife hold down a full-time job. I don’t want my wife to have to work though. I like not having to help with the laundry and dealing with the kids’ homework. I like not having to go to parent/teacher conferences… Doing those things would take even more of what time I have – my wife and I function as a perfect team in this regard. Instead of the noodle salad moment I had last night, I’d have been stuck in the office. Instead of all of those miles I ride, I’d be putting the daily rides off until I was able to retire – hoping that I made it safe and healthy to retirement in the first place.
Instead, we opt for a bit of a simpler, vastly happier life today. This is our choice and as long as I keep my attention where it belongs, on my balance (and “stuff”), I remain a very happy man. It’s only when I covet what others have (without looking at what they give up to have it) that I find myself jealous. It is then that I choose to covet someone else’s noodle salad, and I fail to see the heaping plateful sitting in front of me.