Jenny Cutler Lopez is a Canadian Author and Blogger.
In her new book “Who I Am: American Scar Stories” she looks at the lives of those that live with scars.
I’m very proud to feature Jenny’s guest post where she looks at who happiness is to her.
Ever since we first met as kids, I’ve tried my damnedest to be your best friend. I would hear rumors about where to find you; in elementary school, I’d look for you at birthday parties and the toy section at K-Mart. But I guess no one knew what they were talking about as I only remember us hanging out in the winter sledding down huge hills in the woods and of course we had those secret meet-ups at the library. Remember how much fun we had working our way through summer reading lists. I never told anyone about those months together. In high school, it’s like you tucked tail and ran. I figured you took to hanging out at the popular kid’s parties.
Years later in college, my brother told me he saw you around at the gym. He was right. Do you remember how hard we worked out, lifting weights, running, eating clean. Looking back those were our best years together; you sat next to me in almost every history class and we read all those Anthony Robbins and Stephen Covey books, practicing positive affirmations and goal setting exercises. But when life got busy, when it got real, you took off.
I’m a sucker for punishment or maybe just tenacious because a few years later when I heard you spent time overseas, I made sure I got a scholarship to visit your motherland. I figured we’d meet up, rekindle our relationship. My mistake. India is ginormous. Where were you? Knowing you, you probably practiced yoga at one of those naked retreats in Pune with a gaggle of rich French women. Wherever you ended up, I didn’t see you stumbling alongside me trying to make sense of India’s trash heaps and motherless, homeless, hope-less children. All I know is you were hell and gone from that display on a public bus when I tried to decipher what the leper was mumbling as he ripped open his shirt to show me his wet, sagging flesh. While you meditated on your heart chakra, I struggled with how to give the leper a few rupees: in his crumbling fingers or in his blood stained shirt pocket. Yeah, you missed that one.
I moved around, married, had two kids; thanks for coming to see the babies at the hospital. But in those first few years, I asked my new mom friends about you more than once. Some told me you swung by to have coffee with them in the early-bird hours. Early-early: the pre-dawn hours before little kids wake up. So I’d set my alarm so you could set my daily temperament. But mostly I’d sit alone, sip my coffee, and stare through the window wishing I was back in bed.
Last summer I thought about you a lot. By then, it’d been years since there had been an us. I’ll never forget one afternoon in particular– me in a wicker chair in the backyard. I stared at the trees, not thinking about you but about the true stories I’d recently written. I admit it: I cried. I thought about John’s description of the dialysis clinic; Philip missing pre-K because of chemo treatments; BethAnn learning she had three years to live just as she was about to start a family. I cried over Courtney and her mom talking over whether the doctor should amputate Courtney’s leg. I wept over the words Jim used to describe burying his baby. I pictured Amy lying in bed on Valentine’s Day as a sixteen year old writing her goodbyes to her parents after hearing she had a week to leave.
I turned 38 this year and it’s taken me that long to realize this letter is long overdue. I’m sorry Happiness but you’re a fair weather friend. No offense. You’re always a laugh and anytime you swing by, I love to hang out but I simply can’t depend on you. I could tell you this in person considering you’ve dropped by a lot lately but I do better with the written word. I figure you’re dropping by now that I’ve stopped chasing you. I know how reverse psychology works in a relationship but believe me, I’m not playing games. I’m not chasing you anymore because you’re my party friend. What I need is loyalty. Plus I’ve met someone new.
Not long after that afternoon in the backyard, on one of those quiet, cloudy type of days, a warm breeze stirring up the leaves, I walked the path behind my house. This time when I thought again about the people in my book, I didn’t cry. Instead, I felt something new. A stirring, then a quake of…gratitude. Real gratitude. To use an clichéd term, authentic gratitude. My whole world shook right there, dust flying, thoughts jumping, and then my world resettled. I knew then what I know now as I write this letter. I want a few things: to write more books, to visit new countries, to save up for the kid’s futures but I also know life is good as it stands; in fact the grass couldn’t be any greener.
And in all this, guess who walked around the corner?
Grace. Remember her from high school? I all but ignored her back then because whenever we came face to face at a party, she’d spout an embarrassing hippie-dippie platitude like “Gratitude shifts your perception to change the world you see,” or she’d laugh as she’d try to imitate Humphrey Bogart: “Ya know Jenny, things aren’t so bad, they can’t be made worse.” I’d roll my eyes. I mean whatever dude I’m just looking for another beer.
This time when I saw her, I smiled. I mean I was so relieved to see her. She smiled back at me and said in the funniest Woody Allen New Yorker accent, “You know friend it’s all, as they say, a matter of perspective.” And we’ve been inseparable ever since.
Jenny is a Canadian living in Virginia with her husband, two kids, and three black cats. She loves weightlifting, wontons, and reading.
Her latest book Who I Am: American Scar Stories launches 2 June 2014.
To find out more about Jenny or her writing, please visit http://jennycutlerlopez.com/