note: originally published on August 7, 2013 at http://calvinwritersonline.org/superlative-syndrome/
I am regularly teased for using too many superlative phrases. “This is the best,” I will often proclaim. Another one of my favorites is, “This is all I have ever wanted,” which I have been known to use in a situation as daily and simple as reading a well-worn book with a warm cup of coffee. I realize that I can’t keep telling multiple people, “You are my favorite person!” and I should probably stop referring to certain vacations, or even fun-filled weekend excursions, as “the best trip ever!” A friend once told me that I couldn’t keep telling people that swimming out to the sand bar at the beach was “SO much fun” because then, what will I say when we actually do something that is extraordinary?
But the truth is, it was so much fun, and all of my friends are my favorite in their own way. Sleeping in is my favorite. Waking up early is my favorite. Cooking healthy food is my favorite. Eating mac and cheese for days? Also my favorite.
Can’t we love it all?
I am comforted by the fact that I am not the only one who has been faced with this problem. Kerouac, for one, was puzzled by the fact that he had too many ideas and passions. “I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another til I drop,” he writes in On the Road. It is in this book that he also writes, “the only people for me are the mad ones…desirous of everything at the same time. ”
I hate making decisions. Put me in front of a Redbox and I will be there for upwards of twenty minutes. I prefer to order last when eating at a restaurant, in hopes that the pressure of everyone turning to me, the waiter’s hand outstretched to retrieve my menu, will force me into finally choosing between the vegetable pad thai and the fish tacos.
Do I embrace new adventures joyfully because I can’t make decisions? Because I need a change? Or because there is a good chance that I will love it?
In early July, I spent a week in Alberta, where my best friend and former roommate, Emily, had grown up. Ultimately, I was there to be a bridesmaid in her wedding.
The wedding was at her dairy farm, and everything about the experience was beautifully rustic. Remembering the way Emily had thrown herself into my family’s New York life when she visited my my hometown (despite the “I’m the only blonde person on the subway!” comment), I was excited to experience everything about the dairy farm where my best friend grew up.
So I let baby calves with rough tongues suck on my fingers before I unpacked and followed Emily up a dangerously rickety staircase to a hayloft. I listened eagerly to every detail about how Holsteins are bred and how often the government milk truck comes and when and how the oldest son of the family is going to inherit the farm — all while riding around muddy roads in the John Deere Gator.
I stopped caring about whether or not I was getting dust on my white shorts or cow manure on my shoes. I jumped at the opportunity to drive Emily’s father’s farm truck to pick up more wedding attendees and friends from the airport. After driving around the nearby downtown area with them for a while, to purchase wedding gifts and such, I jokingly commented, “This city driving is exhausting! I need to get back to the farm!” A good friend called me out, “Caroline. You grew up twenty minutes from New York City. Stop pretending to be a farm girl.”
I surprised myself with my genuine love for the country life. I could see the appeal of growing up in a place where you are sometimes awakened by your father getting up at 5:30 am to milk the cows, sometimes spend your afternoons running through fields and around your mother’s vegetable garden, and sometimes spend evenings swinging on big wooden swings that your grandfather built.
I loved the way the wedding party and relatives from afar congregated and camped on the farm, dozens of people arriving days before the wedding to contribute their hands and hearts. During the day, groomsmen climbed trees and hung twinkle lights and constructed the dance floor, while aunts and cousins set tables and folded place-cards. At night someone inevitably built a campfire which was then encircled by everyone from small children to grandparents, us kids in our twenties being the last to linger over the smoking embers. It grew amazingly cold (we could see our breath) and one night the northern lights were just visible enough for the out-of-towners to stand in awe only to hear the locals say, “This is nothing.”
After watching an incredible sunset from the end of Emily’s gravel driveway, I was ready to buy a piece of land, raise a family down the road, and never look back. As I considered my options and prayed a two-word prayer I read once in a book by Annie Dillard (“Last forever!”), the photographer in me came once again to believe that everything and everyone is beautiful in the right lighting. But this–right now–is my favorite.