This is not a simple question.

I’m not talking about the person sitting next to you, your life partner, your precious children. Not your parents or your siblings or the best friend who sat by your bedside when you were really sick.

That’s not what I mean.

In the book and the movie, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, the main character asks his university students, "Is there a Pakistani dream? And if so, what does that look like?"
In the book and the movie, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, the main character asks his university students, “Is there a Pakistani dream? And if so, what does that look like?”

I mean, what is your life about?

What do you love? Who do you prefer? What drives your days and keeps you awake at night?

Is this a life built on the right priorities? Or a life focused on acquiring and achieving and checking off a to-do list so you can make it, keep up, compare?

When we compare, a dear friend says, we fracture our souls.

When we measure up or down, we die a little inside.

So, what will it be? Who will it be? What are the core values of your life?

If you say you prize peace, are you sure you don’t argue needlessly?

If you say you want to help the poor, eradicate poverty, feed the hungry, is it lip service or is your life directed to making that happen?

We are raised on the phrase “The American Dream” – which used to consist of buying a house, moving “UP,” owning a car, taking vacations. The next big thing money could buy.

I think that dream has died.

Our economic stance today is a different one, of two-income homes by necessity and meager retirement accounts, if any exist at all. Yesterday, my daughter proclaimed that when she grows up, she wants to be a stay-at-home mom.

dilapidated greenhouses on Belle Isle
dilapidated greenhouses on Belle Isle

“Then if my kids forget something, I don’t have to tell them I’m working and I can’t bring it to school,” she explained.

“I can bake more. I’ll have more time to get things done. I can be with my kids.”

I didn’t take it as an indictment at all because it wasn’t. I work, yes, but I am with my kids and most of the time I can bring whatever it is they forget. (Although I may choose not to, but that’s for a blog on the Love and Logi

Kristi Gnyp and me, selfie, after our photo shoot last night
Kristi Gnyp and me, selfie, after our photo shoot last night

c approach to parenting.)

I took it as my daughter setting her priorities straight and building a life of meaning according to her values. And I applaud her for it.

In the front seat, my son played devil’s advocate.

“But you might need to work, because your family might need the money,” he said. “If you want to bake, you can do that as a job.”

He meant well, of course. He was trying to be practical and show his sister that she can balance work and home life, career and kids, like I do.

I’ve long said that if I didn’t have to work, I probably would anyway – just not as much and not quite in my current capacity.

Life is short. Why say “If … then” and not act on it? Why remain enslaved to the status quo if we would rather have a life that looks different?

I know it’s easier said than done. But I repeat the question: what is your life about? What is your American Dream?

Last night, I posed for photos in the cold waters of the Detroit River. Yes, I took off my shoes and stepped foot in the clear water. I balanced on a smooth boulder beneath the surface. I smiled into the wind. I watched sailboats slink past.

Life was … perfect.

A humid evening in the city that I love, and people came out from all walks of life to sit on the grass, eat a picnic dinner, fish in the clear waters.

There were families and young lovers, fathers with fishing poles and their sons following at their heels.

My friend and photographer, Kristi Gnyp, says that the best shots come at the end of the photo shoot. That’s when the subject is most comfortable and the chemistry between photographer and subject is flowing.

the White House, Belle Isle
the White House, Belle Isle

For us, it happened at almost sunset, across from the conservatory. We kept stopping to admire the ruins of greenhouses and brick walls and dormant gardens that still felt so alive.

Jefferson Avenue, Detroit, last night
Jefferson Avenue, Detroit, last night

“Pretend that you’re reaching for this plant, and it’s reaching back for you,” she said. It was white and hard and thorny, long since dead, but that reaching still seemed real enough.

I drove home along Jefferson Avenue with the Renaissance Center lit up against the riverfront, a Canadian skyline in the distance.

What is my life about? Am I living according to my core values? And if not, how do I make it so?

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