I just celebrated (:-/) a birthday that moves me into a whole new decade, and as I have at the start of all the other decenniums, I set a lot of store in the date and what follows. It’s about as ludicrous as the question, “Do you feel any older today?” but it can’t be helped. I cling to magical thinking, more than I ought.
I began with the ice cream. I would stop it, post haste. Five days passed before I got a lulu of a migraine and a case of the whatevers, and ate a pint of choco-mint chip (that’s what it was called, so help me, because, according to the ingredients, the chips were “chocolate flavored” whatever that means).
I went back to my novel; the one about Jack the Ripper. There are several parts of the first third that are problematic, and, as I learned when I bought a house, if there’s trash in your yard, you’re the only one who’s going to pick it up. So I threw myself into the revisions. They were and are tough sledding, keeping in mind the overall voice and tone I’d established throughout the book two years ago. Yes, attention must be paid, even if it’s to a story that will never see the light of day. It’s my child with a dirty face. When the weekend rolled round, I decided to take time away from it. But it sucked me back in and I found my Saturday eaten whole by a matter of two pages. Nothing like spending hours on a few paragraphs to make you feel productive.
I told myself I’d take more opportunities to socialize. I’m planning on going out with friends to dinner at a nice restaurant this week, but already the voice is whinging away in my head: “You don’t have the funds to do something so reckless! Think of the bill you might be able to pay with that money!” And, sadly, that moaning is the voice of reason. But if I am to follow the game plan for this new epoch, I must sometimes take contrary action. My, how scary it is!
Today is Monday, so I’m happily working away on an actual assignment which is, of course, gratifying. Once it’s done, it’s done— with nary a backward look, which I rather like: it’s so unlike the me of the past decade. You see, I do miss the me of the ten years before last. She was disorganized, but strong. She was, dare I say it, innocent. Not cynical. Life had not yet worked its will on her, and her expectations were wide open like a beautiful prairie of waving wheat, shot by Terrence Malick. While I’m name-dropping, I feel Edith Wharton would have something to say about the losses and backward glances of the someone I’d become. She’d murmur something disparaging, yet, at heart, kindred.
I now live nearly without possessions. I remember a thirty-seven year-old me laughingly saying that my life is so cognitively dissonant I expected to go from being a true blue material girl to a buddhist nun living in a cave in Nepal toward the end of my life. While Pennsylvania isn’t exactly Nepal, I certainly have divested myself of ownership of just about everything. And in some respects, it’s freeing. I’m not the Ghost of Marley, chained for eternity to a huge armoire and a settee. But there are days when I miss my stuff. When I miss the woman who looked forward to the next issue of House and Garden. But even that venerable publication died away several years ago. I read the memoir of the woman who was the editor in chief, Dominique Browning. She certainly went through the mill after the magazine closed. She didn’t want to lose her idealism, either, but in the end, she came through the fire knowing she’d certainly lost something more than just a job. She insisted, though, that she’d found something, too. A state of grace, for lack of any other descriptors.
There’s an honesty in calling a spade a spade. I’m not a finished product; far from it. But I’m moving through this passage, this hallway, without pretense. Things are weird these days, and I get morose sometimes. But then something will happen out of nowhere, and suddenly I’m thrilled with the enormity of life and its many, many possibilities. My Dad, Mr. Platitudes, used to say, “If you’re mad, get glad.” And I’d roll my eyes. But having lived as long as I have now, I realize he was singing my theme song. If I’m furious about something, I can’t let Miss Crankypants eat me alive. I value this activity, this living, too much. For what it’s worth, and it ain’t much, I love my life. All its loss, all its energy, all its passion, even its mediocrity. My dog tells the story best. It may be hot and humid and absolutely miserable here in Philadelphia. But she doesn’t fume about it. She just pants. And damned if she doesn’t look pleased as hell about it all.