Sunday, March 27, 2022

You can't take it with you

Just as I was waking up this morning, the two books I've been reading merged together in my mind and I had a lightning bolt moment of insight that made so much sense to me, I immediately wanted to write it down. The common theme is people in the second half of life, and what do you do with the knowledge that you are slowing down while the world is still speeding along? Resist 

or accept? Take my hair, for example. During the pandemic I stopped getting it colored, and slowly, my naturally darker hair came back, but with strips of white and gray along the sides of my face, the overall effect some might call the "Madwoman in the Forest Look," but then my daughter said it was cool, and anyway, who cares, Mom? It's not like you're going anywhere, seeing people. 

But now I am, sorta, going places, seeing people, and I've decided I don't really care, It's hair. Whatever. Still, every once in a while, I catch a glimpse of myself and think, Who is that? 

Me. But suddenly, older. Old. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Even so, it's different. You spend half your life working toward something, accumulating stuff, planning for some distant future, coloring your hair, and the next thing you know... 

maybe you don't want to do any of that anymore? 

Or maybe you don't have the energy or you forgot why you wanted some of those things you used to want so badly or you look around at the world and think This is Crazy and Awful, and maybe it was always this way but you didn't see it before because you were... busy? And now you have all of this time to think about it, except, 

you don't, really, have ALL OF THIS TIME, do you? 

Anyway, the two books I've been reading are:

Vladimir by Julia May Jonas, which is about a fifty-eight year old woman, who until recently, felt that she was on the top of her game, mentoring students at a small liberal arts college where she is a professor, keeping up with the changing times, adjusting happily to her grown daughter being out of the house, but then, her husband is accused of having affairs with several of his students and suddenly all eyes are on our main character, the campus swirling with rumors, judging her as complicit in her husband's escapades or as the foolish, dowdy, cast-off wife. 

Enter: Vladimir, the new hunky young(er) professor, and now our aging main character wonders if it's too late for her to have her own affairs, her own adventures, or is she past her prime?

The second book, From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life, by Arthur C. Brooks is about very successful people and how hard they work and continue to strive as they get older, not wanting to face their inevitable decline, and then either doubling down on the work and the striving, running in the rat race until the bitter end 

OR switching gears and finding a different kind of fulfillment. There are all kinds of fun examples of people who pushed themselves right up to death and were miserable and people who took different paths and were more content, the ludicrousness of accumulating stuff when you can't take any of it with you, but how human it is to want to keep pushing and taking, and how all of that is really about our fear of dying. But what-are-ya-gonna-do? 

Don't worry, the book has the answer: Stop coloring your hair. (haha just joking. You'll need to read the book yourself to find out.) 

So, I don't know how these two books melded in my mind this morning as I was waking up, but they did, for just a second, hover there together, making me think I had some great new understanding about life and the inevitability of death and getting old, and also, at the same time, about fighting getting old and pretending I'm not going to die. 

Unfortunately, it slipped away from me and now we're all going to have to figure it out for ourselves. 

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Car Show: A Love Story

I hate the Columbus Ohio Car Show, but my husband loves it, so every year--well, every year except for the past two pandemic years--we go. Usually, it's my birthday present to him. The tickets, dinner out first, and then down to the convention center for a stroll through the new cars. 

Part of the gift is that I'm a good sport about it. At least I try to be, not blurting out, for example, how much I hate the car show even though while I'm strolling through the car show, that's sometimes a thought that will pop into my head. This is what we do for the people we love and who love us. Go with them, sometimes, to the places they love, even when we hate those same places. 

It helps that in previous years of the car show, the ticket takers hand out a scavenger hunt-- a list of car parts and features to find while you're doing the strolling. If you find all of the car parts and features, you can enter a drawing to win prizes. I don't care about the prizes, but I do get a weird kick out of doing the scavenger hunt and so does my husband, and every year, pre-pandemic, he'd have a great time, and I'd surprise myself by having a great time too. 

Cut to: 

The car show was last week and after I got home from work, my husband was finishing up work himself and all fully dressed up and we were ready to go, and I don't know what made me do this, but I checked the dates again, and it turns out


It got cancelled, but the people who run the event never updated their website. I don't want to tell you about the sad expression on my husband's face. 

Let's go look at cars at a car place, I said, and my husband brightened right back up. 

For the record, I hate looking at cars at car places even more than I hate looking at them at the car show, but at least the car show has a scavenger hunt. Unfortunately, we actually are in the market for a car this year. 

Do I need to mention that I am probably the worst person in the world to go car shopping with? But now my husband was the one being the good sport, talking up the various car possibilities for me and the fun cool features I could have. Things like back up cams and keyless starts and heated seats or whatever. None of which I really want or need. Although, I do have to admit that I did appreciate the heated seats in his car when I was leaving work a few weeks ago and had to scrape ice and snow off the windshield with my bare hands and then sat inside shivering for a few moments before I remembered: HEATED SEATS!

We went to several car places and it was becoming clear that this may not be the right time to have to buy a car. Actually, it's possible that this is the worst time ever to buy a car. We strolled through car lot after car lot where the car salespeople pointed out all of the cars we could NOT buy--

the new cars that had waiting lists and the used cars that were already purchased, and I was growing more and more despondent and having sad wistful feelings about how I could've been strolling around instead at the car show.

But this story has a happy ending after all because my husband did manage to find me a car and finagle a deal for us without too much trouble. It even has heated seats! And suddenly, I realize as I write this that it's not a story about how much I hate car shows. It's a story about how much I love the guy who loves car shows.

Throw in a scavenger hunt and we'll both live happily ever after.

The End. 

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Bare-faced Brunch

It's almost spring, never mind the snow on the ground. The pandemic is over, everybody says. Today I am going out to brunch with a friend. 

Yesterday my husband and I ran errands like we used to in the Before Times. Columbus lifted the mask mandate a few days ago, but my library has hung onto our masks-required-for-employees rule until tomorrow. Tomorrow, I'm not sure what I'm going to do.

Errand number one is the post office, and I see a guy walking out bare-faced and decide, Oookay, here I go, mask-less myself. But when I walk inside, the handful of people in line are masked and so is the clerk, although, she's wearing hers like a chin strap. I fumble my mask out of my purse and put it on, and when I reach the counter, the clerk's got hers on properly too. I don't know what to make of this. Peer pressure? 

Errand two is the pet store to buy the ridiculously expensive pet food we serve to our dog, who let me tell you has a very sensitive stomach and every time we go into the place and the cashier rings it all up, I can feel my husband tensing beside me and I remind him of the crazy high emergency vet bill we paid a few months ago and this is the food they recommended and we both take a breath under our masks, except this time, we're not wearing masks. 

We decided on the car ride over that we'd go with the flow, based on what the employees are required to do. 

No masks, on any of them. It's like this for the remainder of our errands, everything back to normal with the bare faces, but jarring to me. I realize that in most parts of the country (Tennessee, for example, where we visited my husbands' parents recently) the pandemic was Declared Over long ago. But up here in our little Columbus bubble, many of us are still paying attention to case counts and hospitalizations and the death rate. For example, for the past two weeks in Ohio, ninety-one people died every day from Covid. 

Which seems high? Except it's so much lower than the several hundred people a day average from last month, so we're all good now? I guess? 

When this is all over, a friend told me way back at the beginning, I never want to think about it again. I don't want to write about it. I don't want to read about it. As soon as it's over, I'm done. 

Well, yeah, I told her. Me too. For sure. 

Because believe me, I've been there with the wanting to forget, the frantic desire to move on, to let it go, to get on with it. I have been reading books on living through trauma, how it affects the mind, the body. And what has all of This been, but collective, mass trauma? The books have more to say about the After part, the part when the trauma's in the past, or we think it is. But I don't want to get into it with you right now. 

I'm taking a few extra moments to fix my hair before I leave for brunch. Scrounge around in the drawer where I keep my earrings.  Dab on a bit of make up, the first time I've done this in two years. Out the door and just watch me, I'll be baring my face like the best of them. 

Sunday, March 6, 2022

I'm a liar

Okay, maybe liar's not the right word, but sometimes when I write for you, I don’t tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth. For example, I tell you about how hot it is in the house, 

and not about the cigarette smoke swirling in the air. The Wordle my husband and I good-naturedly race each other to solve and not the times we snap and bicker. The dog I dote on and walk three times a day and not the one I had growing up who bit my mouth, my bottom lip swinging back and forth like a garden gate, the tooth-shaped hole straight through my cheek. The moral of the story is

don't kiss your dog. Except I kiss my dog now all the time and even when she's sleeping. Oh! the things that are clattering around in my head that I may never write about. It's not lying, exactly, but more like,  

selecting. What to leave in. What to leave out. Why write about a virus or a war or why I installed a deadbolt lock on my childhood bedroom door,

when it's tax season at the library, and Mrs. B has a list of dvds she wants me to search for, and it's a warm sunny day after weeks of cold and gray. I keep having flashbacks to the 1980's. The ever present possibility of global thermonuclear war. I'd forgotten that feeling of doom that maybe I'd never make it past my teenage years. But somehow, I did. We do, 

each one of us, what we have to do. In the meantime, a man needs help on the computer, and finally I've mastered the copier machine--how to email a scanned document and what a handy trick that is for our patrons. Look how much I read! 

a little girl squeals. She holds up her book to show me, her finger between the pages marking her place. 

Wow! I tell her. You've read all of that and you haven't even left the library yet!

I know! she says. And now I'm going with my little brothers to the park!

Wow! I say again, and I mean it. I want to go with her. But I have books to check in, books to check out. There will always be a virus, a war, a locked bedroom door. But today I watch a little girl clutching her book, skipping out of the library and into the warm, sunny park.