I’m not okay, you’re not okay, but that’s okay.

“About yesterday, no tears. About tomorrow, no fears.” ~Byrl Rather’s advice to her son, Dan

Personally, I am the Master of Distraction. I have no tears or fears because I mentally change the channel whenever a memory or premonition pops into my head.

I grew up in an era when we were advised to work through things, deal with things, confront things; I can’t do that. I don’t know what the process is, I don’t know what the goal would be.

I do sometimes wonder if my way is the healthiest way. We were always told that avoiding our feelings is a Bad Thing. But truthfully, this works for me, and seems to be working well.

I suppose it’s that old hippie mantra, “Live for today,” or those old Buddhist teachings about living in the present moment.

I don’t know if Mrs. Rather would approve or not.

I’m off now to cultivate my garden.

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There is joy

There’s a line in a song, I forget which one, where Prince sings, “There is joy in repetition.” Singing that line made him happy, so he sang it about thirty more times.

And he’s right, there is a singular joy that comes from repetition. Catholics have their rosary, Eastern religions have mantra meditation. Techno is based on repeated notes, and everybody enjoys the part of the song where the chorus comes back around again. Poems and paintings are sometimes just patterns and variations on patterns.

Life is pretty unpredictable, and it seems like surprises are always of the unpleasant kind. I think the joy that comes from repetition is the comfort of knowing, at least in a limited way, what comes next.

At the Restaurant

He is old. He has an eye infection, and it hurts. He hasn’t been sleeping well. He has a pinch of a headache. He is crabby.

He points to man wearing short pants, and announces that he must be an idiot to wear short pants in cold weather like this.

The man is too far away to hear.

He points to girl texting a friend on her cell phone, and points out that people used to be able to go out without pecking at their phones the whole time, and wonders what she’s doing that’s so important she couldn’t leave her phone at home.

She is engrossed in her conversation. She didn’t hear.

He points to a young man wearing his hat backwards and speculates that he is an idiot. He doesn’t understand why anyone would wear his hat backwards. What good does that do? he wonders.

The young man certainly heard him, but doesn’t respond. The opinions of old white men are not an over-arching concern for him.

He points to an old man wearing his hat brim-forward and first praises him for wearing his hat the right way, then criticizes him for wearing his hat indoors. When did that become acceptable? It didn’t use to be that way.

The man is eating his meal, and didn’t hear.

He points to a woman wearing stretch pants with a flower print, and announces that she is too old and too fat to be dressed that way.

Her face falls. She is crushed. She probably left her home thinking she was beautiful. Now she feels foolish and ashamed.

He is oblivious.

Wistful Sighs

Another excerpt from Helen Hayes’ autobiography On Reflection, © 1968:

In those days, grandmothers were always available for extra duties… Unthinkable as it would be to the eternal soubrettes of today, there was once a breed of women who by their mid-50s admitted that youth was a sweet memory. After a long, wistful sigh, they willingly moved on to the next step in their development. And they dressed the part. They didn’t defy the seasons of woman, and greying hair softened their worn faces. They didn’t lose their full-blown beauty in an effort to freeze its first bloom. Dark or quiet colors in dress were further reminders of a new-found stability. They didn’t compete with their daughters but, instead, presented a contrast that illustrated the logical sequence of life. There was a flow and a natural progression.

“Willingly?”  Nonsense.

She was a friend of Ronald Reagan and active in Republican politics, and makes the same mistake many conservatives do:  “This is the way I’m used to, so this is the way it’s supposed to be.”

I can understand how, as an actress, she would feel most comfortable with a role to play, but that’s not a “logical sequence of life,” not a “flow and natural progression.” That’s just local custom.

I’m glad we live in less stifling times.  I’m glad women don’t feel compelled to put on dowdy clothing and spend the second half of their lives catering to their children’s whims.

It makes me happy to see women in bright colors, singing and dancing and living their lives to the fullest.

Was Beyond Me

Excerpted from Helen Hayes’ autobiography On Reflection, © 1968:

Of course, I didn’t know what it all meant anyway, and the only shockers to me were Graddy’s (her grandmother’s) scarey tales of ghosts and supernatural goings-on. I always shivered and thrilled to the one about the beautiful bride who expired of a mysterious seizure in the arms of her groom just as the priest was declaring them man and wife. Shrouded in her own wedding gown, fairly floating in her many veils, the virgin was transported to her grave. Followed by a long procession of weeping mourners, she lay in a hearse pulled by fine black horses, each with three white plumes. As the carriage passed through the cemetery gate, it rolled over a sharp rock and the jolt was so great that up shot the lid of the coffin. The bride’s eyes and hands starter to flutter; and then sitting up in bewilderment, her pale lips formed those deathless words, “Where am I?” The horrified cortège dispersed in a panic– all except the bridegroom, of course, who now lifted her tenderly in his arms, brought the color back to her cheeks with a kiss, and carried her off to their marriage bed.

This story and my grandmother’s insistence that it wasn’t really unusual– “People, Helen, are being buried alive all the time!”– made such an impression on me that when she herself lay in her coffin a few years later and at the age of ten I looked upon a dead person for the first time, I of course wailed, “Sit up, Graddy! Please sit up now!

Graddy’s friends sat clutching their wrists, their necks pulled in like great turtles, their mouths twisted in scandalized disbelief.

“Well, I never.”

“What a little actress!”

“Essie, you shouldn’t allow her to show off like that.”

They were the first of a legion of critics who have tried to remove me from the stage.

I really was sure that, like the pop-up bride, she would rise and spin a yarn about this, her latest adventure. The finality of death was beyond me. I just couldn’t believe that my Graddy was gone.

When I was four, my grandfather died.  I wasn’t overly concerned, because I had completely misunderstood the stories they taught us in Sunday School and I had no doubt that he’d be coming back to life any time now.  All you had to do was believe, and it would all be okay.

A few months later my grandmother died,  and the truth crushed down on me like a boulder:  this was forever.  Nobody comes back.

I was devastated.

And I think that exact moment was when I quit believing in the things the grown-ups told me were true.

Flu

I’m going to get a flu shot today.

Science™ tells me this is the right thing to do, even though this flies in the face of my personal experience.

Science™ tells me it decreases the likelihood that I’ll get sick, and that it ramps up the immune system so if I do get sick it’s not as bad.

That doesn’t seem to be true.

I always get the flu shot, I always get the flu, and I always get it much worse than anyone else I know.  It’s hard to see that it’s doing me any good at all.

They say one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

I am going to get a flu shot today.

Good job, Don.

Because of Donald Trump’s rants, standing for the national anthem now feels more like an endorsement of his policies than an act of patriotism.

I always thought it was kind of weird to have a national song that is only sung prior to sporting events, a song so difficult to sing that even professionals have a hard time hitting the notes, a song that’s really just a lyrical version of the fight scene in Cool Hand Luke.  I only stood up for it because the song seemed to mean something to the people around me, even if I didn’t quite get it myself.

But now I don’t feel like I can stand in good conscience.