Tag Archives: life

I want a “do over”…

Just back from watching The Great Gatsby. It astonishes me how different all these books are from what I thought they were when I was forced to read them in high school. The whole feeling of Gatsby was so different than what I remembered (truth is I just lived for Robert Redford (still do) and dreamed of being his Daisy). I never understood the significance of the damn green light at the end of the pier.
I didn’t have the life context to even begin to understand the story. The endless striving for a dream only to find that the dream had changed while you strove, and hey, it wasn’t worth the striving anyway…you need life context for that. You need to have lost a few dreams enroute in order to understand the terrible terrible innocence of Gatsby, the horribleness of the people who used him.
If only we had the chance to redo our lives with the information we know now. Think of how much easier it would be if you knew the bumps ahead?
I was at the mall today, marvelling at the amazingly intricate strollers people were carrying their kids around in, and wincing at tired parents yelling at tired kids.
If I had it to do over, I’d be more patient. I’d enjoy my kids more. I’d force their dad to enjoy them more, too. What’s work, anyway? I’d have fought for our marriage, too, and forced him to be present in it. Even if I had to sit on him. I’d have sat on him more often, in a different way…
If I had it to do over, I’d have fought more to stay in the same place, to form lasting friendships with people. My friendships now are what sustain me. I don’t think I was always as good a friend as I could have been, and I’ve been lonely a great deal of my life. If I had it to do over, I’d work harder at being a friend, less hard at being a career success. I’d spend more time with my cousins. They’re like family bright – not as competitive as siblings, easier to just love.
I’d exercise more, if I had another chance. I’d spend lots more time enjoying the freedom of moving my body, of walking and running and flinging my muscles around while I could, before MS made every such exertion a guessing game, subject to sudden limitations. I’d tell my ballet instructor at Harriet Hoctor’s school to take her flat shoes and stuff ’em and demand to be on point even if I was shorter than everyone else.
I’d spend more time on creative pursuits: writing, music, art. They are truly the only things of value in this cynical depressing world. Well, those and chocolate and ice cream and single malt. And full-on laughter.
I’d travel more. I’d stop spending money on stuff and spend it on seeing other places while I still could. I’d go volunteer in Africa or something, where my skills could be some use and where the kids (I’d take them with me) could see that I had value to others. They already know how privileged they are and do good things, but I have this irrational urge to make them proud of me.
Probably cos I’m so proud of them.
Yep, a do-over would be great. I might even be able to protect my kids from things that hurt them as they grew up – I’d know to be aware that some people were not to be trusted, that school was nastier than it was when I grew up, that drugs were so present.
Probably not. It’s hard to be everywhere, and I always valued my kids’ right to privacy. I still do. I just wish I could try it all over again.
Maybe do it just the teensiest bit better.
Or, at the very least, appreciate it more.

Give it up, already!

When do you give up? When do you decide that the effort just isn’t worth it anymore, that you’ve wasted enough time, that you should cut your losses and move on?

I’ve struggled with writing for some time now, beaten back by fatigue, depression, and that damned autocorrect. Occasionally I think to myself – hey, why not just give it up? You’ve given it your best try. You’ve sent things out, you’ve been rebuffed and rewarded about equally – surely that’s enough for now.

I’ve given up other things. Big things. Once I gave up my marriage. Other times I’ve given up friends, romances, volunteer responsibilities, pets, even tickets to an Elton John/Billy Joel concert (though I was glad I gave them to one of my best friends ever).

I’ve got a virtual room full of hangers-on that demand I give them up and move on – odd dust bunnies of objects, a piece of my heart, chunks of things I love but realize aren’t good for me, like far too much chocolate…

And yet there are other things I stick with. I am going to the gym three times a week, despite the exhaustion this causes my MS and despite the lack of any recognizable change in my form. I follow religion in my own wobbly way, despite questions and the everlasting silence from above (which is, I suppose, better than malevolent laughter). I’m persisting in learning to play the ukulele, in learning to felt and knit and make things. I keep on trying to write, even when it doesn’t come.

This week I started to wonder why I continue to work at some things, and not others, and I think it comes down to this – I persist with the things that make me feel better inside. The things that fit with my inner ethical self, my inner creative self, the self I think I am supposed to be. The things that seem congruent.

When I left my marriage, I left because I was becoming someone I didn’t want to be. It wasn’t so much about my ex as it was about how I behaved when I was with him. The other things I’ve left for similar reasons. I didn’t like who they made me be.

I continue to write because I see the world better when I write – I am more observant as I seek words to describe my environment, I treasure others’ writing more, I wallow in words. I feel more interesting, diverse, mentally strong.

I exercise because my lungs feel open, my back is straighter, my joints move more smoothly. And even though I have to stagger off the machines as my MS makes its presence noted, for a few moments I feel normal again.

I guess, as I grow up, I am trying to fit things into the internal picture I have of myself at my best. I’m not there yet. I still have bumpy protuberances poking out of my ethical self, my self self. I still have some pruning and shaping to do.

But I’m not pruning the writing. The truth is in there. Or under there. Somewhere.

PS: CL – I’m not giving up on you. Ever.


Ashes to ashes

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. I’m what you would call a lapsed Roman Catholic, focusing instead on exploring my faith in a scattered, lazy, non-directional way, but the seeds of Catholicism lie deep, and I can’t help feeling the tides of the year as they swing along the Christian calendar. I remember going to Mass as a kid and having ashes ground into my forehead, as the priest intoned, “Remember, Man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.”  Of course, as a woman, I felt pretty darn secure as a kid. Most of the prohibitions and serious talks seemed to be geared to the men in the audience.  I figured I didn’t really matter that much to the man upstairs unless I was a. a virgin and/or b. martyred in some horrible way. I even prayed for the latter, after watching “Song of Bernadette” on the Saturday afternoon movie circuit. I kindof suspected the virgin thing might not fly for long…

In any case, the dust thing is beginning to get annoying.  I know we all have to die, yep, I know that. I’ve been humble enough to realize that while global warming might kill US, it might be a darn good thing for nature in general – a flushing of the unpleasant human virus, a return to homeostasis.

But the dust thing feels totally different when it happens to those you love. Losing people, to illness or age or both, is so hard. You can believe in an afterlife where we will all be together in perfect harmony, if you like, but as my family never lived in perfect harmony on earth, if they did “up there” it would be just plain weird. I wouldn’t recognize them. Although I do fantasize about all my aunts and uncles and parents sitting about playing duplicate bridge, I just know my dad would be off somewhere, drinking peppermint schnapps and hoping for a holiday in hell.

Losing people still means that you lose them in the now, you lose the benefit of their company, their laugh, the look of their eyes when they gaze at you with fondness, the sound of their voice when raised in anger or joy or passion. The loneliness is still there, no matter what you believe. Saddest thing of all is that after a while, you forget them a bit – you forget the way they sat or spoke or the books they read or the sound of their voice. Eventually they become faded and dry, like those ashes.

I’m feeling a bit testy about this because I am so sad about people whose lives are touched by this, in this grimmest season. I feel an overwhelming urge to fly to Rio and dance madly, scare the grey shadows away – but all that is over for another year, and we are now in Lent, a time of thought and prayer and all those grey things.

Back when I was little, I gave up chocolate for Lent.  Or I gave up complaining. Or I gave up something that wouldn’t cost me too much.  It seemed an academic exercise at best. This year, I am going to look for life among the ashes, cherish the time I’ve been given, apply my gifts wholeheartedly, dance in my own way to do honour to those who can no longer do so. And pray heartily for those who are dealing with fires.

If I’m going to be an ash, I may as well burn brightly before going out.

Picture credit: http://agentorangerecords.blogspot.com/2011/03/ash-wednesday-2011-true-grit.html