Life As It Becomes More

The holidays when you’re 50 are much different than the holidays when you’re, let’s say, 30. I’ve had years in between where my enthusiasm ebbed and flowed. This year I was eager to get the Christmas tree and Veruca was equally excited. The two of us drove to the tree farm and there were about a half dozen families toting dwarf trees to their cars and the pre-cut Frasers were, well, NONE. Anyway, a google search revealed another tree farm in our area I’d never even heard of and let me tell you right now – the tree I reluctantly chose (reluctantly because the branches were upright and tightly hugging the trunk) was the Most Beautiful Tree I’ve had in years.

Anyway, my 50-year-old enthusiasm was limited to the Christmas tree and the stairwell I decorate with garland and baubles every year. The artificial tree we put up in the rec room never made it out of the box. The Christmas Village ceramic houses never made it out either. We didn’t decorate the outside of the house. I’m not sorry. I just didn’t have it to give.

There’s an old quote: “just don’t have it to give.” Came from a Gemini male I once shared a home with in my 20s, who was full of prolific bullshit like statements about me being “uptight.” I learned to cringe when these statements flowed from his or, even years later, others’ lips. But today, older and wiser, I realize that the former statement is a confession moored in self-awareness that is more positive than negative.

I’m trying to avoid the inevitable cliché that comes when one pontificates about life and becoming conscious of what really matters when it happens at the turn of a new year. That it’s also a new decade does not have an elevated significance in my particular case. Unless we’re talking about my new decade.

Anyway. My friend lost her dad in December. The memorial service was earlier this month and I made the hour-and-twenty-minute drive to honor him and support her. Our families have an interesting history.

We were both born and raised in the same town. Like I think it is with most folks, the town is one which is spoken of with both reverence and disdain, often in the same breath. Our town is, uh, town. The town isn’t exactly small, but so many people know each other in a seemingly impossible way that it’s almost incestuous. (Okay not really.)

So… my mom worked with T’s grandmother before I was born and for a couple of years after. My mom somehow always knew T’s parents too. My dad and former stepmother were friends with T’s aunt and uncle (her dad’s brother) – which is where it gets really weird because I remember a time when they took me with them to the aunt and uncle’s home and there were other kids there that I played with. It wasn’t until many years later, when two of those kids (T and her brother, now adults) were working at my mom’s restaurant, that I realized that we had met so many years before. (Do I need a diagram?)

In another strange twist, thanks to Facebook, I noticed that T was friends with someone I went to high school with. T didn’t attend the same school as us, and she is also five years my junior. When I finally remembered to ask the friend how she knew T, it turns out her mother used to work for T’s father.

Anyway, back to the memorial service. Many, many people came. Mom met me there. We stood in the line to see the family, which was really long and moving like a backwards river. Seriously. I found my patience waning fast as folks were stepping out of line to greet and hug others and then the line would come to a standstill until they stepped back into the line. And there’d be this huge gap between people that ramped my anxiety to blast-off.

This well-dressed little old lady with impeccable hair and makeup in front of me stopped moving altogether as she stood staring at her husband who had left the line to chat with old buddies from somewhere. I pondered the possibility that he was deliberately ignoring her gaze. And then was struck with the urge to scream, move the fucking line! But thankfully I’m not yet old enough to pull off shit like this in public, so I said it in my head.

The line went on like this for about 25 minutes and I was beginning to wonder if the services would start on time. (Spoiler alert: they didn’t.) At one point when I thought I’d hit the peak of my anxiety and intolerance, T and I made eye contact and for a brief moment I was sure I felt her. There’s something between us that can be read as instant understanding sometimes. If I ever had a sister, she’d be it. Not because we might be alike, but because in many ways we’re not and there’s this innate understanding that cannot be explained. There are things over the years we have shared with each other that with others might be a, “huh?” that for us is, “haha, YES.” And she is no nonsense. You better buckle up because she will tell you straight up Truth.

So we moved through the line and sat down, which is when my entertainment really begins. The older folks with the bouffant hairdos and the outfits and the jewelry. Familiar faces too (it’s our town, after all). There was this one man who clearly was either wearing a hairpiece or using Grecian formula, with a pencil-thin mustache, and was a dead ringer for one of my family members.

The photos on the monitor could easily have been photos of my own family … the clothes, the hairstyles, the furniture, the backgrounds. There was a picture of T’s dad as a boy on a pony. We have an identical picture of my uncle. It’s all this weird six-degrees-of-separation that isn’t limited to just our town, and it’s so very cool.

I don’t know how all this segues into my thoughts about life and where it’s going and what matters. I suppose funerals do that. T’s brother spoke eloquently of time spent with his father and the value of memories…. Though he didn’t say it quite this way, that we have an obligation to impact our children with memories the way our parents did for us.

For the first time I didn’t cry at a funeral. I don’t know if it’s because there wasn’t a profound sadness permeating the room or whether I drew my cues from T, or whether there was larger, deeper impact poking at me. I left there feeling like I needed time to process and reflect on the feelings circling like birds overhead.

Much of my twenties was chaos. Not in the literal way… just chaotic movement from place to place, person to person, living in the moment (sometimes self-destructive) in anticipation of “what’s next.” Never quite sure of myself while being fully myself and lacking the awareness to understand why I did what I did and how not to do certain things again.

The thirties introduced a long period of change and more chaos which turned out to be more destructive even than that of my twenties. The juxtaposition of becoming a parent and loving something more than my own life while simultaneously fighting for my identity. It was a period of survival. I’d forgotten that I had choices. That I’d always had them and that somehow I’d relinquished them to someone else, who had no business deciding for me.

The forties: a rebirth. A remembrance of me. The final hitting of a wall; a wall I couldn’t climb or go around. The revelation that the only choice I had was in fact no choice at all. I had to move forward and away from toxicity and vicious words because the only thing I could change was how I chose to live. And look where it got me!

The fifties have just begun. I embraced that birthday with the spirit I have always had. I’ve been living in joy and peace and contentment for the last 9 years. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Except for less debt and a swimming pool.

Still, there’s more. I want to live in the moment, every one, but this time with the awareness and connection I didn’t have 25 years ago. Less distracted. More tuned in. And I knew this before I googled what it meant to dream of thousands of cats running around my house.

 

 

 

To be continued….

Drinking and Dreams

I woke up this morning from a series of bizarre dreams I’ll attribute to the chemical interaction between my medication and Goose Island IPA. About a month ago, I stopped drinking (mostly) and returned to healthier lifestyle habits. Spoiler: alcohol makes you gain weight and look puffy and inflames the joints. When I stop drinking, my weight drops off. It’s a slow, steady process, but I notice it most in my face. (And now everyone knows how to tell I’m drinking again.)

Anyway. Last night I went along to bowling with Todd for the first time in weeks. There are times I just don’t want to stand around in unforgiving lights surrounded by MAGAs drinking Coors Light and the sound of a thousand pins roaring like a 747 between my ears. The problem with going to bowling is the subsequent boredom, which leads to meme-sharing (highly entertaining but always short-lived), and boredom as they say sometimes leads to bad decisions. Like drinking.

The old crowd at the former, now-a-Sheetz bowling alley was a fun crowd. One friend would lead the rounds of shots (again, bad decisions) and there was generally an air of middle-aged shenanigans juxtaposed with the retirees’ been-there-done-that sober laughter and the younger crowd’s drama (always fun to watch, from a distance). It was fun (I miss you girls).

This new crowd is very different, a lot more mellow. No more loud, outspoken girlfriend with the potty mouth and my dirty sense of humor.  No more girlfriend ordering shots like we’re reliving school days. The bartender here is great – she knows us by name, which I realize sounds bad but it’s a much smaller place and we often go into the bar after bowling for snacks and such.

Ed and I accidentally invented what we thought was a new shot (we googled the ingredients once, it actually does exist), because she didn’t have all the liquors to make a true B52 so we improvised. The result was supposed to be a combination of Kahlua, Bailey’s, and Amaretto but as Tonya was mixing she was talking to us and I watched with horror as she poured Southern Comfort into it and I didn’t have the heart to what the fuck are you DOING Tonya! stop her mid-pour. But it was actually good. I forget what we named it but she still calls it “the Tonya” and, since it was her mix-up, we’ll let her have it.

Anyway. After driving Veruca to her dad’s and listening to her bitch about the ride up on the back roads and wanting to puke and “never doing it again”… all I could think about was the beer I was going to have once I got back to the bowling alley. That meme about being the reason your mom drinks is no joke. And then one turned into two. And then number three seemed necessary for accompanying the cheese fries the guys ordered. (See? BAD decisions.)

The point is, I haven’t been drinking. Last Saturday we had friends over for dinner. I knew I was going to enjoy a little wine since we were entertaining. They brought wine and beer… the boys drank beer and she and I had wine. I tasted the Russian red that her son had brought home from Estonia. Semi-sweet and, while I’m not a fan of varietals that are anything less than cork-dry, this was really, really different. Cherries! It actually went well with the NY strip and crab cakes we made. However, one glass was all I could do. So we opened another red, and Todd switched to wine too so I wasn’t the only one drinking it. And then Todd poured shots of bourbon crème liquor all around to toast our friend’s 101-year-old grandmother who had literally just passed while we were having dinner.

And then we opened another bottle of wine. Oh God – I’d been down that road before and it did NOT end well. But oh no, another friend came over and suddenly I was like, hey guys! I have something you all NEED to try. I was gifted with a bottle of Grand Marnier Quintessence for Christmas and it is not for sharing. I poured two ounces in a snifter and Todd, for comparison, poured a second glass of the much cheaper Grand Marnier Cuvee Louis-Alexandre he got me for Christmas.

Everything was going well. Our friends left for a long drive home and the latecomer friend stayed to discuss work drama with Todd and I was feeling like unconscious was coming soon. At this point Opac was back from his night out and wanted to talk about serious matters which at this point was probably not the best idea but I persevered and poured him a Jack and Coke (see Bad Mom), and myself a big glass of water, and sat down at the dining room table with him. We had a great talk, much of which I don’t remember, but I know the gist and ultimately what the problems are and a week later I’m still concerned about him.

Sunday morning was so NOT a good morning for me. As a matter of fact, neither was Sunday afternoon. When I wake up like that, I always yell at myself for being so stupid and knowing better and don’t-ever-do-that-again, and then I tell myself that it feels bad now but I’ll be feeling 80% better by 4:00. It’s a promise to myself that I’m really praying isn’t a lie.

I made myself 8 potatoes-worth of home fries and a big-ass glass of Dr. Pepper and eventually found my way back to sleep for a few hours; which is absolutely necessary with hangovers that feature an apocalyptic headache since the last thing I can do when I first wake up is sleep and I cannot close my eyes because it feels like I’m back on the New York subway. A dear friend always used the phrase, “God punishes,” and now I know the full and true meaning of that statement.

So back to this weekend. It wasn’t terrible. After all, three beers with food is not going to be terrible. But Holy Fuck. The dreams. I dreamed I was back in school and late for class, which Opac was also in, and I lived in a dorm room with 3 other girls who turned out to be very subtly snarky. That one didn’t last long.

The next one was a casual tribute to this recurrent dream about cats. I dream about our home being infested – yes, I said infested – with dozens and dozens of cats. More on that, maybe another time. Or not. But anyway, in this dream there were dozens of cats, just lying around on our back porch and lawn. And some of them had collars on, so clearly they weren’t feral cats like the ones featured in previous dreams. And then there were these two dogs that weren’t ours, snuggled up with the cats, also with collars and tags. One had a tag that said he belonged to a very old friend of mine and I was trying to figure out what the hell the dog is doing here since my friend lives in another state. (And I woke up wondering why HE was in my dream until I remembered that sometimes life crosses over into dreams and earlier that day I’d been discussing the Grateful Dead with a coworker and how I’d never gotten to see them, but could have, with him, except that I didn’t do drugs and was intimidated by what I perceived was some drugged-out mob.)

Meanwhile, Todd was in this dream and again he’s insisting these cats need to go and I’m all like – I just want the mother and baby over there because they’re so small and sweet. And we still don’t have a solution for all these cats.

I googled cats in dreams and here’s what I found: “Dreaming of thousands of cats running around in a house indicates a lack of direction in your life. There is too much going on in your life that you are losing sight of what’s important.” **

Well if that doesn’t say it all…

 

** http://www.dreammoods.com