Am I Dead Yet?

The closer I get to turning fifty, the more absurd the idea that I could ever recreate my thirties becomes to me.  In the early forties, there’s still that glimmer of hope.  The body still holds some elasticity.  Arthritis and the uncoolness of raising teenagers hasn’t set in.  I can still go for a jog without regretting it for days afterwards.

I’m sure that with a great personal trainer, a LOT of conviction, and refined habits reflective of those people we read about in magazines whose lives depend on looking good, we could recreate some semblance of youth as we age.  Hell, look at Laura Dern, Julianne Moore, Julia Roberts, to name a few.  These women are older than I am, and they look a heck of a lot better.  And the women in their early forties, like Reese Witherspoon?  Well, forget it, they might as well be thirty.  Us?  The women in our forties who aren’t driven by a spotlight and acting roles?  We know what comes easy, and we know that emulating the health and youthful glow of a woman half our age is NOT easy.  We know there are a lot of creature comforts we have to give up, a lot of lifestyle adjustments we have to make, and a lot of professionals we have to consult, if we want to go there.

These days, so close to my fifties, I’m at a crossroads about “going there.”  Sometimes I think that accepting my size ten and forgetting about being a size six ever again would be my healthiest route of least resistance. I would free up so much room in our cramped closet; I could move forward again and start building a decent wardrobe that suits me instead of wearing thrift store clothes that I bought with the idea that I would someday be able to fit back into my other wardrobe, my “real” wardrobe.  Well, it’s been three years since I could squeeze into a size six.  My favorite outfits from years past just take up space in an already limited closet.  They’re like tombstones of another me—“here lies the jeans she loved so much when she didn’t drink a drop of alcohol, didn’t take hormones, and wasn’t in her late forties.” Is it time to just let it all go?

Or am I just making excuses for myself again, blaming my age and medication for my lack of conviction and strength?  Who was I, way back when?  And how did I create her?  And can I—is it even possible—to create her again?

Old is NOT the New Young

I spilled it to my Christian chiropractor this afternoon.  Just spilled.  He has a special gift, with his perennially calm demeanor and his seemingly accidental conversation starters.  I should have known.  Sigh.

But I spilled.  So what?  He knows my story.  Maybe this Sunday in mass, he will pray on it.  Or maybe he’s forgotten about it.  I don’t know!  I don’t know how this profession works, what they gain from making us confess.  Well, duh, I guess I do—more business.

But I would have returned to my chiropractor anyway because I want to get my spinal stuff right.  Before I spilled this afternoon, I had intended to return for a follow-up xray to see if my spinal stuff had gotten any worse in the six years I’d been sporadically seeing him.  Thank ME for keeping journals!  Six years.  My GOD how they pile up.  Six years of an unsolved spinal problem.  Six years since I was scared sober and then scared drunk again.  Six years since I wore a size six.  Six years since I was in my early forties.  Now, how the times have changed.

I am approaching fifty. And soon the idea that I have dabbled with for nearly a decade—that the forties are the new forties—will be obsolete. I asked my husband what I should do with 40sarethenew40s when I am no longer in my forties.  Should I keep going?  Should I strive to squeeze in as many thoughts as I can before I hit the magic number.  He just casually replied, “Why don’t you just start calling it “Old is NOT the new young.” Heh heh.  There really is no going back in the forth or fifth decades. There is just now.

This same non-dramatic husband always said—quite matter-of-factly—that I’ll do what I am inclined to do, and I shouldn’t waste time fretting about what I’m not doing. He has been right all along.  I spent my first night of this past weekend, my Friday, reading and commenting on student writing, reaching out to a new class that starts next week, and tweaking my plans for that class.  I stay late at work because I have just one more thing I want to do or try or send so that whatever work I end up doing later at home is purely voluntary and for the purpose of getting a little further ahead.

Work has been an adventure since I was hired full-time and given a professor title.  It wasn’t bad before.  But now, I think it’s extra special.  It’s the kind of thing I should have in my late-forties/early fifties—a title, a paycheck, a job satisfaction that reminds me that all the years I spent working for it have paid off.  I worked for this.  I didn’t work for a novel or an investigative piece of nonfiction.  I didn’t do it, and I’m ok with that.  I have this.

I keep waiting for that old panic to set in, the kind I felt every day in secondary public schools, when every extra little thing I needed to do felt like a chore and an imposition, when I dragged my ass in every day and counted the minutes until I could leave, when the work was never done because there was simply too much all the time and no end in sight.  Hasn’t happened this time around.  I think I found my dream job.  And I think my needs are simple—I thrive in an environment that doesn’t guarantee burnout within a year.  I can’t believe I spent twelve years working under that kind of duress and not making any changes because I just didn’t know any better, because I thought that was normal, because I lacked introspection and thought any unhappiness I felt was my own damn fault.  I am so far past that now, and I’m not EVEN 50.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Better than a Bag of Smashed Assholes

I haven’t written a word in months. I’ve passed up so many great quips, so many interesting topics that apply to the New 40s—career crossroads, friends who make bad choices, crazy relatives, ex-boyfriends, and the perennial cycle of drinking and weight management. Ah, me.

I heard a great expression today (read, rather, on Facebook, of course—the 40-and-over social playground): “He/She looks like a bag of smashed assholes.” I laughed as loud and as long as I had when I first heard my un-PC friend tell someone to go “suck-a-bag-a-dicks.” Love the imagery, the pure crudeness. I have an affection for shocking manipulation of language.

In grad school, I did a presentation for my “Exploring Voice in Nonfiction” class on sex columnist author Dan Savage’s crude manipulation of language for propaganda and for the practical purposes of communicating in the alt-sex scene. One of my favorites, I explained to the class, was his invention of the word “santorum,” that frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is produced during anal sex. Yes, while my classmates dissected Joan Didion’s and Truman Capote’s prose, I discussed made-up words about butt sex. Perhaps that’s why my classmates never seemed to take me very seriously… But I digress. Savage’s use of “santorum” was a direct hit on Rick Santorum, a former PA senator and arbiter of the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, a proposed bill that basically allowed businesses to discriminate against employees on the basis of religious principles. Santorum, the man, not the frothy mixture, wasn’t a favorite with Savage or the bulk of his readers. In his column, they used the word “santorum” as defined above so many times, that, when one Googled the word “Santorum,” Savage’s definition would appear first, instead of the senator that bore its name. Now, that’s what I can an excellent “smear” campaign!

But anyway, back to our “bag of smashed assholes.” While this term might not have the intention of making political waves, it certainly gives me a chuckle. I also appreciate the context in which I first encountered it:

One of the guys in my Facebook exercise group, the members of which have been destroying me in exercise challenges for over a year now, posted his thoughts on weight obsession. To support his claim that weight is a poor measuring tool for self-confidence, he said that two people could be the exact same height and weight, but one could look fantastic and the other could look like a “bag of smashed assholes.” It’s not about weight, he contended, it’s about fitness and liking what you see in the mirror. Thank you online exercise buddy I have never met!  I can get behind that philosophy, especially since I’ve been lifting weights, running, and riding a Peloton almost daily for the past month (not all on the same day, of course), and my weight hasn’t budged.

There’s a reason for that, and that is I’m still drinking copious amounts of beer. Last weekend, while staying in a town renowned for its craft breweries, my hubby and I discussed allowing beer as my only alcohol because it doesn’t make me crazy or black out, and because it doesn’t make me wake up with crippling hangovers. That’s progress. A little. But the more I work out, I’m discovering, the less inclined I am to want the beer. All it takes with me, sometimes, is a goal to distract me. I’m going to complete a half marathon with my FB exercise group in September. This will be my first half, and my first race other than a zombie 5K, in over ten years. As I train for this race, I am happily reminded of my old running days, of those incremental accomplishments that I made out on the trails or on the pavement every time I went out. It’s a craving like no other—getting outside, pushing up a hill, sprinting down one, feeling my heart beat, sweating it all out. I crave that sleepy peace I feel about an hour after a good run, and that slow settling soreness in my tired legs. I want this, almost as much as I want to drink.

I think my progress is on the horizon. I can’t say that I look fantastic and fit right now, but I’m getting there; and I certainly don’t look like a bag of smashed assholes. Most importantly, though, I have more on my mind than simply losing weight and what I look like. I have that craving for movement and wind and sweat and sore muscles. I crave the burn, which could be my saving grace.

 

The Cycle of Life from the Perspective of the Middle-Aged.

I’m now at this stage in my adulthood where I’m watching my younger peers grow up. The twenty-somethings I partied with when I was a divorced thirty-something are now becoming divorced thirty-somethings themselves. The ones who stayed together seem to think their seven-year-old kids are sooooo blasé (I’d have the same, querulous look on my face if my parents had tried to impress me with a “Bohemian Rhapsody” sing-along in the minivan en route to soccer practice). I’m watching them trying to cling to cool or trying to act progressively in the wake of the shitstorm of resentment and confusion that awaits them once the papers are signed and their new normalcy begins to settle in. Marriage, kids, divorce. It’s the cycle of American life. These days, I just watch it. My court dates are over. My second marriage is solid. My stepkids are becoming independent young men. Last week, my husband voiced a retirement dream. When you start talking retirement, well, you’ve officially entered the realm of the observer.

My recently-divorced friend has decided to share the family house with the kids while she and her ex-husband take turns entering it once a week and being single parents. Somewhere outside of that house, they have dwellings that they occupy during their off weeks. They pay for a mortgage, and they pay for rent, all so the kids can grow up in one house. Seems a wholesome idea on paper until you consider the human element of such a compromise—the adults, the parents, in this scenario have denied everyone the right to move on. First, divorce has always been a financially-crippling institution, at least for one of the parties involved. Now, the parties have grown progressive enough to financially cripple everyone. Who’s saving for college when you got two rents to pay? Additionally, these kids will grow up in a far less idyllic environment than their parents think they will because they will have no idea what kind of lives their parents lead outside of the shared house. Traditionally, when parents divorce, the kids grow accustomed to two households—Dad’s and Mom’s. They might like one more than the other, or they might dislike the back-and-forth, or they might figure out the perks in each, but they will always know that their divorced parents lead different lives and that they are a witness and a part of each of those lives. How’s that work when the kids live in the “family” house and Mom and Dad live elsewhere? What’s the scenario? It could be one of total deprivation, or big mystery. Their parents’ “home” lives could become big secrets to them like the lives of headmistresses at boarding schools during weekends and vacations. And let’s not ignore the elephant in the room—thirty-somethings will marry AGAIN.

Yes. Divorcees tend to do that at any age, but especially in the wild thirties. I remarried when I was thirty-eight. I didn’t have any kids of my own, but my new husband had two. He never asked me to spend half of my time in his apartment and the other half at the family house. In fact, I only entered the house where he and his ex-wife had started their family twice. Why should I have lived there half the time? With her pictures on the wall, and their utensils in the kitchen, and their mattress in the bedroom?   How else you gonna do it when you rotate shifts into the family house? My friend… is fucked. I wish she had been a closer friend now because I then I could have been there from the beginning. But she wasn’t. She’ll just have to figure this all out in the upcoming decade. Hats off to the new divorcees. Hats off to my friends who still have kids in car seats. I’m gonna sit back and watch and maybe say my piece (if I think it’ll make a difference), and the rest of the time I’ll keep my eye out for tricked-out travel vans that my husband and I can live in while we explore the highways, post-retirement.

Boring Shoes and Good Housekeeping

I spent the coffee portion of my morning reading the May issue of Good Housekeeping, a subscription that my mother had bought for her mother until Grandma died and then passed on to me. There was a lapse in between of about fifteen years when only my mom received the issues, and whenever I visited her house I read them with a sense of guilty pleasure. Now, I just read them. There’s no sense of irony or guilty pleasure. I’m not out of my league here. In fact, I am solidly in the demographic that considers GH’s reviews on anti-aging products and foundation that clears up skin blotching. This morning, I even checked out an ad for super-comfy sandals with the pillow-type soles. I never would have considered these shoes six months ago, before I inherited a pair of my mother’s Sketchers On-the-Go loafers in a conservative tan color (Tan really does go with everything.). These shoes have become my go-to pair. I wear them with skirts, leggings, and jeans. My husband’s ex, whose fashion choices have always had that tired “mom” look to them, recently complimented me on my very comfortable pair of tan Sketchers with the white marshmallow soles. They’re like walking on air.

I own ten pairs of wedges and nine pairs of heels. In the past six months, I have worn wedges or heels exactly two times—a pair of stilettos for my mom’s viewing, and a pair of wedges for her memorial. And I have some wedgey boots that I wore from time-to-time, but certainly not often. In part because I gained a lot of weight in the last couple of years and don’t fit into most of my clothes, and in part because I’ve started to value comfort in a way that I never valued it before, I tend to wear a lot of yoga pants, t-shirts, and sweatshirts these days. Sometimes, I even find a way to dress these items up enough to wear them to work.

What is happening to me? Was it really that long ago that my writing professor suggested I submit my work to More magazine, and I hesitated because I didn’t think I was old enough to share the perspective of the More-reading audience? Sigh. Yes, it was. I long for More magazine these days; but unfortunately, that sophisticated periodical that applauded older women—their second acts, their successes and struggles, their graying hair—is gone, and I’m left with reading material like Good Housekeeping and Better Homes and Gardens instead. They’re not so bad—I’ve gotten great recipes and decorating tips from these selections—but they’re not More. These magazines have the sophistication of a tan pair of Sketchers On-the-Go. And, I’m afraid, at the age of forty-six, I do as well.

“Earth Day” Still Exists!

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” –Ray Bradbury

Happy Earth, day, Darling. We love you very, very, very, very, very, very, VERY much.

An MSN poll this morning asked me how I would rate the state of the environment today versus ten years ago. I expected my choices would be some kind of range between “catastrophic” and “meh.” I guess I expected too much from MSN. The choices offered to me this Earth Day on the state of the environment were these four: “better,” “worse,” “about the same,” and “I don’t know.” 46% of respondents think things have gotten worse, which means the other 64% of them are delusional. Perhaps they watch real news instead of that “fake” stuff. 24 fucking percent of these morons think the earth is doing better. REALLY? Out of this 64% roasted nut mix, I have the most (not saying “a lot,” just “the most”) respect for the 3% who admit that they just don’t know. Thank you. Thank you for your honesty. You, my 3%, have just admitted that you don’t make any great efforts to stay informed about the environment or the state of the world, that you probably click out of your MSN home page if the content gets too heavy, and that you’re not afraid to admit that. I’ll take an “I don’t know.” It’s the only genuine choice among those pitiful three.

I say this with no sarcasm intended: Shit like this is the reason why I became a drinker. Morons aren’t new to this earth. The Internet didn’t invent them. I thought so many people around me were tedious and annoying when I was thirteen, long before smart phone distractions like Twitter and Snapchat. I say “thirteen” because it was around that time I started swiping beers and replacing liquor with water. I think my first drunks were like revelations to me—people could be funny, I could make light of things, s’all good! I never drank to make a story (yes, I’m still hung up on the Jamison memoir). Life itself was an absurd, dark comedy.

While we’re on the subject of environmental devastation, Husband and I watched Downsizing the other night. I’ll watch anything with Jason Sudeikis and Kristen Wiig. Plus, as a kid I used to fantasize about what it would be like to be a tiny person as tall as a blade of grass. The movie turned out to be much more than a comedy about people voluntarily shrinking themselves to get more for their money. It made a pretty obvious statement, in fact, about what people choose to do with technological and scientific breakthroughs that have the power to make lives better or worse. There’s a dark side to every invention. On the one hand, you have the visionaries, those with the foresight to think globally and imagine the very best outcomes of their labor. On the other hand, you have the hustlers who seize on the rich, but short-term gains offered by the technology. Anyone with the ability to think critically can weigh the pros and cons of both hands. Our future kinda depends on critical thinkers to maintain a balance between the two.

I think today’s Earth Day MSN poll provides some evidence that the scale is off-balance. Nevertheless, I’m gonna enjoy this Earth Day—the sunshine, the smell of freshly-mowed grass, and my relative privilege in the world.

The Absence

I started reading Leslie Jamison’s The Recovery and got to page 18 and put it down. All I know about the author so far is that she had attended a graduate writing program in Iowa, that she had felt she needed to make stories to tell and so she used drinking as her vehicle, and that she had rehearsed her first confession at an AA meeting. Within those 18 pages, she included other bits about adolescent insecurity turned adult insecurity and the usual stuff that alcoholics and probably everybody else has experienced in the middle class world. I could keep reading with an open mind. Maybe tomorrow, though, not tonight. At the moment, I just don’t care about this particular woman’s recovery story or about what she has unearthed on the subject through research. Alcoholism, as a topic of research or conversation or reflection, as a personal struggle and a source of embarrassment, is beginning to bore me. Tonight, I am as bored with myself as I am by other alcoholics.

My addiction counselor asked me to journal about my habits. The purpose of the exercise was to determine what triggers a binge. Since I already know my triggers, a week of journals went like this:

April 4

Drank beer. It was a nice day.

April 5

Extra beer lying around. Drank that.

April 6

Another nice day. Drank more beer to celebrate our tax return.

April 7

Drank wine.

April 8

Brunch with J and Bloody Marys.

April 9

Met a new shrink. She prescribed Naltrexone. H went on a work trip. Drank the leftover beer. Bought more. Drank that. Bought 2 bottles of wine. Drank half of one.

April 10

Came home from work by 1:30. H still gone. Finished off the wine. Passed out. Woke up at 7:22 and thought it was morning. Made coffee, fed the dogs and went to my 8:00 am appointment with Dr. M. Didn’t realize until I got there and knocked on the door and waited around that it wasn’t morning. A new low.

Triggers? Well, where do we begin. This rhorshock splash of a journaling attempt ended two days later when I used the book to plan out a speech for my mother’s official memorial. The next morning, when the pastor asked me if I had brought a book for attendees to sign, I tore out those first few pages of scribbles and opened the diary to the first unripped page and set it on the podium. Got 44 signatures, but there were at least double that in attendance.

So, yeah, it was my mom’s memorial this weekend, six months after her death. I ended up ad libbing that speech since I couldn’t find a quiet corner of the hotel to write it out the night before. I would go to our room, and I’d find a bunch of kids in there. I’d go outside to smoke, and people would join me. I’d go into the lobby, and the front desk attendant would be watching news about the Syria bombing. So I inferred that my mom didn’t want me to go up there and read off of a piece of paper, so I didn’t. My speech began where the pastor left off.

I’ve written eulogies before. I wrote one for my grandmother, even started it before she died. I wrote one for my uncle who died shortly before my mother did. Somewhere in my files is an unfinished benediction for my father. But I couldn’t write one for Mom. I had a whole week before her service to do not much more than think about what to say when I got there, and the inarticulate scribblings above pretty much sum up how I spent that time. I thought about her a lot, but those thoughts usually ended in drunken blubbering and a long nap on the couch in my clothes with all the lights still on.

I still contend that Mom wanted my speech to be spontaneous. How do you say in five to ten minutes who and what your mother meant to you, and to everybody else? How do you defend and honor the direction of her whole life? You really can’t. The young pastor had it easy because he was new to the church when Mom got sick, and he only had one poignant memory of her. I had a lifetime. But I managed. It came to me.

Then my brother, my shy, soft-spoken brother, decided to say something. And he took a different approach. He didn’t try to sum her up or tell people something that perhaps they didn’t know. He just talked about little things that are no longer there, like dinner at 5:00. My mother’s day revolved around dinner time, and my father put it out there for her. If you showed up at their house any time between 4 and 6, you’d see the table set, smell food cooking. All the lights would be on. Dad would be busy in the kitchen, and Mom would be warm in a chair stalking people on Facebook or watching HGTV or All My Children. Since then, Dad has stopped thinking about dinner. I had to throw something together for him on Sunday when I realized that it was 6:30, and the kitchen was dark. That kind of absence is a real kick in the ass. It’s even worse than the little objects lying around in memoriam, like a beat-up pair of slides she used for gardening still sitting on the back porch or the little glass and ceramic things she collected, arranged meticulously in a display cabinet. It’s less a reminder as it is a void. A big question. What goes here now?

America’s Next Top Something or Other

I’ve immersed myself this evening in episodes of Friends and America’s Next Top Model. They give me such a giggle!

First, let’s take a look at Friends. I didn’t watch the show in the nineties because I was your typical nineties nonconformist who didn’t believe in stuff like television or fiction or capitalism. Basically, I was an asshole. But now I think Friends is a pretty funny show.

Anyway, on tonight’s rerun of Friends, Rachael turned thirty, and her five peers tried to cheer her up while she wallowed—just a tad—in some self-pity. I hardly remember turning thirty. Maybe it was bittersweet. I don’t know. It was so damn long ago that my only memory of it was opening up a birthday package from my mom in the hall bathroom. I don’t know why I was opening packages in the hall bathroom. I’m not even entirely sure the package was from my mom. Might have been from my ex-boyfriend. That would explain the hall bathroom. In that package was a coffee mug that said “Yikes! 30!” which I still own.

Thirty. Hah hah HAH. Someone seasoned like the administrative assistant at my college who has been there, done that, and dealt with everything from death to illness to job loss and plumbing issues should have sat me down that night and said, “Sugar, you’re only gonna get older and older and OLDER, so open up your eyes right now and take all this in and remember it.” As it is, thirty was just a blip.

Then, there’s ANTM, another show I never watched, not til this season. This season, we got big girls and old girls and hairless girls in the mix. I can’t stop watching. There’s a 42 year-old woman competing this season, and here’s how she deals with the twenty-something hormone drama in the model house in LA: she doesn’t. She keeps her mouth shut, and she stays out of it. Smart woman. That’s my forty-something girl. Tonight, she wore a very stupid outfit to elimination, some gold coverall shorts with a frilly white blouse—very Goldilocks—but I will forgive her for that because she hasn’t modeled since like 1996, and she’s still a little confused and has a tough experience ahead of her.

My forty-something–the only woman on the show who doesn’t make me cringe or giggle with her imaginary insecurities. At our age, the shit that makes us cry isn’t imaginary.

Babies and Grief

OK, my cousin is temporarily staying at her sister’s house where she can play with a baby, and where her puppy can interact with another dog, and where she can be around other people and their normalcy for a time. I’m satisfied that she’s taken care of, at least for a week.

Babies are living antidepressants. The day my Mom died, a ragtag group of people descended on the house. There was my brother, of course, and my aunt and my nieces and my nephew and his wife. And there was the guy who owns the auto body shop down the road, the one who has been friends with the family since he and my brother took auto shop together in high school in the seventies. He’s plowed my parents’ driveway in winter, fixed their cars whenever they hit a deer or a traffic cone on the highway. Sold my oldest brother more refurbished auction cars than I can count on my hands. He’s always been there. And so there he was, at our house on the day my mom died, with his wife and his daughter and his little baby granddaughter.

This guy. This guy is one of those people who doesn’t have the words. He’s kind. He’s affable. He’s witty. But he doesn’t do speeches or drama or serious. A week before my mother died, when I first got to town, I stopped over at his shop to say “hi” like I always do. He just stood there and looked at me. No dumb jokes, no silly banter. I would have found it awkward, except that I’ve known this guy, literally, for as long as I can remember. So we just stood there in his shop for awhile, amid the dirt and oil fumes of gutted cars that brings me back to my childhood, hanging around my brothers while they tried to resurrect vintage Chevy products in our driveway. And then I left. This guy only has one channel—friendly and light. If he can’t be tuned to that channel, he just slips into quiet. And I am grateful for that.

I told my cousin this story. Because sometimes there are no words for tragedy and grief. I’ve told my cousin she’s young, and because she’s young, I’d like to see her feel better, eventually. But I never assured her that it would get better. I never told her to get back out there and start over, or to start dating again. That’s absurd. In the face of grief, you have to choose your words carefully, or just don’t say anything at all, like my brother’s loyal friend, the guy with the auto shop down the road, and the cute grandbaby that he brought to my parents’ house on the day my mother died.

There we were, a distraught family that was feeling some weird kind of relief and release because the suffering was over, at least for Mom.  And then there was this baby, a little thing in a tutu and a bow with big brown eyes, a child who was just beginning to comprehend the world around her. She didn’t know any of the yucky stuff—sadness, grief—she just responded to sounds and lights and color and smiles. Her granddaddy made goofy faces, and she smiled and laughed and shrieked, and he imitated her shrieks. And I enjoyed this baby, and I got FUCKED UP.

Later, after everyone left, my dad said, “I never understood how people could laugh and have fun in the face of tragedy. Now I think I get it. It’s a release.” It’s catharsis. It is. It’s like taking a long hike in the woods. It’s like hanging out with a baby. It’s like being with people who want or need nothing from you. They’re just there, like they’ve always been, with nothing new or profound to say.

My poor cousin. My cousin who gave up everything—her community, her friends, and even her family—to follow this dreamer (or maybe con artist) into the wilderness. She needs something. She needs the guy who owns the auto body shop down the road. She needs community, and she needs a baby. I hope this week she gets it.

 

 

Getting Real–Baltimore, Hon!

It’s interesting, isn’t it, how secretive I thought I needed to be in my “public” blog? In three years, I never said where I was from or where I lived or named names because I thought a confessional type of blog such as this required an element of privacy.

Then I realized that all the people I wanted to protect—my parents, my cousins, my friends—none of them read this. My followers are strangers. They found me on their own because something I said resonated with them. Over the years, I’ve shared this link with family and friends, and by doing so I’ve dared them to read it, and they didn’t. So why should I care anymore about sheltering their feelings or reputations?

The stuff I always wanted to write about was very regional and very personal. Baltimore, my adoptive city, the place where I lived through two marriages and one formative decade, can’t be compared to any other place on this earth. If I want to be real, I can’t be generic. I’m an East Coast blogger living in the Baltimore/DC Metro area and wishing I were back in the Baltimore part of that identification. I live in a safe, clean, and expensive suburb. When I drive to work and back, I cross the Woodrow Wilson Bridge between Maryland and Virginia. I can see the Washington Monument through my passenger window.

My hiking partner, the woman I cite in many of my posts, was my downstairs neighbor back in those Baltimore days. She left her keys in the door back in 2003, the day I moved into a studio apartment in the former library of a nineteenth century brownstone. She had left her keys in the door, and I knocked. We’ve been friends ever since. And now, you can’t take the Baltimore out of us.

There’s a whole lot going on in Baltimore these days, stuff that makes the news, stuff that indicates that a white transplant from rural Pennsylvania might not make it there. But I never went to Baltimore to “make it.” “Making it” was never my plan.