Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Mirror, Mirror...

It’s August.  Soon the leaves will show signs that fall is approaching.  They will turn red, gold, deep brown, and patent-leather shiny black.  There is an autumn-smelling wind blowing over my back. 

It won’t be long before I begin to rake leaves, go to football games, make soup, and celebrate harvest.

I’m not sure just how that happened.  I never am.  Where did the time go? 

 As any athletic competitor will affirm, Father Time is the only competitor who’s undefeated. Time makes life a blood sport.  

Tempus fugit be danged.  Time doesn’t fly.  It hurtles.

Didn’t I just take down the Christmas decorations?

Wasn’t I just moaning about making New Year’s Resolutions?

I had another birthday.  Hung one more up on the wall. 

There are a lot of miles on the odometer.

Am I getting old?  Ha!  Forget the “getting.”  I’ve lost all my muscle memory.  I have muscle amnesia.  More like muscle alzheimers.  Unfortunately, I have ample “flab recall,” more’s the pity. I hold up my arms, and the skin falls in crepey folds and puddles at the crook of my elbows.  I suppose if I counted the folds, like the rings on mighty tree trunks, it would be an accurate gauge of the years that have passed. It really is later than I think.

Recently, I went to Jackson Hole.  I stayed in a lovely lodge that had every conceivable accoutrement…including an inordinately large magnifying mirror that revealed my reflection like an IMAX movie screen.  I.  WAS.  HORRIFIED!  Optics are tricky, but I looked like a biological oddity.  A subcutaneous life form spawned in the primordial ooze of the LaBrea Tar Pits. A fossil. The Missing Link.  My mouth dropped open in a silent gasp, and in the exaggeration of this glass of horrors, I had the bite radius of a great white.  Oh, the hu-MAN-ity! 

So I did what every woman does when confronted with vicious reality.  I bellowed.  I recoiled.  I hissed.  I brayed. I belched stentorian gorilla vocalizations. However, being straight-jacketed by my own morality, I did not give voice to the words that were being spawned in my throat.  But those very obscenities were turning my saliva to magma on my tongue.

My horror festered.

WHAT HAPPENED???  I could not believe that was me in the mirror. My organs dropped into my shoes.  When did I become Quasimodo? I’m sure it’s an immutable fact of the second principle of Thermodynamics, but I reeked of decomposition. 

I’ve been thinking about time a lot lately. Time is so predatory.  It takes no prisoners.

Ah, but I digress. As I was saying, I became plagued by bodily confusion.  What is it about our physical terrain that makes us crazy?  And seeing every disgusting pore as a lunar crater with no possibility of restoration without a dump truck full of industrial strength mortician’s putty, can drive a woman to fall into her own footprint.

Oh, I’ve got skin in the game, all right.  That’s just the problem.  Mirrors are wicked.  They shatter the illusion that one is a mass of feline grace.  But is it wanton hubris, wild excess of self narcissism, to dread looking like an ancient Mongolian warrior monk? I hardly think so.

I cursed this mirror, ranting that magnifying mirrors are nothing but architectural deception.  And yet, the evidence was glaringly undeniable.  Wrinkles, heck.  My skin is corrugated.  I’m smothered in facial fault lines.  One is the size of the Continental Divide.  Another should be registered as a repeat offender. 

My entire dermis sags and ripples.  There are great hollows and gorges in a facial canyon. I am withered and wizened.

I hold these wrinkles to be self-evident.  And that they are.

Needless to say, I was catapulted into depression.  I became aggressively, aerobically, robustly inert. I couldn’t brain the whole day.  I had the Dumb. I just wanted to sequester myself in a yert for the anatomically impaired, isolate my atoms, and feel the hurt. Where’s my dopamine?  

And I realized for the first time, really, that I am a casualty of programmed obsolescence.

But this is preposterous.  How revolting. You want torture?  There is no terrorist more potent than a mirror that magnifies. Mother Nature has a demonic sense of humor.

I looked positively Cro-Magnon.  My hands were clawed and shriveled.  My teeth looked like they needed to be scoured by CLR.  My skin was the color of Spam.  I was a crustacean, a mollusk on steroids.  And I haven’t even begun to go into the geriatric skin tags and nasal hair reforestation.  Yeah, we’re talkin’ woolly mammoth meets Jabba the Hut.

Now, I know there are those who could distinguish between me and a prehistoric mastodon.  But it’s a difference without a distinction.
Of course, I know that there are natural laws that are irrevocable, but why can’t there be exceptions once in a while?  Would it violate some grand schematic cosmic order in the scrum of life if gravity didn’t ALWAYS cause our component body parts to crease, fold, dimple and mutate?  And why, may I ask, is the trajectory always downward? 

But what can be done that doesn’t necessitate a surgeon with a scalpel?

Where can I buy extinction insurance? 

Oh, I suppose we all have blind spots regarding our own reflections.  I, personally, am in flagrant denial of the face that confronts me each morning. I think it’s called “body dysmorphia.”  Denial has its place in any beauty regimen.  It is the opiate of women.  I understand that. In fact, denial seems to be the chloroform of the masses.  One has only to look at the current political climate for verification.

Perhaps the solution is simple:  Stop looking in the mirror, and start looking out the window.

To be fair, I do have days spent in reckless celebration of defying all dread, days when the world seems perpetually blue-skied, and I am high on solar endorphins. Sometimes, the laws of gravity actually are suspended. Those days have no mirrors.

Yes, Time is predatory. But it is also elusive.  Just when you think you can capture it, time evaporates.

Time is scarce.  It is not so much an immutable force of nature, as it is a psychological phenomenon. Perhaps it is the EXPERIENCE of time that really matters. Time is a commodity to be invested. One would be wise to invest it in that which is of most worth, and has the greatest value.

I guess the reflections in the mirror teach me the things I must grow into.  Every fold, every crevice, every irregularity, each laugh line is a vessel of history.  They all bear silent, but undeniable, witness of the chronicle of my life, and all those who saturate my story.  It is layered with loved ones, places, events, memories.

 So, can I endure looking at myself under a microscope?  Perhaps.  But I just wish the reflection were as lovely as all the beautiful things that have imprinted my visage with such exquisite sweetness.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Tidying Up

Ah, yes!  T. S. Eliot was right:  April IS the cruelest month!  And I know why – it’s tax time!  In the middle of a month that is a veritable orgy of abundance, the Tax Man cometh. 

Taxes make life very untidy.  My financial profile is disheveled, like a ballot laden with a horde of hanging chads…and every chad is hanging in a different direction. My accounts are in disarray, as if they were the hairballs that had just been disgorged by a deranged cat bent on offing himself with an overdose of Ipecac. 

When my investment adviser was showing me the numbers on my tax return, it was obvious some governmental subversive gone rogue had kicked my assets into a higher tax bracket. I was stupefied. I was wracked by jagged breaths. I broke into a high-pitched lament, a primal whine, and began emitting various unintelligible, wordless growls. Oh, the convulsions!  Oh, the paroxysms of desperation!  Oh, the tendency to hyperbolize! 

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m no miser.  I fully expect to pay my fair share to Uncle Sam. But it was with great mandibular activity on my wad of gum that I refrained, in the name of karmic justice, from flinging a tantrum, conjuring a plague of pustules and imposing the likeness of Mick Jagger’s lips on every inefficient politician responsible for tariff terrorism. Really?  The amount levied by the IRS has the same quantity of numerical digits as my accountant’s cell number! I laid in a sump of self pity.

What’s going on in Washington? It’s hostile territory. Has someone who is genetically challenged and teetering on the surreal edge of normalcy, made a Faustian deal to test the limits of human endurance…not to mention hapless widows?  I always thought there was specific neuronal wiring that distinguished us from other animals.  After April, obviously, I was wrong. Of course, I read somewhere that hemorrhoids have a higher favorability rating than Congress. So, apparently, do root canals. Go figure.  Hemorrhoids can be surgically removed.  That explains a lot.  Washington is not exactly saturated with a population of aspiring candidates for intellectual glory. Every time certain politicians open their mouths, they subtract from the sum total of human knowledge. Talk about a checklist of depravity. Perhaps that explains the current state of the Presidential election – a mind-numbing drop in this country’s collective IQ to a single digit.

Thank goodness April is also saturated with lilacs.  Lilacs are concentrated blossoms with a singular fragrance, comprising the sublime whole.  They are truly more than the sum of their parts. There is never anything wrong with life that can’t be fixed with what is right with lilacs.

Lilacs bloom in inhospitable geography.  Lilacs are a glorious lavender…or white or a soft blush.  They leave one with a sort of divine befuddlement…how could something so incandescently lovely, bloom in tax season?  Smelling the perfume of lilacs is singular, like reading Psalms to ward off fear. 

There’s something permanent about lilacs, although their blooming season lasts only two weeks.  It’s amazing that a blossom so fragile can serve as anchor to the soul…like poetry or scriptures. 

I once said that lilacs have honorable subtlety.  They are a symbol of the deep perfection of life, as well as reminders of anniversaries that give one a sense of self. I never miss an opportunity to denude some unsuspecting neighbor’s lilac bush of its precious blooms.  When life becomes revolting and coarse (witness the messy electoral process currently assaulting this country, laced with vitriol and vulgarisms), lilacs bring a brief refinement, a distinct grace, a sweet respite from all that is fetid in the political arena, or any arena, for that matter. Now, I don’t embezzle any other flowers.  I have my ethics, after all. That’s not evidence of integrity on my part.  Merely the lack of energy to transgress with the same zeal and energy of my youth. However, if theft of lilacs were a felony, I would plead guilty as charged. It always gives me the most disturbing sense of satisfaction to breathe in the intoxicating perfume of contraband lilacs. But I would not be convicted by a jury of my peers.  That’s mostly because my peers don’t have the zeal or energy to judge.  I’d get a full pardon.

My task at present, however, is to tidy up in May the mess that was made in April.

 There is a book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” by Marre Kondo.  Apparently, the premise is: Power comes to those whose chads are all in a row.

Ok.  I’ll buy that.  It’s caused me to rethink my whole life. 

So I’ve decided to (metaphorically speaking) impose order on my personal chaos, knit up my unraveled sleeve, be aglow with cleanliness, pledge to become chipperer, and smite dead the fearsome dread of THE UNTIDY that creates scabby growths on my mind, binds the bowels and results in emotional constipation.  I will NOT join the ranks of the comically useless, or worse…the beguilingly incompetent, simply because I flung a tantrum of the untidy, and caused chaos in the universe!

I will be the Attilla the Hun of ordered, analytical reason, the Mother Theresa of the methodical, the matriarch of meditation, the gladiator of the shipshape…structured, logical, systemized…corpulently punctilious…

I’m going to change my life. 


But…uh…where do I begin?

I think that was a rhetorical question. (Note to self: look up “rhetorical.”) 

Carpe cerebral:  seize the brain.  The physical and the mental do not have the same texture.   Before one can put the physical in order, one must put the mind in order. Actually, in spite of being naturally platinum, I am clandestinely erudite. And, beneath the fa├žade of conventional behavior, I am an organization freak.  I throb to the rhythm of structured logic.

If I am to tidy up any stratum of my life, I must first start with my mind. Forget the corporeal. But before I can decide what is in disarray within the confines of said mind, I must begin with what is in order.

Is there anything lovely in the structure of my mind that I could place before a tribunal of tidy people that could be for the well-being and elevation of mankind?  (I always like to begin with lofty goals.  Woman is vain, after all. Besides, what is the purpose of any intelligence, if not to serve others, and make them succulent with inspiration?  Then I will at least have the satisfaction of having done my duty.) I refuse to be a casualty of insipid vapidness. (Note #2 to self:  look up “vapidness.”)

Ah, but I digress.

Some of the order in my mind is not necessarily symmetrical.  But the following is what has managed to emerge from the clutter and chaos of confronting the worst that is imaginable…and possibly extracting the best.

*Being joyful is a state of mind, not circumstance.

*You’re never aware of personal strength, until being strong is your only option.

*The prime of life can be at any time of life.

*Being hugged by a six-foot young man you once walked the floors with when he was a colicky baby is a singular joy.

*While one can have multiple aka’s in one’s lifetime, (e.g. mother, grandmother, widow, matriarch, etc.) one must never forget the importance of being a woman.

*LOVE is the best medicine.

*Expecting children and grandchildren to fill every empty space in life is unrealistic, and places unfair pressure on all parties.

*Rock ‘n Roll is still the finest music around.

*If someone is invited to grow old with someone, one would be wise to give the matter one’s most serious consideration.

*Optics are tricky. Dawn is a matter of intuition, not necessarily visual perception.  Light can be perceived before it is actually seen.

*It is impossible to be angry when one is laughing.

*Broken wings heal, and one can eventually resume flight.

*True friends know each other by heart.

I suppose tidiness is a matter of simple economics.  Life gets messy.  You go through trials.  You learn from the experience. You keep moving forward. 

Ok. Bottom line: yes, life is often untidy, like an unmade bed, and all we need to do is make crisp hospital corners.

Got it. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

It's Just a Matter of Time

Grief alters everything.

For the past few years, I have been living a well-structured life of order and discipline.  La dolce vita.  I’ve been slavishly compelled in keeping everything tidy.  No ragged edges or hanging threads.  Meticulous synchronization. My ducks are all in a row.

I’ve maintained strict jurisdiction over the basic components of every aspect of my existence. 

Its very precision has allowed me power over obstacles and emotions with fluid control.  I denounce disruption or intrusion.  I’m closed and cloistered, as I dance the dance of the seven veils. 

No jolts.  No surprises.  Nothing to mar its perfect symmetry.

I have custody of the empire.  I have dominion over all I survey.  And best of all, I am the alpha Yoda to my tribe of little Yetis. 

I have even declined making New Year’s Resolutions of late, because I wanted to change the world, not me.  The world is witless.  Sometimes the planet seems feeble-minded and predatory, and this whole satellite could use a serious frontal lobotomy.

All this has created a state of grace…an exquisite, impeccable life.

 A masterpiece.

And what could possibly be wrong with that?

Apparently, everything.

It seems, unbeknownst to me, I’ve been suffering from twin surges of pride and delusional myopia. 

This was a somewhat stark and rather unwelcome revelation.  Is it possible perfection is not all it’s cracked up to be?

Where did I go wrong? How did this happen?  Did some of my ducks break rank?

Okay.  So.  A while ago, I began seeing someone.  I know.  I know.  This flies in the face of all my decrees and proclamations I disgorged with vigor, that this ain’t EVER happenin’!  I would NEVER accept invitations from the well-meaning, but chronically confused.

With grim resolve, I determined to remain feloniously solitary.

But with the passage of time, a curious thing happened.  I began to calcify.

So one day, I suspended my habitual reticence.  In this case, the exception was justified.  After all, Michael and I have been friends all our lives.  We were even participants in each other’s weddings.  When his wife passed away, it was only natural that we would gravitate toward each other.

It might have been chance, or karmic distribution, but as time went by, I discovered life could have even more meaning when raised to the power of two.  I also discovered it was ultimately more satisfying to be centered than self-centered.  Who knew?      

Not sure just how this whole thing evolved.  After all, I had established my universe on such admirable traits as being logical, sensible, dependable, responsible, respectable, reasonable, and level-headed.  But sometimes this becomes the refuge for the weak.  What good is it to build a dream residence if it’s nobody’s home?  Living in solitary confinement guarded by a phalanx of Tibetan Warrior Monks humming Gregorian chants might not be as exciting as it sounds.

But then came Michael.

Apparently, fortresses of cinderblock don’t count for jack in his mind.

At first, I politely uh-huhed his invitations.  But then they began to take on a certain appeal.  He preferred watching sunsets in Zion, and going on early-morning bike rides that tested my endurance and made the back of my legs feel twangy, to murmuring mantras in the lotus position. He has an aversion to too much intellectual inbreeding.

As a lawyer, he has taught me words like “scintilla” and “tort.”  I try to work them into every-day conversation, like, “Wow! Take a look at those torts!” (Hey, I’m working on it.) He also explained the concept of “quid pro quo.”  If I understand correctly, it simply means that if he gets the movie tickets, I get the popcorn. It’s all so easy, it’s a wonder I never went to law school.

He can make a contract that is legally binding and as tight Scarlet O’Hara’s corset, and then turn around and belt out the old novelty caveman song, “Allie Oop.”

Michael is articulate and fluent in French.  Recently he wrote, “Que tes revec soit doux.”  Loosely translated, it means, “Darlin’, you have spinach lodged between your teeth.”

Most important, he was Dennis’ boyhood friend, and mourns his loss as I do.

I, on the other hand, have had a rather confounding change in attitude and latitude.  I’ve been seriously contemplating removing the sewing machine from the oven so I can bake cookies.  Yeah, right.  Like that’s ever going to happen!

But I do find myself wanting to pluck, shave or wax all rogue facial hair, and firm up the protective arm flab that’s marbled with juicy fat and serves as a playground where the Mbuti Pygmies of the Congo can frolic.  I want to become smothered in muscle. I no longer hang out in long, winter woollies. I’m trying to soften my architecture.  I may be multi-chinned and Buddha-esque circumferentially, but he doesn’t seem to notice, much less care. 

Michael carpet-bombed my well-ordered citadel, and persuaded me to follow the life I never planned. 

Sometimes we all need rescuing from the predicament of the “perfect” life.  It helps to be fearless, but it’s not a prerequisite.  Maybe change isn’t always for the worst.  I’ve learned nothing works out according to plan, but it always works out.

A relationship is a living entity.

I don’t know what will eventually happen, but perhaps for the first time in a long time, I see alternate possibilities.  Maybe my myopic vision has distortions, after all.  But I’m ready to take a chance.  It’s an adrenaline rush. 

Who knows?  Maybe it’s just a matter of time.