Push the Boys Into the Ditch; My Grandma’s Perfect Love Advice.

Do you ever go through something that is both presumably necessary but incredibly hard and subsequently feel the weight of the world baring down on you as if the gravitational pull changed and it was all on account of you doing something possibly stupid but possibly necessary? Me either, life is easy and fun!

While my health has to continued to sustain for reasons I can’t entirely know for sure, I’ve had some personal experiences which are difficult and painful and every time these things wash over me I examine why life has to be hard (as if I actually expected it to only be easy) and then I wonder does life actually have to be this hard or am I just doing it wrong?  I don’t know the answer to that one. I guess we can only learn as we go. I find myself telling Monty to never fall in love because it leaves a mark on every part of your life and ultimately it changes you, whether you wanted to or not. But then I watched the neighbor dog humping his owners leg and considered that obviously the alternative isn’t so much more grand. Though there’s an appeal to that leg–it’s not going to keep you up at night with heartache and strife. Or maybe I’m too quickly assuming here, maybe I should ask the dog.

Yeeeeah Legs!

Yeeeeah Legs!

Of course this fantasy that life would be easier and less painful without this or that is just that: a fantasy, a slight rejection of reality. But maybe more detrimentally, it presumes that somehow as humans we know better, and we know the answer to what would make life easier or more tolerable. As if life isn’t some ridiculous, complex mystery that has an infinite amount of working parts we as finite humans can only momentarily grasp, if ever at all. And I’m not struggling with an idea that every human for thousands of years hasn’t experienced pain from and questioned the value of. We’ve all been through it. Wondered if the pain in the end was worth the utopia in the beginning. I like this quote about it: “Love is the voice under all silences, the hope which has no opposite in fear.” by e.e. cummings. Would I really choose an option where falling in love wasn’t part of the equation? Duh, no. That’d be insane and cowardly and boring. Love is a remarkable gift, with perhaps its best quality being that of illumination. I like how sometimes it picks us, even when we’ve turned our backs on it or given up on the idea. I like that it takes us places we wouldn’t go on our own. I like that it makes even a worn-down curmudgeon feel giddy and silly and do things he thought he’d never do. I’m thinking of my grandma now, who at 86, has a man named Harold (a few years her senior) who is madly in love with her. I saw it with my own eyes. They would marry if only she’d accept.

Harold had been living at her facility for a few years when she moved in. He has a military haircut I imagine he’s had for 50 years. He speaks concisely and says what he means. There is density to both his physique and his words but a subtle softness you pick up on behind it. Harold had been sitting at the same table in the cafeteria for years, often alone, seeming annoyed by even the thought of socializing and especially at watching others partake in it. Sometimes he looks like he wants to press mute or fast forward on the whole charade; a sentiment I’m familiar with. He eats and drinks the same thing at his meals every day in a very particular order–part of the routine involving peeling his fruit and sharing half of it with my grandma. The ending involves hot tea with a lemon at a very high temperature that if not fulfilled, as sometimes happens with new employees or forgetful old ones, gets sent back. He waits. Sometimes he scoffs, others he sits in silence. I ate with them a few times last summer and couldn’t help but think of Jack Nicholson ala As Good As It Gets, with a little less show but just as much intensity.

Harold would be the last guy you’d expect to get all doughy-eyed and follow a girl around like a love-sick puppy. And yet, here he is. Three years in to my grandma’s stay at The Atrium, Grand Junction’s finest assisted living home, and Harold has fallen over in love with her. I’d like to say I’m exaggerating for literary purpose but truly I am not. I saw it with my own eyes. It started as a joke in the family– OOooooh Grandma! Hanging out with Harold again?! Grandma has a boyfriend! Hehehehe! And then slowly it was revealed to all of us that for him it wasn’t some crush, he’d truly fallen for her. He switched tables to sit with her. Even thought that meant there’d be a certain amount of socializing. He comes over all the time to watch Westerns at her apartment. He on the couch, she on the recliner. Of course half the time they fall asleep 10 minutes in, but no matter. The man has it bad. And something about it completely excites and inspires me. It turned the tables on rules I had stupidly self-made on love and life and age. Very stupidly. I am constantly discovering how much I don’t know. But I love this story. I love that the employees there asked my grandma what she had done to Harold. What happened to the old crotchety man rolling his eyes in the corner? Now he was partaking in group activities? Calling her on the phone? Feeding the ducks? Switching tables?!! While my grandma tries to insist they’re only friends, (oh my God life never changes) and that she finished that phase of her life after my grandpa died, it’s clear she’s enjoying the time with him as she should.  Albeit rejecting his proposals and insisting he partake in more bridge games. I love it all. They’re is something truly hopeful in all of it. Anything that flips our predefined notions on their head can only be a good. It’s illuminating. I imagine it’s that way for Harold, too.

Harold, My Grandma, and her best friend Myrtle, playing cards on a wild Friday night last summer.

Harold, My Grandma, and her best friend Myrtle, playing cards on a wild Friday night last summer.

Maybe it’s different for her. She clearly likes him being her friend and enjoys the companionship. Perhaps in this last stage of their lives, my grandma’s old stoic German ways will prevail and she’ll reject the romantic advances and they truly will be just friends. At 90. And that’s fine too. Of course I’m secretly hoping that one day she’ll weaken, she’ll let him sneak a kiss. Maybe she already has. I don’t know. But watching this all unfold fills my heart up with something good. Something hopeful. My grandma’s advice to me has always been that boys like girls who are mean to them; that she hardly ever let a boy get too close or too much from her. To work on your own life and don’t design it around some boy. And I knew as a young woman she had a lot of interested suitors and broke her share of hearts. In fact she pushed her first boyfriend into a ditch when he tried to kiss her, which she said of course, only made him try harder. And that’s been her advice to me; to push the boys into the ditch and watch what happens. Honestly I take her advice to heart. I love listening to her old stories. Her simplicity about life. She is a very happy person who loves her life, and so for me her advice carries a lot of water. I know they don’t have the internet at the Atrium, but Grandma, if you’re reading, give Harold a kiss for me. (I mean you can’t push the man into the ditch–he’s 90!!) For whatever reason watching the two of you, and specifically him, has been a very good thing for me, and I’ll probably always carry it with me.

Health, Happiness, and Boys In the Ditch

Grandma Selfie Yeah!

Grandma Selfie Yeah!

Some Posthumous Advice

A friend sent this to me recently and I really loved it.  There’s something relieving and freeing about it and I think we could all use a laugh. Read it, you’ll smile.

Written by Caitlin Moran,
Published in The Times of London

My Posthumous Advice For My Daughter

My daughter is about to turn 13 and I’ve been smoking a lot recently, and so – in the wee small hours, when my lungs feel like there’s a small mouse inside them, scratching to get out – I’ve thought about writing her one of those “Now I’m Dead, Here’s My Letter Of Advice For You To Consult As You Continue Your Now Motherless Life” letters. Here’s the first draft. Might tweak it a bit later. When I’ve had another fag.

“Dear Lizzie. Hello, it’s Mummy. I’m dead. Sorry about that. I hope the funeral was good – did Daddy play Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen when my coffin went into the cremator? I hope everyone sang along and did air guitar, as I stipulated. And wore the stick-on Freddie Mercury moustaches, as I ordered in the ‘My Funeral Plan’ document that’s been pinned on the fridge since 2008, when I had that extremely self-pitying cold.

“Look – here are a couple of things I’ve learnt on the way that you might find useful in the coming years. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start. Also, I’ve left you loads of life-insurance money – so go hog wild on eBay on those second-hand vintage dresses you like. You have always looked beautiful in them. You have always looked beautiful.

“The main thing is just to try to be nice. You already are – so lovely I burst, darling – and so I want you to hang on to that and never let it go. Keep slowly turning it up, like a dimmer switch, whenever you can. Just resolve to shine, constantly and steadily, like a warm lamp in the corner, and people will want to move towards you in order to feel happy, and to read things more clearly. You will be bright and constant in a world of dark and flux, and this will save you the anxiety of other, ultimately less satisfying things like ‘being cool’, ‘being more successful than everyone else’ and ‘being very thin’.

“Second, always remember that, nine times out of ten, you probably aren’t having a full-on nervous breakdown – you just need a cup of tea and a biscuit. You’d be amazed how easily and repeatedly you can confuse the two. Get a big biscuit tin.

“Three – always pick up worms off the pavement and put them on the grass. They’re having a bad day, and they’re good for… the earth or something (ask Daddy more about this; am a bit sketchy).

“Four: choose your friends because you feel most like yourself around them, because the jokes are easy and you feel like you’re in your best outfit when you’re with them, even though you’re just in a T-shirt. Never love someone whom you think you need to mend – or who makes you feel like you should be mended. There are boys out there who look for shining girls; they will stand next to you and say quiet things in your ear that only you can hear and that will slowly drain the joy out of your heart. The books about vampires are true, baby. Drive a stake through their hearts and run away.

“Stay at peace with your body. While it’s healthy, never think of it as a problem or a failure. Pat your legs occasionally and thank them for being able to run. Put your hands on your belly and enjoy how soft and warm you are – marvel over the world turning over within, the brilliant meat clockwork, as I did when you were inside me and I dreamt of you every night.

“Whenever you can’t think of something to say in a conversation, ask people questions instead. Even if you’re next to a man who collects pre-Seventies screws and bolts, you will probably never have another opportunity to find out so much about pre-Seventies screws and bolts, and you never know when it will be useful.

“This segues into the next tip: life divides into AMAZING ENJOYABLE TIMES and APPALLING EXPERIENCES THAT WILL MAKE FUTURE AMAZING ANECDOTES. However awful, you can get through any experience if you imagine yourself, in the future, telling your friends about it as they scream, with increasing disbelief, ‘NO! NO!’ Even when Jesus was on the cross, I bet He was thinking, ‘When I rise in three days, the disciples aren’t going to believe this when I tell them about it.’

“Babyiest, see as many sunrises and sunsets as you can. Run across roads to smell fat roses. Always believe you can change the world – even if it’s only a tiny bit, because every tiny bit needed someone who changed it. Think of yourself as a silver rocket – use loud music as your fuel; books like maps and co-ordinates for how to get there. Host extravagantly, love constantly, dance in comfortable shoes, talk to Daddy and Nancy about me every day and never, ever start smoking. It’s like buying a fun baby dragon that will grow and eventually burn down your f***ing house.

“Love, Mummy.”

You can see the original post on Caitlin’s blog at Brouhaha

Thank you Giselle for the read! And congrats to my sister Amelie, who is a new mother today. It’s a good day.

Health Happiness Moms

To Be a Girl.

I must admit, I really love being a girl. I’m not sure most people would know that considering a few things. I’m not overwhelmingly feminine. I don’t officially dress the part that often. And my manners slip up a lot. Maybe I’m thinking more about what it is to be a Southern Girl, but I love being that too, even though I know I don’t always do the South proud. Still, it’s in me. And I like that it is.

A disappointing factor in being sick is that my wardrobe has taken quite a hit. I used to work 5 or 6 days a week, and I enjoyed putting together my little corporate outfits each day. It always felt like a part I was playing anyway, so I took time for the appropriate costume. There’s pride in getting dressed for work each day. Even if it was a crappy day– bad weather or crappy co-workers–whatever it was, there was still some amusement in dressing each day. Looking my best. It was some part of the job that I could control. And I indulged in looking good and smelling good and hearing my heels click on the gallery floor. There was some identity, among pride, in the ritual of all of that.

Now I don’t have somewhere to be 5 out of the 7 days a week. I don’t have to wake up at some ridiculous hour–which let me be clear, I don’t miss in the least. And while I don’t miss hitting the snooze button 6 times before forcing myself out of bed and dragging myself to the shower, I do miss the ritual of working. The wardrobe it required. The pride in looking good and knowing your purpose and getting a paycheck every two weeks. Clear parameters. Certain expectations. Consistent and adequate wages. I realize that while you’re working it’s not uncommon to be fantasizing about not working, because that grind–it’s a lot. Every day. All day. The same people. The same setting. It can be overwhelming in its sameness.

While I did enjoy the ritual of working, I knew I couldn’t stay there forever, mostly because it didn’t do a lot for my soul. The work was not a challenge creatively in the least. I told myself that I could work full-time and do my creative work on the side. I could write and draw at night or on the weekends, but I was so dead at the end of each day, so spent by the weekends, I always spent them half-conscious in sweats watching mindless television or attempting to write but tiring out quickly. Maybe some could do it, but it was certain I could not. One day I would have to leave that job if I wanted to explore the more creative life, but I never thought it would be involuntary. It was–due to my health. I wonder how long I would have stayed there had it not been.

Anyway, now I am sort of living the creative life. I follow my inner-self a lot which is a privilege, I admit. I’ve learned songs on my dads guitar. I paint watercolors when I’m bored. I watch French movies to brush up on my French. I write. I read. I rest. Repeat. I think it would be easy to look at my life from the outside and say it looks easy. And to an extent it’s certainly easier than my scheduled life I used to lead. There’s no calling in sick or feeling guilty about not performing well. But also, there’s no paycheck. No official schedule to follow or tasks to complete. But I have a feeling those things will come again.

It’d be easy to fall down the black hole of daytime TV or something more depressing. I work hard to keep things moving. To strike when the creativity is hot. To find newness in each day. I consciously work to keep my life from going to stagnant–that’s where a girl could get into trouble.

Since my new life doesn’t require any certain wardrobe, I often joke about the clothes I wear and my general appearance. Not to mention, the whole showering and routine that follows deal totally exhausts me, so it’s often a matter of energy reserves. I used to be so polished. Now I leave my hair curly and wild and am wearing a stretch cotton tank top with a cat wearing sunglasses on it. This of course is acceptable, as I don’t really have visitors or male suitors. Haha. But still, as much as I have to strive to keep my life moving, I think I need to remember that I am a girl and I can look pretty when I try. And I really enjoy smelling good. I don’t have official reasons to make those things happen anymore, but maybe just being a girl is reason enough.

Like last night, I painted my nails this bright red. And it really thrilled me. Red nails! The thrills of being a girl!

Glamour on a Tuesday.

Glamour on a Tuesday.

Laughably I take pride in being able to give myself a manicure comparable to the professional ones. Since I’m broke I can’t afford those things, but I can do them myself and so I do. I also bought this knock-off gold watch for $20 dollars which I really enjoy wearing. The best part is it fit perfectly, I didn’t have to remove any links. It makes me feel glamorous, with these red nails and lipstick too. Sometimes when I’m feeling good, I take really long bubble baths, I spend a long time doing my hair, I put on full makeup, and I spray myself in perfume. And then I go nowhere. I strut around my house like an idiot, just like it used to be–a girl playing dress up. Or I pretend to go somewhere and take photos like these:

Here's Monty and Me and the Eiffle!

Here’s Monty and Me at the Eiffle!

And here we are at the Aquarium!

And here we are at the Aquarium!

Monty gets nervous because it’s gotten to the point where if I put on pants he knows I am probably leaving. But I don’t leave. I clean the house. I indulge in the mirror. And still, even though I have nowhere to go or no one to see– I revel in being a girl. If even just to remind myself that when I try, I can still be one. One day I will have places to be and people to meet and parties to attend, so I’m just making sure I still know how. How to be polished. How to walk with poise in heels. How to look the part. How to be a girl.

Health, Happiness, Remembering.