THE MIDDLE OF LIFE


 

 I read in one of my books on writing that the middle of the novel is where most writers face the demon. The beginning is a gallop, the end is a relief, but the middle wiggles in and out of your grasp. The middle of our lives reflects this same obscurity.

The middle of a life span reflects all we have accomplished and all we have left incomplete. This is what they call a mid-life crisis. I get it every year.  I’ve finally accepted that my constant relocating, reinventing, and being restless is not going to be solved. At the bottom of the restlessness is the fear of finding rest more enjoyable than movement. This flotation of comedy rotated around me last night while I was standing out on the porch observing the peacefulness. The scenery of  Ballston Spa is a comforting, historical beauty that comes from the harmony of architecture and nature. The flow of villagers downtown is along two main two-lane streets, all the shops, services and restaurants are a patchwork, and all the business owners know each other.  

All I can think of is where I should go next. This is wholly a village of ancestral families, with defensible adaptation to the severe climate, simplicity, and uncomplicated lives. My discomfort comes from trying to assimilate.  

 Many years ago, in the summer of 1987, I was seated in a café in Monaco, truly, and a man that I was traveling with told me, “You have to make a choice.” He embarked on a long discussion about choices we make in life and how everything depends on these choices: how you live and with whom, and what you do. He pointed out to me over my first really authentic Salad Niçoise that I was an oblivious example of a woman refusing to choose. I was more interested in the salad, the yachts, the casino around the corner, and the fact that I didn’t have an evening gown to wear to dinner. I listened without argument or insult, but I was disturbed by what he said. I didn’t understand completely, but he was older and had much experience and conviction. That conversation now fits into the mid-life crisis, the comedy of errors in my life, and maybe in yours, and just how much travesty we can ignore. For my fault, as it is, I do not want to sign, commit, or make final decisions. I want it all to be a temporary placement that allows me the freedom to change.

I have lost track of my European friend, but if he met me today, he would say, “You have not changed at all.” So that is why I was standing there in the darkness on the porch and laughing like a silly girl because it is true. I have not changed at all.

The choice facing us at mid-life is making a change now, risking losing all we have accomplished, compiled, and attached, or throwing the dice.

Beyond the obvious changes in activity, relationships, and scenery are the internal travels. They are not so easily engaged. You cannot wake up one day and say, “I ‘m off to become more compassionate, or more practical, or more generous.” These journeys are taken when other factors play into our lives, such as when we get sick, demoted, or experience a trauma.

It is a very subtle inconsistency. When I unplug all the voices and listen to the one that understands, that is when I write. The middle of the story and the middle of life is the same. We and our characters have to make a choice.

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FREE TO WRITE


I think of the comforts of exhibiting my life on paper. It is not the act of writing with pen and paper moving along at a steady rhythm; it’s the activation of the heart and mind, collaborating to unravel the relevant from the irrelevant. To reach this state of matrimony a writer needs not a Tuscan Villa, or an English Castle, but experiences that flake off the skin, the mise en scene that shakes its relevance.

THE CHIMES IN OUR LIVES


You see a chime, the moment it responds to a breeze, the sound is beautiful, like Chopin’s  Nocturne 1. Sounds that accompany a descending light mist, or setting sun, but the chime improvises its sounds and movements when a vivacious wind girdles its ether. This abstraction reminds me of sensitivity. It can be soft and gentle, nurturing to the souls of those less peaceful, but when the velocity of attack hits, sensitivity is a walloping eruption of rage, drifting on uncontrollable. I’ve been punitively and cordially of being too sensitive.  There are more good reasons to alter my sensitivity than not to, but the one reason that hovers above all else is that everything we do, feel and act in life needs revision. We should never stop evolving into more thoughtful, loving, or wise human beings. Every day, there is an opportunity to leap into saintly hood. It is the same with my writing it can be better.

                    The next adventure is closing in on me as foreclosure is over the June horizon. The dismantling of possessions brings me some sort of twisted alignment to my life. Picking and choosing what to pack, eliminating what Dodger and I bought together, and vacillating over treasures that are now more weight than worth.  If I am ever to rest in one address, I’m sure it will be a headstone and a plot of dirt. I chose a destiny to relocate, and so the highway off-ramp will evolve, I just have to be patient.

           It is the inner self that concerns me, and how I will adjust and adapt to leaving my favorite house. When I was thirty, I was afraid of getting married, and when I was forty, I was afraid of not having children. Now that I am sixty-nine, I have a fear that once was my chant, the idea of moving.

The word coddiwomple is English slang, defined as “to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination”. If you are anything like me you may be coddiwompling your way through life, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

DAY 60 FOR USA-FOR UKRAINE IT IS SURVIVAL.


I looked at the list. The list looks back at me; trivial, trite, redundant, so I turn on the news.  The sky has taken the bail, the air is earnest spring, clouds and impending rain like a suspense novel you just started reading.

The list is still in front of me. Call the bank for the fourth time this week. Their new and highly improved website refuses to give me access. Find the copy of the passport application I just submitted.  Next, pack up winter clothes and replace them with spring-summer.  This obligation irritated me until late afternoon, and then in one swift harmonious leap, I packed up the winter clothes and removed them from my eyesight.  Then, I heard a breeze, a solid applicable one that needed to blow through the winter staleness. I opened all the doors and windows that I can open, and let the house breathe. I’ve been quarantined since a week ago Saturday with Covid.  It was not as agonizing as I’d imagined. Two days of annoying muscle and nerve pain, and flopping over four or five times a day to sleep. Today, I will use my energy to cross off the mindless tasks.

Next on the list, are estimates on the spring cleanup of five hundred or more dead stalks, leaves, bushes, etc to make Follies ready for spring.  Internal conversation goes like this, I should do it myself, save the hundreds they will charge, but where do I empty all the leaves? The village has rules about placing leaves on the street. Too physical, back to the list.

Submissions for publication, are the most tedious and necessary acts if you are a writer. Nope, not in the mood for that. So I took a drive along a country road, with the top down, and listened to Joe Bataan, a waist-twisting Salsa boogaloo disco singer.  I turned around after fifteen minutes, even Joe cannot spring my spirit to life.

My relationship with the world is not dependent on what happens to me. It is with Ukraine.  My heartbeat is in slow motion as I watch the latest news feed from Zelensky. He is holding a press conference this Saturday. It lasted two hours or more. As the camera scanned the packed room of reporters; expressions rooted in awe, admiration, eagerness, and razor-sharp comprehension I thought, they resemble a child’s face the first time a book is read aloud.  Within the hour’s conference, a news blip surfaced. Blinken and Austin will meet with Zelensky in Kyiv on Sunday. My suspicion is they were watching.

As I sat down to dinner, I thought of the announcement earlier that day, “One loaf of bread fed forty people in a bomb shelter. How do we live within the torture, death, and starvation? How do we get up and laugh or enjoy an outing? For me, I have not found a way.

UKRAINEACOUST – PUTIN=HITLER


We can pay to go into space, text unlimitedly to avoid, a phone call, we can avoid meeting because we have too many social media reply’s waiting. We can upload, download, delete and save in a second. We can install security alarms, and electronic remotes to open and close our appliances, and electricity. We can drive a car without hands-on, we can buy a private plane, an armored car, bodyguards, and we can remain anonymous by creating a false identity… What we are not doing is improving our behavior, our own personal evolution as humans.  Our civility is most recently televised as the Chris Rock, Will Smith slap. I’m sixty-eight and have watched the Oscars, so I remember what they gave the audience- humble sweet, amusing award-winner speeches, not a political coma, or reprisal for a joke. If Chris did not know the sensitivity of Jada for suffering from alopecia, ( and she is gorgeous with or without). After the slap Chris said something like, this will be the most-watched television show. WHAT? Is that all there is to our humanity; attention, vanity, and ratings?

As time grabs our life without us evening knowing it, one day we may wake up and say, I don’t have that much time left, what should I do?  If you are single without children then the options are galactic, unless you live in Ukraine. The war bleeds in my veins, sometimes I feel nausea from the videos, and other times enraged that this was not prevented. The best news of the day is that Russia is expelled from the Human Rights Council. Pause, just today? I am half-Ukrainian. My father, grandfather etc, were Ukrainians. I’ve always thought and said I am half Russian, as noted on Dad’s papers. But I am not Russian, excuse my blind spot.

The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me. Ayn Rand.

THREADS OF THOUGHT


I’ve often wondered what people think about when they are alone; taking a run or walk, dining alone, in the shower or tub, or just being on their own. Artists in all genres spend more time alone in the process of creating art.   

Waking alone, I step out to open the drape to see if it has snowed. If it has then I’m on landlord duty to wait for the snowblower to arrive, so my tenants can get to their cars. If it hasn’t snowed then I am thankful, not that the snow-white lawns and rooftops aren’t magically transforming, it’s that time of year when the power goes out or some other nuisance like scraping snow off my car and porch.

Then thoughts leap like little squirrels, from musing on my friends, who I need to call, do I feel like writing today, can I stomach thirty minutes of news and a bit of punishment for past mistakes. The one thread that rises in nightmares, and the first moment I wake up is unconquerable, fear is a thread I cannot snip and toss away. Fear is really about the unknown, we cannot supersede circumstances that are in the waiting room of our lives. Either they have already occurred or you know they are on their way to your front door.  

THE FOLLIES HOUSE

Now with the coldness, at six or seven in the morning, I crawl back in bed with coffee and think of the past, then the present, then the future, and then my thoughts drift like snowflakes. You know the saying when you are despondent or troubled you will be told to keep busy. I have not understood that advice until now.  My life prior to the last two years was dizzy bizzy. And yes, it eliminated fear and malaise, so now without all the lists, commitments, and responsibilities absent, I am on time with my thoughts.

NIGHT THOUGHTS


I ROSE AT 3:00 AM to turn the heat on, pick up my writing journal, and discern the week’s theme. I wonder for a moment if I should boil water for tea or coffee, and settle on decaf. The street is hollowed like a tunnel, the light of day is shining in some distant country, and the sky appears tinted with primer. Somewhere someone is dressing for work, breathing by the tick of the clock until he or she ( can’t figure out the right pronouns) must report for work.

The draft of sleep lingers in my eyes, and my feet shuffle on the wood floors while I grind the beans and think through the remains of the week. There are themes to our lives. Sometimes a year, sometimes one single day launches the theme, or it may just tumble into our path unexpectedly and replace whatever we were holding on to dearly, and deliver something unpleasant, like sickness, or separation. The sensations leading up to my theme jilted my creativity, and the pages I wrote were jammed with contradictions, maybe they still are.       

Thoughts begin to form and ruminate, what is important? The theme of my week began when I finally was in the Dentists office. It’s been a year, and at sixty that was enough. Now Dr. FX’s office calls me every six months because I am over sixty-five. Still can’t really grasp my age. When I was thirty-something sixty-eight seemed very old. Do you remember that?

Dr. FX is the Music Man dressed in a white tunic. When he comes into my cubicle, he sort of prances on his toes and gives me an elbow safe bump.

          “ Hello, oh I see,” as he looks into my mouth that has been open too long and my cheeks start to stiffen. The hygienist takes that white suck-up tube out of my mouth.

          “ She has some tarter that I can’t remove so I suggest she come back because her gums are so sensitive and nonvaccine her for the water treatment .”

Dr. FX nods and bounces out of the room. Now she begins to sort of authoritatively advise me again that I have serious tarter.  I think this is the third time. 

          “ I think I got a little lazy flossing during covid.”

          “Everyone did.”

          “And I also started snacking on those crunchy health bars at night.”

          “That wouldn’t cause that.”

Now I am ready to leave and I’m elated to get out. The receptionist starts talking and advising me about Dental Insurance and she leaves her desk and meets me in the waiting room, and starts stretching.

          “ I have to do this as much as I can, sitting in that chair all day long.”

          “Oh, of course,” I raise my arms and swing my hips beside hers. I walked out into a day of clouds and a peek a boo sun feeling a mood change, a spark of energy from a few moments of improvisational dancing. We all crave an irreplaceable swarming of joy, that comes unexpectedly. I was awakened to my detachment from feeling truly alive.

Writing with a pen is so different from the keyboard, journaling is always with a pen, but columns are on the keyboard. I understand what tranquilizes all the peripheral complaints, mental pains, and wounds that lie dormant or at least manageable. Without thinking of the tormented hours, I think of the comforts of exhibiting my life on paper. My desk is sealed into a corner of the bedroom, next to a double pane window (original 1885) forty feet in length. It is not the act of writing with pen and paper moving along at a steady rhythm; it’s the activation of the heart and mind, collaborating to unravel the relevant from the irrelevant. To reach this state of matrimony a writer needs not a Tuscan Villa, or a Moorish Castle, but experiences that flake off the skin, or recall of the experience that gives it relevance.

I return to the porch for one more gulp of landscape that I share with the stars. The street is unfamiliar, a temporary scene like a bus stop, and I am merely waiting to move on. Some of the neighbors are friendly, some have no interest, one kind of spies on me when he thinks I’m not looking. There’s a reason for that but it’s too much of a separate story right now.

If I continue to roam around the task of writing this story, the intensity of irritation will escalate, my neck and shoulders will not loosen, my walk will be feigned, my smile forced, my heart longing for padding, my ego striving for recognition in the wrong places, and my soul roaming the hallways at 3:00 in the morning. I read a quote the other day on some website, to paraphrase: When I’m writing I know I can’t do anything else. The theme of the week is to bring back LouLou, a clownish, spirited, curious, joy seeker.