Sunday, December 27, 2009

The times that try (wo) men’s souls

Now, as I begin this most recent of my pontifications I want to preface this with a warning. This is not a judicial overview of the way of the world. This is a truly one sided and prejudiced view based on life experience as a wife and daughter. I do not mean to intimate that I do not feel that the thoughts put forth below are anything but 100% factual and accurate, but I also do not care for hate male (and no, that isn’t a typo).
Ahh, the times that try women’s souls… there are so many. There are eight a.m. meetings after long nights of teething or stomach flu. There are flat tires on lonely highways in cars with missing jacks. There is the sudden and unexpected shrinking of our favorite jeans on the night of our big date. In truth, the list goes on and on, from the trivial to the truly traumatic, the mundane to the melodramatic. But I suggest to you, my fellow wonder-women, that there is simply no time that tries a woman’s soul like the following; a sick man. (Can I get an Amen?)
What is it about a sniffle that causes the manly men in our lives to regress to the level of pond-scum? These normally self sufficient Adoni suddenly become totally incompetent to complete even the most modest of tasks, including but not limited to taking a shower. I should be truly fair here. Mr. Big Prize is not one of the worst case scenarios of this sex-wide phenomenon. However, the other manliest of men in my life is-my father. Strangely, there is only one ailment that really turns him into a quivering gelatinous mass; the common cold. Let one of those little acute viral nasopharyngitis germs sneak past his hard working immune system and he’s down for the count. Again, I should be perfectly clear on the reality of his hardheaded stubbornness when it comes to all other ailments. This is the man that will trek into the hills even though he’s suffering with the stomach bug, because if he doesn’t he might miss that perfect sunrise picture. This is the man who refuses stitches in a thumb after nearly cutting it off while doing honey-do chores because it might slow the progress of the project. This is the man who only took two weeks away from his job after having his left lung removed, because, after all, it was really just a little flesh wound. These things seem not to bother him at all, comparatively speaking. But give him a bit of sinusitis and he’s dead man.
Enter the hero of this situation; my mother. Bed bound dad is moaning and wailing and blowing his nose, and mom trudges out into the freezing cold to buy some sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, so-you-don’t-smother-your –husband –with –a-pillow medicine. Upon her return she peeks into the den of the devil to see if he’d like anything for breakfast/lunch/dinner. The answer sounds something like “esss”, because really, who can pronounce a “y” when your nasal passages are blocked? However, when asked WHAT he’d like to eat all that comes back is “I dodt doe” (I don’t know?), which roughly translated, means “Nothing in this house”. So, back out into the cold she goes, in the hopes of bringing home something the monster might find passable, and save her hide from certain destruction. This usually goes on for days, while Mr. Large and Growly grows worse and worse and worse. The end is always the same; mother slings her stubborn hubby over her shoulder and drags his sorry hide to the doctor, where he gets shot up with all varieties of B vitamins and steroids. Miraculous recovery ensues, mothers sanity spared, marriage saved. (Can I get an Amen?)
Now I ask you, gentle reader, what is it that drives our manly men to run crying to the arms of mommy (figuratively, of course) when the fever strikes? I think it’s perhaps it’s their one chance to simply “be”. I honestly cannot imagine the stresses of being a man. The responsibilities of the world literally ride on their broad shoulders, so how tired must those shoulders be? Maybe a day or two of a nasty cold is the only way they can really rest from that without succumbing to an overwhelming sense of societal guilt. They are well and truly being taken care of for the few days that their bodies force them to submit to healing. And we, their women, willingly and gladly coddle and croon as they recoup from it all. But I say to you, it was a wise man that wrote “in sickness and health” into those wedding vows, and a wiser woman still who knows that “till death do us part” does not mean until we find the bullets…

It's Just Unnatural

It's just unnatural, repugnant, repulsive, and I absolutely positively refuse to do it. The very thought of it makes me recoil in horror, and not only do I refuse to do it, I don't want to see anyone else doing it either. What, you ask? Consume anything that is artificially colored blue. I recoil in horror from blue infused sports drinks, slurpies, slushies, icees, and blue sorbets and gelatos are right out. Nothing in nature we are meant to consume is the color of the clear summer sky; oranges are orange, strawberries are red, limes are green, but not even "blue"-berries are truly blue, but rather a deep royal purple. So what, I ask you, possesses purveyors of soft drinks to insist on continually coloring our beverages blue?? My repugnance at this coloration is crazy, I know, but I'm Southern and crazy is almost expected of me.
We love our crazy in the South. We learned a long time ago that things that you try to hide, shut up, and tamp down have a tendency to jump up and bite you at the most inopportune moments. So, in the South we dress our crazy up and bring it right on down into the living room to chat it up and introduce it to the neighbors. We gussy it up and trot it off to church, sit it on the front row to bellow hymns, and shout "AMEN" at the most inappropriate times. We have crazy contests, trying to one up one another to see whose crazy old uncle is truly the craziest (mine is, trust me on this) and which crazy relative has embarrassed the family name to the highest degree. My family's claim to insanity comes down to me from my maternal side. My grandmother was one of her mothers thirteen living children. In her hall hangs a portrait of all of the siblings while they were all in the prime of their lives. Twelve of the siblings stare back from the portrait from twelve pairs of black eyes. The Native American ancestry of the family is perfectly clear in the high cheekbones, black hair and eyes and keen awareness in the faces of twelve. Then, there is number thirteen, Aunt Doris. Or, Crazy Aunt Doris as I have always heard her referred to. Crazy Aunt Doris sticks out like a sore thumb in the portrait. Where twelve of the siblings are long and lean, sharply featured and keen eyed, Aunt Doris is softly rounded on all corners. Her blond hair and cherubic cheeks look absolutely delightful from a distance, but the closer you get to the portrait it becomes clear from the look in her crystal blue eyes that Crazy Aunt Doris was not present on the day that the other twelve siblings lined up to receive their Merit Badges in Sanity. Crazy Aunt Doris is certifiably insane, but luckily for her (or perhaps for us) it is the kind of crazy that can at least be controlled by taking two little white pills each and every day. As long as Aunt Doris takes one little pill in the morning and one in the evening the fog of insanity lifts and the bright light of lucidity dawns. But, as is the case so often with the truly crazy, that dawn is short lived. Once sanity takes hold Aunt Doris is convinced that she simply doesn't need those little white she stops taking them. You, no doubt, can ascertain what happens very shortly thereafter. I have actually heard Crazy Aunt Doris say "There is absolutely nothing wrong with me, it's all the rest of you that are crazy!" Now, with that kind of sparkly crazy tinsel dangling from the boughs of my family tree can anyone be surprised that I might have certain idiosyncrasies?
So, more about my blue aversion. When I was in the fifth grade my parents transferred me out of public school into a private Christan school, and in my opinion, into an unmitigated hell. I was all of the things that made for the perfect target of adolescent cruelty. Overly tall and gangly, I was an awkward combination of elbows and knees, teeth and ears. I was cursed with a need to wear glasses that had the width of a number of pop-bottles. To make matters all the worse I had decided that the cure to all my woes was having blond hair, and chose to achieve that end through the use of a bottle of Sun-In. You can imagine the outcome of that adventure; my normally nearly black hair turned the shade of a rotten orange. Not pretty. All these things combined to make me the anathema of my classmates (and in truth, the faculty as well) and made my life nearly unbearable. My salvation came in the sixth grade, in the form of Shannon Sides. Shannon was all the things I was not; tall, but with a dancers grace, a crystal clear olive complexion and flowing hair. Shannon had been held back to re-take the sixth grade, for some unknown reason-most likely her inability to properly place the phonetic symbols correctly in her spelling test. A true life skill to be certain. So, due to her repeat of the sixth grade Shannon found herself lumped into the slightly unsavory category along with myself. We became fast friends, with Shannon's friendship toward me probably extended more out of necessity than desire. But that friendship blossomed, and by seventh grade we were sharing everything; a locker, secrets, and a crush on the same Senior High Boy. Shannon and I both had the great misfortune of having summer birthdays, but the summer after our seventh grade year Shannon's parents threw her a pool party. It was an event that was simply not to be missed. I awoke that morning feeling slightly off kilter, but there was no way under the sun I was missing the big event. So, just after noon my mother packed me off with all the necessities one needs to enjoy a summer pool party-gift; check, mint green frilly skirted bathing suit; check, towel; check, raging case of the stomach flu; check. By the time we arrived I was feeling truly under the weather, but in true pre-teen form was unwilling to sacrifice time in the chlorine heaven to a silly thing like the stomach flu. So, we started swimming in the scorching noonday sun. Short breaks in swimming were filled with the eating of Popsicles, and not your expensive wooden stick variety. Oh no, there were ice filled old fashioned wash bins filled to the brim with those brightly colored ice sacks. You know the kind of which I speak; you can find them at any family dollar, stacked floor to ceiling in the aisle selling for something like 10,000 boxes for a dollar. Once opened you find brightly colored sleeves filled with sticky syrup in every imaginable and unnatural color known to man, most notably, blue. If one is unlucky enough to actually consume this syrup before it is frozen one will have the lining of their esophagus burned completely away. But for me on that day, those blue frozen sleeves were a little taste of heaven. That is, until my stomach completely rebelled and sent each and every one of those Popsicles right back out from whence they came. I did manage to make it from the pool area to the bathroom, leaving a wet trail of pool water behind me. Shannon was the one who found me, still hanging over the toilet, debating whether or not to report my mishap or go back to swimming. She exclaimed in horror "Your lips are blue! My aunt threw up and her lips turned blue and she had tuberculosis and died!!!" I might interject here that I think this is the moment than formed another of my idiosyncrasies. Whenever I am subjected by life to acute amounts of stress my psyche responds by convincing me I am suffering from some rare and afore-to undiscovered deadly illness. Thank you, Shannon Sides. But I digress; from that moment on I have been repulsed and revolted by the consumption of all things blue. There is simply no need for them, and even less need for those vile sticks of poison parading around as Popsicles. They are just unnatural, and should be banned.
All this brings me to the realization that we are deeply formed by the events of our past. Our human psyches are clearly and deeply punctuated by the kindnesses and cruelties of life, and of others, as we grow and mature. I am, very truly, the sum of all my parts. For better or worse the effects of blue Popsicles, the cruelty of Clay Bullard, the kindness of Shannon Sides and that Senior High boy all left an indelible mark on who I was to become. Those years in that school were brief, but defining. I like to think that they left me with a tender heart, and a real desire to be the person that I so desperately needed in my life during that time. It instilled in me a true appreciation for kindness, and a longing to touch lives in a positive and caring way. And, it obviously left me with an aversion to eating all things blue. It's just unnatural.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

An Insatiable Lust for Life!

It's true; I have one. In the past few years life seems to have sent me an overwhelming message, and that is that it is to be lived. We've talked about this before, have we not? What is the meaning of life? To LIVE, to experience, to adventure, to love, to laugh, to enjoy. I cannot bear the idea of a life of mere existence. We all fall into a rut from time to time, but the truth is that it is within all our power to burst free from it. What good is a life that is merely spent? What joy is there in routine? Now, I am certainly not promoting a life of sloth, or indulgence, or vanity. But to occasionally break free from the mundane is what makes life truly joyous.
I did that just this weekend. I gussied myself up and trotted myself off to a completely different city to participate in something crazy; for a chance to be part of a show I didn't want to be on and a career I have no interest in. Mr. Big Prize came with me, and we ate scrumptious food, slept in a great hotel, met amazing people, and left before the event for which we'd come was even at an end. On the way home Mr. Big Prize said to me "You are a schemer. You always have a plan; something to do, somewhere to go, something coming up, some plan in the works. I love that about you. I'm a do-er. I love doing what you plan. Makes us a good team." It put us both in mind of an adventure we had in the same city, more than a decade ago. We made a mad dash over for me to audition for a Francis Ford Coppola movie. We had no idea that said director extraordinaire would be there live and in person. I walked into the audition room to find him sitting there in all his bulky, gray glory. It was magnificent! For obvious reasons he decided to go with Claire Danes for the role (something for which I will never forgive him, ha!), but yet again, something I can say I have done. Another magnificent life experience, and something else worth remembering when I am old and gray myself. It's crazy, wonderful adventures like that which set the days apart, and make "life" a verb! No wants to sound redundant, but some things are just worth repeating.
Now, again, I'm not condoning dropping off all your responsibilities to trod off on mad escapades. That may be the way that Mr. Big Prize and I live our lives, but for you, little changes in your day may make all the difference in the world. Make an effort each day to break free from the waking/work/home/bed cycle. Take a walk, smell the proverbial flowers, take an after work art class, attend an exhibit. Be the person you've always dreamt of being. Find your lust for life, and live it to it's fullest!