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Dissonance.

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It was my favorite kind of day in Chicago. Sweatshirt and shorts weather, the perfect combination. Like chocolate covered pretzels – just sort of perfect in its dissonance. I knew when I woke up that morning I would call in sick to work. I was not sick.

It was 1997.

I did not know what I wanted to do that day, only that it was a morning I simply could not allow the same routine to exist.

I laid in my bed trying very hard not to allow the creeping feeling of guilt to lie on the pillow beside me. I instead allowed the just-fuck-it side of me to yawn and stretch and wake up. I said Hi! It’s about time you showed up, and I left a voice mail for my boss with some thinly veiled reference to things coming out of both ends of me…must have been something I ate…I should feel better tomorrow.

I lived alone. I sat up wishing I had a destination but was motivated to get up despite not having one.

I could tell through my curtains it was hazy outside, cloudy. And cooler than it was warm. This was good. I did not want the pressure of having to do something typical on a beautiful, exceedingly warm nearly Fall day such as ride a bike along the lakefront.

I stood up and got a head rush and waited for it to pass. I almost never wore my robe. But this morning I closed my bedroom door and took it off the hook. It was green, emerald-green. It is still green and I sometimes still wear it, but that was maybe the 5th time I’d ever put it on. It felt so nice and warm, and then I slipped on my slippers.

Taking probably seven steps I was standing in the middle of my living room. No noise except the vague sounds of traffic outside. I wished, deeply, that I drank coffee because that would have been the first destination. But I don’t drink coffee and never have. It sucks to not drink coffee, I thought to myself.

So I peed instead. No, man, not on the living room floor. I managed to get to the toilet. As I sat on the cold seat I thought, smelling coffee or bacon right now would be nice.

Done, I went to my refrigerator. Which was at the back end of my very long clothes closet. Which was of course just off the kitchen. So acceptable was this peculiarity in my 20’s.

Diet Pepsi was my poison, my caffeine. It is still so awesome. I opened a can and started to drink and took a step back.

The nice thing about having your refrigerator in your closet is that you can stand and stare at both and think…everything in here sucks, and have it apply to both your clothes and your food.

I made a slight belching sound and shivered at the coldness running down into my stomach.

I moved a box of crackers to get to a pair of my shorts. Then reached overhead and moved a box of stage makeup I’d had since high school to get at the comfy grey sweatshirt with no logos or words on it.

I took those and my poison and schlepped into the bathroom and got undressed. I started the shower while simultaneously brushing my teeth. I had to run the cold in the sink to ensure the hot in the shower would stay hot for longer than three minutes. I honestly have no idea if this was a factual cause and effect. But it happened once, and so I continued to do it for luck. My shower water needs to be just shy of scalding.

It was a big claw-foot tub that you almost needed a step stool to get into, and like every morning I showered I prayed, please don’t let me die getting into this thing because that would be a shitty and embarassing way to go.

While washing my hair I had two epiphanies: 1. I wasn’t even hung over and really wanted an Egg McMuffin. And 2. I was going to walk around my neighborhood and take pictures all day.

I was taking a photography class during this timeframe and I was suddenly excited that I had found the perfect justification for this day of hookie.

I rushed through my shower. I put my utilitarian underwear and bra on, khaki shorts and grey sweatshirt and blow-dried my long hair into a screaming knot. Instead of brushing it out in clumps I threw it up in a clip. A little makeup. Very little. Some blush and my ever-present lip gloss.

I was moving quickly now with purpose. Back into the hunger-closet to get my backpack. And then into the barely there little corner storage thingy in my bedroom to get my camera.

I opened the bag and began flipping through all the unused rolls of film. Yes, film. Film. The stuff Kodak used to make. Do they still make it?

Black and white. Sweet and salty.  Black and white.

I took two rolls. One Fuji and one Kodak, because I had just learned the difference between the two. I’m sure it was some subtly profound difference – but I couldn’t tell you now if you paid me.

I loaded the camera with the Fuji. I guess because it felt more exotic and leant itself to the possibility of something really cool happening. Fiji. Fuji. It’s how my mind works.

Shoved some crackers and keys in my bag, and walked quickly to the door. I banged my knee into the door jamb having not taken into account the backpack also needing to get through the opening.

Motherfuckkkkkkker, I whispered.

People had to go to work, after all, and I didn’t want to wake the poor bastards up. Skin was torn away from my knee but not bleeding so I slammed the door behind me to vent my anger.  Wow, so loud. I might as well have yelled MOTHERFUCKER at the top of my lungs.

I decided to walk North onto Broadway toward the not as nice part of my neighborhood and meander around in concentric circles from there. I had no idea if I would find anything which would be worthy of my Fuji. But there were some things. There were.

I stopped at Graceland Cemetery.  Cemeteries are usually beautiful to me and this famous one was no exception.  Through a chain-link fence bordering off construction I focused my paltry 35 mm lens on a tombstone.  Frankenstein.  That’s all it said.  Frankenstein.

A beautiful old church was being shredded apart with a wrecking ball, but the entire stained glass wall behind the altar stood alone.

Two ancient men smoking pipes and speaking to each other in what I assume was Polish.

A mobile HIV testing van.

And more, all worthy of my fictional gastrointestinal issues.

But I cannot find those pictures.

I have one.

The chain locked doors of a Pentacostal church which oddly held only evening services according to a sign on the lawn.  Two comically goliath doors were chained together.  Trying to keep the sinners out or keep them locked in?  From a half block away the wooden doors loomed absolutely black in color, shaded by an ornate archway, with the chains barely visible in the muted sun.

I knew the shot I wanted but it would not be easy to get on my manual camera.  It was a long exposure with no tripod.  I needed to hold very, uncharacteristically still.  I set my F-stop, adjusted whosas and whatsits, took a deep breath and held it in, then clicked the shutter three times.

Film.  There was no instant gratification.  No immediate affirmation of a job well or poorly done.  I waited over a week to get my photographs back from the developer.

It turned out exactly as I had hoped.

They were all worth it.

The Egg McMuffin was salty.

This, though, was my sweetest thing.

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“Dipshit” is the new “30”

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By the time this entry is posted it will be my birthday.  And I will be 43 years old.

This one is hitting me kind of hard for some reason. I’m not really sure why….

Ohhhh wait.  I know why.

Because DAMN it sure is close to 45.

Which is pretty damn close to 50.

It’s all so pathetically cliché; I don’t feel like I’m 43.

I don’t feel like I was born in the flipping 60’s.

I don’t feel like I should need bifocals (which I absolutely do).

I don’t feel like I should be in peri-menopause.

I don’t feel like I should be getting night-sweats for no apparent reason – to the point I wake up dialing 911 for the fire department to douse the INFERNO that is surely raging in my bed.

I don’t feel like crazy, wiry gray hairs should be popping up all over my body.

I don’t feel like working out at least five times a week should enable me to only sort of maintain my current physique instead of actively improving it like it would have even five years ago.

I don’t feel like when I dance in my living room my kids and nieces should recoil in horror and embarrassment and beg me to stop because I look like a such a dork, when I know damn well I look cool.

I don’t feel like it should be necessary to don a huge floppy hat any time I’m near sunlight so that my ever-increasingly sensitive skin doesn’t literally sizzle with Shar Pei sized wrinkles.

I don’t feel like I should preemptively start adding “Bran” to my diet to stave off the “irregularities” I hear about in people my age on those God-forsaken daytime commercials.

I don’t feel like my back and my knees should periodically give out on me…when I’m SITTING DOWN.

You get the picture.

I know.  Small potatoes.  Nitpicky stuff.  I have no real complaints.  That’s a lie, I do.  But I’m trying to keep them in perspective.  I have the love of family and friends and three wonderful children, and I love them back.  I recognize this post is excruciatingly petty.  I’m nothing if not self-aware.  I don’t know…I guess 43 just seems like a crossing-over into the permanent “I could be your Mother” category.  It’s inane.  Believe me, I know.

Honestly, the last time I had a problem with an age was when I turned…wait for it…………. 27.  What a dipshit I was.

“Oh I’m so sad…I’m almost 30 and I haven’t won an Oscar yet, or written my novel, or been skydiving…”.  Puh-leeze.

I still haven’t done those things.  Oi.

If I could go back and visit my 27-year-old self, I’d say “Hey, Dipshit, look…” and I’d show her the course of my life up to this point.  Then I’d ask her, “Would you really change anything?  Really?”

My 27-year-old self would ponder thoughtfully (after the near-stroke and freak-out of seeing my squinting, profusely sweating, hunched over future self) and say, “Are you fucking kidding me?  Yes!  Yes!!!  Hell YES!!!….Wait, where are you going, Grandma?  The “Golden Girls” isn’t on for another hour!  Come back here!  Are you DEAF too….wait….!!!”

My future self would have been walking out the door into the time portal upon hearing that and flipping my past self the bird.  I don’t think I’d appreciate being the victim of my own caustic, taunting sense of humor.

And also because while I’d change a lot, and I mean a LOT about the course my life would take, 27-year-olds who are depressed about some day turning 30 are really just stupid.

Did I mention I have less patience now too?

I hope in sixteen years I can come back here, still relatively happy and healthy, and write about what a dipshit I am right now.

That would be pretty cool.  Yeah, here’s hoping.

Fate vs Destiny

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Fate:  the will or principle or determining cause by which things in general are believed to come to be as they are or events to happen as they do – Merriam-Webster

Destiny:  a predetermined course of events often held to be an irresistible power or agency  – Merriam-Webster

They sound so similar.  Instinctively though, most people feel very differently about them.  “Google” them and you will find that overall, people feel this about these two things:

Fate:  Passive.  No control over the inevitable outcome.  Per one website with a discussion on the differences:  the course your life will take in spite of your actions.

Destiny:  Dynamic.  A degree of control as to how you will reach the inevitable outcome.  Per the same website: predetermined events within your life that you take an active course in shaping.

In general, “fate” seems to have negative connotations to it while “destiny” is used in a much more positive context.

“It was his fate to be the first soldier to step foot on the shores of Normandy.”

“It was her destiny to go to the bar that night and meet the love of her life.”

How differently would we feel about these two sentences if the words were inter-changed?:

“It was his destiny to be the first soldier to step foot on the shores of Normandy.”

“It was her fate to go to the bar that night and meet the love of her life.”

Very.

If we say it was his or her fate, even though the outcome is preordained, it makes us feel as if it all happened without their choices as the driving influence.  If we say it was his or her destiny, for me at least, it automatically makes me feel as if they made choices or came to some sort of peace about the end results…whether or not the end results were something everyone would consider positive.

Words and how they are perceived matter.  A whole lot.

As a woman nearing the age of 43, I am naturally thinking about – my life.  I am looking back, reflecting on what has transpired to date… the place those events either of my choosing or thrust upon me have led me to thus far…and where the place I’m in now tells me about where I’m going.  I’m not alone in this.

I suppose some might call this the beginnings of a “mid-life crisis”.  As a younger person, say in my 20’s, I would have agreed with them.   But “mid-life crisis” has the same type of negative connotations that “fate” has.

In your 20’s it’s very difficult to conceive of a life lived long and hard enough to reflect upon, and society has all but assigned, with impunity, the “mid-life crisis” to men in their 40’s buying Ferrari’s they cannot afford and women of 40+ hooking themselves up to a Botox-drip to regain any infinitesimally small vestige of the care-free youth they are now old enough to realize is gone forever.   I assume that’s because of the word “crisis”…which instantly implies something negative to be dealt with.  An emergency situation.

I’m trying very hard not to see it that way.

I believe it’s only natural and human to reach what you hope is the mid-stage point in your life and feel the need to take serious stock in what has happened to you, what you have created for yourself and how that will affect what is left of life you will lead.  You no longer have your “whole before you”…you have, maybe, half – or less – of your life before you.  And therein lies the problem.  Once you’ve been lucky enough to live your life to a point where you know you’ve lived more already than you are likely to live in the future…a slow, boiling fear sets into your gut.

What have I done?

What have I accomplished?

Have I lived up to my potential?

Have I loved enough?  Cared enough?  Given enough?……….

When I die, will I feel the power of the love I made and gave given back to me?  Will it envelop me and carry me forward?

It’s very difficult to imagine living the final moments of your life and not being able to answer “yes” to those questions.  And if you can’t answer “yes” to those questions when you ask them of yourself, which can really only be asked when you’ve lived long enough to assess the answers realistically, there is an overwhelming desire to not let another minute of your life go by….not another single minute….. in which you don’t at least attempt to fulfill…your destiny.

I am a mother.  I have three wonderful, beautiful children.  The majority of my personal energy, strength and love is channeled into guiding them toward living strong, healthy, happy lives.  And that’s how it should be.  My parents are wonderful…they did the same for me.  The appreciation I have for them with regards to what they gave to me, and gave up for me, is limitless.  But at the same time I hope so much that they were able to secure some piece of what they believe their personal destiny is along the way, despite having given so much of their lives to their children.

We all have dreams and ambitions and goals for ourselves that seem achievable.  Before you hit, oh…about my age, it seems that you can say to yourself so easily….”There’s still time.”  Staring down the barrel of 43 I can realistically say to myself,  “Self, there might not be that much more time.”

And then I hear Morgan Freeman whisper to me, “Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’.”

I’ve achieved some of the goals in my life and am so eternally grateful for them.  But ohhhhh…..I have thus far fallen woefully short of the smile I hope graces my face at the end of my life when I ask myself “the questions”.

I wonder what am I waiting for. (Something to make it all easier?)

I ask myself what’s holding me back. (Fear?)

I worry about whether my happiness and personal fulfillment can exist in tandem with what I owe to my children and the other people in my life whom I love. (I don’t know the answer to this.  I’m not sure I ever will.  All I can do is my very best to make sure… it can.)

I don’t want a Ferrari or Botox.  Well, I don’t know.  Maybe.  Wait…no.  I’m getting sidetracked here.

I don’t want a Ferrari or Botox.

I want – need –  to start actively taking the steps which will move me closer to my destiny.

We all end the same way.  But how do we get there?

Whether on the beach or at the bar, and despite the “crisis” apparently inherent in reaching this point, I don’t want to be fated…to anything.

I just don’t.

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