On a normal day - do those exist anymore? - I smile. Even on abnormal days - lately the 'new normal' - I try. The lovely, smiling, phone chattering, facebook-posting, June Clever woman above is not my ideal, but it's how I too often feel I present myself to the world of late. Because even if I appear non-sushine-bright to you, It is likely I feel exponentially less chipper inside. Often even my 'sad face' feels like putting on a happier disguise.
To some people, and often when I look in the mirror, I look something like this...
...Aging, fat, lopsided, and altogether wrong for the world. There's nothing wrong with the person in that picture above. I'm demonstrating a feeling. She looks less than pleased about the scales. Some of it springs from old (some not so old) abandonment issues. I feel mostly, and almost completely, alone in my world of problems. Finances are an issue again, which is so incredibly irksome. To the point I just want to turn over and pull the covers up high above me. Sleep is the escape to where things are mostly silent.
I've started up writing again. It's been a long-time coming with this particular story and now it seems to be pouring out of me. Part of the limp-along nature of it has been a sense of guilt. How dare I presume to write and how dare I presume to write about fictionalized or even real versions of real people, problems, and the world I see before my eyes. My hazy, clouding vision. In my head it is clear...ish.
A while back, I read a blog post by a person who shares the name of my fictional alter-ego, Ed. He wrote about how, if he were to actually elaborate the full spectrum of what goes on in his head, the picture would get dark and that real soon. "I mostly think about death," Ed says. Or maybe I said it and imagine he did too. We are twins in that aspect. My hunch is, especially right this minute in the world, I have several twins of this color.
It feels like complaining. And who wants to listen to that or read about that? "I've got my own problems," is the read I get from most people.
Here's the thing. A couple of days ago, I spent some time with my friend, K, and two of the children from my church congregation. Their mother is sick and hospitalized for what may be a long spell, and their father is out trying to work up an income. I know about these things. I know about some of the specifics of this family's troubles. It's sticky and dark and not a fun outlook at all. But I loved spending time with the two kiddies. They are, for one thing, as adorable as a polka and the older child - she's three - just wraps herself around me and puts her head on my shoulder. We played games and she whispered to me that she likes chocolate and we walked through town wrapped in warm clothing. We met up with their dad after he was finished working and I walked with him to the state house on 125th street while he carried the youngest, who will be a year old next week.
"You're really good with kids," K said to me.
"I know." I said back. I wasn't being arrogant (I don't think), I just, it's something I'm good at and a relief. I recognize children. They are who they are and it's easy to communicate with them. Last weekend our congregation (The Harlem 1st Ward of the LDS Church) had a chili cook-off. I stood in line with one of the young men - I think he's fifteen - and he complained loudly and with a big smile about what a hard time I give him. For instance, I told him once that while he was passing the sacrament (communion), I leaned over to my friend, Nesha, and told her I was literally sitting on my hands because I had a strong wish to push him over while he was passing the tray of bread. I had this image of him topling sideways like one of those Christmas solders and sending a shower of white puffy pieces scattering above his head like some kind of Whinnie The Pooh rain. It made me laugh. It made him laugh when I told him. Another time, he was sitting in the front of a class making announcements for the people in his age group and, at the same time, fiddling with and basically eating his tie. "Would you leave the poor tie alone," I had piped up. Now, as we stood in line waiting to taste and rate thirteen different kinds of chili, he smiled and 'complained' that I had called him out in front of the whole group. He was laughing and came to sit next to me to eat chili, so I'm pretty-sure the actual damage was, um, non-existent.
My attention eventually moved to all the kids running around. There was one two-year-old I accidentally knocked over early on. I hate having terrible peripheral vision. Yes, another complaint. By the time the evening was done, however, that same two-year-old was climbing all over me along with about seven others that I hadn't knocked over. Children are resilliant and rarely bother to carry grudges. And they know how to play!
One game I've learned older children (well, all children really, and many adults) love to play is what I loveingly call 'goo goo ga ga.' I pick them up - I've done this with my twenty-something-year-old niece - and rock them like a cooing baby and make high-pitched 'waah waah, goo goo ga ga' noises. They all shriek with laughter and reach for me to do it again when I put them down. Give it a try. Pick up your loved one like a cooing baby and rock him or her back and forth and make those 'goo goo ga ga' noises. Commit to your lines, though. Your 'waah waah, goo goo ga ga' must rise up from your core. It's hysterical and comforting all at once.
At the moment, I'd like someone to pick me up and rock me and make high-pitched cooing noises. "Waah waaah! Goo goo, ga ga."
Another clue to the life I'm wading through is in my reading. I'm studying zombies. There is a new thread in the piece I'm writing and it includes a side-story about zombies. I've really never found 'zombies' all that interesting, per se, but I did like a black and white Weimar film we worked with in college. THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI. You probably know it. If not, check it out. It's filled with distorted, expressionist backdrops and has a somnabulist character who looks like Michael Jackson, named Cesare (played by Conrad Veidt). This zombie sleep-walker was a hypnotized play-thing and weapon of the not-so-good doctor. Cesare walked into the night and killed off Caligari's enemies. He did not eat their brains. But zombies seem to be the new pink, so read about them I will. Also, one of my college acting pals, Mimi, is playing a kick-ass wife to Brad Pitt in the new zombie flick out next summer, WORLD WAR Z, so I started by reading the book by Max Brooks. It's engaging and horrific and I feel it creeping around in my brain.
In life, my 'zombie' looks a bit like this.
And so it goes. Zombies, babies, financial woes, loneliness, abandonment... A bleak-looking future for the United States and the world. No matter who was elected president, the outlook would still be bleak. Don't kid yourselves, folks. Presidents are not panaceas, even if they tell you they are so you'll vote for them.
I'm not sure there is any binding thread for this post. I'm complaining. That's about it. "Waaah!"
Life feels bleak a good part of the day.
Oh, here's one part I wanted to include - it's about hanging out with K and those two little kiddies. I know their family is having a rough time and there's really no end in sight. I also know that the two parents don't enjoy accepting 'hand-outs' or 'charity' from others. On their side, I say 'get over it, please.' It was a relief and actually a joy for me to spend time and give something I could give and I think it did some real good; for them AND for me. I like being able to put aside my own garbage for fifteen minutes and focus on helping someone else. It gives me perspective and even hope and I feel much less alone. And on the other side of it, for those of you who have the means, friggin do yourself a favor and be generous. NOT grudging. Not guilting or shaming or "how dare you be in such a dire state," and helping yourself to some look-down-your-nose false comfort that God loves you more or karma favors you more or that you'll somehow sail off into la la land and escape death. It is said, and I believe it, that ALL OF US are beggars.
Complaint time over. Off to work.
"Goo goo, ga ga."