When I was a teenager, full of morose and moronic but perfectly normal teenage angst, there was one thing I completely loved
Not the in-the-ground Jimmy Carter kind. (Although I did love them and still do.)
The comic strip.
I had books and books of Peanuts strips, and often clipped the big Sunday color edition to save.
There was something about Charlie Brown and Lucy and Schroeder and Linus and Snoopy that just made me feel that all those guys really understood me. Charlie Brown understood my awkwardness and fear of failure. Lucy understood my uncontrollable know-it-all-ness. Schroeder my artistic passion. Linus my insecurity and the sweeter side of my nature. And Snoopy of course caught my shameless imagination and desire to write great novels.
To my family, though, I was Lucy.
One morning, I woke up and found that this cartoon had been taped to my bedroom door:
You’d think that being such a crabby person, I would have been livid at the anonymous prank, but I was not insulted. I was delighted. I WAS Lucy.
And no one understands us crabby people.
I left the cartoon on my door for years.
But it did not reside there alone.
About a year later, this Peanuts strip was added. I added it myself:
I did have a little brother. And he did love me.
And with all my adolescent misery, I needed to remind myself. That Life was not so bad. And that my family loved me. They knew I was a crabby person and they loved me anyway.
And I was reminded of this cartoon this week. not just because my family loves me – though they still do.
No, it was the last line.
Every now and then I say the right thing.
Several years ago my husband faced a dilemma. A close friend had called him to ask for a favor. It was a pretty big favor – it entailed a lot of difficult work. The dilemma was that my husband had asked this same friend for some help not that long before. And the friend had refused. The guy didn’t have some great reason for saying no; he just said, “Sorry, I’m busy.”
So my husband was conflicted.
“Why should I help the guy when he didn’t help me when I needed him?” he asked.
I thought it over for quite a while. And that evening I said,
“Maybe this is not about what kind of friend that guy is. Maybe this is about what kind of friend YOU are.”
My husband got up from the table and phoned his friend and offered his help.
And I was reminded of this a few days ago because someone posted the following image on Facebook:
I’m happy for the reminder.
I don’t always say the right thing…
but once in while….
All through our lives, we have to do stuff we really don’t want to do.
We all pay bills and taxes, and that really sucks. I wish my Grandma was here with her little change purse, giving me a quarter right now.
We all obey laws – stopping at red lights and picking up dog poop – although not at the same time of course.
We also obey people that we don’t necessarily agree with or respect. I have several bosses that come to mind right now. There are lots of people in the world telling us what to do all our lives and we just grit our teeth and get it done.
Most of us have worked at jobs we hated at some point in our lives – and we stuck it out because of the economy or other pressures. Lack of options is the nastiest boss of all.
But sometimes we do stuff we dislike for no reason at all.
I’m here to tell you: STOP DOING THAT!
That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to get to work on time or vacuum the house or tolerate the kids when they are at their most intolerable.
But here are just a few things you might want to chuck:
Finishing a book you aren’t enjoying. Boring? Annoying? If you are no longer in school, put it down. Give it away. There are so many good things to read, don’t waste another minute on something that isn’t pleasing you. Right now I am exactly 56% (thank you for the precise stat, Kindle) into a book by a writer I greatly admire. But it’s just not working for me. I love her tweets; I love her blog. I do not like this book. I’m going to abandon it and read something I like.
Going to a party you’d rather skip. Skip it. I have spent 66 years going places I didn’t want to go. Sometimes – still – I have no choice. Family stuff is important, whether I feel like it or not. And sometimes I make the sacrifice because my husband wants to go – and I should do stuff that he likes once in a while. But not always. Like Larry David, I love cancelled plans. And although I don’t like to be rude by cancelling on a friend – it is not rude and it is not even cancelling if you say NO in the first place. New Year’s Eve? No thank you.
Speaking of Holidays – here’s something I am slowly abandoning: Christmas decorations. I love Christmas. But I hate pulling all of the accoutrements (I originally typed “crap”, but I will be nice) out of the attic and taking hours and hours putting them all over the house. And then spending the next few weeks policing the dog and the cats – “Don’t touch that!” If they are not supposed to knock over the Nativity or climb the tree – what is it doing there all shiny and interesting? And worse – far worse – taking down the tree, and putting all the
crap beautiful decorations back in the attic. So I am scaling back. This year I had a small tabletop tree in my living room and my best glass ornaments on my dining room sideboard.
Stop being mad at the person you are mad at right now. I’ll bet at this very moment you are aggravated at someone. Your spouse. Your kid. Your father. Your boss. Just stop being mad. Is that possible? Yes. Yes, it is. You don’t have to agree with whoever you are fighting with. But your anger isn’t really hurting anyone but yourself. Just tell yourself that you are moving on – and then move on. Give that person a call, a hug, a compliment. If your relationship is just horrible with that person, end it. But if it’s not so bad, then like them again. It’s that simple. Just decide.
And most important of all –
Comparing yourself to others. There will always be someone richer or prettier or more successful. Always. Don’t try to measure yourself against what you think other people’s lives are like. Because that is just your imagination looking at the outside of someone’s life. You don’t really know. Keep striving to make yourself into the person you really want to be. The person you want to love. In the meantime, like yourself at least as much as you like everyone else.
You may think your life is not as good as someone else’s. But unless you are living on the streets of Mumbai, you are probably okay.
Sometimes… for some of us… Mother’s Day is really hard.
Like when we go to a restaurant – just my husband and me – and we get a table right away, because all the other people in line are waiting for a table for four or for six or more. Because all the children grown and small are there to celebrate with Mom.
A table for two may be wonderful almost every day of the year. But on Mother’s Day, a table for two is so hard.
Sometimes the restaurant gives all the women a rose. “Happy Mother’s Day,” the waiter says.
I want to give the rose back. I want to throw it on the floor.
I say, “Thank you so much.”
But after the meal I leave the rose on the table.
I tell myself two things:
– That Mother’s Day is just a made-up holiday to sell cards.
– That I’m grateful to celebrate my own mother, whom I have been fortunate enough to have loved for 66 years.
And I smile and endure another Mother’s Day.
But to all of those women who disguise their anguish today –
– Those who have lost their mothers or never had one
– Those whose mothers were less than loving
– Those who have lost their children
– Those who wanted children and were unable to have them –
You are not alone. I am with you today.
I see you when you watch other women accepting their roses.
I feel you when you wonder why your pain doesn’t lessen with the passing of the years.
I hear you when you cry alone in the shower, and then dress and smile and get through the day.
And to everyone – mothers or not:
Let me say this:
Try to know the difference between what you want and what you need.
What you want can give you pleasure. But what you need restores your soul. Gives meaning to your life.
When I was young, I wanted to be accepted, I wanted to be successful, I wanted to please everyone. But what I needed was a child.
I worked dilligently for what I wanted. I did not work hard enough for what I needed.
My mistake. My terrible mistake.
Some needs are never fulfilled. I know that much is true.
And Life can be full of regrets.
But I regret most that I didn’t try hard enough to give myself what I needed. I thought that if it was my destiny it would happen.
I think I could accept that I failed to give myself what I needed, if I knew that I had tried as hard as I could. But I am faced with the knowledge that I was afraid to try. I waited to receive my fate. I didn’t go get it.
And then it was too late.
So this is what I have learned – too late for me.
If you need a change in your relationship, or feel that your heart lies in different work, or there is a place where you should live, or, like me, that you need to give a mother’s love to a child – work with all your heart and all your soul to give yourself what you truly need.
Do not tell yourself that if it was meant to be, it will happen.
Maybe it is only meant to be if you strive with your whole being.
When people talk about “Attitude.” they are usually referring to a bad one.
I know what that means. I was told often enough that I had a “Bad Attitude.” Usually by a boss because I showed a lack of tolerance for a stupid decision. But that was early in my career, and it was quite true. But I learned. I learned that I couldn’t make every decision for my company, and even decisions that I disagreed with may actually work out. And I learned that my co-workers were mostly just like me, trying to pay their bills and make it through the week. So I kept my bad attitude for big stuff – immoral or unfair behavior – both at work and in my personal life. Which meant that, overwhelmingly, my attitude was tolerant and happy. My attitude was kind.
And so I became my mother.
I cannot be more fortunate.
My mother is all ATTITUDE. The good kind.
There is not sufficient room in one blog to discuss all the ways my mother’s attitude is outstanding. For instance, she doesn’t complain about her health – even though she’s got issues with her 93-year-old body. She enjoys her life – and accepts with good humor her limitations.
And she looks for the best in people. She doesn’t gossip. She doesn’t gloat over other peoples’ failings.
I could continue for thousands of words on all the ways Mom’s attitude inspires me.
But here’s just one of they ways:
Mom was reminiscing recently and she said, “We had so much fun when you kids were little!” And we did. But we didn’t have many vacations; we didn’t travel the world; we didn’t eat out. We went to the park. We went skating in winter and swimming in summer. We played in the yard. We went to the library. We spent time with our cousins.
We had so much fun.
And Mom searched the sofa cushions for dimes so we could have an ice cream cone.
We didn’t have much money when I was a kid. I’m sure my father and mother worried about it a lot. But complain about it? NEVER.
They made the best of it when they had no money, and they appreciated it when they had some.
My mother’s attitude never changed. She always believed (and still does) that being happy has very little to do with how much money you have.
She’s as happy with a hot dog as with filet mignon.
We went to the movies any time she could scrounge up enough change. We played cards when she didn’t.
We laughed a lot either way.
And we still do.
The only regret I ever heard her make about money is this:
My parents had three girls in a row (I am the youngest of the three), and then several years later, my little brother.
When us girls were young, and Mom and Dad would take us to the ice cream parlor, we would ask, “What can I have?”
And Mom would always say to each of us, “You can have a small cone – one scoop.”
And we were delighted to have an ice cream cone of whatever flavor we wanted. What a great treat!
When my brother was growing up, finances had improved for Mom and Dad. Which was a good thing, because my parents wanted us all to go to college, and we did.
But my mother has told me this story more than once… so it weighs on her, I think –
When my brother was still a kid, but us girls were already on our own, my parents would go to the ice cream parlor with just my brother.
And he would ask, “What can I have?”
And Mom would say, “Anything you want.”
And my sweet mother always ends this story by saying, “I still feel bad that I never really had a chance to say that to you.”
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom
I still love a single scoop.
I am one of those fortunate people who is not moving through life feeling unloved.
But I have had times when I felt unnoticed. I think it can be very difficult to be invisible, and yet so many of us are. Older people, average people, single people – we who don’t make waves.
And yet it is because of our very nature of being the shy ones, the acquiescent ones – that as much as we need acknowledgment, we cannot be the person who shouts “Notice ME!”
Perhaps one way to cope with our invisibility is to reverse our perspective.
To not fret about being unnoticed. But to be the one who notices.
We sometimes need to pay attention to the small moments when we are recognized. And to realize that in those moments, we are accepted. We are loved.
There have been some small – and some significant – moments in my life where I could have missed the sign. Missed noticing that I was being noticed. Being loved.
Small Moments like:
– When I visit my mother, and she has a bag of potato chips on the table, because she knows I love them.
– When my husband drops me off at the restaurant, and then parks the car and has to run through the rain to join me.
– When I am in a meeting, and someone turns to me and asks, “What do you think?”
– When my best friend remembers some little thing we did together twenty years ago that I had forgotten.
– When a stranger holds the door for me.
– When I finally get the Zumba step I have been screwing up for weeks, and the instructor gives me that little nod.
– When a friend emails me an article or joke, and it is exactly the kind of thing that interests me or makes me laugh.
– When someone waiting in line says – “Go ahead, you were here first.”
– When my hairdresser gives me an extra long shampoo, massaging my temples in the spot that makes me go limp with pleasure.
– When the waitress puts my plate down in front of me without asking who ordered the lemon sole.
– When my niece says a certain song reminds her of me, and she is spot on.
– When my dog gets off the couch to follow me to the bathroom. Every time.
All those tiny moments remind me that I am noticed. I am not invisible.
And then there are the BIG moments – the moments when I knew with all certainty that I was Noticed – that I Mattered – that I was Loved:
– When I collapsed at home one night years ago. It was a gall bladder attack but we didn’t know it at the time. My husband (and I too) thought I was having a heart attack. I was lying on the floor unable to move or speak. But I could hear. I heard my husband on the phone with 911. I heard in his voice the mix of authority and urgency – and panic. In exactly the right proportion.
– When I was leaving my family’s Christmas Eve party a few years ago, and my nephew – then 12 – told me that I couldn’t leave yet. He had something he needed to share with me. And I waited in the living room wearing my coat and gloves, while he stood beside me, leaning on me a bit, and read me a poem from a book he had received.
– And six years ago – when I was visiting my dying father at the nursing home. He had only one day left in his long and happy life. He could no longer speak, and as I sat by his side, he smiled at me, and silently put his hand to his heart.
With this blogging year being all about Kindness, I am reading back on my posts and seeing that perhaps I am just a little too-good-to-be-true.
I sound maybe like if Mother Teresa and Gandhi had a child.
With that, I thought I would post a blog I wrote about six years ago.
Where I am not so nice.
I think that this little essay still offers some pretty good advice.
But more like the offspring of normal human beings. Nice ones, of course, because they were.
So here I am back in 2011 – It’s still me. Just a teensy bit meaner.
Just about everyone gets a bad boss sooner or later.
At my age, I’ve been through several. My motto has always been, “Just Outlast the Bastard.”
For the most part, that mantra has worked pretty well. Executives seem to either rise in the organization or leave. So I just hang on till the obnoxious boss is gone.
I’m lucky now to have one of the good ones. But a few years ago I had my most terrible boss ever. The sight of her car in the parking lot was enough to make my heart pound. I persisted for two years, waiting for her to move up or move on, but I began to realize that she expected to take care of me first.
If I made a decision on my own, I should have consulted her. If I consulted her, I didn’t have any initiative. If I worked late, I was slow. If I finished early, I was uncommitted. if I laughed, I must be ridiculing her. Okay, she had me on that one.
I’m sure down deep she was a wonderful person. She loved her kids sincerely, for example. I mean, why else would she have had three nannies in two years?
The day it became apparent that I wouldn’t outlast her was the day of my annual review. After more than a decade of reviews as glowing as J-Lo’s cheekbones, I was suddenly substandard in every category. I had considerable management responsibilities myself, and Bad Boss said that I was a horrible manager.
“You have no management skills at all,” she said.
Which actually is true, but I’d manage to conceal that for lots of years, just by hiring smart people and leaving them alone.
So I was willing to suck that up, until she offered me this advice: “You need to be tougher. You need to be more like ME.”
Well, I had an overwhelming, uncontrollable urge, that at another time in my life (that is, non-menopausal), I would have been able to suppress. But I said it.
“I don’t want to be more like you.”
It was an unwise thing to say, not to mention very mean. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t say it. But since I can’t do it over, I might as well be glad I did say it. But that was pretty much the end of my career at that company.
Looking at it now, from a happier place, I can see that lasting two years under miserable conditions was a success in itself. And so I offer this little secret that helped me get through.
Just hang up.
On Voice Mail, that is.
When you get a voicemail from your Bad Boss, hang up. Slam the phone down. Right in mid-sentence. Cut the idiot off. Then play it again, and do it again. Sometimes I slammed the phone down several times before I ever made it through to the end of the message.
It felt awesome.
Just make sure you don’t do it in real time.
Last night, just as we were falling asleep, my husband drowsily remembered a conversation he had earlier in the day.
“Oh,” he murmured, “I talked to that guy from the committee.”
“Which guy?” I asked.
“You know… That guy… He wears a limp.”
My husband was only semi-conscious and that probably explains his weird phrasing.
But I kind of liked it.
The man wears a limp.
A limp as something you wear.
Think about the control that gives the man over his limp.
He owns that limp. It doesn’t own him.
It makes me want to think about other conditions that we experience as something we wear. How differently we might consider our issues, problems – our very bodies – if they are just Something We Wear.
We could wear our health:
“She wears some arthritis in her fingers.”
“She’s wearing her third pregnancy.”
“She wears a stroke on his left side.”
“He wears a few acne scars.”
“She’s wearing another round of chemo.”
We could wear our situation:
“He’s wearing a difficult divorce.”
“She’s wearing her birthday today.”
“He’s wearing unemployment right now.”
“She’s wearing her new promotion.”
“He wears military service.”
“She’s wearing recent widowhood.”
We could even wear our feelings:
“She’s wearing a new love affair.”
“He wears loneliness most days.”
“He wears such joy in his grandchildren.”
“She wears confidence.”
“She wears a great sense of humor.”
What I am most hoping that we wear is
May we wear Kindness every day. Kindness to others. Kindness from others.
May we wear Kindness to ourself.
When I was in college, I entered a university-sponsored short story contest. My story was a variation on the old Aesop’s fable “The Grasshopper and The Ant.”
By the way, I can still recite several lines from the Jean De La Fontaine poetic version that I was required to recite in high school – I can’t even imagine how human brains work, that I can say, “La cigale ayant chante… Tout l’ete… Se trouva fort depourvue… Quand la bise fut venue”… forty-nine years after I stood up in French class with my little presentation. There must be a cubbyhole that stores useless shit so that it can come up at 3 AM.
But anyway… back to college – all the way forward to 45 years ago.
In my version of “The Grasshopper and The Ant,” when the grasshopper shows up at the ant’s house when winter comes, the ant welcomes him in. The ant says, “All through summer, I listened to your song while I was working, and your beautiful music made my toil so much easier. I’m so glad to be able to feed you this winter and repay you for the joy your song gave to me.”
I didn’t win.
And yeah, I was a bleeding-heart socialist know-it-all.
But you know, there is still a rather large part of me that still hopes the hard-working people have a little compassion for the daydreamers of the world.
Not everyone is ambitious. I know a few loving souls who do just enough work to get by, and then they play for most of their lives. They don’t mind living poor and they have fun and are good-hearted and generous with the little that they have. And they are good parents and sons and daughters. They don’t need advanced degrees. They aren’t workaholics.
Are they pulling their weight in the world? I guess it depends on how you define ‘weight.’
But I like these people. I’m glad they are in the world.
I think the world needs some grasshoppers. How boring if we are all ants.
Along with my benevolent if naive short story, there’s another Aesop’s fable that I take issue with:
The Fox and the Grapes.
That’s where the fox wants some luscious looking grapes that are on a branch that is just out of reach. He leaps for them but misses. As he gives up, he says, “Well, those grapes are not ripe anyway. I wouldn’t want sour grapes.”
So he rationalizes away his failure by deciding he didn’t want them anyway.
But the thing for me is…. what’s so bad about that?
Sometimes it’s not such a terrible thing to cut yourself a little slack. To save your pride once in a while with a self-indulgent excuse.
Of course, there are occasions when you shouldn’t play the sour grapes line. When it hurts someone else. For instance, if a co-worker gets the promotion that you wanted, it’s just not right to say, “Well, that’s a lousy job anyway.” No, it’s the time to say, “Good for you.” And suck it up.
However, it would be different if you apply for a job at a different company where you don’t even know who the other contenders are. And you don’t get the job. Well, it may be mature and honest to say, “Gee, I really wanted that job and I’m so disappointed.” But it may be a little ego-saving to say, “Well, it would have been a terrible commute and the guy who would have been my boss seemed like kind of a jerk anyway.”
There are lots of good excuses that can help you get through discouraging moments.
“I’m glad we broke up. That man was a slob.”
“Going to the community college instead of Harvard will save me a ton of money.”
“My apartment is tiny, but it’s easy to clean.”
Sometimes for little stuff:
“This healthy salad is more delicious than a slice a pizza.”
“High heels aren’t so terrific; I look cute in ballet flats.”
And sometimes even for very big stuff:
“I’d rather be an aunt than a mother, because I can enjoy the kids but give them back and appreciate the peace and quiet.”
If you are one of those people who’ve uttered the last sentence, I understand. Some days you even mean it.
Some days I even mean it.
A few days ago, I was waiting in line at the coffee shop. The guy in front of me was with his wife, and they were quietly standing there – just another anonymous couple.
Another man walked in, and gave the guy in front of me a tap on the sleeve.
“Hey, big guy!” he said. “I saw your car in the parking lot and had to stop.”
Guy #1 smiled and hugged Guy #2. “How you doing?” he said.
“I’m off to see my dad, so I’m gearing up to get yelled at,” Guy #2 said.
And Guy #1 laughed.
He laughed like it was an inside joke. He laughed like a friendship that lasts through time.
He laughed like the best music you have ever heard. One of those joyous, chuckling, laughs that bubbles up from the toes and gains momentum in the belly and sweetness on the heart. His laugh was magnificent.
I was suddenly envious of the young woman who was his wife. She gets to listen to that laugh every day. I’m sure it’s every day. Maybe every hour. Because he laughed like a happy soul.
About 35 years ago, I was single and hoping not to be.
A girlfriend set me up with one of her husband’s buddies. This guy – I’ll call him Eric because I honestly can’t remember his name – was a nice enough guy. Good looking enough (most people are). Kind of quiet. A guy who liked his job – and I liked that because people who like what they do are happier and nicer to be around. But I got the distinct impression that he had been pressured into asking me out. That someone was going to owe him big time for agreeing to this date.
Eric and I went out twice. It turns out that we didn’t have much in common. But I did rather hope that we could try just a little harder. Honestly, It wasn’t desperation… more of a hope that two nice people might find they liked each other more if they just worked at it.
About a month later, I had a bit of an argument with the girlfriend who fixed me up with Eric. And my friend – as a parting shot – said to me, “Eric told me that he could never warm up to you, because your stupid laugh was so irritating.”
God, that hurt. To think that something that was such an integral part of you – and something that you never even think about – it’s a natural as breathing – was terrible.
I’m a happy person. I laugh a lot. I felt bad for a long time my joy was so offensive.
But 35 years have gone by.
And I haved learned – many times over – that Eric was wrong.
THERE IS NOT SUCH THING AS A BAD LAUGH.
All laughs are magnificent.
Why would you disparage an expression of delight?
The next time you are in the coffee shop – or at work, or in a parking lot, or even at church – and you hear someone laugh –
REVEL in it!
You are so lucky! You have been given a marvelous gift. You may not even know the person who has given you this gift.
But how can you be luckier than to be given a share of someone’s joy?
PS – Eric: You missed out on the great gift of my laugh. But I hope you found someone whose laugh you enjoy. It is so worth it.
We human beings are so egocentric.
By this I mean that I am a human being. And egocentric.
But once in a while we get a strong dose of reality.
By this I mean that once in a while I realize that I’m not quite as magnificent as I usually believe myself to be.
Oh, sometimes I feel that down deep I am still quite magnificent. I can’t help myself.
But oh those other times. When I see how foolish and incompetent I am.
Like when I write an important email with three major typos. Like when I burn the oatmeal. Like when I can’t find the pen I just put down.
This week when I was distracted in Yoga class by the woman in front of me, who kept doing every movement and pose on the wrong side. It was really upsetting my rhythm and I was beginning to feel quite un-yoga-like-annoyed. Until I realized that I was the one who was doing everything on the wrong side.
I know that some human beings are very hard on themselves. They dwell on their shortcomings and never feel like they are good enough.
Not me though. I am very understanding of myself. No one is more forgiving of me than me. I am good at laughing off my blunders. Excusing my worst faults. After all – underneath it all I know I am quite magnificent.
Which is why I need someone to remind me once in a while that I am as stupid as the next human being. Sometimes stupider.
And lately, it’s been non-humans that have reminded me of my all-too-human failings.
April the Giraffe.
That girl had her baby on her OWN schedule. She let human beings stare at computer-nothingness for two months. And then with complete composure, walked around with hooves sticking out of her backside for a couple of hours.
And just when my admiration for April was at its zenith, then came the baby. Holy shit, that baby rocked his own birthing. He wasn’t in any more of a hurry than his mom. Just lettin’ those hooves groove – like you’d put your finger in the air to test the wind. And then finally, finally – with April so mellow I don’t even think she bothered to push – he drops SIX FEET. SIX FEET! SIX FEET with a slurpy kerplunk. Newborn. SIX FOOT FALL. Holy crap – I thought he’d killed himself for sure. But nope. Less than forty minutes later, that tough little bugger stood up and walked around.
Just how cool would it be if human beings walked around an hour after being born? And how annoying. I think the only way mothers survive the first few months without a mental collapse is because when they put the baby down, it pretty much stays put. Imagine if every time you went to the bathroom, you then had to search your house to find where you newborn has wandered off to.
And me? Fifteen years of Yoga, and I can’t balance on one leg. Baby Giraffe: 40 minutes, strolling.
My husband took up riding this year, and with this new passion, he received several nice books about horses for Christmas. There’s one I especially like, filled with interesting factoids. One section is all about maturity. When a horse is five years old, its physical maturity could be compared to a 23-year-old human. Its mental maturity is equivalent to a 25-year-old human. Let that sink in a minute. Physically 23 and mentally 25. Mental maturity beyond its physical years. When I was 23, I had the mental maturity of a 15-year-old. Truly. I wrote poetry while I ate peanut butter from the jar. And I walked around all winter with a nail in my boot, wondering why my foot hurt.
My 16-year-old cat Stewart jumped three times his height to a counter to retrieve a catnip toy. I had hid it behind the clock radio to protect it from being eaten by the dog. Stewart the Cat did not see me hide it there. But he jumped up there and found it anyway. I cannot find my pen. I used it an hour ago.
And speaking of my dog, every human knows that dogs can hear much better than humans. They can hear frequencies we cannot. And they can hear at a distance that is four times the human capacity. When my dog Theo is out in the yard and it is time to come him, I call him. He doesn’t even lift an ear. So I yell louder. Yeah, that helps. I’m sure he couldn’t hear me the first time.
When I was in college I took a course in Beekeeping. I took a course in pretty much everything – because I liked school very much and didn’t really like the idea of graduating. I may be one of the only persons in the world who has college credits in Beekeeping AND Bookkeeping. I guess I am a Keeper. But back to bees. Did you know that when a scout bee finds a really good source of nectar, she goes back to the hive and does a complicated dance to tell her sisters all about it? A guy named Karl Von Frisch studied honeybees his whole life, and here I am, forty-six years after my Beekeeping course, with his fascinating research permanently etched into my head. (Which may be the only thing I remember from college – but that’s another story.) Anyway, the bee tells her sisters through an elaborate dance exactly where the treasure is, with directions and distance in the swing of her little bee hips. And the bees take ONLY as much fuel as they need to get there. Not in the meandering route that the original bee may have taken to find the food source, but in the EXACT amount to get there in a direct beeline – so to speak. Because they want to be exactly on empty when they reach the nectar – so they can bring home absolutely as much as possible, and are not weighed down by their own leftovers.
We had dinner for six this Easter Sunday. When my sister picked up the bowl of mashed potatoes she said:
“This is really heavy. How many potatoes did you cook?”