July 25th, 2007

And the Hits Just Keep on Coming

A couple of years ago, when things were particularly rough, I developed what I thought was an excellent attitude about the lousy stuff we all have to deal with at some point:


At least life isn’t boring.


(I later developed a theorem from this postulate, something along the lines of:


At least life isn’t usually boring, because when I reach one of those points where nothing is happening at all, I just want to curl up in a ball.)


That attitude works well enough most of the time. In fact, just the other day I complacently said it to someone else. But then the wheel of fortune creaked a little farther forward, and I’m saying to myself: brother, what I wouldn’t give for a little boredom.


And here’s another theory I developed recently: stuff that I like real well when reading about it can really suck in real life. Such as, you query?


Such as:


Realistic characters. Wouldn’t it be nice if you just knew whether someone was a villain or a hero? But no, we have to all be human. What’s up with that?


Gradually revealed truths. I am such a big fan of this in literature, in fact, that I love to hide things in my own manuscripts. (Unfortunately, I often hide them so well that my readers don’t even know there’s something to look for.) But I hate it when I think I’ve got a handle on a difficult situation… and then I discover that I didn’t know the whole horrible story yet. I don’t like things to be broken to me gently. Just spit it out and get it done. Then I can deal with it.


Long drawn-out battles in which good eventually triumphs over evil. Why, I ask you, why do the battles have to be so long and drawn out? Why are people so stupid? And stubborn? And why are the nectarines that seem like they should be just the right kind of squashy… so often just mealy and disgusting? (Okay, that doesn’t have anything to do with good versus evil. I just thought this entry could use a lighter note.)


This morning I discovered that a friend of mine died during the night.


She was an elderly woman, though when I was with her I never gave any thought to her advanced years. She lived all over the world—her first husband worked for a UN organization—and spoke five languages fluently, and smatterings of three others. She was a tiny frail bird of a woman who wore glasses that probably weighed more than she did. She had the most wonderful attitude toward life—so eager, so welcoming, so wide-eyed—that I’ve ever encountered.


She was married to a big name in my little town (a park I remember playing in as a child was named for his family). When he died a couple of years ago, I thought she would just shut down. Her body started to, and it was clear that she wasn’t the same as she’d been when her husband was alive—but she was still wide-eyed and eager and welcoming.


For a while I was very, very good about getting together with her. But then things got hectic, as they do. And I wasn’t in touch as often as I used to be. I felt bad about it, and was constantly putting her name in my calendar as a reminder to call—but then something inevitably came up, and I’d bump her name down to the next week… and the next… and on and on. She was in the throes of Alzheimer’s, and so it’s not likely she really missed me, but I can’t accept that as an excuse.


Yesterday I woke up in the very early morning and couldn’t fall asleep again. Feverish thoughts set me tossing and turning and so I got up, grabbed a book, and settled into a chair in the living room. After a few chapters I thought I’d turn out the light and see if sleep was waiting for me.


I can’t remember the last time I had such vivid dreams—verging onto nightmares, with fear constantly thrumming beneath the surface (at one point the pounding of my heart half-wakened me). The first bit that I remember was standing in the doorway that leads to the bedrooms, and feeling a peculiar sensation. When I glanced down, I finally realized that I was lifting off the ground. I curled upward uneasily, trying to find my center of balance, and my head had risen above the doorway itself when I slammed back into my body—it hadn’t been an out-of-body experience at first, but you know how dreams evolve—with so much force that I heard myself gasp in my sleep.


This morning I had to laugh, thinking that it was probably all a function of where I was sleeping: as I lay in the recliner, I probably shifted the seat back farther—“levitating”—and then the seat most likely slammed down to its usual, lower reclined position, making me gasp. But in my dream, all I could think was that it was a signal of some kind, the hand of the universe shaking some sense into me. Learning of my friend’s death, it occurred to me that—recliner or no—it was the hand of the universe on my shoulder.


Life is short. It moves fast. We should all be more wide-eyed, welcoming, and eager. And nectarines should definitely be less mealy.

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