by The Fat Lady Sings, Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 11:42:23 AM EDT
Had I the heaven's embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
Yesterday was my birthday. There was no real celebration, I'm sad to say. Not much gets celebrated these days. I am in my 5th decade - and with age comes wisdom - or so I am told. So here are my reflections on what it meant to officially enter `middle-age' - that purgatory of between times, when no one seems to give a damn any more who you are, or what you have to say.
Life certainly comes with a boatload of caveats.
Remembering what my life was.....
On the eve of my 24th birthday I sat alone in my apartment and took stock of my life up until that point. Assisting me in that endeavor was a ½ gallon jug of wine, and a carton of Benson & Hedges menthol cigarettes. I remember I wept - for all I had lost, for all that never came and against a future that seemed rather bleak indeed. I stared at and through that bottle, each sip as sour as my mood, chain-smoking myself into a nicotine high - wondering if I should take arms against my sea of troubles and by opposing end them. At the time, it did indeed seem a consummation devoutly to be wished. I was entering my 25th year; I was living in a one bedroom apartment surrounded by a single bean bag chair and an old wire spool table. Unable to keep my pets while in the homeless shelter, I had stupidly trusted them to my mother who promptly had my brother kill them; `for my own good', she said. My acting career, such as it was, had come to a screeching halt about the same time I said no to auditioning for Playboy (the casting couch just wasn't for me). So it didn't seem likely I would be accepting that Academy Award any time soon. In vino veritas - the time had come, the walrus said to speak of many things. I had a choice to make that night. Did I give up the ghost as had my sister, aunt and cousin? Or did I soldier on; changing all those things in my life that brought me to that pivotal moment. Did I really wish to end the heartache and thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to?
The answer was a resounding no. Life breathes; and as long as my body could manage it I was going to breathe as well. That was my epiphany - and it was a profound one. But deciding to live is just the beginning. The `how' comes next; and I spent the rest of that night and most of the next day trying to figure that out. It meant change - I had to change me. It was time for me to become the `me' inside my head; bold, confident, daring; an extrovert who never, ever let anyone stand in her way. The imagination `me' had to become reality. I had to cut myself loose from those who would pull me back down. Thus began the exodus away from my blood family. It took more than 10 years; but at the end I divorced them utterly and in doing so all the insanity they created and stood for. And I promised myself the next time my brother put hands on me I would cut them off. It was time for me to choose different men as well. No more suicidal train wrecks. I didn't have to rescue every human being who crossed my path. It was time I looked for healthy people - no more nut-jobs who manipulated me through empathy. That proved to be the hardest change of all. I needed to be healthy first, you see. Like attracts like; in order to attract normalcy, I had to at least approximate it first.
So - 26 years have passed since that night. Today, April 24th is my 50th birthday. The `me' of a quarter century ago seems both near and oh so very far away. Once again I sit alone taking stock of my life so far. There is no jug of wine. The cigarettes are a thing of the past. The house I occupy is a far cry from that lonely apartment. The critters that share my life need not fear death or abandonment - and neither do I; at least not in the sense I felt and saw when I was young. I am not stalked by instability - and suicide is an illusion best kept for my fiction. But I remember what that felt like. Keenly. That frightened, lonely woman/child lurks closer to the surface of what is me than I care to admit. And she can be summoned. Without warning. Katrina did that. When I saw all those people struggling to live. It plunged me back to that dark place that still exists in my soul. And all that that entailed flew up before me like a swarm of flies - it was overwhelming. I felt the walls closing in. So I know she's still there - small, terrified me; probably always will be, I suspect - no matter how old I get. And as for that Tuesdays child? Is she full of the grace her birth rhyme promised? I don't know if I can rightly answer that. I am graced with many things; not the least of which are those friends that form the tapestry of selected family I know and love. Later today my best friend Amy will call to sing me Happy Birthday. I look forward to it. She has sent me a gift; though hard-pressed to do so; things being the way they are in our economy. Others have already registered their congratulations. We all live too far apart to get together, and that makes me terrifically sad - for I would dearly love to truly celebrate this milestone with the verve and panache it deserves. And milestone it is. I survived to see my 50th summer. That's no mean feat considering where I come to this from. So - Happy Birthday to me - and may I see many, many, many more!
Cross-posted in all the usual places