I had to share this….
There was a time, when I was younger, that I thought there was no shame in growing older. When I turned thirty, I wanted to have a HUGE party to celebrate a new decade. (It didn’t happen; we had a big Halloween party, instead. And my idea to dress as babies was nixed for that, too.) At that time, I also believed that wrinkles showed your inner beauty and that they were nothing to be ashamed of; you should be proud of them. But then I changed my mind.
What happened? I got older. What was, in my twenties, merely an abstract thought (that I would age and become older, wrinkles, gray hair and all) has now begun to become fact. It has been coming on slowly, but I now find myself loathe to admit my age.
Just a few weeks ago, Ellwood looked at a picture of C. and me when we first met, back in 1997. Ellwood said, ‘That was before you had wrinkles.’ Shocked, I asked, what wrinkles? He very sternly pointed at his own mouth. Evidently, I frown enough that my son has noticed those wrinkles. *sigh*
It happens to everyone, if you are lucky. And quite frankly I don’t want to be this shallow. My plan was to age gracefully, embracing the changes that come rather than trying to cover them up with creams or dyes. What I wasn’t prepared for was the mortality factor. Aging is not just a superficial changing of your body; with it you are forced to take stock of your life as it has been, where it is now and where it is going in the future. The change in your outward appearance is just a reminder of the deeper issues at work. It’s a mid-life crisis.
Or is it really a crisis? Many people choose to start a new career at this time in their lives. I can understand why. If you aren’t particularly happy with how things are going in your life, now would be the time to change them. Maybe it should be called it a mid-life challenge, instead.
Scary as the thought of our own mortality is, it’s often a thought which helps throw people into action. Having gotten caught up in the trappings of ‘life as we know it’ many people give up on their dreams in order to survive; choosing to work a crappy job that supports the family rather than working for little to no money in a job that they love. That is why people come to a point mid-life and say, ‘Wait a minute! What’s this all about? What happened to the dreams of my youth?
(Do people who live out their dreams have this same problem? Do they stop to ask themselves what is it I have done with my life? What contributions have I made? Was it worth it? Or have they already answered those questions by living a vibrant, active life?)
And yet your job is not your life, not your real identity. It is something you do to pay the bills. If you are lucky, you enjoy what you do to make money. Your life is expressed by the interactions you have with people, the connections you make, the impact you have on others. We often lose sight of this reality in the mad rush to ‘get things done.’ (A worthy cause, just not one you should devote your life to.)
Although it’s actually a tad early for me to be having this crisis of identity, still this is where I am. So, what to do? I guess my challenge now is to live up to the ideals I had in my twenties as regards aging. And maybe find some way to make the best of the creative energy I am feeling.
I’ve become one of ‘those’ drivers. You know the ones. The drivers who turn in front of you with no regard for the fact that 1- you have the right of way and 2- there is no way for them to make the turn and avoid an accident unless you screech to a halt, but they blissfully drive on, unaware of the chaos they have left in their wake. Or the drivers who apparently have no idea that the speed limit is 20 miles slower than what they are driving. Or the people who drive in the left lane (the one designated for the faster traffic) and either go exactly the speed limit or worse, under the speed limit. Yeah. I was one of them this morning.
Let’s recall the scene of the crime….I am on my way to drop the kids off at school and stop at the four way near our house. The car in front of me drives off and I roll to the stop sign. Vaguely, I am aware of the car to my left, also stopped. And then I begin to move forward…at the same time as said vehicle to my left. We stop at the same time, and then I proceed through the intersection.
It’s at this point I am given the ‘honk.’ It was long, loud and sounded a bit peeved. That’s when I began to wonder, ‘Did I have the right of way? Was I supposed to wait for them?’ It was really too late to consider these questions once they came to mind; both of us had moved on by then. But I have a suspicion that in fact, the other guy had the right of way.
Upon further consideration, I also realized that this is not the first time I have behaved badly while driving and am beginning to suspect that the poor driving habits of my fellow citizens of this small town are rubbing off on me. We had not been living here long when we noticed the large number of people who have no compunctions about turning left with other vehicles barreling down the street at them. They also have no fear about turning onto the street and taking their time speeding up to the flow of traffic while everyone else is slamming on their brakes and swerving into the other lane to avoid them. And let’s not even get started on texting while driving! That’s a category of WRONG all to itself.
My poor behavior this morning is indicative of my assimilation into this community, I think. Either that or I have always been a poor driver. I’d rather vote for assimilation than think myself only an average driver, so that’s the story I’m going with.
Be safe on the roads, guys. There are tons of bad drivers out there. Of course, you and I are better than average.
I absolutely love the way this woman writes. It is awesome and if I could bottle it and use it for myself, I would. Her easy, engaging style is sarcastic, witty and readable. She synthesizes information into manageable bites that the uninitiated can easily ingest and therefore comprehend.
In this book, she describes the difficulties scientists have encountered in planning an extended stay for humans in space. There are many problems the average Joe would not consider- how do you shower in space? Water isn’t pulled down by gravity, so showering is out. It also doesn’t stay in a tub, so that’s out, too. Seems the astronauts use wipes. Imagine doing that for six months!
Another problem in space? Toilet issues. This one’s much trickier and has apparently caused many difficulties for astronauts and NASA alike. The solution they first used (and the one they keep going back to, when things go wrong) is to use a bag. Now, there are some realities that go along with using a bag that I will leave to Ms. Roach to explain, but I will just add this- It seems that when you close up the bag, you also have to add a tablet which then needs to be kneaded into the BM so the bag does not blow up due to the gas inside it. Consider that the next time you hear that the toilets on the space station are not working.
Mary Roach broaches many unsavory subjects (such as elimination) with frank candor and humor which allows you to commiserate with the astronauts. People that I considered, up until reading this book, to have one of the more glamorous jobs in government. I have since rethought this misconception. (I have also decided that until we find a way to combat zero gravity and live like they do on Star Trek, I will skip space travel. Thanks, but no thanks.)
If you are interested in the space program, pick up this book. It’s not a novel, but it reads very easily, not weighed down in ‘science speak’ that many of us cannot understand. I can’t wait for Ellwood to be old enough to read it. (‘Cause it’s a must-read for him!)
A few gems from the book:
If you don’t use the toilet or seal the poop bags properly, pieces will escape and float through the cabin. This happens often enough that it’s not unusual to find references to “floaters” in mission transcripts.
Gravity disappears again, and we rise up off the floor like spooks from a grave.
‘They didn’t want the hot water cooking the skin flakes,’ the officer in charge said, speaking four words together that have no business being so.
Under the heading ‘Experiments with Human Subjects’- a heading that, were I a doctor previously employed by Nazi Germany, I might have rephrased- von Beckh reports on the efforts of the pilots to mark X’s inside small boxes during regular and weightless flights.
‘And there are carrot coins…’ There is a rapt quality to his speech, as though we were gazing at gold doubloons.
Out of the window of a low-flying Twin Otter, ground that had appeared on satellite images to be dirt, straight no chaser, reveals itself to be riverine windings of tan, gray, gold, cream, rust.
Ever notice how our expectations never seem to coincide with reality? Kind of like the dog that chases a squirrel up a tree, somehow expecting to follow it? (Or maybe the dog thinks she has sufficiently scared said squirrel. Who knows what the dog thinks?)
My son has some problems with the concept of expectations versus reality, but he has yet to notice. For example, he thinks he can run ‘at the speed of light.’ I will not be the one to tell him differently. He also thinks he is almost as strong as his daddy. (Maybe he is. I think it depends on how you define ‘strong.’)
My own personal experience with this phenomenon generally occurs in regards to how I am going to accomplish something. Or, how much of any given project I will be able to finish in one day.
Expectation: I will get up early and start the day by making a good breakfast for me and my family.
Reality: I drag myself out of bed after the kids have been up for at least an hour and pour everyone a bowl of sugary cereal.
Expectation: I will get everyone out the door with time to spare so there is no screaming, yelling or generally loosing of our cool as the day starts.
Reality: I am screaming at the kids to hurry, hurry, hurry, since we are once again late, late, late, while the kids cry because mommy is such a mean-y!
Expectation: I *will* get the house clean TODAY.
Reality: By noon I am sitting in the fetal position, surrounded by piles of paper, rocking back and forth, unable to remember why I chose TODAY to start this project.
Expectation: I will read and finish any homework for my class before the day of class.
Reality: I am furiously reading the day of class, hoping to finish enough so I don’t look foolish.
Sometimes, others have expectations for us, like my ex did of me…’But I thought once it was your own place, you would want to keep it clean.’ (Sure. ‘Cause people change like that.)
We have expectations of others… ‘I just asked you to put that away ten times. What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?’ (Because five year olds listen to their mommies.)
We all encounter these bouts of reality versus expectations and usually manage to escape unscathed. Here’s to the day when we find a way to make the two pieces fit together. I expect to post this later today…