Tuesday, January 25, 2022

A fortunate absence of butterflies

I'm reading a book about romance.  Not the courtly, chaste, hand kissing kind.  This is about passion, infatuation, ecstasy, when you are wildly attracted to someone and, glory of glories, (s)he is attracted to you.  The butterflies in your stomach kind of passion, when your guts turn into hot water and run down your legs, you are dizzy, can't think about anything but your beloved and how tingly topsy-turvy light- headed you feel.  When sparks fly between the two of you and your erotic chemistry turns you giddy and soft and hard in all the right places.  When the world is yours and the future seems nothing but endless promise and possibility.

Sweet Hubby and I never had that.  The first time we met was at a conference and consisted of not much more than "I liked your work" "Thank you very much".  I had another boyfriend so wasn't looking, and had to leave immediately for the plane home.  We had one dinner together a bit later when SH came to my city for work, but I still had that other boyfriend, and, even though I enjoyed our conversation, I still didn't feel any particular fire for the man who became my SH.

Our courtship started not too long after that dinner, and was conducted exclusively by phone and email.  We had long conversations, revealing ourselves to one another a bit at a time, diving deeper and deeper into the other's soul and mind.  By the time we finally got together as a couple, I already knew that we would be together forever.

And then we had our first kiss.  A very nice kiss, lovely and warm.  But no sparks, not much chemistry, no butterflies.  In an instant I weighed what it would mean to give up this magnificent partnership to hold out for the hope of ecstasy, and decided I would go for the best man I'd ever known, even if it meant there might not be much sizzle.  He is wonderfully affectionate, and that goes a long way toward satisfying the hunger for sex.

Now, 15+ years later, I'm having the best, deepest, wildest, noisiest orgasms of my life.

I have come to think that a lot of romantic relationships get into trouble (and this is not just theory but based on my own long history of dating) because so many of them begin with all that heat and fire, which eventually, inevitably begins to fade.  Then one or both of the partners thinks "What's wrong?  Something's wrong.  Why doesn't it feel as good as it did?  Why does she suddenly have flaws?  Why has he started to annoy me?  Where's that chemistry?  I guess (s)he's not the one after all."

SH and I got it backward, and thank goodness for that.  We started with little chemistry, and no infatuation at all.  We didn't love the other for the way we made each other feel.  We loved each other for who we are, for how well we got along.  Our sizzle came more from sharing jokes, appreciating one another's prodigious intellect, discovering and coming to understand more of each other's psyche and history.  Instead of bursting into flower immediately, our passion grew slowly, with more warmth than fire at first.  Instead of fading, it has continued to blossom as we have learned each other bodies and souls.

Infatuation is great, and I enjoy remembering all those many instances of it in my youth.  I just wish I had learned sooner that it is not necessarily the foundation for what I was really looking for; it can't be counted on to last and it is not to be confused with actual love.  I am so glad I opted for love, thinking I was giving up the zsa zsa zsu.  Now I have both.  How lucky can one person be?

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Dad and Mom

Dad was a man of many moods, and some of them were not fun to be around.  He certainly had his fine traits.  He was honest and smart and handsome and had a wacky fascination with horror films, and with movies in general.  (According to him, he started drinking martinis because William Powell in "The Thin Man" made them look so debonair.)  But I remember a lot of my childhood as a time of tension, wondering if Dad was in a good mood or a sour one, if I needed to tiptoe or could dance.  Because he was not a man who could talk about himself (I don't remember a single time he said how he was feeling, either physically or emotionally), I didn't know what were the driving forces in his life, didn't know what he was up against nor what he thought of himself.  Because I didn't understand him, I took his moods personally.  It took me lots of unpacking later in life to see him as a person, someone who was doing his best and simply didn't have the vocabulary to express himself more clearly and lovingly.   

Mom, on the other hand, was sweetness itself, easygoing, cheerful, kind and loving.  I used to wonder how she could have made such a happy marriage with someone like Dad.  I know I couldn't, mostly because I'm too much like him.  I find myself wishing sometimes that she had married an easier man, a man more able to express his love, a man more affectionate and happy.  I keep wondering what her life might have been like if she had married someone else.  

But it had to be her who married Dad.  Not many women, maybe one in eight million, could have made a happy marriage with him.  If he had married a woman who criticized him, or asked for more from him, or tried to make him talk, I believe he would have been terribly unhappy, and his worst traits would have been exacerbated.  I can imagine him sinking into depression and even worse alcoholism.  He needed someone with Mom's temperament, her patience and sunniness, her compliance.  She was the Belle to his Beast.  She alone could see the handsome Prince inside of him.  She alone could love and adore him as he wrestled with his very private demons.  So I just have to believe, or hope, that she was as happy as she seemed, that she had found her own Sweet Hubby.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Not knowing what to say

I had a lovely Zoom recently with my beloved sister-in-law.  She has terminal cancer, so naturally some of our conversation was about about how she is, how both of us are, wrapping our minds around the idea of a world without her in it.  She spoke of how difficult it has sometimes been to talk to other people about - it feels weird and sort of blunt to say it outright, but it would be foolish and forced to talk around it or use a lot of euphemisms, so here it is - about her impending death.  Too often the other person ends up making the conversation about how they are feeling, how the news has affected them, how sad and sorry they are, so that she ends up taking care of them instead of the other way around, which can be exhausting.

She knows that I understand at least some of what she's saying because I told her about a letter I wrote not too long ago to the people in my life.  I haven't sent it, and I don't exactly know how I will convey it when it becomes relevant; maybe I just needed to write it for my own sake.  It's about the, shall we say, the etiquette I would like my friends and family to follow should Sweet Hubby die before me, which I expect would knock me out of orbit for quite a long time.  The gist of the letter consists of "Don't contact me nor visit unless you know for certain that you will be able to be with me exactly as I am, with whatever depth of grief I'm experiencing.  I know you love me but please stay away if there is any chance at all that you will feel compelled to try to make me feel better or will make your visit about how bad you are feeling.  It's all right for you to bring your own feelings with you, and we can grieve together, and I'll appreciate it if you make a meal or do the laundry.  Just don't try to make me feel better, because you won't be able to.  And don't ask me to tell you what you can do, because I won't be able to."

I do understand, of course, why most if not all of us are clumsy, overly emotional, and downright stupid when we are in the presence of staggering grief, why we say empty things like "I'm sorry for your loss", "How are you?", "What can I do?", "Snap out of it." etc.  It's because we have no fucking idea what to say, no idea what to do or how to be.  We know, if we have lived any life at all, that grief must fade on its own; it absolutely can't be, shouldn't be, rushed nor crushed nor ignored nor sublimated, but must be felt in its entirety for as long as it takes.  And we know that there are occasions for grief coming our way, too.  It's inevitable.  And it's frightening.  Of course it's agonizing to see someone going through what we know we are going to have to go through ourselves and more than once.  Of course we are hoping there is something to say or do that might be healing, might make it not so bad.  But really, there probably isn't.  Or if there is, I haven't found it.

Monday, January 3, 2022

The 3 Questions

At the top of a new year, I like to ask three questions:

1) What was best about last year for you?  

My friends and family and Sweet Hubby will always come first when I reflect on that question for myself.  The other highlights of 2021 are the four trips I took, each one a shining jewel in the crown of the year.  First was to Las Vegas to meet with a cousin and some friends.  We mostly stayed in our adjoining suites, talking, laughing, playing games.  After more than a year of no travel, it felt very strange to fly to another state and city, but I'm glad I braved it.  I was relieved to see that people were masked everywhere I looked.

The second trip was to Goshen, IN to receive an award and see my winning play performed.  A highlight of that trip was seeing a concert by Girl Named Tom, three siblings from Goshen who recently won The Voice.  They are talented and beautiful and, I hope, ready for the new trajectory of their lives.

Third was to Marina, CA to be with siblings and our spouses for early Thanksgiving and my sister's birthday.  So nourishing to be together.  It was an especially precious time because my sister-in-law has terminal cancer, so time with her is meaningful and poignant.  And of course her illness reminds me that we are all terminal at some point.  So important to stay connected.

Fourth was that glorious week in Boise filming a series of commercials.  Everything about that event was good and great, and nothing so great as how familially bonded the other actors and I became.  (Spell Check is telling me that familially isn't a word, but it should be, so I'm keeping it.)

2) What was hardest about last year?

For me, it has definitely been my ongoing anguish, anger, disbelief, and disgust with this new and worsened version Republican Party and its most fervent followers.  All that outrage is exhausting and unhealthy, so I won't feed the beast right now.  But really, how is it possible that it has come to this, with continued deterioration of truth, civic responsibility, kindness, critical thinking?

I also lost three friends this year, and feel diminished by their absence.

3) What would you like next year to be like?

This question is the hardest to answer this year.  Normally I greet a new year with an expansive feeling of promise and possibility, renewed energy, bright visions.  This year, however, I find I look at the coming year not so much with trepidation as with an absence of expectation.  I find a cheery "Happy New Year" catches in my throat.  I don't know that it's going to be a good year.  The political landscape and COVID have dimmed the light of my enthusiasm.  

Of course, we never know how any year is going to unfold.  We didn't know Obama could be President until he was elected.  We didn't know that our lives were going to change in every way and forever because of COVID until it arrived.  When 2021 began, I didn't know I was going to take any of those wonderful trips.  There are always surprises, happy and terrifying both, so I'm talking more about my own approach to the year than to anything I think might happen or not happen.  I don't assume that COVID is going to stop being a factor in our lives.  And I don't assume that our leaders will become wiser or more honest.

In answer to Question #3, if I could wish anything into being, it would be that COVID simply dies off and all politicians start to tell the truth.  Since I can't to anything about any of that, to look at what I would like to see happen that I can actually fuel myself, my answer is what it usually is.  This year I want to write more (I can definitely make that happen) and write better (not sure how much this is within my power, but it's a worthy goal).  I want to be a better friend to my friends, and stay in good shape physically.  And I want to enjoy myself as fully as possible because what's the point of this precious, temporary life if we don't enjoy it?

Monday, December 27, 2021

It's a miracle!

When you think about, being alive is astonishing, astounding, even mind-boggling.

First of all, of course, is the fact that one particular sperm had to reach that particular egg that particular time for you to be you and me to be me.  That's one sperm out of an average of 250 million.  

But even more than that, I consider how many hundreds of thousands of our ancestors had to survive plagues and famines and deadly creatures and lethal infections and accidents and wars in order for you and me to be here.  We are the descendants of survivors, beings who were strong enough, and smart enough, and adaptable enough, and lucky enough to have survived this harsh, dangerous world of kill or be killed.

We're not so different from those survivors in some ways, except that for a lot of us, our survival is pretty well assured.  This allows us to be  proud, to be lazy, to be wasteful, to be depressed or ornery or mean, to take for granted this miraculous gift of being alive.  But it also allows us to be reflective, as we have the leisure and security to be able to ask what it all means.  So it's only natural that we make up gods and goddesses, as every primitive culture has done since the beginning of humanity.  We need a sense of order to it all, a sense that someone is in charge, because without that, then what the heck does it mean?

I envy cheetahs and moths and squids and lichen.  They don't have these great big brains asking these great big questions.  Life doesn't have to mean anything at all to them.  To all other beings but us, life is just what it is.

I know that it's not possible for me to live in that fully present way.  Like all humans, I'm a storyteller, a meaning maker, a question asker.  But I can see the beauty of living without meaning, or at least without meaning appointed from outside of me.  That frees me up to create my own meaning, my own purpose, my own direction.  I don't know if I have free will, but I figure I may as well live as though I do, as  though I am able to make choices that are not necessarily determined by Fate or biology or upbringing.  

That leads, of course, to the question of what have I decided my life means?  You would think I would have answered that one by now, but I'm still thinking...  

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

A Boise love-fest

I'm home again after spending a week in Boise, ID.  This rather disrupted my holiday socializing plans, but it was for the happiest of reasons.  I was cast in a series of commercials for Idaho Central Credit Union.  This was far and away the happiest, jolliest, most rewarding on-camera shoot of my acting career.

I played the grandmother to a grown son, his wife, and their two teens.  And this family just loooves their credit union.  It's all we want to talk about, and we talked about it in a variety of fun situations.  What was best about this experience was that we five actors (as well as the chaperone to the youngest) bonded quickly and deeply.  The night I arrived, I met up with the men playing my son and grandson.  The three of us went to dinner and talked for probably three hours about everything under the sun.  Once everyone had arrived in Boise, we would all get together for breakfast (except for whomever had an early, early call time), and we always had dinners together.

The crew members were also absolute peaches, not a pickle in the bunch; upbeat, friendly, professional, and warm.  The fact that the actors shared such a familial chemistry added to the energy and chemistry of each day's shoot.  For example, on the last day, which took place in a studio rather than on a set, there was music playing all day and, me being me, I couldn't help but dance between shots.  And so other people also started dancing, and the director spontaneously decided to have the onscreen family dance for some of our shots.  I suggested to the client, who was the Big Daddy of this commercial, that the caption under us dancing should be "If you want to be this happy with your bank, join Idaho Central Credit Union".  In another section that day, the five of us were asked to sit on or stand behind a couch in different grouping, and the director used our affection and goofiness by having the family act silly with one another, then freeze for the camera.  It was so easy for us to play together; we felt free and unrestrained with one another, which made this whole week such a joy, such a pleasure.  

My "grandson" and I had one day off at the same time, so we took a Lyft to see a matinee of the new Spiderman movie.  I get such a kick out of the fact that a 70 year old woman and a 22 year old boy/man (and a dreamy one at that - he's going to turn into an amazing adult) can be friends without any self-consciousness.

I felt so comfortable with them all that I had to remind myself that they saw me/see me as a grandmother.  A colorful one, to be sure, and one with a lot of pizzazz, but definitely of a much older generation.  So it would surprise and delight them when I talked about sex or weed or farting, or any of the other subjects that one doesn't necessarily expect from a grandmother.  They forget, as I did when I was younger, that this old lady remembers being a teenager, a 20 year old, 40 year old, 60 year old.  All of those stages of life are still in me, so I am not one age but all those ages.  I know I am not of this era; all that dancing left me stiff the next day, and I am not on my phone every free moment.  (In fact, I read "Of Human Bondage" in its entirety during the week in Boise.)  But still, there is a much younger self living inside this wrinkledy face and weaker body.  It was so nice bringing her out to play with such lovely new friends.  I will remember this week with such joy for the rest of my life.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Today I am a crone

Today is my 70th birthday.  I happily accept, even embrace, the fact that I am now a crone.  We crones, after all, are the tellers of stories.  Having learned to keep our own flames lit, we are able to help others light theirs.  We know what it's like to be a child, a teenager, a young adult, middle-aged.  We know how to hold the torch for the promise and possibility of the future.  We are the receptacles of many, many life lessons, some of them learned the hard way.

The past is mine.  The present is mine.  I know that the future belongs to others, but I still have so many contributions to make.  I am proud to have reached this stage of life.  However much I might be invisible to the young, I also know that I am part of the clearing of the path they are walking now.

So give a cheer and a respectful nod to yourself if you are a crone.  We are rich in wisdom.  Let's be sure to stay interested and interesting.  There is much more still to come.