I’m beginning to feel that so-called middle age is confusing as much as it is disconcerting. The disconcerting part is looking in the mirror and seeing all this wrinkling and sagging and feeling that you don’t look like yourself anymore — not the self you thought you were. When we were kids, we took it as normal that our appearance kept changing, and we didn’t mind. But after looking pretty much exactly the same for a couple of decades we, or at least I, am out of practice. In another way, it’s like adolescence all over again: our appearance is changing, and it doesn’t seem for the better.
The confusing part is that time has become oddly non-linear, widely variable, and just plain weird. A few years ago I saw Neil Young in at the Bridge concert singing “Old man take a look at me now, I’m a lot like you were.” Singing it, he sounded just like he did as a *young* man, but not he was an *old* man singing about being a young man. This stuff fucks with my head.
I realize, rereading the above paragraph, that even the statement “a few years ago” is in accurate. I went to that concert six or seven years ago.
I don’t know how to explain it all, but the phrase I seem to use most is that I’m living in the future. I seem to be in a weird loop back to the ’80s. In the last year or two, I’ve often met people in their 20s who look incredibly similar to friends or relatives I had when I was that age. It gives me this weird disembodied feeling, like I’m not sure where I am in time in space. I feel like I’m rooted in that time, and projecting myself into the present. I have no idea why I would feel that, because I’m much happier now then I was then, and more importantly, have a much stronger sense of self.
Another example: my doctor’s office has moved in a building that is right next to the building I had my first apartment in in 1984. This office building was built after I moved out of that apartment, so for a long time I’ve thought of it as “that new building.” So, weird thing number one: “that new building” is over 20 years old. Even weirder: when I’m in the exam room, I feel that it’s not real. I feel that I’m floating above the past looking down into it, down onto my old apartment. And I think, I could never picture that, over 20 years later, I’d be in this place, in the office, middle-aged, right next door.
Another example: I read a story about a toxic site the EPA is helping to clean up owned by Lawrence Livermore Labs called Site 300. Back in the ’80s, Site 300 was central to E’s life, as she spent a great deal of time protesting the testing of nuclear detonators there. I don’t know when they stopped testing there, but I think of it as the place where she was arrested more than once. And now it’s some place where they’re trying innovative toxic cleanup. I mean, that’s great, of course.
It’s just that everything’s so damn different than what my mind thinks of as “normal.” People who I still think of as children are now adults. Years go by at breakneck speed. Days are way too short to accomplish anything. It just seems like I’m going to blink and I’ll be 90 years old. And then I won’t be. Which I can’t help but see as a damn shame, as I’m enjoying being alive so damn much. Even with the constant aches, pains, and worries. That’s something the wasn’t true when I was young: I enjoy being alive now more than I ever did then.
Here’s how it happened.
Our entire back wall consists of floor-to-ceiling glass, including the back door. It was twilight, and we had the back door open at a 90 degree angle. I heard this vibrating sound and looked up to see Elijah beating his wings on the back door. The combination of the low light light and the angle of the door evidently rendered it invisible to Elijah. He become very confused and agitated, because then instead of flying to the left (to freedom) and he went to the right and into our home.
Next he spent a few frightening minutes (for all of us – Elijah, K, and me) trying to find his way back out. I’ll tell you, this is hard for even some people who know what glass is. It’s just hard to see where the glass is and is not. To try to improve the situation, we turned out the lights inside and turned on the outside lights. I also lay down a red curtain on the ground outside, because I read this will guide hummingbirds to the ground because they love red so much. But the ground was still on the other side of the glass to Elijah, and finally, he just sat on the ground, exhausted.
This must have been very uncomfortable for him. Hummingbird’s feet are only designed for perching. They can’t walk or stand. So, he must have had his legs curled underneath him on the hard floor.
K and I were very concerned for his welfare, and I decided the only thing to do was to try to catch him. I approached him very slowly, millimeter by millimeter, and was able to cup him in my hands because he was so stunned. He weighed about as much (and felt somewhat like) a cottonball. If you’ve ever had the grace to hold a songbird, you know how stunning it is: the seem to be made of air.
I carried him outside, opened my hands, and he was gone like a bullet. He went straight up and sat in the juniper tree, where a few moments later we heard his telltale “screedle-screedle-screedle.”
I was still nervous about him this morning. I know animals can cover up injuries and illness as necessary, and birds are the masters of this. However, around 7:15, he appeared at the feeder, and seemed to be fine. He also appeared to be avoiding me for the time being; when I would walk around, he’d fly away, whereas he usually ignores me. He’s probably pretty uptight that I caught His Highness, our little backyard tyrant.
Even though this was just last night, I still can’t believe I actually had him in my hands. It doesn’t seem possible. I realized this morning that my ability to catch small, delicate beings is something I value a great deal and am very proud of. In the world of jobs and adulthood, this skill has no real weight. It won’t get you money or success. But it’s giving me some of my most intimate moments with nature, which is something all the money in the world can’t buy.
After a nice, clear weekend, we spent another week breathing in smoke. There’s still over 300 fires burning in California, and we’ve gotten so jaded after peaking at 1,700 fires that 300 sounds like nothing at all. It sure is *something* when you look out your window, though. It’s something *depressing.*
K told me this morning that his coworker just bought a brand-new car that only gets 20 mph. I thought about the kid in Terminator 2 saying, “We’re not going to make it, are we?” (I saw that movie a lot before The Terminator become governor of California). It’s all these things — nobody bothering to do their part, rampant greed, fucked-up government which combines the former two qualities and worse — that gives me the overall feeling of doom. Every once in a while I have an errant glimmer of hope that things are going to be all right, but mostly it doesn’t seem possible that the world will be okay.
Sometimes I have to omit information when I’m telling people the things I do for fun, since what I consider fun is often considered drudgery. But since this blog is semi-anonymous, I can finally tell the truth about what I like to do at bedtime, besides the obvious fun bedtime activities.
First and foremost, I like to read. Most people I know like to read as a form of entertainment. But here’s the part where the roads start to diverge: I like to read non-fiction. I like my reading to enlighten me. I find enlightenment entertaining.
I may have mentioned somewhere on this site (I can’t recall) that I have a desire to study quantum mechanics and physics in general. I realized that to do this I’d probably have to relearn calculus, which I haven’t looked at for about 30 years and remember nothing about. So, I read chapter 1 of a calculus book and realized I didn’t even remember algebra. Down the worm hole we go… back in time and space and brain matter…
So, I got a college algebra book out of the library and have just finished chaper 1. Now, I am fully aware that it is abnormal for an adult, for entertainment purposes only, to spend their bedtime voluntarily doing algebra problems. But too bad for all of you, because I have to say: it was SO MUCH FUN. I’m telling you, put down that crossword puzzle or sudoku book and get an algebra book. I know I didn’t think this when I was 15, but I know it now: Algebra rules.
Welcome to the newest Nerge readers, T and J!
Here’s a photo of the sassy Edie, who fearlessly stood up to Elijah. Because of her, Elijah has apparently calmed down and realized that he *can* share the feeder. He still spends a good portion of his day guarding it, but it’s not ALL THE TIME anymore. Nothing against Elijah, but we like this change because we get to see the other hummingbirds like Ellen and a new male, who we haven’t named yet. We also like to see everyone work out their differences.
K does an amazing imitation of Elijah. I wish you all could see it.
except your inner critic.
This brilliant phrase, created by K and a potential bumper sticker, has become an important reminder for me throughout the day. I’ve observed in my sensory deprivation chamber, otherwise known as my cubicle, that the lack of external stimuli causes insidious subconscious thoughts, mostly that I am being watched and judged. This obviously stems from actual judgmental observers from times past (Mom), concepts of the a patriarchal god, the warning message I see when I start up my computer saying my computer sessions may be recorded, cameras on all public transportation (and the elevator and on the street and in stores), and the guy at the end of the floor who complained that I was too friendly with my coworkers. Yes, there are actual observers and real spying, but how this expands in my mind for yet another cause for free-floating anxiety is somewhat mysterious to me.
However, I know I am not alone in my mild paranoia. My friend KW told me when he worked at an EAP that most of the calls he answered were about paranoia. I’ve seen it get really haywire in a couple of co-workers over the years. One guy who sat next to me started saying there were spy cameras in the vents, then it was that “they” were downloading spyware to his personal computer, then pretty much any car on the street was following him. He ending up having an old-fashioned nervous breakdown, poor thing.
As for me, this has manifested in many ways. When I had my own business, I constantly thought my clients were mad at me. In fact, only one client was ever mad at me in the years I had my business, and she clearly had borderline personality disorder. Whether I think people are mad or judging or otherwise disapproving, it all adds up to the same thing: 99 percent of the time, it’s in my head.
My goal is to continue to observe what is that 99 percent, and what’s the remaining actual 1 percent of concern. But it’s not always so easy to separate the hay from the chaff, as the saying goes. On my morning break (and walk around the block), a man commented on my aimless stroll and try to hit on me. During my lunch in the park, a park employee informed me I was not allowed to lie on the benches. Odd, I’ve been lying on them for two months almost every day. He was very nice about it, told me his supervisor was being a pain, and I was too sleepy too protest. Afterwards I felt pretty annoyed about this stupidity, a rule with no point and disruption of my slumber.
I’m getting this feeling that both those incidents — which add up to unwanted attention from others — somehow gets filed in my brain in the same place as YOU ARE BEING JUDGED, and increases the paranoia. Still, I plan to continue examining what’s real spying and what’s the Inner Critic.
My Geo Metro. Ten years ago, when I decided to buy a car, I researched which one had the highest MPG, and the Metro came out on top. I bought a ’93 four-door for $3000, cash. Almost everyone I know acted alarmed. “That car is not safe,” said various friends and acquaintances. “It’ll never last,” said my mechanic. And no one was thinking about fuel economy when gas was $1.25 a gallon. I can’t be the only person on earth who knew in 1998 gas prices would skyrocket in the future, but it sure seems that way.
Now everyone is whining and moaning about how much gas their cars/SUVs use, blah blah blah. Even the hybrids don’t get better mileage than the metro, a car that has had no major repairs in 15 years. Tom and Ray of Car Talk, who would always mock owners of Geos by saying, “When are you going to get a new car?”, are singing a different song. They are *telling* folks to buy a used Metro. Ha ha HAH. All you people who laughed at my dinged-up, crummy-looking, tiny car can just EAT IT.
And another thing: all you people who told me for years to drink water instead of tea: I’m glad I ignored your advice, too.
The future is here, and it’s not pretty. When I was a child in the ’60s, it was common for teachers to show films in the classroom was going to be a clean, beautiful place full of comfort and freedom. (I wonder when they stopped that nonsense?) I believe this propaganda for industry was a continuation of the mindset of 1939 World’s Fair and similar showcases of the “beauty” of the industrial age. Somewhere in the ’70s in came into the common mindset that all was not well in paradise, as we began to experience the effects of overpopulation and massive pollution. (At that time, the EPA was created, and has been systematically flattened by the wheels of capitalism in every year since then.) During the gay ’90s, what used to be called ecology was ignored by many in the rush to purchase SUVs and McMansions.
Now, here we are in the 21st century, and the world is seriously fucked up. Those of us in California are experiencing the beginning of the end of time, as 1,400 wildfires have broken out in the last couple of weeks. The majority of these were caused by an unprecedented amount of lightning strikes, extreme storm conditions caused by climate change (formerly known as global warming). Unless you are in a coma, you can’t help but notice that there is a ongoing major “natural” disaster occurring ALL THE TIME. Tsunamis, floods, wildfires — a vast cornucopia of horror.
Here in the Bay Area, where we normally dwell in paradise, our beautiful blue skies were replaced by thick smoke, and this made me incredibly sad. Other people I’ve spoken to have used the words “creepy” and “scary.” One woman I know said, “It’s the end of the world.” (which made me wonder why she just had a baby if she truly believes this). The only levity for me in all this is that every time I’d hear the phrase “smoke-filled”, I think of Frank Zappa singing “lead-filled snowshoe.” Don’t ask me why.
Yep, things look like they are going to suck for a long time. And so, a public service announcement: If you don’t have your emergency pack already, please get it now, because it’s only a matter of time before it happens to you. I’m not kidding, buy this RIGHT NOW.
Back to our regularly scrambled program…