I remember thinking as I sat in the bathtub a couple nights ago of when I used to sit in the bathtub in a tiny, dark apartment I had in North Beach just before I moved to the Filbert Steps. I only lived there for six months but it seems that a lot happened there. I remember my life was kind of messy and unformed at that time. I had just moved back from my sentence in Minnesota, was reconnecting with friends, and having weird sexual liaisons. Although I thought I was being kind of stupid about some things, and even reckless, I didn’t judge myself the way I am judging myself now.
I saw myself as evolving, and that was a key difference. I seem to have an expectation that because of my age, I should have certain aspects of my emotional and psychological life solidified. This concept persists even though I still allow myself to be a beginner at many things, almost incessantly, almost pathologically. It’s an interesting dichotomy that I allow myself so much leeway in learning new skills in the external world, but not in learning new skills in my internal world.
I guess that’s partly due to this current change being so painful, and somehow painful changes devolve into self-blame and criticism.
Clearly the part of me that loves exploring the world, learning new things and seeing life as an adventure is the same part that takes emotional risks. It’s just that emotional risks can have a bigger fallout and that can lead to self-recrimination.
It doesn’t have to. I’m trying to see this as an evolution or at least a metamorphosis. It might not feel so great when a caterpillar becomes chrysalis soup. There may a be a fragment of thought of “Oh great, what the hell was a thinking. Now I’m a goddamn liquid.”
Yep, now I’m a goddamn liquid.
My birthday is coming up in a few weeks, which is always a good time for me to examine my life.
I realized that this birthday is placing me, age-wise, strangely close to being considered a senior.
I don’t feel anything like a senior. I don’t feel like an old person at all. My Dad, who is 88 — he’s old.
There’s still so much I don’t know, and if I was really an old person, I would think I would know these things. Such as…
I still have no idea what love is. Even after my many years of living and many experiences, I don’t know. I know some kinds of love really well, like loving a pet or a best friend. Clear, uncomplicated love with almost zero dissonance — I’m really good at that. Every other kind of love I stumble about in a clumsy way, feeling all sorts of inexplicable intense things that I have no idea how to handle.
I don’t know what it means to be alive. I know that my time to be alive is short, and have no way to gauge if I’m spending that time well or if it really matters in such a vast universe. I want to feel like I’m getting it right, but even if I get it right, I won’t know definitely until it’s over, and then I won’t be around to evaluate.
I can’t resolve the dissonance between my own insignificance and that vastness of my mind. My subconscious seems infinite, like an entire universe inside my head *and* I am just one of seven billion people, on one of innumerable planets in a vast galaxy. Clearly the mind of one person can’t be as big as well, everything, so why does it feel that way?
The day has arrived. I lost my red comb.
It was a cheap comb, made of plastic, and had nothing significant about it other than I had owned it for 37 years. I have so few items from my childhood, basically: a few drawings, even less writings, the only postcard I ever received from my grandmother, a few photos, a toy dog, a doll that belonged to my Mom, a pin my grandmother gave me, a nightstand, a spoon, and a can opener. You can see from this little list that each item takes on great significance. The items are worth nothing. They are would literally be garbage if I didn’t attach some sentimental value to them. Some of them, like the comb, have no value even to me other than they’ve managed to travel through time with me to numerous places.
In the vast expanse of time, that comb wouldn’t have been in my possession much longer — maybe 50 years if I live to be very, very old. (my Dad was just telling me about a neighbor Of his who lived to be 103 and was playing tennis until he was 99). I guess its nice that its final resting place is in The Florida Keys where I was vacationing. There it will stay, probably for a million years, completely non-biodegradable. Perhaps a future civilization will find it and wonder at the significance of an object so brightly colored and so durable. Perhaps that comb will be the only proof that I ever existed, my only legacy.
Yesterday was a day I’d been awaiting for about 15 years. The wait was caused by nothing other than my inability to perceive that what I wanted was completely doable. To whit, I flew a plane.
Flight lessons, and airplanes in general, are very expensive. Fifteen years ago I won a flight in a small plane at a silent auction for a school in Sonoma. I was enthralled and immediately started thinking about flight lessons. Soon afterward, I switched to part-time work so had very little money. The spare money I did have went to another type of flying I was enamored with — flying trapeze, an activity I was mightily addicted to for eight years. There’s a lot of parallels between the two which I won’t go into right now.
Once I had money again, another goal appeared: my life-long desire to own a home. Saving up for a downpayment when you are an artsy type who doesn’t like to work is no easy feat, but I did it. But it didn’t leave anything over for flight lessons.
Perhaps I was also distracted for a bit by my fantasy of being an astronaut.
This year I realized how much time has gone by and if I had started way back when, well, I would’ve been a pilot a long time ago. I vowed this year I would fly.
Here in the eleventh hour, or twelfth month, I’ve finally done it. When you don’t have an pilots as pals, it’s hard to know how to get started. I had a fortuitous meeting with a cousin who is a very experienced pilot at a family event this year. I don’t think I ever even had a conversation with him but when I asked him about being a pilot, boy, did he want to talk. Not only that, but afterward he emailed me very useful information.
There was a little ass-dragging on my part and then some failed attempts to contact a disorganized flight club but finally, finally I was scheduled for a demo or introductory flight.
It was so bizarre to actually fly a plane that I barely believe it was real. It was strangely normal and completely dreamlike at the same time. My instructor’s line, “Aim straight ahead for that cloud” keeps pinging around inside my skull.
I remember looking down at my neighborhood, at all the beautiful, freshly green East Bay Regional Parks, at the snow-capped Sierras shining in the sun out of reach of the storm clouds.
Most impressive was the incoming storm, just hours away, filling the sky with an amazing array of clouds.
And then we were on the ground, just like that.
I don’t know how long it’ll take until I’m a pilot, but who cares? I’m finally on my way.