Thursday, September 11, 2008

Since I Don't Have a Flag To Wear On My Lapel, I'll Have to Put Something On My Sleeve...

Today is a sombre day for America, as an infamous anniversary is upon us. It's sort of a festive day for some of my family, as my father turns 63 (and I totally forgot it was his birthday until an hour and a half ago, then remembered to call his cell phone and sing happy birthday, like he did for me a few months back) and our cousin Dee turns 68.

For me, it's a introspective day, as the aftermath of gargantuan events always tends to be, once everything falls into place and you can see the larger picture. I have these moments of contemplation every so often, none usually as bleak as a few months ago just before mom passed, but I'm the sort of person who needs to stand still and take stock every so often. Kind of like a homepage refreshing, I suppose.

I'm at an age now where I look at my life and see that it's now on the decline--how fast or slow depends on me, I guess, and the way I take care of myself. I don't so much pine for my youth--I have plenty of pictures (some even posted on Facebook by college friends) to remind me that I looked exponentially worse back then than I do now, and I was frightened and clueless. Of course, I'm frightened and clueless these days, too, but not in the same way. I own my own home--I'm gainfully employed, I have my own health insurance, and uncertainty is something we've learned to live with--it can bring us both bad and good.

I guess what I pine for now is the time that I had then--like walking through a flat countryside looking out at the horizon, life and time stretched out before me, and the end was never any closer. I could achieve ANYTHING if I wanted to. Or so I was always told. I've since learned that that's not necessarily true.

What nobody did tell me was that you have to learn for yourself what you want--it's not a good idea to fashion your goals according to what's popular or looks good at the time--and make a plan to get there and attain it. I've never been a great planner (at least in terms of realistic plans), and I never knew myself well enough to know what I really wanted. My goals in life were pretty simple. They still are, actually:

* To make a decent living while doing something I love
* To always be surrounded by people I love

For the most part, I think I've attained those goals--I don't make a living BY doing what I love, although the living and the vocation have somehow managed to co-exist for the past few years. I'm not well-connected or prolific enough to expect more at this point, although I do have bursts of inspiration, especially in the Fall, as the air gets crisper and clearer. Those carry me through to the next one, and so on and so on...

I try to keep my loved ones and family close, too, but it's amazing how hard it is to hang on to the things you love...the person I loved most (and loved me most) is gone now, and it's left me feeling a little bit like nobody's on my side anymore. I know that's not necessarily the case, but every time I have to confront somebody, every time somebody takes advantage of me, and every time I have to hear someone talk about how close they and their mother are, it's like having a Band-Aid slowly ripped off of a still-bleeding wound, and I wonder if I'm strong enough to weather it by myself. So I go to the other extreme and come out swinging, usually overreacting terribly. Note to self: must find a way to deal with this more productively. My cousin Jim told me that things will eventually return to normal, but it won't feel that way for a few years, as I go through all the rites of passage--holidays, etc.--without Mom.

I haven't really grieved yet. I still feel a little stunned, like the split second after a car accident, when you spin to a stop in the middle of the intersection, wondering stupidly if it really just happened, even as your lap is like a dustpan full of broken glass (then and you realize your door won't open and you must climb out a window--but that's usually later). It hasn't really sunk in yet. I think that will happen more towards the holidays. It didn't escape my notice that I kept myself very, very busy during the last year, trying not to face what I knew was coming. Now it's come, and there's nothing to run from anymore. And I'm very, very tired. It almost feels like relief in a way, although it's not the kind one usually feels...

I wonder sometimes how long I'll stay in this city. I can't imagine living anywhere else. So many of my friends are here, and I've built such a life here that I can't imagine walking away from it. But I've known lots of people who've come and gone and come back again, so that seems to be an option.

I've seriously been thinking about buying a small home down in my hometown, so I can go there when I want to. The trouble with that is, I don't belong to the "Second Home Owning" class. I think I was born to work right up until the day I die, making a living doing the stuff other people don't want to do. (Even if that wasn't in my original job description, it ends up that way as people eventually encroach, since I seem to send out some vibe that says it's OK to piss all over me--I'm working on that, though.)

Sometimes I wonder how long a single gay man (who's likely to remain that way) should live in a big city. The stereotype is that it's safer to be in a big city where you can be anonymous, but I always liked being a part of my community when I lived in my town. Plus, most of us come to cities (at least in part) since there's a better chance of finding a partner, or someone to share our lives with. Well, I've sown what passed for my oats, and they bore no fruit. It's just as easy to be unfulfilled in a small town as it is in Chicago. And it's cheaper, too!

I guess I've just noticed that I've now passed to the other side without even noticing I was going there. It happened overnight--this year, in fact. All of a sudden I was 40. Time to grow up. Time to lose your mother. Time for all the fun to be over, and if you try to have any, someone will be there to throw a wet blanket on it for you and remind you that that's not for you. Just like that. Shit, that was fast!

So these are just a few of the things that flit through my mind on this day. Mostly, they're pretty irrational, but I didn't have anything else to write about today (and advice day is tomorrow, so that one won't be ready until tonight). I'm sure these thoughts will's the time of year when things change, and I'm looking forward to making some changes to my own advantage as I get the opportunity.

The trick is to KNOW when the opportunity arrives.

I wish it wore a sign!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Republican'ts are using this day to scare folks into thinking that they'll be safer from terrorists with the GOP. Wait, wasn't a Republican president and congress in control 7 years ago?
It is hell getting old. The other day I saw a breakdown on some chart. It had: 18 to 29 year olds, 30 to 55 year olds, 56 to 64 year olds, and 65 on up year olds. So now I'm one step away from the end. I only dream of living in a large city some day but doubt if it will ever happen unless I win the lottery. Big Cities are very expensive. I don't have Health Insurance and believe that when I turn 65 and get Medicare it will be too late if I live that long. When I was young I thought I could make a difference but now I know it doesn't make any difference whether I'm around or not. I just hope when they read my small insignificant Obituary somebody will at least say he was an okay guy. ed

12:27 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Well, Sarah Palin sure banged the "terrorists hell bent on destroying us" motif over the head last night on Charlie Gibson. It's amazing, the longer they let her out, the more she sounds like a mynah bird with Naughty Monkey shoes...

I've decided that I'm not going to worry about getting older anymore...I'm just going to go along for the ride and enjoy myself as much as possible. I see some pretty frisky 50-somethings (and up) at my local watering hole, so I know the fun's not over!

9:50 AM  
Blogger BC said...

I lkied this post, Aaron. I know how you feel I've been debating similar things.

3:16 PM  

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