I love this piece of metal. I love the way feeding it through the rolling mill to make it thinner made it all wavy. I love that when I held the fire a little too long in certain places it wrinkled like fabric. It makes me happy to look at. The interesting thing about it is that it’s the background piece for a pendent I’m working on. It’s not the center of attention, the main event. Most of it won’t even show. It has not gone unnoticed that what makes this piece of metal extraordinary are the uneven tones and cracks and patinas that stress and heat and age bring, the crooked spine, the wrinkled surface. When this piece of silver was new and straight and smooth and perfect, I didn’t like it as much. And after all, underneath, hiding in plain sight, it’s exactly the same piece of metal it was before.
If we are to believe all of the commercials that promise relief for menopausal symptoms, erectile dysfunction, and aching joints, there is a sweet spot between the juicy naivete of youth and the spare wisdom of old age. Handsome men with salt and pepper hair walk hand in hand on the beach with beautiful older women with trim figures and one or two strategic laugh lines on their otherwise still smooth faces. They travel, climb mountains, form garage bands and can still jumprope, children grown, retirement savings in place. I don’t know about the rest of you, but my life looks nothing like that. My knees ache when I walk up and down steps, I’m shaped more like a barrel then an hourglass, and It’s altogether possible that I’ll be living in a cardboard box when I retire. But the other night, my husband, demonstrating with lime wedges left over from several shots of tequila, said to me, “this half of the orange is me, this half of the orange is you, together we make a whole orange.” So, even though walking on the beach makes my ankle hurt, I’ll do it hand in hand with the other half of my orange. And that’s the sweet spot.
The Other Half of the Orange carynjune
As I’m sure we all do, I often look back at the choices I’ve made with regret. If only I’d done that, or pursued this or not gone there. If I’d worked harder, ate less, exercised more, spent less, saved more, followed my dreams, figured out what my dreams were. Looking only backwards is a way if placing blame on younger me for not having my perfect life. It’s also a great way for older, creakier, flappier me to avoid working harder, eating less, exercising more, spending less, saving more…well, you get the point. Sometimes, though, looking back can be an opportunity to teach yourself about yourself. I was thinking about refinancing my mortgage to pay off some credit card debt. Now let me say first off, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done it or even the second. My gut feeling is it wouldn’t be the last. So for me, this time, I will take the harder road and pay off the debt, bit by bit. Work harder, eat less, spend less, save more, follow my dreams. Whatever they are.
Does there ever come a time when birthdays don’t warrant a minimum of a week long celebration? It’s my birthday week. It’s my birthday month. Certainly moms send cupcakes to school on their actual birthday, then the kids party at Chuck E Cheese’s or Dave and Buster’s, followed by their family get together where they get to eat their favorite meal, which may mean cereal for dinner. They get to wear silly hats and eat too much sugar and play games and watch magic. And they celebrate, just because they were born. As we get older, we start to shed the trappings of the birthday celebration. Maybe we don’t want to acknowledge how old we are or we can’t afford to give ourselves a big blow out or we don’t want to go out in bad weather to celebrate at a restaurant. We tell our significant others not to buy us a gift because we have to fix the shower door or pay the electrician. Well, I turned 56 yesterday. And my husband and I ordered take out and drank tequila and talked for hours, and it was a great evening. But it’s my birthday month, and next week I’m going to a party that some of my friends are throwing for me. And I am not ruling out dancing with a fruit basket on my head.
Let me just start off by saying, obviously, these are not done. Notice the dings, the fire scale, the butt-loads of solder, (Thanks, Marybeth), that I can’t seem to get off no matter what I do. And the one on the left, that one still doesn’t have the top soldered on.These simple boxes are among the first things we learn about hollow construction. Technically, they are not that hard to do. I, however seem to have the hardest time finishing the &*^%in’ things. I made my mom one in class years ago, and she wears it all the time. She says she never wears it without at least one person oohing and aahing over it, and I should make more cause they’d sell really well. That’s just great. At this rate even if the materials only cost me a buck fifty, I’d have to charge a thousand bucks just to cover my time. Why make them, you ask? There are certainly other things I can, and do make that I love to do, and I hope will also someday have people oohing and aahing. So why do I torture myself? To prove I can, maybe. But I think the real reason is to see if I can learn to embrace the process and not just the finished product. To see if the next time I try something, it’s a little easier than this time, a concept I am not overly familiar with ’cause if it isn’t easy the first time, I am moving on to something easier, like eating a bag of Peanut M & M’s. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you’re just not very good at something. Nobody is good at everything. So, I’m going to finish these &^%$in’ boxes, and they are going to be beautiful and people will ooh and aah, and when they ask me if I’ll make them one, I will answer, “I’d be happy to…for a thousand bucks.”
I have taken in the past few years to talking to myself. Now everyone talks to themselves once in a while. I’ve always spent a lot of time in a sort of day-dreamy fantasy state which involved men telling me I was beautiful and my dreams coming true…oh, wait…we already talked about that. Recently the conversations with myself have become almost constant and not always in my head. The monkey chatter has escaped from the zoo. I rehash conversations that didn’t go as I’d hoped. The interesting thing about that is sometimes they haven’t even happened yet. I’m defending myself against slings and arrows that may never even occur. It’s only recently when I was looking at an old program from a college theater production that a friend had posted and I saw my name and thought, “Was I there?”, that I realized I’ve been living with the chatter so long, I have huge gaps in my past. People that I know I know, but I can’t remember how or in what context. Shows I did, kids I was friends with. What a shame that so much of what makes me who I am is a blur. I spent so much time wanting people to like me, that I can’t remember some of the wonderful people who really did. I was so scared that I wouldn’t be popular and the kind of person that everyone wanted to be with, I got scareder and shyer and crankier. Now, I’m faced with the life I’ve created and the “Golden Opportunity” (Thanks, again, Gila) to live in the present with the truths of my life. To make amends to people I’ve treated unkindly or neglectfully. Most of all, to make amends to myself. I am the one who has lived my life with my head in the clouds. It’s time to hit the ground running. Ok, maybe just walking. With a limp.
I had a long talk with my Dad this morning. Now for those of you who don’t know me, my dad died a year ago today. He’s on my mind even more than usual today, of course, as is the fact that losing a parent moves you up in line for the mortality ride at the amusement park that is life. My dad could be as someone who loved and respected him said, “quirky and difficult”, but he loved his family, blood and otherwise and made excellent use if his time on Earth. He worked until he was 84, which I see now kept him young. The lesson here is although we may feel like the world does not exist when we are gone, it does. And although we may feel like we will live forever, we won’t. Live your life now. Don’t wait until you’re richer, prettier, thinner, more accomplished. Just leap.
Rumor has it, that with age comes wisdom, and that’s true. I feel I’ve gained the wisdom to know that I’m supposed to have wisdom, and the wisdom to know that I don’t. That’s not to say that I haven’t learned a thing or two in my trips around the block. I’ve learned that the monkey chatter in my head drowns out the beating of my heart. I’ve learned that if it doesn’t belong to you, you can’t have it, no matter how much you think you can. I’ve learned that if you aren’t willing to work for something, maybe you don’t really want it after all. I’ve learned that your dreams are not going to hand themselves to you without meeting them half way. I know all this amazing stuff I didn’t know when I was young, and yet to paraphrase my very wise friend, Gila, I have a very steep investment in ignoring all of these wonderful life lessons. I guess there is a certain amount of wisdom in knowing what we are praying for and maybe even working for. Truthfully, though, I want my dreams to walk right up to me and say, “there you are, we’ve been looking for you everywhere.”
“Woman Praying” carynjune