In this current world we live in, Zoom has been a life saver, a connection to those we love, to friends and loved ones, to religious community. There are more, let’s say, mature people who are still having some trouble navigating all this relatively new technology. We’ve all read the story about the gentleman who couldn’t figure out how to remove the kitty filter during a business meeting. Heh heh heh. There’s a lovely woman in a community I’m part of who tends to talk. A lot. The facilitator of our group has taken to starting every question with, “let’s hear from someone we HAVEN’T heard from.” So the other day, this person has her hand up and the tech support says, “So & So has her hand up”, and I hear, from someone else who obviously hasn’t figured out how to mute themselves, “Oy”. And I am looking around to see if anyone else heard it cause I want to laugh so bad. I, of course, am pretty dang tech savvy, so heh, heh, heh. A knee slapper. Well last night I participated in a wonderful program with my Sisterhood. It was informative and moving and inspiring and all those really good things. But, somewhere in the middle of it, I noticed a friend had her background blurred and I thought, “ooh, that’s cool, I wonder how she did that!” So, I briefly clicked on filters to see if I could find it, but no luck, so I clicked it off and turned my attention back to the event, only to notice that I had applied a very faint mustache to myself. Not a Groucho Marx mustache, more like a, she could really use a good waxing, mustache. So, I’m all “WTF, what do I do? What do I do? I don’t even know how I got it in the first place!” So, I’m sitting there covering my upper lip in what I hope is a look of intense concentration for a few seconds, before it occurred to me to just turn off my video and figure out how to turn off the filter. One of the many things I’ve come to know during this time is how much I don’t know. And really, so what? There’s always gonna be someone smarter than me, but I’m sure they’ve also run a whole load of laundry with no soap, or only noticed before getting ready for bed that they’ve been wearing their shirt inside out the whole day. But, I like to think I’m the only one special enough to give myself a ‘stache during a Zoom meeting.
“An elephant never forgets.” “I remember the first time I..(fill in the blank).” “It’s like riding a bicycle, you never forget.” As the years go by, I am stunned by how much I’ve forgotten. Whole swaths of my life are, not gone, exactly, but…kind of…you know…F*#% it, I forgot what I was trying to say. See what I did there? I have a friend on Facebook. Apparently I share a past with this person, experiences, mutual friends. We’ve been friends on social media for years. And to this day? I have, literally, no idea who they are. I mean none. Nothing. Bubkas. I feel terrible. This person was present in my life for a lot and I can’t remember. Or I was too full of my own drama to even make an effort to know who they were! How self-involved is that? I remember a friend from Pitt posting a program from a show we did together in the Studio Theater. And I looked at it thinking, “Was I in this show? I mean, I see my name, but, was I there?!” Whole shows. Whole epochs. Whole people. No wonder I can’t grow and move forward with any ease. If I put all the things I remember together to form a life, I’m like…six! The last High School reunion I went to was in 2016. It was my 40th. I was amazed at how few people I really knew. I was struck by the wonderful memories flying that I wasn’t part of. Don’t get me wrong, I do have great memories of really close friends. But I also know that there were experiences in my life that caused me a great deal of pain and humiliation. ( Don’t make me tell the peeing in my pants in junior high school story again!) I know that these experiences changed the way I viewed the world, well, my world. I was convinced, in my heart, that everyone was whispering about me and laughing at me and all I wanted to do was disappear. And I did. For years. I was always shy and gawky, but I no longer knew how to navigate my life safely. If I tell you my face is bright red and I’m a little teary even now, decades later? Not exaggerating. To this day, I have to tread lightly because I know it won’t be long before I either humiliate myself or hurt someone else, thereby humiliating myself even further. Quite the burden to carry through decades. And ironically? This, I never forget. Like riding a bicycle. And please, forgive me if I’ve already told you all this, I forget.
The Bicycle, or Blonde with a Flat, Commission
Dust off your lampshades, people! It’s that time again. It’s time for the Birthday blog! This year I’m turning 63. Who would have believed this time last year what the coming year would bring. Pandemics and unemployment. Fear and uncertainty. Racism and revolt. Protests and an election that brought us back from the brink of democratic destruction. Murder Hornets. Sarah Cooper. Randy Rainbow. No one could have imagined, when we heard of a virus way far away in a little town in China that has nothing to do with us, that we would be unable to hug our friends. Celebrate birthdays. Sing Karaoke. Go to a Show. Eat in restaurants. Raise your hands if you thought this would all be over in a few weeks. Yeah, me too. But, we are resilient. We have found ways to teach our children when they can’t go to school, earn a little bit of money while our employment future remains uncertain, keep healthy when gyms and dance classes are not a safe option. We share our conversations on Zoom, we tell people we love them a little more than we used to. And we look forward to the days when life goes back to normal. And the silver lining just might be that the new normal? It probably won’t look or feel quite like the old normal. If you had asked me what I would do if I couldn’t work, go out without a mask, travel, eat in a diner, or pretty much go anywhere for a year, I would have spiraled right into an anxiety attack. But I am fine. I’m more than fine. I’m working on my jewelry. I’m 34 pounds lighter than this time last year. I make my own coffee every day and I’ve embraced my air fryer. The new normal might mean we wear masks for the foreseeable future. Or wash our hands a lot. Or go to a show where every other seat is empty. And maybe we’ll work more from home even when we don’t have to because we know we can. And get puppies. And we’ll still tell the people we love how much they mean to us because we know that life can turn, and fall, and end on a dime. We cannot go back to the old normal, because we have all grown, and the old reality now fits like a cheap suit. But, if it makes you feel nostalgic, I will continue to worry about everything, feed my addiction to Yahtzee and Gunsmoke, interrupt others because I’m afraid if I don’t talk fast, people will get bored before I’m through, and blame everyone but me for whatever ails me. But I will do it with a lampshade on my head.
I am not you. I may spend my whole life trying to be you. Trying to have what you have. Be what you are. Accomplish what you have done. But I will never be you. Not being you is a double edged sword. I am not as pretty, as athletic, as rich or young as you. But I am not as lonely, as sad, as sick or frightened as you. Not being you is a double edged sword. I want your status, envy your wealth, crave your children. And I feel your sadness, wear your fear, carry your pain. I am not you. The hard part of not being you, is it is nearly impossible to be me. To delight, to relax, to live each day, just being me. Not wishing for your life, or taking on your pain. I have a life. I have plenty of pain. Why carry more burdens than I should? Why is it so hard to believe that every soul is given the joy and the pain that they are supposed to have. And to wish someone else’s joy for yourself, to take on pain that isn’t yours to take, isn’t fair to them and is an impossible burden on me. Yesterday was the 8th yahrzeit for my dad. And it occurred to me that wishing to be you? That means that all of those that came before me were irrelevant. Not quite good enough. Not as perfect as those that came before you. Because my nose? My Albert Einstein eyebrows? Dad. My red hair? My Grandma Cilly. My name? My great-grandma Channa. My anxiety, my impressive, if migrating, chest? Mom. But from them, I also got my brain, my sense of humor, my creativity, my empathy, my talent, my red hair! It is a new year. It is a week until I turn 63. That milestone brings its own joy and pain. I do so love being the center of attention. Joy. I’m a year older. Pain. See that? Just like any other day.