Friday, January 17, 2020

“Midway along the journey of our life I woke to find myself in a dark wood, for I had wandered off from the straight path."

Today I am 40 years old. Back when I was younger, 40 seemed old. My mother's mother had my mom early. My mom had me before she turned 21. 40 was a a fine decade for becoming a grandmother and so far removed from my experience, I could not even fathom how my own life would be like at that point.

It's such a strange place in the journey of life. If I want to be an optimist, it's about a halfway point. 
Lots to look back upon and lots to look forward to. Part of me is thinking the world is falling apart by the seams and there is no way that as a species we have 40 more years left, but then part of me laughs at that shit,  chiding my internal doomkingers,  "there, there, little millenialist, this is the oldest story of mankind, you simply can't fathom in your egotistic ways that the world indeed can go on without you. "
 And truly, that is the most optimistic thought I have, the one saying that our western civilization has been falling apart for two millennia because ever since Jesus left the building, we have been collectively, actively fighting towards an end, so he may return quicker.
Hence no one can ever imagine the world going on as they get on in years, and we all get to the "back in my day" and the "kids used to be" era in our lives.
 When Jesus went home, the early Christians celebrated Easter every week for a couple hundred years for good measure, knowing the rapture was near, and of course it wasn't. Life went on disregarding everyone's ecstatic visions of the apocalypse. In a sense, when we get older and get to the before mentioned " back in my day" 'tude, it is an internalization of a greater cultural paradigm.
Our fervent millennialism and apocalypse thirst.

  How does this effect me and my pessimism looking into the future? Even as a non Christian, I suppose the millennialism rubbed off on me. Maybe  climate change, the general evil I see, the intolerance, the upsurge in hate, the rise of popularist, right wing politicians and governments across the world, maybe these justify doomkingers' grumblings.

But then I remind myself, there is no light without dark. There have been darker times, and we are still here. There are young people who are not willing to put up with the old ways that got us in this trouble. That for every Walking Dude, there is a Mother Abigail. For every Sauron, there is a Frodo, and a Smeagol and a Gandalf; and as much as I have protested the existence of a higher power governing our fate, somehow, as an olde birde, I am ok with the universe doing its thing and me not understanding it and hoping for the best.

 So whenever I feel like things are falling apart, I remind myself; they always have and always will be. And in a way, it will always be as it needs to be.
In that spirit, last year about this time I decided to conquer whatever fears kept me hostage. Even though I had a drivers license for over a decade, I dreaded driving. So I got myself a car and drove cross country.
I thought about how I spent much of the past 21 years getting really far from the things that defined my initial 19 years... But as I get older, I realize that much of who I am is still influenced by those who came before me. No matter how far I have removed myself mentally and physically from my place of birth and my family, when I look in the mirror, as I age, my mother and grandmother both look back at me.
Initially when I realized aging was going to visit this insult on me, it drove me nuts. I resent them for many things  for very good reasons.My grandmother passed away a year and a half ago, my mother is alive and reasonably well  and we have a relationship, but the past remains- at least for me- a dark place.
 So when they both started looking back at me in the mirror, I was pretty angry. My traitorous cheekbones,treacherous age spots  and the goddamn neck vagina thing coming in. Then I pondered it. Got a pot of very expensive cream for the neck vagina, which since then retreated a bit and if it decides to make its existence permanent, that's it, it's going to get chopped off. But for now, I apply that cream day and night even though it smells like puppy anal glands.
Then I decided it's the biggest cosmic joke and laughed my butt off. My mother abhorred my grandmother on such a deep level, they were the type of enemies only exist in comic books. Like Batman and the Joker, or Superman and his nemesis Lex Luthor. What a wonderful twist it is that while I am alive, both of them are co-present and have to be reflected in the same mirror, in the fleshmuppet that I am. And as time goes on, I make peace with little things, inside and out, by laughing at them and taming them, I guess.

It's interesting how some of it is subconscious. When I bought my car, I felt all sorts of exposed and vulnerable. So I got a first aid kit, a set of road flares, two tasers, a couple pocket knives, a thingy that cuts seat belts, a thingy that breaks the windows, in case in the high desert of Colorado I fall into  alligator infested waters. But I had a nagging feeling, that I surely missed something. So I called my bestie, Beki Haley and asked her what I might have forgotten. She said the tacks that fall out from underneath onto the pavement behind the car, because that's the only thing missing from my James Bond setup. But somehow the feeling of not having every possible thing I might need kept on nagging.
Until Facebook advertised a foldable tactical shovel - an entrenching tool basically, that may be used as a machete! Eureka! Of course I jumped on it asap. Now why did I do that? And why do I need all this crap, you might ask?
My father bought a new Skoda 120 in 1985. His first new car. It had a very small trunk. First aid kits are mandatory in Hungary, but he worked for an insurance agency, and was very thorough, so he had not only the standard first aid kit, reflective triangle, but the seat belt cutter and other  gadgetry too. His grandpa, my great grandpa Guszti survived the trenches of WWI miraculously, and brought home an entrenching foldable shovel and a three legged folding stool. These were revered objects, and so despite all my mother's  vituperation, the holy objects remained in the car's trunk for decades. Never mind diapers or clothing or food for a family of 6, one might need the entrenching tool, therefore it stays.
This influenced me in ways I only realized this past year. For one, I can never sit in the passenger seat of a car without piles of stuff in my lap. (Where do you think the diapers and clothing and food traveled in that car?) When I figured out I am reenacting the lack of space, I had to laugh about that too.
For two, it took my special foldable entrenching tool to arrive for me to see that  I was still missing something, and I ought to get a three legged folding stool as well. And only then, did it register with me, that no matter how far I have been running  and for how long, there really is no running away from any of it.

My great grandpa's surviving the war even a hundred years after the fact on the other side of the planet still influences a life. Mine. In a way my dad is hunting me. My grandmother is hunting me. My mother is hunting me two, even though she is still alive. And it is what it is. Every life is full of ghosts and they are neither good or bad, they just are and we can coexist. Some days things are easy, some days are harder.

Just by the time I thought I reinvented myself, I had to conclude that life was; is and forever will be; a tricksy thing. That the nice apes we are, we are so very influenced by the first decade of our life, no amount of self improvement can outrun that imprinting. And that it is ok to try, it is ok to get angry, it is ok to think you succeeded, and it's ok to realize that you haven't in many ways, but it many other ways you have. 
For me this year is going to be about balancing things out, I think. Gaining an equilibrium. Internally and physically.
The past year I successfully lost a bunch of weight and ran a lot, then I fell off the diet wagon and gained some back. Ever noticed that one is always  GETTING into shape and FALLING out of shape? Getting is so active and falling is so passive, something that just happens.

For a change, it would be nice to fall into shape. But alas, if your body is like mine, constantly aiming to perfect itself by becoming a cute orb, falling into shape is just not something that will come to pass.

  I never stopped running for good. That has been a part of my life on and off since I was 11. As the rather rotund individual  most of you know me as, it's hard to see me as a "runner".

 In fact, many nice people ask me how I stumbled upon running ,as if it was just something I fell over and faceplanted upon. It's a much longer story. I was 11 and tubby and my mom gave me an ultimatum: play hand ball, which is a vicious team sport for women involving hand-eye coordination,  scheming,  aggressive and  unpleasant team mates, or become an orienteer.

Orienteering is running in the woods with a compass and a map mostly by yourself in places you haven't been before. Sometimes at night,mostly in the day. You can guess which I decided to suck at for the next 5 years while enjoying myself tremendously.

While I never became the Olympic runner and national treasure that my grandpa Mecser Lajos  is, I acquired a healthy taste for hedgehog like shuffling  movement that keeps me happy. Sure there were long periods of time when I was not running. But I never gave up on it. So it's not like just something that I decided to do, out of the blue.  Anyhow, more or less rotund, I don't intend to give up on it as I age. Don't intend to give up on remaining as physically active as possible in general. Since at 40, I am not going to get much taller, faster or any such, I just keep at the things that keep me happy and sane, and try new things I always wanted to try.

Like skydiving. That is how I will celebrate this momentous occasion.

And that's how you get from Dante to Skydiving while touching on Christianity, The Stand, Lord of the Rings, Comic books and WWI.

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