Forty-Two, With Kids

[Disclaimer: I don’t know what’s up with the formatting of this piece. Apologies. I’m not managing to fix it.]

Turn over. Get up. Get out.

Turn over a new leaf. Get up in the morning. Get out of your house.

Do this, do that, be here and there and everywhere. Eyes on the prize. Reach for the stars. Fulfill your dreams.

The usual existential teenage angst. No one tells you that it stays in your head until you’re forty-two and have two kids. But it’s not like those cheap movie antics, where your hero looks in the mirror one day and realizes that he’s wasted his life. That’s not how it happens. No, our hero (in this case it’s me, but it could be anyone in my position) is aware every single day of his life of the simultaneously fast and slow progression of things.

How can things be both slow and fast? In case you’re one of those remarkable people who hasn’t noticed the strange tricks time plays on you as you age, I’ll just point to one activity that I can guarantee works this way in 97% of the cases. Sex. When you’re having sex – assuming you’re not looking at the clock, and if you are, you’re probably not having as much fun as you should be – you can experience seconds as minutes and minutes as seconds and everything gets jumbled up, especially in those final moments, when you feel yourself tightening in and shooting out and flexing and curling in all at the same time.

Not that I have much sex anymore, but that’s how I remember it, and it’s not something you forget.

My children sharpened me. They made me smarter. But that doesn’t prevent me from wanting to cuff them on the back of the head some days. Or telling them they should shut the hell up because I want to relax. This is the sort of thing I think about, and feel guilty over, and repress.

Repression isn’t supposed to be healthy. Maybe that’s why my stomach hurts all the time.

It only occurred to me this morning that I was having a midlife crisis. Not in that apparently fun and conventional way. I don’t have the money to buy a big car to compensate for things I might need to compensate for. I’m not attractive enough to go out and have affairs with younger people. My midlife crisis involved sitting with my kids and watching recordings of TV shows I watched when I was a kid but that have been updated to modern times.

You wouldn’t believe Sesame Street if you tried to watch it today.

Then again, when I found some clips of Sesame Street from the 80s, I couldn’t believe it either. Trippy stuff. Catering to parents on acid and kids who didn’t suffer from epilepsy.

I have a buddy, a correctional officer, meaning a prison guard, who tells me about the kids in his unit. He keeps joking with my boys, telling them he’ll see them at work one day. I don’t think it’s really funny. I want to punch him a lot of the time. Since he doesn’t have kids, I wonder if maybe he really doesn’t get it. If he’s that dumb. He could be.

Part of my midlife crisis is realizing how little patience I have for people. I don’t read anymore. I look at headlines on my cellphone. And I roll my eyes and I know that everything is still screwed up and that the color of everyone’s crap is pretty much the same.

Come to think of it, I wonder whether doctors have started comparing the color of stool samples from contemporary and past patients? They just found some preserved popcorn from Ancient Egypt a while ago. What about some preserved feces? I bet the color changes over time. I bet we’re way grosser today than we were. Although with all the vegans and healthy eaters out there, maybe on average we’re better than we once were.

I think it’s my boys’ fault that I think about this stuff. They’re in that stage where they find everything about the toilet hilarious.

I remember when I was a teenager, I had the consolation that I would be cool one day. I knew it, in my core. In my bones. I was right, too. But now… I’m not sure if I’ll be a good old person. I think I may just be crotchety. Gruff. I’m already saying things like “back when I was a kid.” I’d rather stay in this midlife crisis if it means I don’t turn into that kind of person, who tells kids off for talking too loudly on public transportation. But I’m pretty sure that I have no way of stopping time and going backwards.

Wrackspurts

“A Wrackspurt… They’re invisible. They float in through your ears and make your brain go fuzzy…” – Luna Lovegood, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I’ve had a Wrackspurt in my head all day. I didn’t have any classes and an interview I was supposed to have about my school’s Oxford program was canceled: I had a whole free day to do lots and lots and lots of work in. Total amount of time actually working? Probably about two-and-a-half hours. That’s all. I napped for too long, I messed around on the Internet for too long, and now I’m writing in my blog instead of working on the story I need to send to my writing teacher or continuing to make some headway with the notes I’m trying to organize on Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Ugh.

I hate when this happens. I begin to feel guilty about not having done enough and it takes the pleasure out of the things that I do for fun. Even when I try to tell myself that I actually do have enough time, that things are going okay and that I’m mostly on top of my work, actually, I still somehow end up feeling guilty. And then I get stuck in obsessive thoughts; for example, I woke up from my nap at 4:50PM and then lay in bed feeling back about having taken a nap until 5:20PM, wasting another half hour that way and not managing to release myself from those obsessive, judgmental thoughts.

If anybody knows of a potion to get rid of wrackspurts and unfuzz the brain, let me know. Also, any un-guilt potions would be helpful.

New Challenge, New Look

I haven’t changed the theme on my blog for the more than three years I’ve been posting on it. It’s time for a change. I like the warm colors and larger fonts of this theme; it seems homier, less cold than my previous one.

In addition to changing the looks, I’m trying out the WordPress Post-A-Day Challenge for the month of October – I’ll see if I keep it up afterwards. Mostly, I want to use it to get warmed up for NaNoWriMo, which, despite my being at school, I still want to try to complete.

Feedback? Questions? Comments? Anything particular you’d like to see me post?

Relation

Walking around campus, I live. I breathe, the cold air entering my lungs and exiting through my parted lips. I can’t exhale through my nostrils because the low temperature and the freezing wind causes an uncomfortable running of the nose, and so I can only breathe out into a tissue.

But the air that once hurt my very bones and caused every patch of meager flesh to vibrate with fear and chill, is now refreshing and delicious. There’s always a hint of woodsmoke in it, and snow piled up amongst the branches of bare trees. Not only are the smells now accessible to my senses, but also the sounds – the laughter, the murmurs, the ringtones and shouts, the starting up of cars and the shutting of windows – these don’t make me wince as they once did.

It is all life, surrounding me, astonishing me, comforting me and convincing me day after day that I am here, I am alive, I am well. Time passes bit by bit, but the watches and clocks hold no terror for me anymore. Where once I needed the seconds to fly and the minutes to race, I now accept their slow or fast movements as their own and trust to them. Where once my heartstrings pinched and my throat filled with that hard, unmistakable lump of emotion, now my pulse is quiet and normal and my throat is clear and dry.

Has the world changed? Surely not. It is only my relation to it that has.

Week

 

Will you be weak first,

Or shall I?

It’s been a week, the first,

And I’m sorely tempted.

But maybe the weakness

Is in my mind and heart only.

Mother says it isn’t so,

And others say it too,

But my aching sore,

My blistering insides

Where someone came

And took something away-

That hole tells me it is.

 

Will you be weak first,

Or shall I?

A weak week it was,

Laughter stolen,

Soul broken,

Eyes bright in the glass.

But worry not, for weakness fades,

And strength gathers anew.

A week from now,

Where will you be?

Shall I be there too?

 

 

Under Ground

Lost underground, the girl sat alone and forlorn and waited for someone to find her. She’d been down in the tunnels all morning as well as half the afternoon already, and still, she was lost. It was a disconcerting feeling, and the girl didn’t like it at all. There were strange noises that came from all over, such as the bubbling of far and unseen geysers and the crunching of earth within itself as people moved around above and below. These sounds unsettled her, especially as they were the sounds of home to her and she’d never before found them frightening. Something familiar turning into a threat is one of the scariest things a person can go through.

The girl hugged a lumpy cloth doll closer to her. It was in the guise of a mole, and the girl had named it, for inexplicable reasons, Piggy. She looked into Piggy’s glass eyes and wondered whether he would come to life and speak to her. Maybe he’d be able to show her the way back to her cave. But he remained a doll, stuffed and mute, and she hugged him close again for comfort.

She looked again at the time telling device that hung on her neck. It was an hourglass, with a very tiny hole in it. Every morning, her mother would reach into the neck of her nightshirt and pull out the hourglass, and she’d turn it over. She told her daughter that if she didn’t lie down all day but stayed up and working like the good girl she was, she’d always be able to tell time, because of the tiny notches, painted red, that told her how many hours had passed since dawn. In their underground existence, night and day were mere formalities, but they kept everyone sane and working, the rhythm helping them.

The girl brought the glass closer and peered in the poor light at the notches. It was now twelve hours past dawn, and she’d been lost for most of those. She felt panic rising in her again and debated beginning to scream again. But the last time she’d done that, the earth had shifted and some crumbs of dirt had fallen onto her from the ceiling. She knew about cave-ins, of course, and the spill at deterred her from trying to call out too loudly again.

To pass the time and suppress her panic, she began a counting game that she’d begun teaching her little sister. She made Piggy jump up and down along with her whispered rhymes, and tried to invent more of the song when she ran out of numbers. When she grew weary of this game, she began to stretch her legs and walked up and down the empty corridor she was in. She tried, for the umpteenth time, to remember how she’d gotten here, but she was almost sure that she had at least one mistake in her visual memory of the way, and she knew, as she’d been taught since infancy, that one wrong turn could mean falling to your death or losing your way and going so deep into the earth that no one would ever find you. That was why she’d stayed where she was when she discovered she was in an unfamiliar corridor.

She wondered when her parents would come looking for her. She hoped it would be before suppertime. She thought of her little sister, eating at the large square table without her, and of her parents, whispering urgently to each other in the corner of the room. She imagined them going to the Chief and asking for more people to help the search. She tried to envision who it was who would find her, and she hoped fervently that it would be the Chief’s fifteen-year old son. The thought of his dark skin and red lips made her blush in a way that was still quite new to her. But it was as her parents always said – even Under Ground, life goes on. She hoped her life would go on with that boy in it.

The girl chastised herself suddenly for thinking of such things. There was no excuse for thinking of a boy when she was lost without food or water. She had her whistle with her, at least, but she wasn’t going to resort to it until she heard a search party nearby. The risk of the ceiling falling in on her was too great for using the whistle if she wasn’t absolutely sure she’d be heard.

Tired of the roundabout route her mind was taking, the girl sat back down, across from where she’d set a groove in the ground already, and began to listen to the sounds around her again.

 

I Don’t Do “Everything”

I’ve just finished watching an episode of House entitled “Private Lives.” In it, there’s a character who blogs. There are some very nice points raised in the episode about the community that can be found on the Internet as well as the friendship and connection between individuals through it. Of course, this being House, there are also some bad points raised – the character writes about everything she goes through in her daily life, meaning she has no secrets and nor does her husband, who she writes about regularly.

So this is the issue I’m raising. This “everything” issue. I’ve written many blogs before: in Tapuz [an Israeli site], in Live Journal, in Open Diary [and Teen Open Diary when it was still around], in Blogspot and finally here. As opposed to all the others, I opened this blog in order to serve a purpose – practicing writing and getting feedback on it. I found friends here, and so now I occasionally dip into my personal life and write openly in from my own, real first-person point of view – just like I’m doing now.

All the other blogs I started were meant to be journals. The one I stuck with the longest – Teen Open Diary – closed down and since then, and the loss of a dear friend who I met through there, I’ve never managed to stick to a journaling blog.  It’s been almost exactly five years since then. Maybe it had to do with my friend who was killed in a car crash, maybe not. I honestly don’t know.

So I don’t do the “everything” kind of writing. And now my question is – does anyone? Many of you write about your personal lives, but you don’t tell your readers everything – you tell anecdotes, you celebrate your families, you laugh about your days, you share experiences and memories, you give opinions. But you don’t expose everything. For one, everyone needs secrets. For another, how could you remember every single thing you’ve gone through every day? And finally, and most importantly, if you’re constantly writing about your life, then when do you have time to live it?

I love journal-writing. If not online, then by hand. I have a hard time sticking with it, but when I need to write about my days, my feelings and my thoughts, there’s always a pen and a notebook there, ready for me. Now, I have a pretty tough time – a HUGELY tough time, actually – with trying to appreciate every moment and really be present in my life. But if I just tried to write about everything I experienced, I don’t know if I’d be able to experience it.

Your opinions?

In Conclusion

Book week has ended. Officially. Completely. Done.

The fair was held every day, except Fridays, between June 2 and June 12. Every evening, the booths opened at six o’clock sharp, which meant that they actually opened around a quarter to, because if someone managed to get into the square where the fair was held and wanted to buy a book… well, far be it from us to refuse to take his money. In essence, working at the fair was about making money. It’s a huge opportunity for publishers to sell their books in one place, rather than distribute them to bookstores, and to invite writers in to sign their books. So every evening, starting around six and ending between eleven and midnight, I think I repeated the following lines dozens and dozens of times:

“You have a frequent-flier card? Great! So this is how it works – you choose one book that costs up to 88 NIS, and you get that book free – wait, wait, then you’re eligible for three more books, each for only 35 NIS!”

“Let me see that coupon – oh, yes, fabulous, so look, you can get this book for 40 NIS, and you can get three more for only 35 NIS each! Forget the other coupons, this is cheaper, I swear.”

“Our deals? Well, everything is 20% off, of course, plus if you buy two books, you get the third for free!”

I was a good little worker-bee, and I repeated my mantras again and again. I repeated them to the same people more than once, because I’d forgotten that they’d spoken to me five minutes before. I repeated them, unintentionally, in my head before I went to bed. I repeated them with irony to my friends, to show them how good I was at reeling off the lines.

But that wasn’t what it was about for me – not really. Sure, the paycheck I’ll be getting is a pretty nice thing, and sure, of course I enjoyed being praised as a good worker. But I also enjoyed the fact that I was selling books. By the end of last night, I could tell with a glance what books to offer to whom, and who was there to buy as opposed to complain about the deals. I could recognize the people I was going to have a long chat with, and the people who would be rude to me. I learned how to convince people that despite what it said on the back of the book, Orlando is NOT a transvestite, but simply changes gender halfway through the book. I managed to convey that even though I haven’t read Hemingway yet, I knew which books were good to start with. I established a rapport with some customers and remembered them when they came back a day or two later.

And then, last night, it all ended… The lights above our booths were cut off at midnight, but we kept selling books until almost one o’clock, while simultaneously starting to pack up. After the last of the customers left, all us drones worked together and taped up cardboard boxes, packed books into them, salvaged more boxes when we ran out, talked and laughed and sweat in the hot night air. There were seeds from a nearby cluster of trees that had somehow opened up in the night to form these white puffballs that got into our clothes and mouths and eyes and stuck to our bare skin. It was hard work, and it took more than an hour.

But then that ended, too. The action wound down, although everyone was still pretty full of adrenaline. Big trucks with big men on them came and took away the boxes we’d packed, one by one, and dismantled our booths, one by one, and then it was time for us to leave, one by one.

I’ve never had a better job. Three of my superiors told me it was a pleasure to work with me. I was on good terms with every single one of my fellow workers. I made at least one friend, and another two potential friends with whom I’d really like to keep in touch. I was surrounded by books, touching books, selling books and looking at books for over sixty hours – and I was paid to do it.

I was so scared going into this job – dealing with people, giving the hard sell, lots of lifting and carrying, and the worst… needing to get along with workers without being painfully shy. I succeeded and did well and on top of it all enjoyed every moment of it.

In conclusion, as my title says, it was good, and I’m both sad and relieved it’s over. I now have an exam to study for and friends to catch up with as well as friends to keep in touch with. I also have, finally, time to write again. Hopefully, that’ll mean less rambling, personal, crazy and misty-eyed posts like this, and more stories, characters and writing exercises. But because this is my blog, and has been so for over a year and a half, I’ll still lapse into sessions of confession and personal babble once in a while. And that’s okay.

A Town

It was a beautiful little town. No wonder, really, since it was the richest one in the state. Still, if you could forget about all the money that must have exchanged pockets in order to make the town look the way it did, you might just fall in love with it.

The best way to describe it would be old-town America. There are no high-rises; the tallest building in town is the bell-tower of the church, still tolling the hour to this day. There are just two main streets, really, both filled with quaint buildings, all low to the ground. Around Christmas-time, all the windows and doors are decorated with wreaths and big, red ribbons. The shops are varied, supplying the residents with everything they could want – from specialized yoga clothing to vintage fur coats; from good quality generic groceries to specialized health-foods; from magazines and sweets to books and toys; from sushi to Italian to Mexican to baked goods to good, old diner fare.

The town’s small train-station is quaint, no doubt about it. Standing on the platform, you can easily imagine an old steam-engine pulling into the station while men in suits and bowler hats and women in dresses in muted hews get ready to board it to go into the big city a few stops down the line. You can imagine parents sending their child off to the big city’s university in a train like that, with a steamer trunk loaded and a handkerchief waving goodbye out a window. Even today, the platform seems to contain ghosts of those people from other decades.

The town is beautiful, almost like a real life Disneyland.