In what can only be described as “winning at adulting,” I purchased new tires for my car. And not the cheap ones. The nicest ones I was quoted. And all four, not just two. I’ll give you a moment to appreciate my awesomeness.
So, I went through the SVG Chevrolet dealership in our area and in order to get my service completed quickly, they offered me a loaner. I was surprised, partly because I haven’t been offered a loaner in years, and have just had to play musical cars to get mine dropped off and then picked up once it was finished. But mostly because I still feel like an irresponsible kid. Like, on the inside. I don’t know when I’m supposed to feel “grown-up” but it ain’t happened yet. I briefly thought, “Are you crazy?” Then I gladly accepted.
I dropped my car off and gave my proof of insurance, ID, debit card, some hair from my head, and a urine sample and waited for them to point me to the mini-van or Fiesta from the 90’s they planned to loan me.
The very nice service man walked me over, not to a dated jalopy with a tape deck (I actually consider that a win), but to a 2019 black Chevy Traverse. As I realized this is what they intended to let me drive out of the lot, I thought again, “ARE YOU CRAZY?”
Then I realized this is what it feels like to be a grown-up. I’m old and posed no threat to this awesome ride. The fleeting image of me peeling out of the service area, doing 80 down a back road with the stereo thumping, and turning corners on two wheels dissolved as quickly as it manifested. In it’s place, I imagined what would happen if I damaged this new car in any way and what it would do to my insurance rates.
I left the lot carefully, and thought everyone was out to get me all the way home. I knew my luck and wondered how long I’d have this beautiful machine before it got scratched, dinged, or smashed up in an accident. I touched it like I could break it with my bare hand.
I imagined what it would be like to own it, hauling all my friends everywhere just because I had third row seating and I could, filling the back with garage sale finds in the summer, and jamming to the XM radio.
But then, in the glove box, I found the sheet that shows all the features, gas mileage, and most importantly the price.
So, as much fun as it was to drive, and comfortable, and super techy, and downright sexy, I was glad to return it 24 hours later and hop back in my 2011 Malibu that’s paid off and fits me like a worn out pair of sweat pants with elastic that gave up years ago. And besides, with my knew tires, taking those turns on two wheels will be much easier.
I ran into a classmate I hadn’t seen in maybe 15 years at the pet store where I was stocking up on cat food prior to an impending snow/ice storm. The last thing you want to do is run out of food and be snowed in with your cats. They love you, but if push comes to shove, they’ll eat you. Don’t let their cute little faces fool you.
So, anyway, I’ve been planning our 20th Class Reunion for this year and trying to track down current addresses for class members. When I saw her, I was super excited because I didn’t know how to reach her easily since she wasn’t on social media (good for her, BTW).
When I asked her if she had any interest in coming to the reunion, she immediately said, “NO. I don’t do anything with that school. NO…no.”
I laughed a little and with my hands up defensively said, “Ok! Understood.”
I went to turn my cart around and she said, “Nobody liked me then so I don’t have any desire to hang out with them now.”
To which I replied, “Oh, I get it. Definitely. Nobody liked me either. You too, for that matter.” All of this was said with a grin and no attack in my voice. But it was true.
“Oh! That’s not true! I just didn’t really talk to anybody,” she said, laughing.
When we checked out, she teased me for holding up the line fumbling for my debit card and I told her to let me know if she changed her mind about the reunion. That was it.
But as I drove home, I thought about our high school experience and how they had apparently been similar. What was very odd to me was that she wasn’t nice to me in school. While she might not have talked to me much, the only things I ever heard come out of her mouth were snide, snarky and intimidating. I always saw her as one of the many “mean girls” who made my day-to-day struggle through school so nerve racking. It turns out that she might have felt just as I had and her defense was to come off bitchy and mean, while mine was to cower and stay silent. It made me wonder if all the people who were nasty to me in school, and seemingly nasty to this pet-store-shopping classmate, were only that way because they had someone above them making them feel just as terrible. I’d say the answer is probably yes.
Does it make any of it right? No, absolutely not. Is it indicative of the age group we’re talking about? Yeah, unfortunately. But that doesn’t have to be the case either. There were plenty of good people in our class, and plenty that didn’t feel like they had to lash out to keep from getting shoved to the bottom, some of which I chose to ask for help in planning this reunion.
As to why I was able to put aside my memories of torment and my long-lost classmate was not, I feel like that is a personal choice. It takes effort and an unpacking of some yucky baggage. I totally get why she feels the way she does, and why she might have opted to NOT forgive the way she was treated by our peers. I choose to believe that everyone should be given the opportunity to prove that they’ve grown up. As for adults who still behave like they’re in high school, ain’t nobody got time for that.
Spend more time praising me when I do something right rather than solely scolding me when I do something wrong. Praising me when I do well teaches me that you are paying attention. I learn that positive choices mean positive results and I have the ability to make others happy by my good choices.
Let me spend time independently.
Don’t hover over me. Let me wander around a safe environment. I need to learn that I can do things on my own and feel the accomplishment of doing things independently.
Allow me to fail.
I need to know life isn’t always fair. I know you love me but let me fail so I can learn to try again and not give up. I will grow faster than you realize and I need to be able to graciously accept defeat when necessary and know failing isn’t the worst thing that can happen to me.
Remind me that you are looking out for me.
Remind me to zip up my coat, clean my room, and do my chores. Keep after me because I expect you to. Be my parent first and then my friend. I will have a lot of friends in my childhood years but you will be my longest friend, just give me time to grow and realize it.
Make sure I know you love me, even when I fail, refuse to listen, or disappoint you. I’m not perfect. I will never be perfect but your love for me through anything feels pretty perfect.
If someone were to walk in my house, they may be tempted to say, “Wow! Her house is so clean and organized, she must have herself together!” And that’s exactly what I’d want you to think. The honest truth; what is going on inside of me looks nothing like what I allow to show on the outside. In fact, if I kept my house in the same condition as my mind, I’d be the next to appear on a television show that exposes hoarders. I can imagine a host strolling up to a tiny little door and hyping up the audience at home by saying, “This will be the worst hoarder ever exposed on television!!” The door opens and there I am in my ratty pajamas standing knee deep in the dark and dirty crevasses of my mind. Spiderwebs hanging where a college degree should be, rodents are gnawing holes in the time I take to care for myself, and I’d be balancing knee deep in the garbage of disease. Behind him come all those shocked faces of my family and friends who thought they knew me better.
As sad as that exposition would be, it wouldn’t be too far from the truth. I admit that I am sometimes a prisoner to my need to keep the world around me in order. If I know someone is coming over, even if I know they won’t be coming into the house, I straighten it up. I make sure I include cleaning the house as part of my afternoon routine. I squeeze it in between baths, making supper, starting homework, and all before my husband gets home. I’ll even do it if I am already running on fumes. He never asks to have the house clean when he comes home and he knows the mess I can be on the outside and inside but I still want him to know I am trying. I still want to feel like I have a purpose despite my disease or difficulty.
I have been this way for a long time, way before my son or I was diagnosed. It started with a family saying, “Everything has its place, everything in its place.” I think I was told this every time my childhood room looked like a disaster, and that was most of the time. I had the smallest room in the house and the most junk. Trying to keep it organized and clean was like trying to take out the weekly trash in a lunch bag. No matter how hard I tried, I never could get it clean. I eventually mastered the art of making things look clean when they really weren’t. I learned many tricks to accomplish this task, there was stuff the closet and hurry up and shut the door before it all comes out, shove it all under the bed and leave the comforter hang over to hide the mess, or my least favorite, don’t play with anything. I never really dealt with the mess, I just mastered how to keep it looking like I didn’t have the said mess. I was a kid, I hated getting rid of anything. I am still that way. I won’t get rid of anything that could be of use to me someday (yes, this thinking has come in handy). My house has refurbished decor of all kinds. I use and reuse things when I can. I don’t like to re-purchase something I once owned.
I get my hoarding tendencies honestly. My paternal grandmother is known for her need to collect things she sees as valuable. Anything antique is her specialty. I admit, the older the better when it comes to many items I wish to collect, but with limited funds and space, big or expensive items are not for me. I, like my maternal grandmother, find value in the little sentimental items that are easily collected and easily hid. My attic is full of school papers and artwork of my children that I don’t want to let go of. This spring I bought two extra large three ring binders and filled them with my favorite papers that the boys brought home from school. I filled up both binders right away. I know I should let go of certain items, stop cleaning my house to portray a less than chaotic life, but it’s how I cope.
Everyone has their own ways of coping with life. Some people shop (yes I have been known to do a bit of that when I have been depressed), my husband prays, some people drink, and other shut down. The list is limitless. It is important to cope with the difficulties of life in a healthy manner. Poor methods of dealing with these issues can lead to further destruction. I don’t know of any cleaning anonymous groups out there but if my habits were going to further stress my life, I’d find one. Thus far, I take the hurt or negative energy and channel it through a can of dusting spray or a vacuum cleaner. A can of cleaner is the only thing that has to worry about meeting my angry or distressed hand. At then end of my cleaning rage I can look around and feel a small sense of accomplishment. I know that sounds silly. There are many things in my life that feel out of control; my health and the health of my son, his autism, and our mounting financial concerns worsened by the burden of our diseases so I keep trying to do my best at those things I know I am good at like loving my children, trying to be a good wife, and yes, keeping our home kept nicely. It reminds me that I am still trying my hardest despite my difficulty. Since my job is to be a wife and mother, I’ll do the best I can at what I have been given. The day of concern will come when my house really does look like it should be on a hoarding show because that will be the time I have given up. Sadly, the illusion of a put together life is the only thing that sometimes holds me together. There are so many days when I feel like I can’t give anymore and any bit of accomplishment is a big deal.
I am continuing to work on those areas of my life that seem out of my control. Every day is a new chance for me to clean up those tattered crevasses of my mind and not just my house. Someday, I do dream of having the confidence of being able to open up my mind without fear of the mess inside.
Getting older is inevitable, maturity is not. It seems a bit sad when maturity catches up with age and there is no longer denying the fact that……. I’m getting older. In fact, I can remember my parents being my age. What happened?
I remember when I started watching the news instead of cartoons in the morning. I stubbornly held on to my childhood routine well into my twenties. It was when I took a new job that I began watching the news for the weather report. My commute one way to and from work went from five minutes to forty-five and I wanted to be prepared. What happened to living by the seat of my pants? What happened to rash decision making? Why did I agree to take a job with such a long commute? I wanted the experience but I mostly wanted more money. No twenty-something can resist the allure of more money.
My list of items I buy with money has certainly changed in fifteen years. When I was a twenty-something, I bought a video game system with some extra money (yeah, what’s that, right?) I had acquired. More recently, I had a conversation with my husband before our ten year anniversary. We were talking about what we would like to do to celebrate our anniversary. I said, “If I had a choice between spending a night away and replacing the kitchen carpet with flooring I can actually clean, give me the flooring!!” I wondered if I had hit my head. That’s what I said and I meant it. Yes, we have been dreaming of a night away from home forever…… one good night’s sleep, a quiet room…… and it sounded dreamy but being able to actually clean my kitchen floor sounded even more exciting. Our anniversary was almost three months ago and we haven’t been out to celebrate. And no, I don’t have a new floor. It seems as if that newly acquired money hasn’t made its arrival. Instead we gave each other a card and winked as we passed each other in the bathroom. That’s real excitement and I have been having plenty of it. I was excited to get my mail and find coupons from the local grocery store, I got 20% more of my favorite cereal in this last box, my mom gave me some clothes she could no longer wear, and (drum-roll, please) I found another box of panty liners in my cupboard that I forgot I had. “Oh yeah!”
Despite the obvious change in the things I get excited about, I still feel like I have recently graduated from high school. Over fifteen years span between my imagination and reality. I don’t feel old enough to have four kids and it scares me to think that I am shaping their childhood when I feel like I am not that far away from my own. My parents and every other “old” person was right when they told me that life moves too fast. Now I am that “old” person saying the same to my kids. Guess what? They are giving me same look I gave my parents when they offered advice. It’s that face that says, “Ummmmm, okay Mom….”
So I have resigned to the fact that I’m now “old.” The only comfort I have in the fact that I will be forty in five short years is knowing my husband will be fifty in six (sorry babe). I like the news for more than just the weather, I get nervous thinking about those roller coasters I once loved, I don’t like it when my kids climb too high in a tree, I’d rather watch a movie at home, I have a hard time recovering from a night where I was awake past midnight, and many more truths I can’t quite admit…… just yet……. Life definitely gets better with age, it’s too bad those “darn kids” don’t realize it.
PS – My favorite cereal is Lucky Charms and I still insist on putting chocolate syrup in my white milk. I’m stubbornly sticking to those habits, for now…..
Reply by ~L~
*d*, I can’t even tell you how often I think about this same Twilight Zone feeling. I don’t feel like I’m an adult. I wonder sometimes when or if I ever will. Maybe that’s another reason, on my long list, why I don’t have kids. For the same reason as you state above! I’m not in any shape to be teaching someone else how to live! Eeek! Frightening.
Last week, I had probably the weirdest reunion since the time when I found myself unwittingly participating in an awkward situation in-the-making at an after-bar party thrown by a third-tier friend and his roommate. I didn’t find out until I got in the door that the roommate everyone had been referring to as Bill (not his name, but you’ll get the point) was actually the guy I’d lost my virginity to and dated for a year and eight months as a fifteen to sixteen-year-old. I’d known him as William (again, not his name, but you see what I mean). I’d dumped him over the phone in a screaming rage when I found out about a series of lies he’d been telling me for our entire relationship. If the fact that he lied to me doesn’t make my method seem any less harsh, this was also the previously mentioned boyfriend in Filling In The Blank with the slicked back hair, tiny pony tail, and an uncle in the Chicago Mafia. See, he totally deserved it. Oddly enough, the last time I’d seen him was when he started hanging out with an ex of mine that I was still semi-friends with. The Jenga Game of guys doesn’t end there. I went to said Ex’s apartment with my Current Boyfriend to give him some of Current Boyfriend’s ugly old furniture. Tiny Ponytail was there, much to my shock. It turns out that things I had revealed to Ex Boyfriend were not kept confidential due to our semi-friend status and Tiny Ponytail knew about some things I didn’t want him to know about. Let’s just say, we both had reasons to break up with each other. He wasn’t necessarily mad, but he definitely wanted me to know that he knew.
You can imagine the awkwardness of being in his apartment and seeing him again after somewhere around seven years. Well, it actually turned out okay because we said hello and acknowledged how weird the situation was. It’s a good example of how time heals wounds. We’re definitely not besties, but anytime I see him, I say hello with a smile and he does the same. But, I digress.
My point is, I had another similar experience while out to eat with my mom at the local buffet. We were seated in a remote corner (just where I like to be) when this guy and his wife were seated a booth behind my mom. I’d had a huge crush on the guy when I was a tween and teenager when he’d been our neighbor. Captain Crush had always known it, too, and liked to tease me relentlessly. Ever since he’d gotten married, he’d been very leery of making eye contact with me when we ran into each other, let alone small talk. I’ve always sensed a tight leash was present, though I’ve no proof of that. I signaled to Mom that he was behind us and she turned around and said hello and I waved and it was all rainbows and unicorns. His wife even smiled at us. Then things got exponentially weirder.
While at the buffet, I looked through the steamed-up sneeze guard and saw the guy who first kissed me when I was thirteen. He was eighteen at the time. In hindsight, that probably was more disturbing than I found it when it happened. That first kiss ignited an infatuation that had been kindling for the previous two years. I was a giddy mess anytime I was around him and my friends and I mooned over him like he was Mark-Paul Gosselaar or Scott Baio (What? Am I the only one who thought Charles in Charge was a hottie?) First Kiss had long hair and was about six-three. I thought he was so smart and wise and the best kisser I’d ever…well, he was the only kisser I knew of at the time. He made me so nervous I would shake sometimes.
I would say that seeing him through the glass gave me that same giddy trembling, but honestly, I’d traded that in for a strong distaste for him. I’d seen First Kiss over the years and he’d always been hopeful that something would happen between us that was beyond friendship. Unfortunately for him, as I was nearing the end of my teen years, I was also realizing that his status as legend in my mind was fading. So, over the last twenty years when I’ve been around him, I’ve seen the truth. Where I’d once seen intelligence and wisdom, I now saw pretentiousness. His long hair was long gone and his height was no longer attractive as he’d stand before me, smoking cigs and pontificating about life. Another gem I unearthed during the last time I’d associated with him was that he had nearly no boundaries. He started calling me at work asking me to bring him cigarettes. When I got a new job in a customer service call center, First Kiss called there and when I wouldn’t answer my desk phone, he had them page me so he could talk about pretty much nothing. I was afraid his nonsense was going to cost me my job. I told my mom about it and she called him up and told him to stay away from me. And that was the end of our contact until I ran into him at a bar one night about three years later. I tried to talk to him but conversing with someone so egocentric is difficult at best. I cut my night short just to get away from him.
Then, there he was at the buffet. I managed to dodge him and scurried back toward my table. I stopped at the booth where Captain Crush sat and said through gritted teeth, “First Kiss is here!”
Captain Crush busted out laughing and said his wife had just pointed that out!
As I sat down with Mom, I realized that First Kiss was actually sitting directly behind Captain Crush, facing me. I tried hard to keep mom’s head between him and me.
You might wonder how all of this is related. Or maybe not. But I’m going to tell you anyway.
First Kiss and Captain Crush were good friends in high school. Our neighbor, C. Crush, brought First Kiss around when they were sixteen. They liked flirting with my mom because she’d been a nude model and was a bizarre type of local celebrity for appearing in a girly magazine. I was smitten with both boys. For all of us to be seated in the same fifty square feet, after all those years, was a little Twilight Zonish for me.
What was truly unsettling was when we finally decided to reveal our presence to First Kiss. He came over and began the most awkward conversation I’ve had in quite some time. Maybe ever. If uncomfortableness was measured in plates of food, then I had eaten every last thing on that buffet. I won’t go into what he said because that’s not important. It’s the realization that matters. I’ve known for a long time that he wasn’t the guy I imagined him to be as a thirteen-year-old. It’s incredible though, just how far he’d fallen from that pedestal. And it isn’t just my perception of him that tumbled. It’s very much a reality. He’s like so many teen heartthrobs who fall out of favor, start spiraling downward, dabble in drugs and alcohol, suffer from poor physical health, poor mental health, and have no friends. I felt bad for him, even as I wanted to get up and leave. Quickly.
It wasn’t just him either. Captain Crush packed on the pounds and though he still has a baby face, it’s that of a much hairier, much fatter baby.
I know for a fact that Mom is no longer the stuff teen boys shut themselves in the bathroom for and that I fell off my own pedestal a long time ago. I’m pretty sure the thing is actually on top of me, I’m so far removed from the heights of young, thin and busty. It happens to everybody eventually. Youth is one of those things you never fully appreciate while you have it. You spend the rest of your life remembering it, sometimes grabbing at it, but almost always realizing you’re better off now than living amongst a bunch of distorted legends.
I wrote a coming-of-age novel about guy and a girl who become best friends in elementary school but are ripped apart in high school by their very different personalities, outlooks, and plans for the future. Losing friends from your childhood is a normal, albeit sad, part of growing up. There’s a lot of gut wrenching scenes where they cut each other down while trying to protect their own feelings. It’s these fights that help drive the two characters apart.
It turns out, when you’re in your thirties, friends slip quietly away. There isn’t usually screaming or even scowls because it happens as subtly as time flying by, and everyone is so exhausted by life that even if they notice, they don’t speak up to stop it. There are children, spouses, jobs, and life in general that seems to drown out so much of what used to be in the forefront.
I’m mindlessly surfing Facebook and see my pal—we’ll call her Trixie—posted pictures of her kids. It reminds me that I haven’t seen Trixie in weeks, no wait, months. Someone I assumed I would always be close to now feels almost like a stranger. Almost.
If it weren’t for those tidbits of conversation, the random hilarious picture comments, the echoes of who we used to be, the thin threads tethering us to one another might finally snap. But it’s these moments that remind me that our friendship isn’t based on time spent or interactions had, but the fact that even after months, we could sit down and laugh like no time had passed at all. We’ll always have a connection, even if the ties finally break and we drift so far apart that not even an off-color joke over the internet can pull us back together.
I guess that’s also what happens in my novel. I wrote about something I thought happened to other people. Not us. Trixie and I were solid. But the truth is people fade in and out of your life for any number of reasons. It doesn’t lessen their impact on your heart or their image silhouetted in the background of your mind. We’re all who we are partly because of the people in our lives, past and present. We shape each other and leave our marks and most times, our time together is fleeting. The truly meaningful relationships in our lives can fade, but they’re still there, waiting for a chance encounter, a long over-due phone call, to come out of the background and back into focus.
Reply by *d*
I had started my last post before you posted this one and it was so similar, I had to finish it. It is strange how we could be thinking along the same lines. It is sad to drift from friends but as you said, there is always time to reconnect and remember those good times. I am grateful for all my friends also, no matter when they drift in or out of life.