“These marks were made by a 1966 Pontiac Tempest”

I can’t believe that it’s almost Thanksgiving. This year has flown by. It’s been a year of learning for me. Of adjusting. Big, honking life lessons, and smaller just-as-important ones. This is some of what I have discovered:

Your weedlings will never cease to amaze you. When my middle child left to start at West Point, I wasn’t sure how I was going to manage without her. She was a teenager and certainly had her share of fun, but she also helped me around the house, played chauffeur for her brother, cheered me up when I was down, encouraged me when I was exhausted, got me moving when I was depressed, and could cook up a mean meal when it was her turn. Losing her from the household was hard, even outside of the emotional upheaval that comes when one of your brood leaves the nest. Even as I was full of pride for her accomplishments, I was worried about managing. I knew my oldest, who has always had more than a bit of caretaker in her, would be there to help me if need be. And she hasn’t let me down. What surprised me was the fact that my barely-teenage son has also stepped up. Getting his chores done without much complaining, sometimes even without asking. Doing for himself and taking meal duty if I am working late. Being as empathetic as a 13 year old boy can. Yes, he still leaves his smelly socks under the coffee table sometimes. But I have been pleasantly surprised at what he has taken on to help without cajoling from me.

You can enjoy things you never thought you could. This is a recent discovery. Coworkers asked me to join them at a haunted house. I can say honestly that I’d have rather rubbed a cheese grater on my face than pay good money to have rubber masked clowns jump out and grab me, but they were so excited, and I didn’t wish to be a party pooper, so I went. And it was fun. Yes, I screamed myself to near-laryngitis. Yes, my jaw is still feeling the sting from being clenched so forcefully. Yes, I’m sure I horrified some people with my repertoire of vulgarities and curse words. Yes, my abs (or what passes for them) are still sore a day and a half later. Yes, I wet my pants. More than once. Stupid animatronic dinosaurs. And no, I doubt I will go again. But I’m glad I went. If for no other reason than to prove to myself I could.

Punting is a viable option. I’ve been in this apartment a year now. In all that time, in spite of dozens of tricks and tries, I haven’t been able to keep my dog from peeing on the landing. Anger, frustration, disgust… These things are not good for one’s blood pressure and peace of mind. Finally, last week, I decided to stop running plays. I punted. Scrubbed the carpet for all of its worth and laid down plastic carpet protector. The first few days, she wouldn’t step on it – she jumped over it to the first stair. Then she tried peeing on it. Apparently that was unsatisfying because now, a week later, she is sticking to her weewee pads like a good little doggie. I’m not a big fan of plastic on the floor, but at least my budget for rug shampoo can be cut.

Letting go of worries gets easier as you go along. This time last year, there were people and things I allowed to consume my thoughts. Finances, exes (OK, really just one of the exes), the pets, the weedlings, the job, aging, change and OH-MY-GOD-THE-FUTURE… My blood pressure escalated, my depression worsened, and I alternated between sticking my head in the sand and letting my head explode like a dead possum in the sun (Yes, that visceral image in your head is exactly what it felt like). I’m not sure what happened. My emotional IQ reached its peak. My therapist started hypnotizing me during sessions. Bath and Bodyworks started replacing my wallflower scents with perfumed Haldol. God/Goddess/Universe intervened. Something. But one day, not too long ago over a cup of afternoon tea, I realized I wasn’t nearly as worried. All the things that normally kept me as tense as a cat hanging from the curtains were starting to lessen. Things slowly but surely were starting to even out. Not that I don’t still get concerned over my bank account or the future of my weedlings, etc., but somehow, in my heart and gut, I know it is going to work out. I know it is getting better, or at least coming to an end. My blood pressure is on the wane. And I feel hopeful. Really hopeful. What a gift!

Don’t get out of the habit of reading and writing. I already knew to keep up my good habits of eating well and exercising. But I had forgotten to keep up the habit of reading. Books provide escape, intellectual stimulation, focus, and a break from technology (At least for me, as I prefer paper books). I may never learn to effectively meditate, but I will always be able to bury myself in a book and turn off the outside world. It really does help. And I often learn something in the process. Not a bad result for a habit that shouldn’t be hard to cultivate. As for the writing, that is a little harder habit to maintain. It requires both intellect and imagination, and stress has a tendency to turn off both in me. But doing it is like leaking a pressure valve. Tension and thoughts that have built up exit my fingers and end up here. Far more effective and beneficial than them staying retained in my jaw. And, hey, someone might get a laugh out of it.

I can’t stomach commercial meat in my house. It’s been coming on for a while, but I have finally gotten to the point where I can’t stomach the thought of something that lives its entire life in terrible conditions and then gets killed for my benefit. I have taken to buying free range eggs, local and/or free range meat, and far less of both than I have before (Which is somewhat a function of economics). I suppose there will come a time when I can’t even stomach that and will give up meat entirely. But for now, I still crave it sometimes. I just eat less of it. Maybe it’s a justification on my part to say that the lamb had a happy life romping around the pasture before slaughter. Maybe it isn’t true that the local farmer doesn’t slam his pigs to death like the videos I have seen posted about large scale farm corporations. If so, don’t tell me. I will work my way there. At least I am making progress in my attempts to be less of a selfish human. I don’t have to be a super human.

Tho not there yet, I am getting closer to being comfortable with my appearance. A little while back, I took an offer for a free consultation with a plastic surgeon here in town. My sagging face really bothers me, and I was curious what it would take to fix it. Apparently the answer to that question is $18,000. Either I am far worse off than I thought, or I am unreasonable in wanting to have my jowls cut off. I mean, I know I am looking my age, and I know my age is getting older. But $18,000 older? That’s at least 3 kick-ass vacations (more, if I go alone) – and I’m thinking the vacations might make me just as happy. Really, it’s all a moot point since I don’t have $18,000 lying around anyway. But still. Time to make peace with my face. I am 49 years old. Obviously, so is my face. New England winters, southern summers, beaches, coffee, a short smoking career, various other ingested chemicals, kids, hormones, a life as fully lived as I could tolerate… These things have left their mark. And tho I spackle and Bond-O and paint and detail every day, it’s still a Tempest and not a Mustang. And that’s ok. No one will be clamoring to restore me to my former glory, but at least I’m forever memorialized by Marissa Tomei.

There is no reason to be afraid. I may not have Underdog, but I still won’t fear. With all I have done, even in cases where my actions and hopes didn’t pan out, I survived. Even if it left me a step or two behind, I was still upright and walking. GGU has blessed me with resilience and resourcefulness. And I am grateful. So why have I kept worrying about the future? Changes in family, in physicality, in work, in life…. BRING IT ON! I may not win the game, but I’ll keep playing til the end. And if it becomes evident that even my best skills aren’t going to win this quarter, well then, I’ll channel the Harlem Globetrotters and play for style and fun. But I will play. I will keep playing. No more bench time for me, and no more forfeited games. I’ll be the most tenacious team in the league, even if I don’t make the playoffs. So bring it, world! BRING IT!

And on that happy note, I wish you all a wonderful day, and I encourage you to look back and see what you’ve learned this year. You just might surprise yourself.

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