Friday, September 5, 2014

"I am old, Father William...

". . . As I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat..."

--with a slight change, from Lewis Carroll's most excellent nonsense poem, "You Are Old, Father William"

My weight is up a good bit at midlife, true, but not really "uncommonly"––I've only ever had one period of Jane Fonda-ish glory, and that was when I was twenty-seven and worked as a janitor at a YW in New Bedford, MA, and took lots of free exercise classes. I even taught a calisthenics class.
 As you can see, it was during the '80s; 
I wanted my hair to look that way:

I remember well the new-to-me feeling of being very strong and able to trust my body to climb a mountain!––a small one in the Adirondacks, which I did that year.

Now I would not ask my knees to climb a mountain, but I am thinking I might walk the Camino again in 2021, as I did in 2001 and 2011, something I swore I would not do again. 
But now it appeals to me for a different reason than before. The first time I walked for spiritual reasons, the second was more social, the third, if I do it, would be about marking time in this body on Earth. 

Don't hold me to it: it's seven years away, but with a little luck, I will be strong enough then to choose if I want to or not. But who knows? You can't count on good health, that's for sure. I'm grateful I've been lucky and had so much of it.


My current goal, though, is to return to something I also never thought I would do again: playing the piano. My pianist mother made me learn when I was little, and I pretty much hated it. 

 Now, because I am [supposedly] looking for a job doing activities with seniors, I want to be able plunk out some old tunes.
At the library yesterday, I checked out a book of easy piano sheet music: America's All-Time Favorite Songs: Over 200 Best-Loved Songs. I trust I can learn to play them fairly easily on Marz's e-keyboard.

I'm happy that right now I could sing most of them anyway, from "Froggy Went A-Courting" to "Scarborough Fair". My mother always sang a lot of songs with us, especially on car trips, and I liked that a lot. 

Singing in the car... I bet that's something families don't do so much anymore, now everyone has their own electronics.

I Don't Want to Get Used to It (But I Do Want Free Things)

I am old.
I was just talking with bink about how our lives in the United States are so very different from when we were young. 
Some of it is great:
women's rights! [when I was a kid, we girls had to wear skirts, we had no sports teams]
gay marriage! [I'm reading Edmund White's memoir of living in NYC in the 60s & 70s, City Boy, and he says before Stonewall in 1969, there was no "gay rights" there was only self-loathing]

[Marz walks by and comments, "You're not old! You wish you were old cause you think then people will give you free things. That's true, isn't it?"

Yes, OK, it's true. I'm like my father who gets a big thrill from his senior discounts. Please send me the free things.]

But we were also talking about how much more violent life is, how it's become almost normal––especially gun violence. 

We grew up during the Vietnam War, so of course we knew the world, humans, could be horribly violent, but up until the 2000s, I didn't feel that it was normal that society around me was so . . . barbaric. 

When I write to friends in Europe about what's going on around me, I feel like I'm reporting from the Old West:
"Saw a guy with a gun on his hip walk through my workplace today."
"Saw a guy who was shot in the stomach carried out of my neighbor's apartment on a stretcher last night."

And here's the thing: people around me tut, tut, but they (we) take it almost for granted. My downstairs neighbor told me, "I've gotten used to it." 
People around me (and I myself) hardly even discuss our country's wars anymore. We've gotten used to this too.

Well, I don't want to get used to it.
After the murder next door, I decided I want to try, try again to do something hopeful, something positive.
I'll start by looking again into who's working on gun control in the city. I'd gone to a couple events and not been impressed.

Last night, to engage my cheer and courage, I watched some videos by American Tibetan Buddhist Pema Chodron, who I've always drawn heart from. Someone compiled 6 videos of her talking on the theme of Fear and Fearlessness.
In one of them, she asks, "Think about this: what are  you afraid of?"

OK, so, thinking about it, I would say I'm not so afraid of violence. I mean, I'm not particularly afraid of being physically hurt myself. 
More, I fear having to get off my butt! 
I fear being socially uncomfortable.

Maybe most of all, I fear my own propensity for annoyance at other people.

When I call up my "tender bravery", as Chodron calls it, maybe there's another way, but it's generally in that direction I need to aim it:
Let me be brave enough to attend committee meetings.


Michael Leddy said...

“Let me be brave enough to attend committee meetings”: you said it. I started watching Fred Wiseman’s At Berkeley and realized it was like sitting through one.

Free things: I have an extra copy of Lorine Niedecker’s Collected Works that I would be happy to send your way. No joke: it’s a spare, not marked up, except for the remaindered dot on the pages’ edges.

Fresca said...

Wow, that is so, so kind of you Michael:
I am touched, and I would LOVE a copy of that book by Niedecker, whom I am a little embarrassed to admit I do not know (but that makes it all the better).

I just looked her up and saw she was from Wisconsin, and a review on Amazon said she had "marginal status, both geographically and as a woman", which cracked me up, being, myself, a woman from Wisconsin.

If you'd like to e-mail me, I will give you my street address:
frescadp at gmail

(Btw, I actually thought of folks I know in academia, such as you, when I wrote that line about committee meetings...)

Zhoen said...

Physical bravery has always been difficult for me. Not so much of being killed, but being hit. I know now the reality is not as bad as the threat, the confrontation.

Afraid of being in a car crash, or breaking down on a lonely stretch of road.

Grew up in Detroit when it was Murder Capitol. That didn't bother me much, just an assumption.

Must find the Chodron videos.

Fresca said...

Gosh, Zhoen, but you were a soldier, right? I think even signing up for that requires a ton more physical bravery than I could muster!

Ugh, yes, the threat of being hit... shudder.
My father used to "spank" us (far too nice a name for getting hit with a leather belt, but that's what my parents called it), and it hurt-- a lot-- but the apprehension was the worst part.

I love Pema Chodron, who has a wry, self-inclusive wit.