My readers have been clamoring for a new post (ok, it was only one reader, and he wasn’t actually “clamoring”). Nevertheless, it got me writing…
Without sleep, or morning quiet time, or exercise, or healthy food, or adequate hugs, or a challenge, I look like this darling kitty. I may be exaggerating, but if so, not by much. Do not mistake me for high maintenance. I repeat, with emphasis: I AM NOT HIGH MAINTENANCE.
High maintenance costs big bucks, right? It’s designer clothes, Manolo Blahnik (I had to look up the spelling) shoes, diamonds in various karats, and a host of impressive friends only one level separated from Kevin Bacon. After all, I scream when I have to go shopping, and even louder when I have to take time to try anything on, get a haircut, paint my nails, or have my eyebrows threaded. I would rather, honestly, be doing just about anything else, even cleaning up the scary pile of dishes in the kitchen.
To clarify, high maintenance is falling apart if hubby doesn’t notice the designer clothes, Manolo Blahniks, diamonds, new hair cut, pretty nails, or freshly arched eyebrows– without inquiring about the costs. Complete, unquestioned adoration is required, plus deep pockets, and an even deeper understanding of the important syndromes: the “honey I have a headache” syndrome, the “I’m too tired from shopping and drinking champagne to fix dinner” syndrome, and the “Are you really going to wear that?” syndrome.
I, on the other hand (she says grandly), am quite happy in sweats, jammies, t-shirts with tiny holes, jeans, flip-flops, and various other mantles of schlumpiness. I don’t even care if hubby does not notice how pretty I look in them, and I don’t get headaches (low testosterone works wonders), nor come home too drunk to fix dinner (I have other excuses): decidedly low maintenance, albeit often a bit low on the low-maintenance side, like having blood pressure so low that I can’t donate blood. Perhaps I could go shopping and then give blood.
Ah, but I banter back and forth with myself, and with you, dear readers, while avoiding the honest-to-goodness reasons I DO qualify as high maintenance, the reasons ALL OF US do too.
Life is fan-flinging-tastically measured, and not necessarily to our individual tastes. That dream we had yesterday and tuck away for tomorrow may never happen if we don’t amp up the expectations (of ourselves, of others), and make it happen, or at least delve in far enough to realize, upon careful examination (or trial and error), that it is a different dream we want after all. By not exploring our yearnings, by not heeding our most poignant needs, by not being honest, we are short-changing ourselves, and a host of other people who look to us for inspiration (or for excuses). We must not stand idly by…or life will, in its inimitable and accidentally pernicious way, pass us by.
I have been watching my mother, now 84 and struggling with some dementia, my whole life. If there is such thing as a bone that is lazy, she does not possess it. She worked hard every single day I knew her. I’m certain that even when she was on vacation, she worked hard to keep everything clean and organized, to keep herself perfectly dressed and coiffed. But what I do not know about her, sadly, is what her dreams were. Perhaps they became dreams for others, the inescapable wishes every parent has for their children: that they will be safe, happy, and decent members of society (and that they will come visit every now and again). Did she have dreams when she was a child? Surely she did, but I am quite certain that once she began having children, she relegated them to the past, chalked them up to whimsy, or figured that someday she might get back to them.
Why is this relevant now? Because she is unhappy. Her life is nearing its end, and I’m sure she is thinking, “Was that it?” I am seeing the bitterness that she has always carried yet masked in her busyness, in her caring for others. I believe she never gave herself permission to explore her desires, though she always encouraged me to explore my own.
Furthermore, I believe she didn’t know how. Life threw her many crooked wrenches, and each time it did, she used them to re-build her life as best as she could, but never to her ultimate satisfaction. Her ability to dream; perhaps based on the expectations of her generation, or because she grew up with an alcoholic father, or perhaps even because she never got over my father, was stifled by the story she wrote for herself, the one in which the plot did not include her own satisfaction.
This morning I decided that I am just fine with my high maintenance needs, the ones I listed, and the ones I have kept tucked away behind certain expectations. I may not desire fancy things, but I do crave the kinds of pursuits that speak to me as an individual, not merely as a person playing a role. A mother who takes off for a week to dive into the ocean and take photos? How dare she! A mother who gets take-out because she was so busy writing she lost track of time? How dare she! A mother who goes back to college in the middle of homeschooling her children? How dare she!
Next week I am taking off for the day, to pick up one writer, then another…on a trek to Santa Barbara to have lunch with three other writers, writers I’ve yet to meet face to face. A whimsical, wonderful day for me, despite the responsibilities that cry out for me to stay home and take care of them. How dare she!