on loosened fixtures and carrying on

In the category of Things I Never Thought I’d Hear Myself Saying                                            (but blurted out during the last three hours):

IMG_7855(To my accountant), You need to live until I am dead. Please don’t die before I do.

(To the DP at a film production company), Time sped up at some point in the last 5 years, and nobody let me vote. Given that, you’d think the universe could throw us a bone on this one.

(To my chicken, who has four times now chased the dogs off a choice spot she thinks she wants), Tiny, for crying out loud. Pick a seat and sit on it, will you please just do that?!

And a couple days ago, while helping make sure I’d correctly signed the 902.314a forms you now have to sign for even the littlest job (oh, how the world has changed lately and it’s not just about time), a beleaguered staff person mentioned (in response to my appreciation for having online access) that some employees complain whether things are online or not, adding, “So it seems no matter what you do—” and then trailed off. “You’re in the human species, dear. You don’t really expect that to change, now do you?!” (It was out before I could get my mouth shut.)

In all instances but the chicken (and for her issue I’d swear the dogs sent gratitude spikes my direction), each person and I took two beats and then shared a hearty laugh and went back to our flurry of sped-up tasks, working at the whims of some wily dimensions of time and space far beyond us all. None took offense, we are colleagues and friends, and to do so would be too much trouble.

I now am beginning to think that the gods of things neuronal have loosened a fixture or two in my upstairs. I have always been a practitioner of timely candour (well, except for the six years of my first marriage, when I chose not to be with predictably bad results), but whew. NSA monitors on my phones are getting some ears full. I came here embarrassed, to admit it and get it outside my noggin, to deal with the frazzled complexities of a modern worker’s life (buried in paperwork and e-paperwork and deadlines and projects and requirements and multitasking to beat the band even though we all know that’s for yon last century’s birds. But writing’s a charm.

In one sense not one thing has changed in the last ten minutes except for me yanking these bits out of my life and pressing them onto ‘paper’ (and stopping a chicken from upending a cat). In another? Everything has. I like my fifth decade. Immensely. And now I remember this again.

If you’re in your fifties, you already know this, of course. But if you’re still headed here towing a boatload of doubts about aging and its terrors, you might not. Trust me, life gets better. It really, reliably does. This has more than a little to do with loosened upstairs fixtures, of course, but that part, too—even with all its disconcerting and sometimes frightening moments—can be downright fun.

Wishing you joy in your moments, loosened or not! h

on meeting the world sans salves

Some of the best tools that we have for intellectually meeting the world (disciplined writing and analysis) are the very worst for engaging it ethically or morally or for requiring ourselves to step outside our own comfort zones and the narrow frames from within which any person sees anything. I see this as a key reason for why academia is so good at talking about diversity and so bad at actually nurturing it.

Take, for example, the humanities and social sciences and our primary ways of gauging performance and knowledge. Too fast a leap to proper analytical writing leaches content of heart, and applies salve before the necessary wounds (involved in grappling with the real world and not simply a safe mental version of it) have even been made. This makes of any salve a potential deadly substance, for when salve precedes cleansing of the wound, it rots cells.

Rotting cells, of course, have great value: they feed the next generation, which will share some characteristics with the deaths from which they grow, but when the dead/dying are presently running the world, that’s a bit of a problem. We simply must find better ways to break ourselves open before we seek the salve, and we must help students to do this as well before asking them to perform in the languages and structures so hallowed in our disciplines. Our sacred cows are helping to strangle our world right now.