One week from today I turn 43. My body is sending me signals of mortality. This year my gall bladder came out. I have some trouble with my feet, my legs, my guts, and my ears. No, this isn’t one of those old woman rants about crummy health. You actually have to visit my other journal for that. What it does remind me of is the finite amount of time I’ve got.
My dad died at 53. Mind you, he was the poster boy for stroke: a heavy smoker, obese, living a stress-filled life style. I used to spend a lot of time obsessing over what I wasn’t getting done in my life, given such a limited span. We type A people do this thing. It doesn’t matter if we climbed Mt. Everest twice last weekend. What we’re thinking about is how our living room isn’t clean, or how we haven’t written the great American novel yet. That should have been written when we were 32, dammit, somewhere between getting married and having a good relationship, and your 3rd major vacation to the European continent.
Last year I felt very sorry for myself, thinking that writing would have to wait for my retirement from professorhood. Last week I re-watched one of my favorite movies Pleasantville. Mr. Jenkins and Bud (David) talk about how Mr. Jenkins doesn’t want to make hamburgers any more. Jenkins tells Bud what he really looks forward to all year are the Christmas decorations he paints in the window each year. He suggests that it’s a waste to spend all year waiting for that one moment. Bud tells him not to think about that. Don’t worry, Bud will later transcend that statement and come around. Obviously, I did too.
Caroline Stevermer made a statement about working last week at Wiscon. She suggested that most of the money she made while working was spent to numb the pain of working. I’m only going to be 43, so that statement ends up taking a back seat to tangible things, like the amount of money I owe, or intangible things like the good I can do for students while working. But, you know, she’s right. Nothing makes me feel better then sitting down, popping my wrists, and keyboarding my way through a story. The trenches of revision, even, are very satisfying.
It’s amazing how we feel when we take care of ourselves. My medical problems are the kind that go away if I drop weight and if I eat right. Well, the ears I may have to live with, but the rest I can do something about. And it’s amazing how good I feel if I devote some time to writing every day.
When I remember that I should exercise, eat right, and just write, I feel like I’m on top of the world. It even makes it easier to do those other things, makes me get off the treadmill, even out of the habitat ball. You think you’re giving other people what they want, maybe. In the end, you’ve got to nourish your own body and soul.
Happy 43rd birthday, Catherine. Now, go get your hearing checked.