Sunday, January 31, 2010

Happy Birthday, Self!

So, I'm 37 now.

Last year we had a great big houseparty for 40 people, with a bartender, a big cake, and all the furniture pushed back to the walls, rented glassware, the works. We went smaller this year, a dinner for 14 at a new restaurant just around the corner from here. The smaller scale gave me more of a chance to reflect, first and foremost that I am truly blessed in my friends, and next that Pynchon and I have been here in Small City for six years, and have cobbled together a community of friends from three different workplaces, some neighbours, friends from before who find themselves here, and all the partners of same. People in their 20s; people in their 50s, and a good sampling in between. That feels good.

I was thinking also, naturally on this sort of occasion, I think, about, well, me. 37! I guess I am who I am going to become, mostly, and I'm intrigued by the continuities and discontinuities of all these years of Mimi-ness.

Different? I'm much more confident now than I used to be and this has the paradoxical but welcome effect of leaving me freer to be quiet, to hang back, to listen. We ENTJs, when nervous or insecure, tend rather to become bossy or strident, but a happy ENTJ can, I'm glad to report, can just sit back and cool out. God, it's nice to not always feel compelled to put myself in charge of things that, frankly, don't really need or benefit from hierarchical leadership.

The same? I've never had much of a social filter, or a well developed sense of decorum. I'm 37 and I still cannot prevent myself from gleefully responding to a compliment on my dress that I bought it for 29$ at Zellers. My mom visibly flinches in my inner mind: "Just say THANK YOU. No one needs to KNOW that, Mimi!" It's not demurral or false modesty--I'll agree that yes, I look great, but isn't it just a kicker that the dress is from Zellers? And so CHEAP? I look somehow younger? It's the bra! Raise the boobs 3 inches, take 10 years off. (Can you hear my mom, now?) I just have never seen the point of hiding the man behind the curtain, Wizard of Oz style. And I still don't, I guess.

Weirder are the combination same/differents, two of which I have been ruminating on today.

Same / different 1: I have grown into my face and my body--they're not much different than they've ever been, really, only now my stage of life has caught up to their promise. I was the kinda kid about whom adults always remarked that I was 'old for my age'. Not mature, certainly, but somehow ... not channeling youth. No button nose, no chubby cheeks, no ingenuous credulity. Instead, I was all sarcasm, always, all strong nose, piercing eyes, and sharply angled cheekbones. On an eleven year old, or even a 20 year old, the effect can be jarring. Helps one get into bars underage, but otherwise jarring. In my 30s, I see that button noses and blooming cheeks do not look so appropriate on my demographic anymore. Suddenly my face is just right, a canvas best able to hang my subjectivity from. It's strong and dramatic and sophisticated, where before it was precocious and disconcerting. At 37, I don't mind looking Dietrich-esque in ways I did when I was 16. I still have a great big nose and very square shoulders, but it kinda works now.

Same / different 2: I have grown into my personality, my character--in my teens, you know, I had that not uncommon delusion that I was Something Special, Marked For Greatness, Without Fault but nevertheless Fantastically Misunderstood. In my twenties, by contrast, I became excruciatingly aware of my own faults. The fault-finding was kinda sweeping; it was a decade-long orgy of self-loathing, really. Amazingly, at 37, I find I'm somehow becoming able to see my own character with a clear eye ... and love myself anyways. Yeah, I'm not really good at playing ponies for 3 hours in a row; I'm always looking for a little escape, something to read. But I do play ponies happily and with total focus for 20 or 30 minute bursts, several times a day, and for someone like me, that's pretty damn good, really. Yeah, I'm naturaly kinda judgy and over-rational, but I bring a lot of integrity to my job as a result. I'm still really sarcastic and biting by nature, but it's developed over time into a more sophisticated and age-appropriate wit that is not unwelcome by others.

I'm growing into myself, it seems. And I'm learning how to be flawed and happy at the same time. Huh.

If that means I've got to take some wrinkles along with insight and self-acceptance, it's still a pretty good trade.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Push / Pull / Stretch / Snap

One of the alarms on my iPhone (you can edit and save a bunch of them, like you can teach your thermostat the difference between Wednesday and Sunday) is called, simply, "stupid fucking Monday." It is set for five am. And every Monday for the last four weeks, that's when I get up, at 5am. I sneak downstairs, work for an hour and a half, shower, gobble breakfast and head to work, usually before Pynchon and Munchkin wake up. I watch the sun come up from the café across the street from my off-campus teaching lab. The rest of the week is a little better--I get up at six, work for an hour, then wake everyone up and we all hustle in to work.

In a rotten confluence of circumstances, this semester I have drawn the short straw. On a very demanding committee that has big deadlines and big obligations for the entire month (think, 11 hour days and 4 hour meetings, and you'll have it about right). Teaching two new courses, so that in addition to the time spent actually teaching it, and grading, and meeting students, I'm also trying to put all the materials together fast enough to keep ahead of everyone. These two courses are in different locations, both off campus, and both with some administrative hurdles (one has no heat and the other has heat set to 'bikini model', for example). I work at 5am; I stay at work until after supper. I work on the weekends. I do my email on the phone waiting for the bus. I grade design homework on the laptop while 'watching' Diego with Munchkin.

I am, in short, desperately overscheduled and overstressed at work.

At home, I'm ... absent. And that wracks me with guilt, obviously. Pynchon is carrying the whole family on his own back and the whole enterprise is straining under the load.

I don't like living like this. I don't like complaining about it. So today, as my big committee finished its giant task, and freed up probably 12 or so hours in my work-week going forward, I'm turning the boat around.

It's the end of January. The end of the crazy month of finally getting my insomnia under control only to start forcing myself to keep the same hours as when I couldn't sleep. The end of frozen pizza, canned beans, grilled cheese, McDonald's, and KD for dinner. The end of complaining and crisis management.

My birthday is this weekend. I will be 37. We are celebrating with a big dinner party at a fancy new restaurant. I will wear high heels, drink a lot of gin, and feel myself buoyed up on the love of my friends. I am coming back to my blog writing and to my blog reading. I am remembering the simple pleasure of cooking supper for my family and sitting down to eat it with them, of taking 5 minutes out of the morning rush to play 'puppy' with Munchkin, barking and sniffing and rolling over.

It's good to be back.

How've you been?