Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Breaking the Speed Barrier (or How Darryl Hannah Caused a Crisis)

Roxanne, Columbia Pictures, 1987
Okay, in order to tell this story, I have to confess something first.  I found that I do better at my job with some chatter in the background.  Without it, I found my mind would wander, or I'd feel tired pretty quickly (tedium can wear you out).  Before Marissa was here to have some real human interaction, I also felt terribly isolated at times.  I listen to my iPod, but it is too in-the-background to be much help sometimes.  So, I experimented a little and found that if I play something spoken in the background, I can feel completely in the zone, and can hunker down and get a lot more done.  Marissa said there are actually studies to back up what I'm experiencing.  That because I have traditionally been in a chaotic, noisy work environment, my brain seeks that as the best setting for me to concentrate when I'm working.  So, I don't feel like I'm cheating, I'm just trying to get the job done and not fall asleep at my desk in the process.  To work, though, it has to fit certain criteria.  Audio books won't do:  I'd be paying attention to the story and not the work.  On Demand won't either; I'd be watching the television because it'd be something I hadn't seen, not using it as white noise.  No, it has to be something I've seen so many times, it's just comfortable buzzing somewhere in the back of my brain.  Law and Order is best.  Not only have I seen every episode a hundred times (an exaggeration, but probably not by that much) so I don't have to even glance up at it, it is actually people working.  The last half, the "Order" part of the show, is really ideal.  I almost feel as though Jack McCoy is my office mate.  But, the problem is:  it's not on 24/7.  It's on a lot, and I have some DVD's, but I have to fill in the gaps with some other things.  Action flicks are completely counter-productive.  I put in Gladiator one rainy Saturday when I needed to finish a report.  I was still working on it on Sunday.  All that glorious carnage, one just cannot look away.  So, court room dramas and romcom's are the next best because they are talk-centric, there may be some quirky visuals like the ones sprinkled throughout 500 Days of Summer, but that's not really the norm.  Problem is, romance is not really my genre, so my supply is highly limited and generally dated.  All of this is a really long way around to tell you why I had Roxanne playing the other day.  And, the reason I had to confess to watching it is because it ushered in what I would call the genuine beginning to my mid-life crisis.  They say 50 is the new 40, well then, bring it on.  Where's my sports car with the convertible top?  I'm ready to be in full freak out mode.  I know I've flirted with it before, but this is the real deal.  Everything before it was false labor, now I'm birthing a full blown "OMG!" crisis.

The reason I like that movie well enough to add it to my collection are all the reasons it triggered me into such a state.  It was filmed in British Columbia, which never failed to make me completely homesick when I would watch it.  If anything, the little town of Nelson is more picture perfect than my native neck of the woods, and the filmmakers showcase it well.  And then the carefree lifestyle of all the main characters - how they would meet up for coffee and lunches during the day and at the local hot spot at night, and their largest worry was catching the eye of someone interesting - always reminded me of the all-too-brief summer between high school and college when life had been much like that and how much fun it had been.  And then there is Darryl Hannah, who is actually a few months younger than I am in real life.  I blame it all on her.  I wondered what became of her and looked her up.  I found a recent photo and thought to myself, "Man, she looks old."  (My apologies to Ms. Hannah - keep in mind, it was just my reaction, not necessarily a point of fact.  So don't sue me or anything.)  And that's when it hit me.  If a beautiful woman like that who has undoubtedly taken care to have a little nip here and tuck there can engender a reaction like that, then what do people see when they look at me?  I shudder to think.

But, really, it was the realization that she and I were 26 when that movie came out.  Life was in full swing, most of it ahead of us.   The promise it held was boundless.  The days were full and long. I remember the movie being released.  I remember Steve Martin promoting it.  How is it that it's that old now?  How is that I am?  Where did all the time go?  And if it went that fast, how quickly will the rest of my days fly?

That's probably normal stuff everyone wrestles with on some level at some point.  My problem has always been that I ruminate a little more on certain things than most before I come to the realization that others reach more efficiently than I do:  why worry over what you can't control?  Exercise, eat right, and just live life while you can.  The days move forward for everyone, and there's no stopping it.  But, first I have to try and get my brain to catch up with my body.  Because there is still the part of me thinking I am the person I was when I would watch that movie all those years ago.  I have a mental image of me with good teeth, healthy skin, flat tummy, perky (if small) breasts and healthy hair, whose body is not her enemy yet, and I have a hard time letting that go and looking in the mirror to see what is real and embracing it.  I could still go to law school if I wanted to in my mind, then I have to stop and realize that's not all that practical or likely at this point.  The choices I made along the line have shut certain doors and made others hard to pry open.

But, I think, for those of us who have lost a child, the midlife freak out takes on another level.  It's wrestling with all those minute little choices made along the way that brought your child to the juncture she was at.  If I had stayed at school in Montana, say, or come here to Pitt like I once considered, how different would life had been?  And even if I hadn't done either of those things, but had not worked so much or enrolled Kelsey in soccer instead of figure skating (that's Greg's big one), would she have had a better shot at a healthy life?  All those little what-ifs dance around your head, taunting you and reminding you that you'll spend your golden years living with regret.  It's stupid, you know, because you can't change the past.  It does absolutely no good to anyone, but I am willing to bet quite a bit most of us do it, at least for a while.  It's like looking at the accident on the other side of the highway, you know you're not supposed to, but you just can't stop yourself.

It is just somehow incredulous that, in what seems like a blink of an eye, I went from someone whose biggest worry is flirting with the cute boy over across the room to sitting in an upstairs room in a tiny little house in Pennsylvania where I fled with my tiny little family to escape the ghost of all those bad choices that my daughter paid the ultimate price for.  Time not only flies, it crashes speed barriers.  Maybe if I'd had a little more of it to consider my options and the consequences of my choices, things would be different, but I really don't have time to think about that right now, it's back to work for me.

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