“It’s my life
It’s now or never
I ain’t gonna live forever
I just want to live while I’m alive….”
–Richard Sambora, Jon Bon Jovi, Max Martin
Bon Jovi? Seriously? I’m quoting Bon Jovi?
Well, the thing is, for the purpose of this post, I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Allow me to explain:
For most of my adult life, I’ve been on the brink of a panic attack.
I remember the exact moment my mind cracked, my OCD kicked in, and nearly every minute of my life became fraught with usually low-grade, but sometimes extreme, stress and anxiety.
I was waiting at a stoplight to cross Michigan Avenue and head back toward the law school. I was holding a fast food diet soda in a flimsy paper cup, with one of those plastic tops with the straw through it.
I remember tossing the remains of that diet soda into a municipal garbage basket (basket, not can or bin – this is significant) right before the light changed and I crossed the street.
In those days, the garbage receptacles on the streets in Chicago were like big steel baskets – a kind of steel crosshatch mesh, which would contain paper and boxes and bottles, but not the liquids within them. Needless to say, that’s not the design anymore.
But that day, decades ago, I tossed that drink, and it burst open in the basket – the plastic top popped off and a lot of the liquid and ice burst through the not very fine wire mesh and splashed onto the sidewalk.
And because law school had already warped my mind, sapped all my youthful bold courage (the courage that allowed me to drive cross country, alone, from Illinois to California and back twice a year, starting at 18) and turned me into a quivering, spineless blob of little-miss-worst-case-scenario, the first thing I thought of was, “what if someone slips on that ice cube, and injures themselves on this sidewalk?”
And I ran across the street, pursued by the terrors of the inevitable lawsuit that would result. Never did result, but still. The fear and anxiety were real.
I became a classic OCD “checker.” Is the iron off? Is the door locked? Did I turn off the oven? Did I remember the tickets?
Now, securing the domicile and remembering the tickets and making all the arrangements was always my job in our marriage anyway, but I took it to ridiculous extremes.
To the point where Mike and I came up with a ritual for it – when I was doing something I knew I’d feel compelled to check on, I’d say aloud, “THE IRON IS OFF- THE IRON IS UNPLUGGED!” Ditto the stove, the lights, etc. “THE DOOR IS LOCKED!” You get the idea.
It worked – I allow myself one “check” on things and that’s it. After one check, I require my circular mind to find closure and let the chips fall where they may.
But this didn’t work at work. Every “real” job I’ve ever had has been accessorized with consuming anxiety – usually just the usual constant, low grade anxiety I’ve felt ever since that soft drink blew open. But often enough, a withering, crippling stress about whether the right thing was in the envelope I was about to send out, or if I copied the wrong person on the confidential email, or if the file cabinets were locked. Geez, I’m getting heart palpitations right now, just writing about that.
The only times I didn’t, and still don’t, feel that constant current of near-panic are when I’m singing, when I’m on stage speaking for an audience (which gives most people the heebie-jeebies – but man, that’s home to me) and when I’m writing.
So, DUH, do that!
Doing it, though, involves a leap of faith that abandoning something (like a job) that is killing you but providing conventionally defined “security” (financial, usually) won’t result in ruin and disaster.
But, you’ll never know unless you try, right?
Life is short. Only God knows the number of our days.
So I’m going for “flow,” that feeling of absolute contentment, total engagement and pleasure in what you are doing. Do that, the self-help gurus say, and all will be well.
In my previous post, “Fatherless Days,” I referred to a plan, to help me and our daughter get all the way to the other side of the fear, grief and anger, to the acceptance of Mike’s death and the start of our new lives.
So I’ll go for the flow.
That’s the plan.
Helluva plan, right?
I know what you’re thinking, because I’m thinking it too. This is probably the latest in a series of potentially disastrous financial decisions.
But hey, it’s my life, it’s now or never, right? I just wanna live before I die.
So I’m hangin’ up my warehouse boots, trading them in for high heels (well, kitten heels usually, about the most I can handle anymore, but don’t count those glittery gold numbers pictured up there out just yet) probably for good. Driving a forklift was, um, interesting, but too damn dangerous, which made me anxious, and I’m not going there again.
I’m expanding the middle-aged woman rules to include:
- Sing (and get paid for it, if you can)
- Write (and get paid for it, if you can)
- Speak (and get paid for it, if you can)
- Hire someone to clean your house (if you can afford it – see “sing,” “speak” and “write,” above)
- Do that “intermittent fasting” thing, because it works
- Wear whatever makes you feel pretty, vibrant and alive even if it’s kind of, or really, costume-y and probably too “young” (see, “dress like you’re expecting someone,” in the original “middle aged woman rules,” and gold glitter heels, pictured above.) Making a spectacle of yourself this way might even get you some gigs as a professional party guest – why not?
- Find someone to love
Dammit I’m going to do it. Ridiculousness will ensue, no doubt. Finding the new man will be tough – the online dating thing didn’t work our so well, first round.
And I’ll have to clean the house for the cleaners before I can ask them to maintain it. Divestiture of mass amounts of accumulated crap will be necessary. That’s going to take a while, but I’ll keep you posted. Deja vu – I think I said that last year, when I started this blog. So I call do-over.
Once I finish shoveling out closets, washing floors, vacuuming, dusting and divesting (and blogging in between) I’ll be looking for love, for singing and speaking gigs and someday maybe even for publication of my book.
Until then, I remain, your most devoted, humble, grateful