Hot for Handyman

Apparently it isn’t just me.  Falling in love with your carpenter (electrician, handyman, whatever) is a thing. (Spoilers coming).

Kate Reddy, Allison Pearson’s protagonist in How Hard Can It Be? (sequel to I Don’t Know How She Does It – women of a certain age will enjoy both) has flashes of lust for her kind handyman, or as much of him as is visible sticking out from under whatever he is crawling around fixing. Grace, from Grace and Frankie (Netflix), the story of two older women whose husbands leave them – for each other – after 40 years of marriage, fell in love with her remodeling contractor years before, while still married. After I had begun writing my memoir of kitchen remodeling and falling in love with the Bulgarian while caring for my terminally ill husband, I read Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much Is True, where there is a brief but striking, and very moving (to me) portrayal of how the central character, Dominick, reacts to his Mother’s terminal diagnosis by deciding to remodel her kitchen, and a more in-depth portrayal of his life trying to manage care for his mentally ill twin brother.

Kate’s handyman knew long before Kate did that her husband was cheating on her. Grace actually consummates her love for the long-lost-and-found contractor, but he is caring for a wife with dementia. And the Mother in Lamb’s book puts a stop to the kitchen remodeling project after her son removes just the first panel of wainscotting, asking for something smaller – time and companionship – an ice cream sundae, instead.

The lives of these fictional characters resonate with me, because aspects of their imaginary experience reflect my real experience, and help me feel less alone.

I studied Jung in college, including the idea of “synchronicity:” that “meaningful coincidences” or simultaneous thinking occur between people who have no real connection to each other.  I got deeply into the idea of archetypes and the “collective unconscious.” Later in my life I experienced a kind of real-time “collective unconscious,” when performing improvisation – we called it the “group mind.”

I’ve written before, I think, about how I don’t believe in coincidences. I think people come in and out of each other’s lives for a reason, and that we encounter animals, things and events in our daily lives that signify more than just their objective descriptions. Those “events” may include the sudden impulse to turn on the TV or radio, or change the channel, only to find a song, or a program, or a line of dialogue that has special, surprisingly familiar meaning. Mike used to refer to the energy behind all this as “the gods,” and we would share with each other frequently what we thought otherwise unremarkable things were trying to tell us.

One thing the universe sure as hell is telling me is that “hot handyman” is an archetype, and there’s synchronicity going on about older women, cancer, grief, loss and resilience. It’s saying jump-start the stalled querying, Annie, and go for it. Collect rejections for your memoir proudly and keep going, because older women are having a significant moment. “The gods” (that loving, creative energy that Wayne Dyer talked about on those PBS specials) have hit the reset button on the the archetypes of the “widow” and the “crone” and freed older women to reinvent and redefine how they are perceived and what they can, and will, do. And what Grace and Frankie do in the two and a half or so seasons I’ve binge-watched so far, with lots more to go, is variously hilarious, shocking, and empowering.

I’m halfway through the first year of my 7th decade, and I never felt better. I’ve got a fantastic job and a great new haircut that makes me feel fab (and I don’t even care about how it reveals the bald spots – it’s so easy – just skwunch and go!) I haven’t been working out since I started the job, but I have a cool stand-up desk and make a point of taking the stairs a few times daily. I’m hoping to get back to the dumbbells next week.

Angelic Daughter is still having a very hard time processing the things I say about “carrying our sadness about Dad with us while moving forward to have happy lives.” Sad and happy, simultaneously? Hell, it’s hard enough for me to understand. But we’ve got things settled so she’ll be getting out more, meeting new friends, looked after by kind people at a place that is bright, beautiful, and welcoming. She’ll have lots to do to keep her busy, and, I think, happy, while I’m at work. Whew. Cue great night’s sleep and corresponding ten years off face, plus a few points shaved off the blood pressure.

Now where’s the handyman?

With hope, I remain, your

Ridiculouswoman

Image (I cropped it) by skeeze from Pixabay

Divestiture, Episode 4: Life is a Harold

I first came across the idea of “synchronicity,” that thing where lots of people all over the planet seem to start thinking about the same thing at the same time, when I became interested in Jung, back in college. (I think the Police song came later. I think.)

As an improviser (after college, but still many years ago) I would experience a kind of synchronicity with my fellow players, when everybody seems to share the same insight or have the same thought or impulse at the same moment. It’s called the “group mind.”

The team I was on performed the “Harold,” from the early days of long-form improvisation. “Harold” is a thirty-minute (or so) performance involving games, scenes and monologues, in rounds of three. Each “scene” would return twice after its first appearance, with each repetition layering over, often in subtle or surprising ways that only come together at the end, on what came before.

It doesn’t work if any of the players try to predetermine or “script” what happens next. It only works if everyone is working off everyone else, and the next thing that happens, happens only because of whatever has happened before.

This sense that everything that happens is somehow connected to everything that happened before has been a theme in my life, and probably in yours, if you stop to think about it. You’ll suddenly remember a past part of your life that seems to have circled back around, but at a new and more mature or complex level. Like standing on a long spiral staircase, looking down at the previous circles of your life.

In my latest round of tidying up, getting rid of piles of old crap that oppress me now, a few moments of this helix-shaped laddering of life hit me in odd and unexpected ways. Which is kind of how it is supposed to work. To wit:

• Someone on one of the Facebook groups I participate in replied to a comment of mine by saying it was “en pointe” – and I said (truthfully) that “Ha! I used to dance “en pointe!” The next day, what did I find in the closet? A box full of old pointe shoes (really, really beat up pointe shoes) that I had saved from my teen years, and forgotten about. Smiled, and tossed them.

• Because I am having a period-style dress made to wear at an upcoming event celebrating the era of my favorite books, I suddenly remembered a dress I had made for myself, by hand. Again, back in college – I was flat broke, but I was one of the soprano soloists in “Messiah” for the Christmas concert, and I didn’t have a dress. So I went out and bought some really cheap red satin (which scandalized the orchestra, angry, I guess, that they had to wear the uniform “concert black.”) IMG_20180910_164019.jpgI ripped apart a sundress that fit me well, to use as a pattern. I laid the satin out on my dorm room floor, and came up with a way to make a criss-crossed bodice that formed cap sleeves without having to cut and sew sleeves separately. I attached that to a long, bias-cut skirt that came to a point in front. Except when I was done, one side of the skirt was shorter than and kind of off-center to the other. So I improvised a ruffle on that side, by hand again, to even it out. I loved that dress and was proud of designing it and sewing it together in a marathon all-nighter, a week or so before the concert. I couldn’t remember what I’d done with it. And what did I find in the closet? There it was, in the very bottom of a box, underneath old college papers, exam books (really? Why on earth did I save those?) and programs from recitals and performances long past. Tossed the exam books and papers, kept the programs and the dress.

• Very recently I wrote about my late husband Mike’s journals and what they revealed to me, after he died. And what did I find in the closet? A journal of my own that I had forgotten existed, that chronicled the first days and weeks of our romance – how we met, where we went together in those giddy, dizzying first days and weeks, and, sadly, how early in our relationship we started fighting. I found the earliest poems – written for me or read to me. My journal consumed only about 15% of the blank book it was written in, blazing briefly with the astonishment of those long, wild first days of love – a love that too quickly sank way down, beneath the surface, submerged for decades under the responsibilities of child-rearing and the stress of a long and difficult marriage; the love that returned to us in a profound, mature and painfully poignant way, at the end.

There’s nothing sentimental about improvisation. It’s there and then it’s not. It’s ephemeral. You can’t recreate a great “Harold.” You can only experience it while it is happening, and maybe remember how great it made you feel while you were in the midst of it.

Not unlike life.

Still tidying up, I remain,

Your loyal, devoted, moving onward one-cleaned-out-closet-at-a-time,

Ridiculouswoman