So I just had another birthday. How do I feel about that? Since you only stop having them after you’re dead, I guess I feel pretty good. In fact, I’ve recently made some serious investments in the future by electing to renew my car registration for two years instead of one, and my membership in AARP for another five. How’s that for a burst of optimism?
As with each New Year, birthdays are a good time for reassessment. So I begin with a physical inventory. All in all, I’m not doing too badly. My knees still bend and I am able to navigate a staircase. My hips remain, as always, too wide, but the joints are articulating. My back? I’d rather not discuss it. Let’s just say it’s no worse. Only one new infirmity to complain about – the chronic pain in my left elbow. This has impacted my life by curtailing my golf game. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.
As I reflect, I’m reminded that six years ago this month, while engaged in my annual birthday retrospective, I concluded that, going forward, I needed to master the art of relaxation. To accomplish this, my plan was to go outside with a kitchen timer, and force myself to sit still and focus on reading material or simply day dream for incrementally increasing time periods. This was in lieu of my usual pattern, which was to pop out of my chair to pull a weed, water a plant, or pick up dog poop.
“So how’d that work out for you?” you might ask. And even if you don’t, (ask, that is) I will share. For the past half-dozen years, my grass has been devoid of weeds, my flowers sufficiently hydrated, and you can safely walk barefoot over every inch of my property. Oh, and, I’ve accumulated an impressive pile of back issues of The New Yorker magazine.
So in February of 2020, I have attempted to again tackle this issue with new insights. I have always prided myself on my stamina and ability to navigate through a hectic day, even though it’s no longer necessary that I do so. I’m retired, the children have flown, there’s a lot less laundry, and cooking dinner has become a quaint concept. Life could really slow down. If I let it.
But apparently, I have a bad case of OHDH syndrome. Don’t bother looking for this disorder in the Physician’s Desk Reference (or Dr. Google). You won’t find it. I just made it up.
So much of my adult life was spent as Wonder Woman, but without the skimpy outfit. Work, school, family, shopping, cooking, appointments, dates, dog, taking laundry out of the dryer at 11:00 PM. Living each day like a perpetual motion machine. I would walk into my apartment after a day of work and with my right hand throw down my handbag while my left hand retrieved the spaghetti pot. All accomplished in one smooth motion.
My personal feedback loop from all of this hyperactivity was adjectives such as capable, energetic, tireless, maybe just a little stressed, and youthful. It was a self-image I savored, one that is difficult to relinquish. Which leads to the current diagnosis: Old Habits Die Hard. Especially when it comes to one’s identity.
But now, six years after the last attempt, perhaps it’s time to try again for an image makeover. And I have a tiny piece of evidence that this time I just might be on the right path.
A few days ago, as is my wont, I overbooked. My calendar indicated that I had committed to appointments back-to-back that seriously overlapped with Sam the Dog’s dinner hour, and early evening walk. How could I let this happen? Silly question to ask of Wonder Woman.
So in the manner to which I was accustomed, I began to strategize. If I left appointment #1 a few minutes earlier, and the traffic lights were with me, I could rush home, take care of Dog, maybe even refresh my eye liner, change into non-sensible shoes, jump back in the car, and if the lights were with me, be on time for appointment #2.
But rather than push forward into the race, I suddenly stopped in my tracks, took a deep breath, and said No! I don’t want to do this. I’m tired. I was able to cancel appointment #1, and so I did. Laying down on my bed for a bit of respite, I felt a sense of what could only be described as relief. This was okay. I have earned this right. I can act my age, whatever that means. I have nothing more to prove.
So am I now on a new path which gives me permission to move over to the slower lane? I hope so. But to be sure, check back with me in six more years. How’s that for another burst of optimism?
Did you know that Valentine’s Day has been celebrated since 496 AD? So it’s not some contemporary occasion created by the greeting card companies! St. Valentine, a Roman Catholic clergyman who was martyred on February 14, is the patron saint of lovers, epileptics, and beekeepers. Surely there is a connection among these groups, but what that may be eludes me.
What can I possibly write about love that hasn’t already been eloquently and poetically expressed by Shakespeare and Hallmark? Nothing. So instead, I’m reposting an essay, my homage to relationships and to the one I hold dear.
As Long As You’re Up…….
At times I feel like I’ve been transported back to the 60’s and am trapped in that old ad for Grant’s Scotch.
Remember that ad? Don’t try to tell me you weren’t born yet. (Well some of you weren’t born yet, but very few.)
I’m not sure how many bottles of whiskey they sold, but the slogan "As Long As You’re Up, Get Me a Grant’s" had a major impact on popular culture. It went viral before there was such a thing as “viral.” It was a subject of a famous New Yorker cartoon and found a home in the Yale Book of Quotations, in the company of such other blockbusters as "I can’t believe I ate the whole thing."
The Grant ads were staged to ooze upper-class sophistication. Each one featured a photograph of either an affluent-looking, elegant, well dressed, not-so-young man or woman.
The ultra-thin, perfectly coiffed, attractive woman was dressed in a simple, but clearly expensive, gown, and was sitting in a chair which looked like it was recently bought at auction from Sotheby’s.
The handsome, graying-at-the-temples-with-just-the-right-amount-of-gray, man was in a tuxedo, also sitting. Each body was turned slightly as if addressing an invisible off-stage partner.
Although the ad for Grant’s Scotch faded from usage a long time ago, I’m happy to say that the slogan, at least the first half of it, is alive and well and living in our house. With some slight revisions.
The man (my husband) is not wearing a tuxedo, but is instead dressed in golf shorts. His graying temples can no longer be distinguished from the rest of his hair color, and the chair he sits in was purchased for comfort rather than its antique value.
The woman (me) does not wear a gown, but is attired in jeans and a tee shirt, and is not now, and never has been, as thin as the woman in the ad.
However, the operative words remain unchanged: As long as you’re up….
Perhaps built into every long-term relationship there emerges a “requestor” and a “requestee.” These roles are not so easily predictable, because in my experience, they’re not always gender-dependent. Not counting extenuating circumstances, like a broken leg, for instance, women are just as capable as men when it comes to asking for little favors, and men can be just as compliant as women in granting them.
In my relationship, however, I have become the “requestee.” Possibly it’s my inability to sit in one place for extended periods of time that has cast me in this role. So as I am frequently up and about during the course of an hour-long TV show, it does not seem unreasonable that a voice from the other room calls out "As long as you’re up, get me a glass of club soda." Although he swears he has no recollection of ever seeing that ad, the words seemed to flow from him as easily as scotch over ice.
It’s not always club soda. Sometimes it’s a piece of chocolate. Or it could be ice cream. Or a sweater because he’s chilly. Really, it’s all okay. I’m happy to do it. As long as I’m up.
Occasionally, however, a request with a slightly different tone of voice finds its way into our marital discourse. This request is preceded by if you’re getting up…, or, when you go upstairs…, and usually occurs when I’ve been in a holding pattern in my chair for longer than usual. These, of course, are not-so-subtle indications that my darling is desirous of something, and would prefer not to get it for himself. This causes me to look at him through narrowed eyes, but more often than not, I will grant him his favor.
Have my hyperactive tendencies created a monster, or at the very least, a spoiled spouse? Not really.
Because at the end of the day, I know there is a balance. I bring him a pillow, and he brings me a……. Remind me, what is it that he brings me?
Oh yes, the favors do go both ways. He graciously, plays golf with me on Sundays, which cannot be much fun for him, and doesn’t make me watch football, which is never any fun for me.
Most importantly, he is someone that I can rely on, someone who is always there for me, someone who loves me unconditionally. So I will happily continue to bestow him favors. As long as I’m up!
About the Author
Susan is the author of two award-winning collections of humorous personal essays: “How Old Am I in Dog Years?” and “How to Complain When There’s Nothing to Complain About.” Check out her Author Page HERE.