“What fresh hell is this?” is the way that the immortal Dorothy Parker answered her phone. That was her “default setting.” I have certainly had my own “fresh hell” lately. I have been in exile in the front lobby next to…wait for it… kittens.
I had a sleepover scheduled last week and when they arrived who did they chose? Not me…again, wait for it…that hot air balloon with fur—Marilyn. So I don’t get it either. Resumes side by side:
- Launched internet takeover
- Assembled minion
- Fully functioning cerebral cortex
- Yeah. Exactly.
So everyone is thinking I’m pretty pissed. There has been widespread bracing here for the rain of toads. But we’ll get to that in a minute. Now a story about fish…
There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and says, “What the hell is water?”
(This is from a commencement address given by David Foster Wallace in 2005 called “It’s All Water.”)
Here’s the idea (and I’ll take just a few liberties):
Life is full of long lines at the bank, a-holes in giant trucks who cut you off, kitten spawn, insurance red tape, slow checkout lines, Marilyn, people who stand next to you and talk loudly on their cell phones, global pestilence, kitten spawn and Marilyn. You get it. There are just things in life that have a certain suck factor.
Our default setting is to assume that when these things scamper, roar, twerk or jabber across our path that our only choice is to dip our paws into the big bucket of pissed off and splash it on like CVS cologne. We wait for the suckage to stop and think ‘as soon as I get past this, I will get back to the business of living my life.’ But here’s the deal my pets, this IS your life. And here’s why that’s good: you can’t change what happens but the power to control how you will let it affect you is all yours. “Petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing is gonna come in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines, (and even time spent with tools) can be an opportunity to think, and if I don’t make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I’m gonna be pissed and miserable every time I have to shop.” (or look at Marilyn.)
I like to just do the tortie stare at the object of my annoyance and while they think I’m conjuring toads, I’m just thinking, “You can’t steal Cricket’s sunshine. Good luck with that.” (ok, sometimes I’m thinking “It puts the lotion in the basket…” but that’s only rarely.)
Pissed off will not be my default setting. When I get there, it will be such a powerful and purposeful choice that passersby will feel the downshift from 1000 paces in a hum that reaches their very bones. And getting there will be MY choice alone. There is a time for pissed. But mostly, there isn’t.
Choose where your energy goes. Want to drive a tool nuts? Don’t let her shift you into pissed. Use your superpower—more on that in a minute.
One way I’ve been using my time here in exile next to kittens is educating a Cricket Kitten Army that they are even now sending out into homes all over the city. You think you’d break me by putting me next to kittens? Think I’d lay down and die? I think you all just got Gloria Gaynored up in this thing.
There was this little one-eyed guy who kept tapping on kennel asking me stuff. Then he would send his little friends back to hear it again. So here a few Cricket lessons for little Mike and his friends on getting older.
- If you are open, you will fall in love. Many times. The object of your love will not always fall in love back but that doesn’t diminish the value of doing it in any way.
- You will reinvent yourself two or three times in your life. If you are freaking out about what your life/career should be–know this–it will probably change, so lighten up. Julia Child didn’t start her PBS show The French Chef until she was 51. Mother Teresa got the Nobel Peace Prize at 69 and Gandhi led the march that made him the hero of India (and of a few others) at 61. Of course you don’t know what you are going to be when you grow up. Get over it. If you are at all interesting, whatever you decide to be at the start will have changed about a third of the way through things. Then two thirds through your life, if you are really worth having over for dinner, it will have changed again.
- You will realize that you like the Bee Gees after all.
- People will do wrong crap to you. So what. That’s on them. The Cricket doesn’t look back. It’s a wheel, kittens, a wheel. Let It Go Like Adele Nazeem. Grudge holders get ugly eye bags and wrinkles. Medical fact from Dr. Cricket.
- Now I will tell you the greatest superpower of getting older. (Kittens were all wide –eyed here because they thought this is where they get capes. Silly kittens.) You learn the limitless power of “So What?” Try it. It’s a lot to handle if you are not ready because the trick is to mean it. But trot it out a few times. You will see after a few tense moments, that the sun will still move through the sky. Birds will fly and tomcats will spray. Life will not stop. “That knob cut me off in traffic—so what” “She doesn’t approve of me—so what?” For advanced players, try spicing it up a little, “So the F what?” Ahhh, breathe in the sweet power. Come to think of it, maybe there should be a “So What?” cape. It is a very cool superpower.
At the end of the day the gregarious troglodyte who bogarted my sleepover adoption has actually done me a favor. I will be moving back into the senior room having done my time in exile and having molded many young minds. I have started my blog and may get a reader or two.
And there is a larger issue here. Even though what Dorothy Parker said of Kate Hepburn, ”Her emotions run the gamut from A to B, “ is true of Marilyn, I can only ever be so mad at her. Because senior cats rule. Adopting a cat from the senior room makes you cool. Even if, and lord help us, that cat is Marilyn.
It’s All Water. And It’s All Good.