What’s In a Year?

holding handsKisses were exchanged as the clock struck midnight and one by one the couples announced their plans for 2013.

“We’re gonna pop out a kid, honey!” Said the couple excitedly expecting their first child in the spring.

“We did a pretty cool thing in 2012 and it looks like we’ve got an exciting year ahead of us.” Proclaimed the pair of newly-minted parents whose baby girl arrived the previous fall.

“Here’s to the first year in our new home.” One of the two newlyweds seated on the couch replied to the other.

Looking out across the snowy landscape in the wee hours of a brand new year, we couldn’t help but consider what 2013 might hold for us. “2013.” Lee said as he navigated the snow-covered roads back to our house at the conclusion of the party. “Twenty years ago…” We began to say at the exact same time. Twenty years ago we graduated high school together before heading off in two very different directions. “It’s just so hard to believe.” One of us exclaimed… preaching to the proverbial choir.

We will get married this summer. That much we know. The planning has begun and as a picture of our wedding day emerges, our excitement grows for the anticipated date. But beyond that, it is unclear where we will go and what life will look like. We have a home and friends and belong to a community. He has a real job and I am hoping that the new year brings permanent employment (beyond contract work) my way. But for the most part, we are settled. Much of our picture is already colored in.

“So I suppose they’ll have their own little club once they all have babies.” I announced over lunch today while referring to the growing enclave of which we are not a part. “There’s no one else like us, you know.” I muttered with a mouthful of food while considering what the words “like us” meant exactly. I decided I was referring to couples in their late 30’s who don’t have children and aren’t sure they want any. I suppose it is as simple as that.

“I like us.” Lee stated very matter-of-factly as he shrugged his shoulders in a perfunctory but decided sort of way.

And I was reminded—all over again—why I love him as much as I do.

“I like us, too.” I said and reached for another slice of pizza.

Acting My Age?

Why is that young girl trying to fire roast tomatoes in her mother’s kitchen? And why is she alone? Shouldn’t an adult be nearby supervising her activities? Why can’t she just play with an Easy Bake Oven like a normal girl? Why is that boy so concerned with upcoming Black Friday flat screen TV sales? Isn’t he too young to get credit anyway? Shouldn’t he be playing video games or pushing around a Tonka truck or something?

These are just a few of the questions I find myself asking on a regular basis during the daily barrage of television commercials. For some reason, I see children everywhere… acting as adults. They’re buying furniture, cars and carpeting. They’re calling for an exterminator or trying to figure out what to do about their leaky roof or their 401k. And I can’t help but want to scream: “YOU’RE TOO YOUNG TO WORRY ABOUT THIS $#*@!”

Or am I just too old?

Within the last five years or so I have discovered that the characters on TV, whether on the news, starring in the commercials or playing that of a leading role have all gotten dramatically younger. REALLY. They are younger. Start paying attention if you don’t believe me. They used to be older than me. The people playing moms and dads LOOKED like moms and dads — they most certainly didn’t look like ME. The people playing doctors and cops and attorneys LOOKED like mature doctors, cops and attorneys.

And I always looked up to them. Literally and figuratively. They were taller, wiser, grayer, more experienced and well versed in the ways of the world. They had to make the big decisions like where to invest their money, when to sell the house, from whom to purchase car insurance. All I had to do was be young and not worry about such things.

Which is why I find it so shocking that these roles are being played by people who not only resemble me… but who are YOUNGER than me! Near as I can tell, this problem is only going to get worse. TV people stay the same age forever. But I will keep on pulling away and pulling away. One day I suppose the women in the osteoporosis / arthritis / adult diaper commercials will look younger than me. Perhaps by then I won’t be quite as shocked. That or I’ll be too tired to care.

I guess it’s true what they say about staying 18 forever… in our own minds. And that’s probably a really good thing. Because no matter the number of candles on the cake or lines in the mirror we should always be too young to see ourselves and our contemporaries actually acting our age.

Responsible Non-Parenting?

Biologically speaking I’ve not been dealt the winningest hand when it comes to reproduction. I’ve known for many years that children are most likely not in the cards for me. And even though it has, at times, been a bitter pill to swallow… I’m coming to terms with it as time goes by.

I’ve begun to think of myself as a non-parent, both now and for always. So it caught me by surprise to be recently asked by my physician whether or not I plan to have children anytime soon. Looking ahead to a wedding and a marriage, I suppose it was a perfectly reasonable question to answer.

But before I answered his question, I asked one of my own. “Look. I am staring straight down the barrel of 38.” I said very matter-of-factly as though he wasn’t already aware of my “advanced age” as he sat there staring at my crow’s feet with my chart and entire medical history in his lap. “At what age does it become irresponsible for me to have a child, Doc? How old is too old?”

He looked at me, slightly taken aback by my inquiry. After a brief, awkward pause he launched into a mini-sermon about how many “less than ideal” mothers are out there raising children. Some of which are very young, very immature or who lack the proper resources to care for a child. And if I am even questioning my age as a potential concern — then I am exactly the type of “responsible” person who should be having children if I wished to do so.

But you see that’s just it. I’m not sure whether or not I “wish to do so.” Biology aside, I’ve considered myself a non-parent for so long that I’ve become rather attached to the lifestyle. You know the one. It includes (but is not limited to) sleeping in, watching what I want on TV, eating meals that are not square, taking trips whenever and wherever I want to and having exorbitant amounts of “ME” time during which to ponder potential world domination.

I have watched as my friends disappear—one after the next—into the matrix of motherhood. I stand at the edge watching them dissolve into the mystical world of two a.m. feedings, car seats, play dates, Sippy cups, Cheerio containers, sleep deprivation and constant sitter hunting. And it scares the crap out of me.

My mother (along with just about everyone else) tells me that it is different when it’s your own and I’m sure that it is. But perhaps it is not only more “responsible” of me, but truly best for all concerned parties if I were to stay right where I am—on the outside of the Mommy Matrix—wrapped up in my down comforter with the remote, some travel guides and a really, really good bottle of wine.

No Fat, No Carbs… No Thanks.

Like a desperate hunter setting out into the wild in search of food, I left the office desperately starving and in search of something tasty and filling. I WANTED a cheddar-roast beef sandwich from Arby’s… greasy and dripping with red ranch sauce. But there was a big deadline on Friday’s horizon and a Smoothie King just across the street from the office, so I decided to give that a try instead.

When I walked in the door I was immediately assaulted by an overwhelmingly giant and colorful menu boasting all kinds of things I could not pronounce, let alone grasp what dietary need they would fulfill. A bright-faced boy looking like he couldn’t possibly be a day over 13 leaned across the counter—beaming at me—and enthusiastically asked what I wanted. I cringed. I had no freaking idea what I wanted.

I suppose I wanted something that tasted good above ALL else and something that would make me STOP wanting the greasy Arby’s cheddar-roast beef sandwich dripping with red ranch sauce. But I couldn’t tell Mr. 12-year old, fresh-faced-health-food peddler that. So instead I asked for his recommendation… Which was, indeed, a colossal mistake.

Here is what he SAID: “Well, the ‘Lean One’ is great because it has protein so it helps keep you full, trims the waistline and contains no fat or carbs.”

But here is what I HEARD: “You are fat.”

Here is what I SAID: “Is it going to taste like a diet drink or like an actual fruit smoothie?”

But here is what I THOUGHT about saying as I envisioned myself wagging my index finger in his face and then proceeding to draw an imaginary circle in the air around my mid-section: “You think I am FAT!?! Listen here, String Bean, I may weigh more than you do on your heaviest day, and I certainly won’t be doing any runway modeling, ever… but I am a HEALTHY weight! You don’t know what’s under here. This is a baggy top. I might have a six-pack under here for all you know!”  (I don’t. But he doesn’t KNOW that.)

So now I am stuck. I’ve asked this zygote’s opinion and he’s pointed out that I am fat and in need of some nutritional intervention so out of sheer shame and compliance I ordered the stupid “Lean One” and hoped for the best.

When he triumphantly handed over the cup, certain that he had done a tremendous service in saving me from myself that day, I noticed that the CUP read: “The Lean One enhances fat loss, promotes lean muscle, helps suppress appetite and promotes a healthy heart.”

Now, I’m sure these features and benefits are important to many, many people. But as earlier stated in this entry… I wanted something that tasted good ABOVE ALL ELSE—nutritional value be damned—and something that would make me STOP wanting the greasy Arby’s cheddar-roast beef sandwich dripping with red ranch sauce.

So here is what I THOUGHT as I shuffled out of the store in my baggy top, bitterly sipping my sad little smoothie that definitely seemed like it cut ALL of the culinary corners when it came to taste: “If this doesn’t satisfy me, I’m scarfing down a bag of Doritos. I knew I should have gone to Arby’s.”

The Devil Wears Sweatpants

Today was a day of much celebration and cheer. A moment I have been waiting for — admittedly not all that patiently. The phone rang and on the other end were the magic words I’ve so longed to hear: “They want you to start tomorrow!”

As anyone who has searched long and hard for employment in their field knows… it is a thing of beauty when that call comes. Emotions of joy and relief wash over you as you stand just a tiny bit taller… feeling a little less loser-like and little more confident. You consider, for the first time in awhile that you may, in fact, have something to offer the outside world. And it is a good feeling.

I, for one, could barely contain my excitement. I did the proverbial “happy dance” while shouting THANK YOU at the top of my lungs scaring the hell out of the cat. Then promptly called my mother and counted the seconds until Lee came home. I considered how to celebrate. Hmmm… margaritas tomorrow evening with the girls at my favorite Mexican restaurant? Si. Perfecto.

After sharing the details of the new gig right down to the color of the carpeting and the window-to-wall ratio in my new “cube” I realized that Lee—although excited as well—was indeed weary of the sound of my voice. And perhaps it was time to consider prepping myself for my shift from stay-at-home-do-nothing person into 9 to 5 working gal.

And here is where the story takes a very dark and unexpected turn. No, this is not where I tell you that they called back and informed me that they had mistakenly called the wrong person and that I am, in fact, still a loser. Gotcha’ there for a second didn’t I? No, that has already happened to me so as I stated above… this is where the story takes an UNEXPECTED turn.

It was time to approach (gulp) the closet and see what I had in there (double gulp) to wear for my first day at the new office. I feel that here is where I should mention that I have known this day would come. Oh yes, this Day of Reckoning with my closet and my work clothes a.k.a. ALL things NOT made of super-stretchy-love-my-body-no-matter-how-many-bagels-with-cream-cheese-I-pound-and-glasses-of-wine-I-drink elastic and spandex was on the horizon.

I just kept operating in my fantasy world, walkin’ around with remnants of cream cheese on my face figuring “I’ll dust off those workout DVDs and my Ann Taylor pants with absolutely NO give will still look fabulous by the time I get THE CALL” and all will be well with the world. Well… such was not the case. The DVDs are still dusty and the Ann Taylors are still hangin’ in the closet.

This, my friends, is what the sweatpants industry never tells you in their happy commercials where everyone is blissfully snuggling on the couch munching buttered popcorn and watching movies or gathered ’round the breakfast table slamming pancakes. Sweatpants and their seductive cousins Yoga Pants, Pajama Pants, Lounge Pants, Flannel Pants and Fleece Pants are of the devil. Mark my words… they will be the death of your waistline, hips and butt if you spend enough time in them.

You’ve been warned. Your regular pants may be uncomfortable on occasion… but like a parent disciplining their child when they are naughty… they keep you in line. Oh, the waist is getting snug!… or, My ass looks like two pigs wrestling under a blanket in this pencil skirt!… or, I’m about to pop the button on these trousers and bust out a window in the breakroom! are all ways that your “working clothes” keep you from swimming in that murky River of Denial that can only be found deep inside the soft, warm folds of the evil embrace of Sweatpants.

Averse to Adversity

I had an epiphany the other day. I’m not talking about the kind where I suddenly figured out that my new nightly chocolate ritual was beginning to make my ass fat. But the kind that I honestly believe could be life-changing. Or rather…. it WOULD be if I chose to examine it, learn from it and make some adjustments.

Bet you can’t wait to know what it is? Unless, of course, you read the title or drew some sort of a conclusion from the super adorable picture that I just HAD to use to assist in illustrating my point — in which case, you probably already have your suspicions. Anyhoo, brilliant deductions, sneaking suspicions or not, I’ll fill you in. All of my life I have had trouble with… drumroll pleeeeze… Adversity.

There. I’ve put it out there for all the world to see. Or at least the 200 people (give or take) who regularly read this blog.

Websters defines Adversity as: 1. distress; affliction; hardship and 2. an unfortunate event or incident

I know what you’re thinking… Who doesn’t have “trouble” with distress, affliction or hardship? Right? But honestly… I mean seriously… I. Have. Trouble. With. Resistance. Of any kind. And I think in some cases, there is evidence to support the theory that I may actually MAKE trouble for myself.

<< As an aside for any potential, future employer(s) out there who may be reading this and who may or may NOT be considering me for some form of professional position — let it be known that I do NOT make trouble for other people… I actually play really well with others. You can ask any of my references or teachers. >>

I am purely masochistic about this. I only do it to myself. The primary problem being that I suspect I actually LOOK for it in my life. And this is really quite amazing given that I am someone who runs around all giggly and bubbly claiming to DESIRE happiness and merriment wherever I go and with whomever I choose to spend time.

Hello, my name is Joanna and I am EXPERTLY PROFICIENT at making mountains out of molehills.

All my life I have been told to develop a thicker skin. By everyone. By people I love, by people I never thought much of and (in hindsight) by people I have hated. That in and of itself should’ve shown me something. The sheer VOLUME of people telling me that I needed to grow a thicker skin, get over it, lighten up, stop being so serious all the time and to stop taking everything so damn personally SHOULD have had an effect by now. Shouldn’t it?

Yet, as I contemplate my 37 years on this earth—paying particular attention to the last 20 where I have supposedly been an “adult”—a pattern has begun to emerge. I don’t deal well with “distress, affliction or hardship” when it happens to me. If it is happening in someone else’s life I tend to step up to the plate. But when the trouble finds me… when adversity has knocked on my door… I really do take it personally. And oftentimes, I’m ashamed to admit… I freak out.

When things haven’t gone the way I planned… When someone is rude or addresses me in a harsh tone… When I don’t “click” with a person at the office… Whenever ANYTHING does not turn out the way that I think it shouldwhich, by the way, is nothing SHORT of sunshine and rosesI cave. I fold like a bad poker hand or I wither or melt. Choose your metaphor. There are plenty. And in this case they are all the same.

Who the hell do I think I am that difficulty should avoid me? It’s rather narcississtic when I really think about it. Perhaps if I can truly begin to recognize that I am not special in facing adversity and remember that everyone shoulders some form of hurt or disappointment in this lifetime, then maybe… just maybe I will learn to freak out less. And I will learn to remain on my feet, keeping my collective shit together while standing firm in my new and thicker skin.

Puttin’ On My Big Girl Pants

In my twenties, when I was as young and stupid as a brand new puppy dog, I had a co-worker who was a few years older. She was a new mother and I often asked her how things were going with the baby.

I’ll never forget her reply one time as it was as funny as it was true. She recounted to me a morning where her daughter (let’s call her Danielle) was sitting at the kitchen table in her high chair and just wailing. Nothing would pacify her, so her mother—as many new moms often do—was reaching the point of exasperation.

She heaved a heavy sigh, looked around the room (that was empty save for my friend and her daughter) and thought aloud to Danielle: “Oh how I wish your mommy could just swoop in and make things all better for you!” It was then that my friend realized that the “mommy” in this scenario—the only one around at the time to do the heavy lifting and the one to be the savior—was her.

As adults, how many of us have found ourselves in a similar situation? When faced with something that seems insurmountable, we look up, down and all around for someone who can save us from ourselves. Be it a knight in shining armor, a fairy godmother or a full-blown cavalry — we honestly hope (if only for a second) that there might actually be an easier way out. But often times this is not the case. Increasingly as we age the only one who can deliver us from the stiff challenges of adulthood is the very one who stands before us in the mirror.

In less than four months, my fiance has lost both his father and mother. And I have been unable to do anything but stand by and watch. Don’t get me wrong, I can lend a listening ear, fetch a sandwich or two and make the occasional phone call, but short of a miracle of biblical proportion, there is nothing else I can do but hold his hand and slog through the muck and the mire right along with him.

There have been numerous arrangements to be made and entire lifetimes of memories to be carefully sifted, sorted and packed away for safe-keeping. Not unlike my co-worker and her child in need of comfort—there is no one else around to do the heavy lifting. There is no knight in shining armor, fairy godmother or cavalry to swoop in and “make things all better” like when we were children. And similar to my friend in becoming a new parent… I’m certain there were no instructions in the handbook on how to do this.

This time there is only him and there is only me wandering aimlessly about in Grownupland. I can wish all I want for someone else to shoulder the burden and do the work. But at the end of the day I am met with the realization that adulthood in it’s purest form is when you’ve looked around and discovered there is nothing left to do but suck it up and put on those big girl pants — however reluctantly.