Swashbuckling Through the Daisies

I’ve decided that I’m done with “The Open Book Test.”  For anyone who was enjoying it:  (graceful bow).  If you don’t know what I’m talking about–don’t worry about it.  I was going to continue it for the whole of 2015, but I changed my mind.  That’s the great thing about having a blog.  It’s yours.  You can change your mind if you want to.

In place of that project exploring the past, I’m going to try come up with occasional posts about what’s going on in my mind in the present, and hope that they are reasonably interesting.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about a particular kind of annoying person and how I fear I might be turning into one.  The ones I’ve met are usually ex-missionaries of some sort–people who once did something awesome and unusual, but then proceeded to live totally normal boring lives but continue to define themselves by the one interesting unusual thing they did 20 years ago.  I hate that.  It drives me crazy.  The other day I realized that I think I might be turning into one.  I felt like kicking a hole in the wall.

So.

So?

Well it seems like there are only two possible ways to avoid this or change it.

1.  Do something interesting and unusual now (take it out of the past and put it in the present)

2.  Redefine yourself (as in: use the mirror and not old photo albums)

I wish I could think of another option, but I can’t.

I’d like to do the first one.  I am dying to do the first one.  Honestly.  And I’m sure you’re wondering what the hell is stopping me.  It’s not like I have kids in school or anything.  I am married, though, to a wonderful man who is about as different from me as a person can be.  He’s unusual and exciting by nature.  If you know him, you know what I mean.  He’s also older than I am–not a lot, but enough–he’s had a significant number of health problems in the last several years, and he’s an Aries.  All of these things add up to: he’s not in the mood to do exciting, unusual things that don’t involve full health insurance and regular paychecks.  All things considered, I don’t blame him.  And then there’s this:  he IS doing something exciting and unusual.  He’s an Italian living in America.  This, for him, is as awesome as it would be for me if he took me to live in Italy.  So, there you go.  You get it.  We were all amped to join the Peace Corp a few months ago, and for about three precious hours I felt like I came to life again.  Then I discovered that he can never join the Peace Corp because he’s not an American citizen.  So I let that go, too.

The second one is not as fun.  It’s sad–or it makes me sad.  How do you do that?  I mean, how do I do that?  I don’t want to be a middle-aged community health worker living in a redneck town in a cold desert when the world is full of places with oceans and languages and sunshine and open windows.  In my mind, I am ready to take my surfboard and paddle out, but instead I take my scissors and walk around the house snipping off the heads of the roses that have bloomed.  Again and again.  Instead of packing suitcases I switch purses a lot.

It’s not easy.  That’s all I’m saying.  It would be a lot easier to do something hard, than to keep doing easy things over and over.  I’m standing here with my machete, ready to swashbuckle through the jungle, and then I realize I’m in a field of daisies.  It’s disappointing.  Tennessee Williams said something about that.

I can’t tell you how I’ve resolved this, because I haven’t.  I’m just posing the question.  That’s the difference between me posting from the past or posting from the present.  I can’t tell you how it turned out.

 

Gardening with a machete:  Outside my house in Costa Rica, 2010

Gardening with a machete: Outside my house in Costa Rica, 2010

The Open Book Test: May (4 years ago), 2011

When: May (4 years ago), 2011
Where: Manheim, Pennsylvania
What: My husband and I embarked on a cross-country road trip, six months after coming to the USA from Costa Rica.  We left my parents’ home in Pennsylvania and aimed the car toward my sister’s home in Washington State. First stop:  other sister in Ohio.
Age:  40

Yesterday we stuffed everything possible into Claudia the Car and drove away. We were so happy, actually. It was a pretty day, Camomilo and Victor (the cats we brought from Costa Rica but gave up for adoption) aren’t lonely, and mom and dad seemed happy for us.

Now I’m sitting in Y’s chilly back yard and P is sleeping in her chilly house. It’s just as cold inside as it is outside.  Y took us to dinner last night. Today she is running a 13 mile race and then in the afternoon she has to leave for Denver. We had to take Luis the cat to the vet this morning because his eye is infected.

P drove all the way here yesterday. I took pictures, looked at license plates, looked at the map, made notes and neither of us were one bit sleepy. I was thinking about how “the road trip” is something that most all Americans do at some point in their lives. But ours is different from the average “road trip” because we’re also on a quest. We’re looking for a home; we don’t have one to go back to. The six months in PA were good for many things, one of which is that P now also totally gets where I come from—loves it dearly and is driven to desperation by it, just like me. One more thing we’re on the same page about. I’ve lived with his kids, he’s lived with my parents. Ha ha.

I think today is going to be cold and gray and then tomorrow we’ll go to Goshen. I’m having so much fun. I love journeys.

Where I come from, this is what the gateway to the rest of the world looks like.

Where I come from, this is what the gateway to the rest of the world looks like.

The Open Book Test: April (20 years ago), 1995

 

When:  April (20 years ago), 1995
Where:  Manheim, PA
What:  On the day of the Oklahoma City bombing.  In a few days I will leave for Costa Rica where I will find my life.  But I don’t know this.  I only know it’s too late to turn back.
Age:  24

I so desperately want to be old. Not now, but someday. I want to live to be old and gnarled, nearsighted and wrinkled as a sycamore. I hope that if I am fortunate enough to watch my hair turn gray, I remember this day. Today someone bombed a government building in Oklahoma City and countless people were killed. At 9 AM. I am so fearful of disease and disaster. I feel like each year I survive, I should be decorated with a medal for survival. Even though I am happy and hopeful, I am full of fear of death. I guess it is mostly my drive to live – the flip side of which is an anger at death. My most present terror is of a plane crash. Sometimes I wish I did suffer from the delusion that nothing terrible can happen to me. I am so frightened. Mostly, I am sickened. It makes me very suspicious of God. Either God is not omnipotent, or is not omniscient, or is not. It makes me suspect that there is a Satan.

In Lancaster, however, it was in the 80’s and gorgeous It was a perfect, beautiful day. It feels so strange to be eyeball to eyeball with the Great Unknown. Maybe this is something like dying.  Time is flying, now, unlike 6 or 8 months ago.

I wonder so much what it will be like and what will become of me. I plan to try life in Guaitil and if it flops, go to San Jose. It will probably be even harder in San Jose. I keep asking myself, what’s the default plan? If all else fails, what? I could go to Texas with Mark and Erika. There’s Madison. I would get over D. There’s New Mexico with Marvin and Lisa. Lancaster again is basically not an option for the immediate future.  The main thing is that if/when I come back, I will be flat broke. No money for a down payment. Probably no bus money. So I’ll have to fly into whatever city I want to live in. And mooch and borrow for a little while.

Ultimate best-case scenario: after I am through in Costa Rica, I fly back into Santa Fe, New Mexico and bum off of D for a while–who has moved there in the mean time. He falls desperately in love with me, I make some money, I go to grad school, we get married, I have a daughter just before I’m too old, and we live happily ever after. Or something like that. I know I’m a dreamer and a story-teller so I try not to take even my most serious ideas too seriously. Luckily I am usually happy, and love most things.

The Open Book Test: April (6 years ago), 2009

When: April (6 years ago), 2009
Where: Tamarindo, Costa Rica
What: A terrible month in a terrible year.   In three months, we will make the sad decision to leave Costa Rica and move to the States.  This is the only thing I can find that is fit to share.
Age:  38

I went looking for waves today and all I found was water. So I came home. Anticlimactic, yes, but I have a wine headache and I couldn’t think of anything better to do. P took me out for sushi last night. We had a wonderful time spending money we don’t have and drinking too much wine. We even went to Mike and Wendy’s bar which is how I got too much wine. Bleagh.

I am going to have one very busy weekend. I also think that if I do not soon paint this kitchen, I am going to go entirely insane. I cannot take it ANY MORE.

I invented a way to make a shirt out of a pillow case and it is so cute! Now I need Ruthann’s sewing machine.

What a horrid headache I have.

Open Book Test: March (23 years ago), 1992

When: March (23 years ago), 1992
Where: Goshen, Indiana
What: college junior
Age:  21

It’s Sunday now. The last two days were filled and frantic, although I did have a good time with my family. Yvonne and Michelle were so cute and funny. I took them to the dance with me on Friday night and it was pretty funny. Mom and dad brought LOTS of food plus money for shoes! I went to Walmart on Friday and got underwear, contact solution, pads…all kinds of important things.

I spent all day yesterday working in the Umble Center. Then when I came back to K’s room, he was sad and started crying. He was crying because he doesn’t want to be here—he wants to go other places. When he gets like that, it makes me scared, because he latches onto me like I’m his life breath. I sometimes wonder if he thinks we’ll be together all of our lives. I guess I wouldn’t mind, except that I’m not done yet. I still want to fall in love a few more times. I’m really looking forward to this summer for that reason. We must not be together this summer. He isn’t any fun when he gets so sad like that. Sometimes I think we’ll always be together, but then I remember how young I am and how many things I want to do yet, and I become skeptical.

The days are much longer, now, and the sun has woken me up before my alarm three times in the past week. That’s more days than we saw the sun all winter. I can come home for supper and get back for rehearsal before it gets dark. And sometimes you can hear birds. It’s weird. I missed this part of last year. I was so alive there in Guaitil (Costa Rica). It’s hard for me to feel joy. I feel sometimes better and sometimes worse, but as far as exploding with joy–I don’t, much. I’m always worried—about grades, about K, about the plays we’re producing, about money, about N (my roommate), about the plays I am trying to write, about my family finding out about me, about getting pregnant, about my bike breaking down, about getting sick, about my caffeine consumption, about my alcohol consumption, about not writing letters… I have so much stress.  And rehearsal is at 6:30 and I still have to prepare a cue script.