Given recent reports of various degrees and forms of trouble and strife occupying our corner of the blogosphere, I am certain I will provoke many nods of agreement and pangs of sympathy when I make the declaration that the first half of 2012 KICKED MY ASS. Not that there wasn’t anything good going on. In that beautifully miserably piquant mix of grief and joy, despair and hope, and every other equal and opposite emotional flavor my life often cooks up for me, the past six months have had their sweet and sour, salt and pepper times. This post is not an attempt to explain that recipe, but my final attempt to divert my psychological gaze and appetite from what should and must lie behind me, and direct them unswervingly to what lies ahead, which I hope is a different taste sensation altogether.
Not First But Not Last
Speaking of what lies behind, back in the days when I ran marathons, I discovered my long dormant competitive streak when I recognized that for me it was not enough just to finish, and it was not enough just to be the fastest person among the slowest group of runners. My eyes were always seeking ahead, to the next fastest group, who themselves were still far from the next fastest. I was not content to look back and think “well, at least I’m not last, at least I’m here.” I would always think “maybe I can’t be first, but I can do a lot better.” There is always danger in embracing the tyranny of nothing ever being good enough. It’s also all too easy to look around and find proof of the old adage “it could be worse.” When this prompts feelings of gratitude, I’m all for it, but not when it threatens to introduce the narcotic of complacency into one’s expectations of a good life. Let me say this for 2012: so far it sucks a lot less than 2010 and 2011, but it could be doing a lot better.
It could be worse. I’ve had my share of years spent alone and in circumstances and even an identity that felt all wrong. This year I am living with a beautiful man in a beautiful apartment in the beautiful state of Vermont, and it feels right, right, right. For the first time I am able to open my home to houseguests and not feel I am subjecting them to a hospitality experience usually found in a youth hostel. In our first six months here, Brian and I have opened our home three times to weekend guests, and I am pretty certain they enjoyed their visits, both in and around our new home. You’ve read it all here before, how I feel about Vermont. I would not want to be living anywhere else, and I am happy to have that to share.
Shadow of a Doubt
It could be better. I’ve never had a lot of money, but even on that rare occasion I’ve been down to my last dime something always turned up to reverse the trend quickly, neatly and completely. Much of last year and showing no signs of reversal this year, money has been leaking from the Mirollo-Sylvester household as from a cracked jar that has been repaired so many times there is now more repair than actual jar and a mere whisper could cause the thing to crumble to dust. I am not a material girl by any means and can live on next to nothing if I put myself to it, but now having actually been living on next to nothing for a long time, I find it’s getting old. The stress of debt is something I’m sure all of you have experienced in one form or duration or another. It casts a shadow over everything else, and it is a shadow I will be happy to see the tail end of.
Sweet. Did I mention I love it here? Not only do we have a little city full of great restaurants and shops and friendly people all within walking distance, we also have incredible mountain views, access to trails, lakes, and wildlife. The other day I saw a wild turkey by the road with a brood of at least twelve little poults (which I just learned is the name for baby turkeys) scrambling after her on what looked to be their first family outing. The four seasons announce themselves here with great beauty, individuality and intensity. This is why I have spent most of my life in the Northeast, and this is the Northeast at its best.
Sour. Rutland is undergoing its own particularly nasty version of the economic depression hitting the whole country and indeed the world. There are not enough good jobs, for us or for anyone. There is a lot of bad behavior involving theft and drug use and sale thanks to the overall sense of futility and despair. We have one theater where there once were four, and more bars per capita than in other larger cities. For every valiant soul attempting to lead a healthy lifestyle through good fitness and dietary habits and spiritual wellness, for which services are readily available, there is another one keeping the drug dealers in business. I know. I’ve met them both. Not that there’s anything wrong with a little night life on occasion, but not if it causes you to sleep away the day. There is a lot of pride and resilience here, but there is also a lot of cynicism and resignation. One cannot simply live here without feeling compelled to choose which side you are on, and be prepared to fight for it.
Salt. The arts community here and in all of Vermont is alive and well, with abundant opportunities and venues to show and sell your work. In spite of our money woes, we have managed to cobble together a living long enough to enable both of us to keep working on our art without too many distractions, and that is a blessing. Pepper. Although we have both exhibited in local galleries and promoted ourselves with the usual determined optimism, sales have been slow and we have yet to truly find our niche. Although we feel some frustration at not fully breaking through or into this community, I am not ready to lay down my camera just yet, or Brian his brushes, but we watch the horizon daily for a sign that we are on the right track doing what we do and can one day make a living from it in a place that has such great potential to sustain us.
Shape of Things to Come
At least I have my health. I have definitely been in worse and better shape at times in my life. At the moment I am in what I have just decided to call a new shape, neither good nor bad. My energy and stamina are not what they once were, and there is much much more of me than in previous years, but compared to the rest of obese diabetic cardiac compromised America, and considering I am on the very brink of menopause while also managing all kinds of stress, I am probably doing okay, as long as I don’t use that as an excuse to lie on the couch and - why not? - finish that bag of potato chips before dinner. Maybe I’m not currently putting them into practice often enough, but I do have plenty of proven successful healthy habits I can rely on. I will probably never be a slender marathoner again, nor do I have to become one to be a stronger happier version of myself. But in the spirit of looking forward and not back, my new challenge come July will be to decide what exactly I would like to become instead, which will be a big part of what makes the next six months of 2012 The Better Half.
I hope you will all join me in taking some time in the next week to think about what 2012 has done for – and to – you in its first half, acknowledge it, and LET IT GO. Then, whatever negative outside circumstances may still be impossible to ignore, take a good look at what positive contribution you can make in the next six months to the making of your own Better Half. A beautiful weekend to all!