Sunday, July 28, 2013

Must Love Cats

Looking for Love

Now that I find myself newly single at fifty, and just last night had a particularly wistful dream about James Franco (hey, aim high in your dream life says I!) it occurs to me that sooner or later I am going to have to start dating again. If the mere sight of that word sends a shiver down your spine, you are not alone, whether you are alone or not.  Dating is so scary nowadays, most people have turned the selection process over to computer programs and conduct much of their initial acquaintance through communication means that do not require being anywhere near their prospective mate. First HIV made us afraid to touch each other, now we can’t even be in a room together.  When did courtship become such a hands-off affair?

 Slice of Life 

It will come as no big surprise that I am more about falling in love than falling in line when it comes to current dating trends. I like my love the way I like the pizza slice you crave when you have a hangover – hot, messy, indescribably delicious and if you don’t feel simultaneously pleased and just a little disgusted with yourself there’s something wrong.  Before my last relationship I made the rounds of online dating sites.  There were a lot of men lurking behind their profiles perfectly content never to emerge in person.  I understand a certain degree of caution in “taking it to the next level” of meeting face to face, but there really is no better way to know whether you will actually get along with each other. Some things that work on paper – or screens – do not work in person. After all, if you end up living with this person, you will sooner or later have to have a conversation or sit next to each other. If you are only good together as pen pals or text buddies, so you should remain. 

Falling in Love

Of course, my “jump into the deep end of the pool to learn to swim” approach may make short work of a bad match, but, much like the metaphoric jump, can lead to a physical and emotional distress that feels like a near-death experience until you arrive at the other side, grab something that holds you up, and get out of the pool to catch your breath and then try again. Between the jumping and the arriving there may be a lot of drama, but all in all, it is a lot better than staring longingly into the water.  And after a few tries, the drama decreases, and you can actually enjoy yourself a little before the sensation of drowning resumes.

 On the Edge of Glory

So the question is, now that I have almost drowned countless times  – promise to end this swimming metaphor soon -  why would I want to have anything to do with this goddamned pool again? In real life, and in metaphor, I am what is known as a poor swimmer. I get where I need to go, but it is rarely smooth, definitely not pretty, and never lasts very long.  And yet, in life and in metaphor, I love the water. I love being in love. The scariness is part of the thrill you can only get in a high risk activity, and all you can break is your heart, which, I can attest, heals faster than a broken bone.

 Goodbye, Little P

As most of you know, in a week I am moving house. As I have not lived without some sort of companion animal for the past three decades, and will be saying goodbye to Little P, my feline friend of four years, along with her human father, one of my first acts as a newly installed single woman will be to go to the animal shelter and adopt a new kitty. I have already visited the Rutland County Humane Society once and the next time I visit I intend not to leave alone.  While I was there I fell in love - more than once. There is at least one cat still there (I check the online listings regularly), thoughts of whom are almost as wistful as my dream of James Franco, if not more.  I look at his photograph and a range of emotions rise up in me and my chest literally feels heavy and tight. I think – could I be looking at a living being who will be part of my life for the next dozen years? Is this the face that will be the first I wake up to every day and the last I see when I go to bed at night? Will he be everything he seemed to be or will he turn out to be an asshole?  Strangely, for so many animal lovers, with our animal relationships we feel we can’t just break up at the first sign of trouble and move on.  We are far more likely to dissolve a human relationship than give up on an animal.  With cats you have to get it right, or make it right.  Fortunately, they are way smarter than we are choosing their humans.  

 Marlowe 1996-2010

So it seems my first dating experience, from online acquaintance, to in person meeting, to that leap of faith that allows another being to be part of my life, will be with a cat. Which seems fitting, as the longest cohabiting relationship I have ever had was 14 years, with my cat  Marlowe, who proved to be all the wonderful things he seemed to be, was my best friend in good times and bad, and was also a bit of an asshole.   But once I have my new feline friend by my side, I will take a deep breath and return to my quest for human companionship.  He will make my heart feel a little heavy and tight just thinking about him. His kisses will be indescribably delicious. And of course, he must love cats.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

In Search of the Truly Selfless Act

 Red is the Color of Giving

Last week I donated blood as part of the Rutland Gift of Life mini marathon held every summer and not to be confused with their supersized marathon held in December and – good news – happening again this year even though for a while it looked like blood drives of that magnitude were no longer in Rutland’s future.  This is my third time giving blood since I moved to Rutland not yet two years ago. Two things always happen – 1) no matter how well-fed, rested and hydrated I am, I get lightheaded about an hour after I believe myself to have escaped the process without any ill effects, and 2) I feel so ridiculously good I can barely stand myself.

 Red is the Color of Life

About that first happening. After I gave blood this time and was still coming out of a case of the woozies, someone asked me “if it makes you so sick why do you do it?” Holding onto the nearest support to steady the swirl of my head and all the thoughts arising in it, I answered “because it’s the right thing to do - because blood supplies are low in summer - because it feels good when all my other resources are so limited to give the one thing I have plenty of - to save a life.”  The answer was an unexpected “but what if the one who gets your blood is a bad person?”  Insert untranslatable sound of exasperation accompanied by hands being thrown up dramatically in the air here.

Red is the Color of Not Knowing

After giving that comment a moment of thought I decided it did not matter who got my blood, it still felt good. In fact, each time I have donated blood at the Paramount Theater, lying on a beach chair on the stage among my fellow donors and our merry band of phlebotomists, not one of whom was doing what could be considered a fun activity, I notice that everyone is smiling, or laughing, or at the very least wearing a calm contented expression. It may not feel good to be stuck by a needle and drip blood into a bag, or to spend your whole day inflicting this on people, but being part of the whole process feels good, because you are taking time out of your day to do something for someone else, someone you don’t even know, and not knowing them does not matter.

 Red is the Color of Selflessness

I grew up at the tail end of a generation that was all about service, to country, to a cause, to a movement, to each other. I grew older alongside a generation that was all about unapologetic pursuit of self improvement and self advancement. And now I am growing old surrounded by a generation with quite a few members who seem to feel their every act and word are worthy of immediate applause and reward without doing anything especially worthwhile for themselves or for others. Whatever happened to selflessness?

Red is the Color of Inescapable Glimmers

I remember an episode on a sitcom a long time ago, in which one of the lead characters challenged another to give an example of a truly selfless act.  It wasn’t good enough just to do good and get nothing in return. The challenger insisted that even feeling good about yourself for doing a good deed rendered the act a little less than selfless.  I forget how the episode ended, but I think the only truly selfless act was one that you do and never find out whether it did any good or not, nor do you need to know.  Of course, there will always be a little inescapable glimmer of good feeling in that case.  But that is the stuff of sitcom episodes. In my opinion, doing good things for other people is a good thing whether you discover or experience a result or not, either directly or in future karma points or just a happy satisfied glow.  So why not just give and let it go, without questioning, without seeking to define it? 

Red is the Color of Pride

Everyone wins when you do something good for someone else, as regularly and as often as you can within your particular means. It truly makes not only Rutland, but the world a better place.  It doesn’t have to be a big commitment of money or time. So many local organizations and businesses and happenings and individuals can benefit by your just showing up in a gesture of support. And if blood is your thing, and you live near Rutland, look for news on the December 2013 GOLM in which I predict Rutland will finally beat the national single event record. And it will be perfectly okay to feel selfishly and selflessly proud about it.

Thank you to everyone who has given to me in their own invaluable and unforgettable way over the past several months, (and for some, years) freely, with good cheer, and without any expectation of return. You make my world a better place.  You make my world.