And then suddenly, just like that, she’s discovered the phone.
And when I say suddenly, I mean: after 9 years of almost total disinterest in telephonic technology – except when manifest as a shiny i-screen on which she can play apps and games – on Monday, completely out of nowhere, she decided she now likes chatting on the phone with her friends from school. BOOM! No lead-up, no dabbling-in-talking-on-the-phone on occasion beforehand, no foreshadowing or warning shot.
Nothing. Just one giant, unexpected stride from little girl right into tween.
I was not – am not – prepared for this.
I am not prepared for the constant use of the phone. For the giggling about boys, the increasingly hysterical concern over fashion and hair, the dramatic, put-upon attitude and constant eye rolling at adults. And I’m not a fool – it’s coming, all of it. I can smell it in the air like a sailor can smell the salt water of the sea miles inland. But most of all, I think I’m not ready for the distance I know she’ll cultivate between us over the next few years, as it slowly dawns on her that her Mom is, like, a total square, GAWD. I’m not ready to face the reality that soon she’ll feel ashamed to be seen with me in public, embarrassed to hold my hand or give me a hug when there are other people – especially other kids – around.
I’m not ready for her to grow up.
It’s stupid, right? Because this – her growing up and becoming her pre-teen self, her own person and all that entails – is what we’ve been shooting for all along. And that she’s doing it, and doing it in love and happiness and joy and health is something I know I should be celebrating. It’s an occasion for cake and champagne, my girl growing up and developing her own social life and interests, doing all the things she should be doing at nine years of age. I know this.
So why does all of it feel like a series of tiny, heartbreaking deaths? That in some faint and almost imperceptible way – but a way that I feel like an anvil in my guts – I’m losing her, bit by little bit? That slowly, week by week and month by month, she’s pulling away from me, never to return as she was?
Well, because she is.
This is, I think, the truly wrenching part of what it means to be a parent. That we have to hold them tight, and then we have to let them go. And painful as it is, I know none of us have any choice in the matter. This is our job, and what we signed up for the day they first breathed in the world and exhaled wailing, bundled in our arms. We have to give them what they need and then release them to themselves. We have to. Even when every ounce of who we are wants to keep holding their hand forever.
The kid brought this home from school yesterday – on Valentine’s Day – and I’ve been trying to figure out how to share it with y’all in a way that adequately expresses its staggering awesome, but I can’t. Words fail. So I’m just going put it out into the world and let it speak for itself.
And to answer your inevitable questions: no, I have no idea why, and no, I don’t understand it either. I just know it made me laugh-cry.
Be my valentine… Triangle
I like you because you have three sides.
I like you more than any other polygon.
No way octagon – too many sides.
I think you’re just right!
Stay sharp, [the kid]
The artist has informed me the drawing on the right is of her protesting octagons. Apparently there’s no cross-polygon love allowed. THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE. CHOOSE AND BE DESTROYED.
Yesterday she made her own breakfast for the first time without my help.
And if it seems to you a little odd that my daughter would be doing this fairly simple task for the first time at age 9, well, I’d say you’re likely onto something.
Sigh. It’s hard, isn’t it — the letting go?
When they’re little, everything is so clear, so crisply defined. You hold their hand, you wipe their butt, you do what needs to be done – which is, really, everything or almost everything – because they need you. They need you and need you and need you, and there is no clear point at which they shift from that all-consuming needing-to-be-taken-care-of to the opposite pole of needing-to-be-let-go-of. There are no signposts, no obvious markers along the path to tell you when it’s time to release the parental death grip and give them control.
And allow me to let you in on something relevant here, something telling: I actually felt guilty for having her make her own breakfast. Yes, you heard correct: guilty. I know, I’m insane, right? But not making my child’s breakfast felt… strangely, almost instinctively negligent on my part somehow. Because isn’t that what Moms do – what *I* do? What does it mean to not do that? Am I being a bad Mom by not doing that? OH HAI, WELCOME TO MY NEUROSIS – PULL UP A CHAIR AND GRAB YOURSELF A DRINK, HOLMES.
Of course I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to say something about how one of the difficult things about being a parent is that the job changes. That what your kid needs at ages 3, 5, 8, and 11 is not the same. That there comes a time when giving them control, power, and independence is what’s best for them, and that to do otherwise is to stifle their development. Intellectually, I know this. I’ve read the same manuals you have. But the fact remains that my GUT – including my squishy-soft Mother’s heart – clearly didn’t get the memo, AND BESIDES SHE’S STILL MY BABY AND WILL ALWAYS BE MY BABY NO MATTER HOW BIG AND COMPETENT AND NOT-NEEDING-ME SHE GETS, GODDAMMIT.
This morning we arrived at school a bit too early for drop off.
Me: Just stay in the car with me until they open the doors. I don’t want you hanging around outside without an adult for 10 minutes.
Her: Mom, it’s right in front of the school. I do it all the time when Dad drops me off.
Me: Really? Oh. Well.
Me: Uhh, okay. Well, then, umm, just sit on the steps right by the door then, okay?
Her, pecking me on the cheek: I love you.
Me: I love you too. Have a good day!
Her: I will!
Me: Don’t talk to strangers!
Her: [eyeroll, closes car door behind her]
I sat there in the car watching her slowly work her way toward the general area of the school’s steps, but somehow felt I couldn’t leave. I turned my left signal on, making as though I would merge into traffic and disappear, but I kept hesitating, watching her. Hovering, for crissakes. Finally, she caught a glimpse of me there, still looking at her, and her eyes widened in that exasperated ‘ARE YOU FOR REAL?’ kind of way. She made a quick flicking motion with her head, nudging me in the direction of traffic, urging me to take off and scram and stop looking after her already.
I put my foot on the gas and eased away from the curb. I did what she wanted and needed. I did what was right for her. But I didn’t stop looking back.
Hysteroscopy, derived from the Greek ὑστέρα “hystera” meaning uterus, is a procedure in which a thin camera is inserted into a woman’s vagina, up through her cervix, and into the uterus so that its interior might be viewed for diagnostic purposes. Back in ye olde old-timey times, mustached gentlemen would insert coins into large wooden boxes containing images of women’s uteri, which could be briefly viewed or “peeped” by pulling a corresponding string and gazing into a viewing hole carved in the side of the box. These devices were called “Raree Boxes” or “Peep Shows.”
It starts off resembling a date. The coy, witty banter. The questions about likes and dislikes. The offers to hold your hand. The sticking-things-in-your-vagina.
What did you do New Years Eve? He asks, smiling at you as he begins screwing something in-between your legs.
My boyfriend and I drank some Prosecco and watched Deadwood. It was pretty mellow.
Deadwood, huh? I haven’t heard much about that – take deeeep breath now – why don’t you tell me about it?
Well, it’s pretty fantastic. Easily as good as The Sopra – WAIT WAIT WHAT THE FUCK THERE’S NO WAY IN HELL THAT’S SUPPOSED TO GO IN THERE.
Those breaths are a little fast. Try to breathe in sloooow and deeeep.
I SAID OUCH GODDAMMIT.
On the screen to your left you watch as images of shimmering pink vistas slowly begin to emerge from pitch-darkness. Then it occurs to you: you are looking at live images of your own working insides. Understandably, you begin to feel just a wee bit light-headed in the wake of this too-visceral realization. You squinch your eyes shut and try to think happy, not-having-things-shoved-up-your-brewster thoughts. But for some reason, the unwelcome visage of Charles Nelson Riley keeps materializing in your mind – his giant, twitching, guffawing owl head pushing you farther and farther away from your happy place and back into that room, the room with your big pink uterus pornographically displayed on a 24″ HD flatscreen, all discomfortingly fleshy and live and pulsing in living color.
Ow, says the witnessing medical student, who now resembles Charles Nelson Riley if Charles Nelson Riley were a tiny Asian woman.
What’s wrong? you ask, your voice trembling in anticipation of her response.
Ow, you’re kind of holding my hand really tight.
When it’s over the doctor asks you to sit up, but when you try to follow his command the entire room dissolves into static. Tiny Asian Charles Nelson Riley grabs your arm almost maternally. Yeah, that sometimes happens. You should probably just lay back down for a little while, she and/or he says. A cool wash cloth is gently applied to your forehead. The world pixelates into hundreds of tiny Hollywood-Squares-like boxes, each box containing several gallons of rancid split pea soup-colored nausea.
When you next open your eyes the doctor is standing beside you, saying that your malfunctioning uterus looks fine, just fine. The biopsy will tell the final tale, of course, but it’s something to hold onto at least, those slightly milquetoasty and noncommittal words – fine, fine. And so you find yourself humming softly and smiling as you make your way out of the building – down the tragedy-threatening and claustrophobia-inducing elevator, across the impossibly vast, football field-like length of the hospital lobby – until finally you burst out of doors, stepping into the finest patch of bright midday sun you believe you ever saw.
The kid got a new iPod Touch for Christmas. She had a first generation version of the same for several years, but technology got ahead of it, and we finally reached the point where we stopped being able to update the OS for it. She’d used it straight into its obsolescence.
So it seemed a good gift, replacing it for her. At the time.
Some of you might not know this, but the newer versions of the iPod touch come with messaging. Basically, it’s just like regular cell phone text messaging, except 1) it’s free, and 2) these messages can only be exchanged between iPod Touches and other Apple devices – ie, iPhones, other iPod Touches, and iPads. AND THIS IS HOW APPLE TAKES OVER THE WORLD. FREE MESSAGING AND KITTENS FOR EVERYONE! LOVE, APPLE.
As you might imagine, the kid was pretty geeked about having this new capability – basically that she was now able to summon the attention of Her Adults to her, no matter where they might be, no matter what they might be doing or how important that thing they were doing might be, day or night, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Now she was the master with the whistle, and we adults were her obliging, smartphone-addicted canine-like servants.
But with great technological power comes great responsibility. Or, you know, not. AT ALL.
It started off innocently enough.
Yes, yes – big bad pig ate apple. But of course! Why, that makes total sense. And one could understand why any reasonable person would feel that needed to be shared. And in 5 separate individual text messages. Each coming in several minutes apart. For emphasis.
But things rapidly began spiraling out.
What I gathered from this is that the GOP had kidnapped her and taken her to IKEA. But I could be wrong. I tried reading it upside down to see if it was some kind of inverted secret code, but no dice.
These text go on. And on. And on. And it seems there’s no stopping them. I did, after all, get her the goddamn piece of shit iPod Touch, didn’t I? WHY WOULD I DO SUCH A THING IF IT DIDN’T WANT TO BE TEXTED THE LETTERSOUP-LIKE NAMES OF STYLISH YET AFFORDABLE SWEDISH FURNITURE ITEMS AND HOUSEWARES CONSTANTLY, HUH? I MADE MY SVELVIK BED WITH ALVINE ÖRTER DUVET COVER AND PILLOWCASES, MUST GO LIE DOWN IN IT NOW, BRB. ARRGH.
It starts one bright winter morning. You wake up bleeding. Except you shouldn’t be – it’s not that time, as your mother would say cannily. But as with so many other things, your mind agrees to spin a reassuring story about the blood for you – something comforting if slightly abstract, but nevertheless something that absolves you from having to actually do anything about it. You shrug it off as best you can, and boy howdy you can shrug things off with the best of them. Days pass. The blood is light, spotting. It waxes and wanes. You write to friends, needily, “is this something I should be worried about?” Doubt begins, slowly, to seep in.
You find yourself crying at stupid youtube videos and having dark fantasies about the grim phone call you’ll get from the doctor, that inevitable worst case scenario we all hope to stave off until our most geriatric of years. On the fourth day you feel shaky and light-headed and the blood is heavier, an ominous bright crimson. And when he looks at you – into you, as he does – you feel your face begin to slowly melt into a gigantic puddle. The jig is, as they say, up. “Something is wrong… something isn’t right,”is about all the admission you can manage. But finally saying the words, and hearing the undeniable lilt of pure terror in your own voice, makes your whole body sob.
In his office, the doctor lays out the possible scenarios for you, marking up a piece of paper with diagrams of internal organs on it, circling things and drawing arrows. You’re sitting down, but feel that in reality you’re floating in the air just above his desk, the detached observer of a terrible moment that, thankfully, does not belong to you. At some point you notice the woman’s hands – your hands – shaking, and he does, too. “When you hear the beating of hoofs on the street outside your door, you think horses, not zebras,” he says in a preschool teacher calm sort of way. “Cancer is the zebra.” You find this analogy reassuring, and immediately begin thinking of your lady parts as an aging thoroughbred, standing on a hill at sunset, serenely eating grass.
The exam itself isn’t terrible, at least not until he does that thing where he pushes upward and down on your belly simultaneously. Then you literally bolt up on the table screaming, all sense of decorum gone. Out on the imagined sunlit hillside, the horse whinnies and bucks, nostrils flaring in sympathy.
The doctor peels his gloves off finger by finger, smiling, and hands you all the paperwork. Forms and tests – weeks of them. You don’t know if something has just ended or begun, and you honestly aren’t sure you want to know.
At the ripe old age of 41, I’ve accepted, finally, that there are just some things I’m always going to suck at. I’m a decent writer, an okay Mom, a fairly good partner and friend – and in the Grand Scheme Of Things these are the biggies, so I’m grateful that I don’t completely blow at them, that I can manage some semblance of vague competency relative to those roles and their related tasks. But in other realms… well, as C would say in his down-home country-fried redneck sort of way, I’m kind of like a nun with a dildo (and yes, you can feel free to co-opt that charming turn of phrase and deploy with aplomb in every day life as if it was your own, and you’re welcome).
Such is the case with most things related to being healthy, staying healthy, and/or treating my body in such a way as to stave off death. This I suck mightily at.
Now don’t get me wrong, if given the choice between immediate negative consequences – say, between pain or physical bodily harm and doing something healthy, I’ll reluctantly and with much whining and heavy sighing “choose” to be healthy, as I did when I turned quasi-vegan because of my severe dairy allergy. EXCRUCIATING, MIND NUMBING PAIN AND CONSTANT SINUS/EAR INFECTIONS or AN ABSENCE OF CHEESE?
Wait, let me think about that for a minute. I SAID LET ME THINK, GODDAMMIT.
Okay, fine, no cheese. BUT I WON’T LIKE IT AND THERE WILL BE SIGNIFICANT GRUMBLING.
Of course in most circumstances in daily life the health-related stakes aren’t quite so high and the repercussions aren’t felt quite so instantaneously. And if they aren’t – if the outcome of my actions aren’t going to be felt for months or years (if at all), chances are I’m going to go the most slovenly, convenient, and immediately gratifying route. I’m not only not going to go out of my way to be EXTRA SUPER HEALTHY, but instead going to do exactly what’s easiest and most enjoyable until my limbs start dropping off and people flee in terror upon seeing my mangled-by-self-indulgance-and-dissipation visage. I’m a Sloth Enthusiast, I guess you’d say.
Which is why it should come as no surprise to everyone – myself included – that I’m totally EPIC FAIL-ing at doing a 3-day juice cleanse.
I don’t know what overtook my own common sense and general reason, but at some point a few months back I decided doing this cleanse thing would be a good idea. It’s as if for a minute I caught a case of viral amnesia and completely forgot who I am, what I’m made of, and that by and large I suck at things that involve any kind of deprivation. Also, that my taste in beverages tends to vacillate between two extreme poles – Crystal Light and very dirty martinis – rarely branching out beyond them, and motherfucker, what is Juice?
The juices arrived yesterday by Fed Ex (it’s like Juice Cleansing For Dummies – all of the juices come in single-serving containers numbered in the order you’re supposed to drink them each day, because yes, you’re just that stupid, you stupid dumb juice moron), and their terrorizing of my person instantly commenced.
I took one look at all them neatly lined up in my fridge and could only think two things:
And for the remainder of the day that’s about all I could muster the energy to think – Idiot! Hungry! Idiot! Hungry! THE IDIOT IS HUNGRY, MOTHERFUCKERS!1!!!
The juices weren’t all bad though, assuming you like that sort of thing. Flavor-wise, I’d place each of them somewhere on a continuum between Kale Dipped in Pencil Shavings and Apple with Extra Dryer Lint. But that’s what Healthy Organic Juice is supposed to taste like, right? It’s supposed to be difficult and unpleasant, so you feel like you’re really doing something special for your body, achieving something out-of-the-norm… so that you feel like drinking this medicinal-tonic-juice stuff will surely cause miraculous, spontaneous damage repair and healing. This juice is going to make you into an X-Men, you just know it is.
At about 4 o’clock in the afternoon I decided that all of this was bullshit and that I wasn’t ever going to turn into Wolverine (sob!) and that I needed a snack. Moreover, I determined that if I didn’t get a snack soon I was probably going to kill someone and/or stick my own hand in a blender, because I was suddenly feeling unnaturally curious about what Hand Juice might look and taste like. By 4 o’clock I had fucking lost it, in other words.
So off the wagon I fell, and decided that henceforth I was going to do this cleanse MY way, meaning the cowardly and half-assed way, which is doing it 9-5. Like doing the cleanse is my day job, but after hours I take off the work clothes and the 12 pieces of flair and it’s FUCKING PARTY TIME! Basically, I’ll follow the cleanse all day up until dinner time, at which point all bets are fucking off. Because I don’t think any of us really want to know what Foot Juice tastes like. OR DO WE?
And yes, I realize this is completely contrary to the idea of a cleanse and that many of you are probably going to tell me that doing it this way isn’t doing me any good, but hey, I had to get up in the middle of the fucking night last night to poop, and I have to believe that’s a good sign, because I never have to get out of bed in the middle of the night to poop, and night pooping is healthy, right? I’M EXCRETING TOXINS SO HARD IT’S WAKING ME UP AT 2AM. SURELY THIS IS WINNING.
Today is day two of the lamest juice cleanse ever. Pray for me and my in-the-line-of-fire underpants, kay?
It all started out so innocently. A few days back, the kid was perusing BrainPOP.com (which I think is awesome and wholly support, but have no affiliation with, lest there be any doubt), a site with all kinds of kid-friendly edumacational animated videos and other curriculum-based content covering everything from space exploration to civil rights to classical music. Oh, and did I mention - terrorism?
In the midst of video-hopping around the site, she stumbled on one about 9/11, and was intrigued – as one might suppose she would be – by the site’s stern warning to WATCH THIS VIDEO WITH A PARENT. OFMG WE’RE SO TOTALLY SERIOUS, KID. (And, to BrainPOP’s credit, that warning was really SPOT fucking ON.)
So, she approached me with this.
Her: It says I should watch this video about 9/11 with an adult. Will you watch it with me?
Me: *saucer-eyed terrified stare*
Her: I want to watch it.
Me: Oh, look at the time! I should start dinner!
Her: Mom, it’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
Me: Oh. Umm, isn’t there a nice video about trees or puppies or building codes you could watch?
Her: I want to watch this. I want to know about it.
Me: How about something on infectious diseases? OOH! OR ALGEBRA!
Her: *shakes head seriously*
Me: Gaaaaaaah. Alright. Fine. But I’m going to visibly wince and sigh heavily throughout, just so we’re clear.
This wasn’t the first time she’d asked about 9/11, mind you. It had come up before by way of something random on TV – a promo for a show she’d caught a snippet of months ago, but didn’t quite fully grasp the meaning and significance of – but back then I’d been able to delay her curiosity. Distract her with shiny things and whatnot. No more, apparently.
Let me just say up-front: it wasn’t horrible. The video itself was animated, so the realness of the whole thing was sort of tempered slightly. Which is not a bad thing when you’re embarking on visually demonstrating to a just-barely-nine-year-old how terrorists flew a passenger plane full of innocent people into a huge skyscraper, and then, and then, and then… well, you know the story. It doesn’t get any easier or better. The whole narrative, told as you must tell it – frankly and honestly and fully acknowledging the real and indisputable horror of it – is pretty much a grand tour of the darkest, grimmest parts of humanity. The exact place you don’t want to be the designated tour guide of.
Except maybe you do. Because as hard as it is to break these things to your kids (and oh god, it is), at least you’re the one there trying to help them understand. Though I’m going to admit right now, I didn’t really know how to help her make sense of 9/11, because I have a hard time making sense of it in any complete way myself.
Her: But why did these people do this?
Me: Well, there’s a lot of history behind it, at lot of backstory over many years – decades, really. It has to do with U.S. policies and the fundamentalist Muslim perspective that this specific radical group, Al Qaeda, had regarding those policies – generalized in their minds to America as a whole.
Me: Sometimes people do horrible things to other people and we don’t really understand why.
That last bit, simple-sounding though it may be, is the real and awful truth. And this will give you some indication of what kind of kid my daughter is: after all of this horror, and after all my fumbling and EPIC FAIL!-like attempts at explaining it, she turned, put her arms around me, and said, “I’m really sorry you had to go through that.”
I know. I totally hit the jackpot offspring-wise.
So then I excused myself, went into the bathroom, sat on the commode (as my grandmother would say), and sobbed into an enormous wad of toilet paper for about ten minutes. Because though *she* handled it like a champ and seemed okay with this new and terrible knowledge, *I* wasn’t ready for her to know something so horrible about the world and the people in it. I was crushed that I, her mother, had just helped to unveil and plant permanently into her mind one of the worst examples of humanity and what it’s capable of that I know. It strangely felt like a betrayal of some sort on my part. I mean, my job is to shield her from pain and sorrow and the horrors of the world, not drop them directly into her lap - TA-DA! Heeeeeeeeere’s Mindfuckery! Right?
It was an emotional, feeling reaction that had nothing to do with the truth, of course. That being, that my job is to shield her from pain and sorrow, yes, but also to help her understand the hard realities of life on this planet earth. One parental mission must be balanced with the other, always. I can’t protect her from the fact that awful things happen in the world. But I can hold her hand and try, however ineptly and incompletely, to make that awfulness comprehensible and not just wholly terrifying and overwhelming. That’s the real hard work of being a parent right there.
(Though, between you and me, I personally still find a lot of things like this wholly terrifying and overwhelming.) (But I’m doing my damnedest to not project that and lay my own personal head-trip(s) on her.) (I may still need a giant wad of toilet paper to cry into after shit like this in the future though, just sayin’.)
I’ve been immeasurably sad since I heard the news that Steve Jobs had passed. It probably seems strange to some that I would mourn someone I’ve never met so intensely. But maybe it’s not so strange.
In the summer of 1998 I ordered my first Mac: the original iteration of the iconic Bondi Blue iMac. I’ve hardly touched a Windows machine since. On that computer I started down a path that leads me to today, as I began writing my first public journal on Diaryland in fits and starts at that time. The beginning of my Mac era was also, fittingly, the beginning of my online writing life.
Two years later I purchased a G4 Cube – the only machine in my twenty-plus years of computer-owning that I would describe as being objectively beautiful. I still have it, stashed away on the top shelf of the closet in my office, layers of dust collecting on its thick, translucent lucite. I always intended, and still intend, to give it space in my office somewhere as an object d’art, and an object of memory. On this computer I started the first blog I kept consistently – a LiveJournal under the embarrassingly nerdy handle “Migrainegirl.”
Shortly after the birth of my daughter, I bought one of the early iBooks. I have a whole photo album’s worth of pictures of The Kid in those early years sitting on my lap, pounding its keyboard and staring at its screen in wonder. On that iBook I started this blog. I used it, and the two MacBook Pros that followed it, to collect, transmit, and store all the recorded memories I have of my life and my daughter’s life, in photos and video. I built and rebuilt (and re-rebuilt) the website for MamaPop. I built my daughter a personal website of her own, and there curated – and still curate – a collection of things she loves. Over the course of a decade, I made friends, shared with others things that excited me, and openly wept while I wrote on those laptops.
Computers are more than tools, more than just machines. To me, and to many others, they are conduits of the self. Through them, I’ve transmitted self expression and shared who I am honestly with the world for the majority of my adult life. And what is more profound, more intimate, than that? Maybe it isn’t possible to love a piece of technology, not in the human-to-human sense, in the traditional sense of the word. But it is possible to love the incredible freedom of expression, limitless possibilities for personal and professional growth, and creative opportunities that a piece of technology has given you. My Macs have allowed me to grow into a life where I am self-employed and own my own businesses. My Macs have given me the tools to write for a living online. My Macs have connected me to people I now consider to be my closest friends in the world. How can I not love, in a different-thinking way, a thing that has given me all of that?
I have named all of them, since that first Bondi Blue iMac, “Singularity.” The name describes the source of all things, the original wholeness, the one that becomes many – fitting for the one device that contains, constructs – and ultimately helps direct and disperse – so much of my life. On each and every desktop, I titled the icon for the disk and attached an image to it resembling something akin to 2001‘s HAL, an act emblematic of my sense of the thing as more than just a thing. Many of us do this, I suppose. We name our cars and lend personalities to them. We ascribe character to machines and accept the quirks that come along with them, just as we do with people. My Singularities have all been faithful troopers, stalwart custodians of my digital self. And so I suppose it makes sense that the death of the man who made all of these things possible – these tools, and these loves – would seem personal, and that it would stir unexpectedly profound emotion. I look around my home and see his fingerprints everywhere. I pick up my iPhone – the only phone I use anymore, honestly – and still marvel, each and every day, at all that it is. I look at this computer screen, at this interface, at this blank space I am typing into, and feel the power of his genius and all it has given me.
Steve, I am so grateful. And I am so heartbroken. Thank you for everything.
If you’d have asked me in my teens or twenties at what age someone would be considered “old,” back then I probably would’ve said forty. Now here I am, forty-one years old. Feeling it, inhabiting it. And the strange thing – the thing I couldn’t foresee and wouldn’t have anticipated back then – is how little internal difference there is between the 20s and 40s. Mentally, emotionally, and psychologically, I don’t feel all that changed from back in my mid-to-late 20s. I feel… seasoned. That seems like the right word. Not wholly different, but richer, more fully fleshed-out. It’s not a bad thing, not at all. I know who I am now, both good and bad, and over those intervening years have finally learned to love and accept all of it.
The body is a different story altogether.
In the past year I feel like I’ve physically aged ten years. What I went through last winter – an unending saga of infections and antibiotics, struggling every day with pain management, with fear, with just being able to function – I don’t think I ever recovered completely. Since discovering that the cause was a debilitating allergy to dairy, and eliminating all dairy from my diet, I’ve gotten better, sure. I’m no longer in pain, or sick every day. But I feel… strangely delicate. Eroded. I can’t explain it any other way. If prior to that illness my health was a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, and during my illness I was at a 3, I feel as though since then I’ve returned to about an 8. And 8 is just okay, just fine. But I’ve never gotten back to where I was before getting sick. Which is… kind of creepy, honestly.
This is what getting older is, right? The body’s regenerative powers wane. There’s no reversing the damage entirely, no undoing what’s done. Not anymore, at least.
But I exercise and eat mostly whole foods. I take my vitamins and wear sunscreen. I quit smoking. I try to manage stress and get a decent amount of sleep, though if I’m honest with myself I do neither as successfully as I’d like. Still, despite these efforts, I feel the wear and tear down to my bones.
It hurts now to think of how much I once took for granted, of how much I abused this vehicle of my self in earlier years. It’s hard to not be angry at the me of twenty years ago, chain-smoking and fast-food eating, drug and drink and risk taking, always burning the candle at both ends all through the night and long past sunrise. Foolishly, as if there would be no reckoning. As if the present did not touch and reverberate into the future. As if I owed the woman I would become nothing.