Thoughts too depressing or short-winded for an entire column

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

Odds and ends of ideas litter my desk at the beginning of each year. They are leftovers form the former year when, hoping they had potential, I could not bear to throw them out. I did learn, about the 10th year of column writing, that if I used them all in one column, I got two satisfactions at once – I would have a column, and I could start a new year with a clean slate.

#1 note to do something with: “No matter who you are, at some point in the future, you’ll either be a caregiver or need one.” —Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO, AARP

This is disheartening in its simple factoidness.

Ageing is no laughing matter, even as we understand that the alternative is no picnic either. But if we don’t laugh about it, we might be jumping off the nearest bridge into the alternative too soon. And that suits no one.

There is a comedian, Jesus Trejo, who tells jokes about the caretaking of his parents, which is his other job when he’s not at Comedy Central. He calls his mom and dad his 71- and 72-year-old kids. He is kind and loving about his parents, one who is recovering from a brain tumor and one who has cancer — and he is funny about it. He makes me laugh out loud even as my daughter passes by the stove and turns off the burner that I left on – she looks at me accusingly, and I say, “But, really, I’ve been doing this since I was 20.” If you’re caught in this position – as the carer or the caree – Trejo is a pleasant escape as well as someone from whom to learn how to laugh about the human condition.

#2 note: “Good things come in threes.”

Yay and whoopee! But the opposite is as true – bad luck comes in threes also. Within about two months I had to replace two head gaskets in my car, and then I found out my roof leaked and my dock was rotten.

I was thinking this was way too much bad luck when my philosophical and positive-minded friend said, “The good part of this is that you had those things in good working order in the first place. Lots of folks never ever get them…in working order or not, right?”

#3 note: Whaddya do when you hate your book group’s selection?

My idea of what to do was obvious to me – don’t read it. Life is short.

The first time I came across this dilemma, it was the depressing nature of the story that made it easy for me not to finish the book; I looked forward to complaining about it at the meeting.

I learned that time that I might as well read it, whatever it is, because it was that day that once it was discussed thoroughly from several points of view, I found I had missed the point of the book. I felt downright stupid. Now I read whatever the book is, all the way through, taking notes and holding judgment; I am apt to be happy after discussion to learn that it was deep, poignant, funny, worthwhile…whatever.

#4 note: I often dread getting ready for a party and then having to go out when it’s raining, snowing, too hot, too early, too dark, too perfect out; or I simply do not want to go because I’m a grouch.

Once there, I am 99 percent of the time pleased: I have a lot of fun, I go home happy, savor moments of the evening and tell myself I will never dread a party again.
The reverse is true, too. When I go with great expectation, I am so often let down. The disappointment is palpable, reminding me to quit expecting a lot and I’ll then be happy with whatever it is I get.

This is another way of saying that life is perverse no matter how you approach it.

#5 note: How many times can I go to the grocery store (or the hardware store) to get what I need for a recipe (or a project), only to get home with the wrong thing, or not enough of the right thing, or an item that was on my list but I paid no attention to?

This has happened to me enough in my life to gain the reputation of being flakey, forgetful, out to lunch. I know this is true. I call it “paying no attention” because living in the novel in my head is a lot more fun, intriguing, loving and dramatic compared to the reality of going to the store.

The positive part of this is that it doesn’t make me think I’m ageing poorly because my behavior has not changed much from a young age. My friends are becoming quite forgetful, but not me; I’m skimming along in the same potholed grooves I slipped into at 19. Or 12. Seven? One of those ages.

#6 note: Here’s a note that I tried but could not get a decently long enough column out of: Why do we think we’re younger than we are?

The short column resulting from this dumb question would have gone something like this – because we looked better then. End of column.

Some would say it’s because we don’t see that well now, so we don’t notice in the mirror anything but what we used to see. But, really, every photo of ourselves we receive now from some relative or friend from some party or funeral and study mercilessly is clearly not what we looked like at our best, whatever year that was. (For my mom, it was 18; for me it was 45. It prob’ly has something to do with how good the year was as much as how youthful we looked.)

And unless you’re under 18, how many of us have ever wanted to be older than we are?

#7 note: I can’t wait to leave my hometown.

This is often true even if you lived in New York City, the town where Fame lives that many people from the hinterlands can’t wait to live in and partake of.

Leaving has a lot to do with adventure and getting away from your family. The two are inextricably entwined – parents aren’t usually thrilled with your thrill-seeking, so you have to get away in order to have an adventure or two, the likes of which you can only do far away from your hometown.

That they were once in that boat does not occur to us when we’re fleeing. And so many of us return to retire into the bosom of our native air/soil/light/vista/scents. Jefferson is a prime example – there are dozens of returnees to the Center of the Universe, a name I called my hometown all those years I was escaping it. That’s some kind of irony I didn’t look into at all.

#8 note: This is really a cheat because it comes from last night (which would be this year, not last year) when I listened on the radio to the President’s monotone exaggeration of bandits, rapists, drug runners, terrorists and pretend mothers with children not their own leaping across our southern border for their own selfish, horrid, illegal interests; and then hearing the two Democrats who supposedly were to gainsay him. I was angrier at them than him; and my column note is this: Why didn’t the Democrat responders to the President just say what has now become a trope – we’re not interested in advancing over $5 billion for a Dark Ages fix to a 21st Century boondoggle; and quit lying about it to make it our fault.

This is the end of my notes to myself from last year (and yesterday). I have already started on my new list, as you can see.

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