Monday, January 14, 2013

How Old Are We, Really?

Greetings Friends,

In my first post of the new year, I shared the fact that I am turning 46 this year, and mentioned that I neither feel nor look my age. This morning, it dawned on me that looks can be deceiving. Many people can look or act older than they actually are, and for even more, the exact opposite holds true. While many of us strive to look our best no matter what the date of birth on our drivers licenses, we are sometimes guilty of acting much younger than we are. And that, more often than not, can be a very bad thing.

When a person attains the age of 40 or older, one of the most oft-lamented sentiments you hear is how glad that person is to be so far removed from the high school-stage of life. I've uttered that statement many times, even though my high school experiences left me relatively unscathed emotionally. My most traumatic experience from that era occurred when I was 16, when I had to watch my older brother marry a woman who, to this day, most likely still thinks I am the same 12 year-old girl she met in late 1979. Other than that, I was fortunate to not have to endure many of the traumas most teenagers must experience. I believe those experiences used to be referred to as "rites of passage." Today, they're known as bullying.

What strikes me about people my age is how reluctant we are to share our experiences with those who came after us. We are, after all, the last generation to grow up without computers, cell phones, flat-screen televisions and the Internet. When I was a kid, I had a black-and-white TV in my bedroom, and my brother had an 8-track tape player as part of his integrated stereo system. Making long-distance phone calls to Canada was still frowned upon, so I wrote letters to my cousins. I wore Buffalo sandals with my Faded Glory jeans, and for my tenth birthday, I received a powder-blue t-shirt with an iron-on decal of John Travola as "Vinny Barbarino," which promptly peeled off the first time my mother washed it. My friends and I sometimes referred to each other as "flat-leavers," and one of our favorite things to do was to go to the corner candy store two blocks from my house to buy copies of Tiger Beat magazine and Goldenberg's peanut chews. That right there pretty much encapsulates my childhood.

Today, I sometimes feel like I am enduring a second childhood. Unfortunately, this soon-to-be-46-year-old childhood does not include such innocent treats like peanut chews and Tiger Beat. It consists instead of juvenile behavior from my contemporaries I can honestly live without. Instances of perceived backstabbing, "flat-leaving," and the forming of clique-ish factions of friends are the things I was hoping were gone for good from my life. While these modes of behavior are expected of children, another expectation is that said children will eventually abandon them. That, sadly, is not the case. I am acquainted with some people who are shining examples of how not to behave in your 40s and 50s. And, what strikes me as really ironic about that, is their adolescent behavior is exponentially more vicious now than it likely was when it was somewhat appropriate to act that way. Experience is supposed to accompany age; part of that experience should be learning from past actions so as not to repeat the ones that can potentially hurt others. Instead of gaining the necessary maturity we need to thrive during the post-adolescent stages of our lives, we regress, finding infinite ways to hang on to the adolescent angst we should have left behind years ago. Technology hasn't helped on that front; with its assistance, we are now able to inflict ourselves on others with a degree of cruelty unmatched by previous generations.

If a genie were to appear (virtual or otherwise) before me, my one wish would be to eradicate this behavior in all who feel they must cling to it so late in the game. I'm not naive enough to believe that those older than I are not capable of it as well - I once met someone who worked in a nursing home who playfully referred to it as a "high school with wheelchairs" - but I do find myself easily exhausted by watching those my age who are stuck in perpetual adolescence. If I'm this exhausted now, it will certainly be interesting to see how I'm feeling 30 years from now.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Sickness

Greetings Friends,

The writer Marcel Proust once said (when he wasn't too busy eating cookies), "Three-quarters of the sicknesses of intelligent people come from their intelligence. They need at least a doctor who can understand this sickness." 

I consider myself an intelligent, reasonable person, but when it comes to sports, I abandon all reason and morph into a sheep, guided only by my instinct to follow the rest of the herd. In my case, the herd I follow is made up of other mostly intelligent people who can't help themselves when confronted with football, basketball, soccer, baseball and hockey. We might as well be drooling vegetables in the presence of our chosen poison. 

After enduring yet another National Hockey League work stoppage, the realization has never been more apparent that being a sports fan is a sickness. Anyone who must stop the world to turn on a baseball, football, basketball, or hockey game has got some major issues. Further, anyone who spends thousands of dollars every year in the form of season tickets has a few screws loose. And, any individual with the financial resources to actually purchase a professional sports team should take that money and donate it to a worthwhile charity. Supporting unionized, professional athletes in today's world is like giving candy to a blind, diabetic amputee. 

Early Sunday morning, the NHL announced that its labor issues have been resolved, and it will soon embark on an abbreviated season. My head told me to ignore the news and get on with my day. My heart, however, was rejoicing with the knowledge that there would soon be hockey to gnash my teeth and bite my nails over. That is my sickness. It has been with me since childhood, and it won't be going away any time soon, despite my level of intelligence. 

 Speaking of intelligence, one of the most intelligent athletes to ever play professional hockey, former Montreal Canadiens goaltender Ken Dryden, put down some very astute words about the NHL lockout for Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper. I've always admired Mr. Dryden for his intelligence - he became a lawyer after retiring from hockey in 1979 - but he never achieved great success as a front-office hockey guy, or as a politician (he was my Member of Parliament for a short time when I lived in Toronto). Maybe his calling was to be one of the greatest hockey players of all time; maybe he is an above-average lawyer; maybe, just maybe, he is as stupid as the rest of us, waiting for the puck to drop on the first game of the 2013-2013 season. 


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Superstitious New Year

Greetings Friends,

I'm sure I'm not the only one who is slightly (who am I kidding - it's way more than slightly) superstitious about the dawning of this particular new year. The number thirteen is a symbol of bad luck to some; myself included. I try to avoid it when I can, and when I can't, I shudder with fear of what havoc this offensive number might wreak on my life. These thoughts, on what should be a propitious day of new beginnings and resolutions, have instead lead me to take stock of what it is I am afraid of, and what I might be able to do to quell those fears, as I have no choice but to live with the number "2013" for the next 364-and-a-half days. Here goes:

Fear of Running Out of Gas: The vehicle in my possession at the moment has something of a "sticky" gas gauge. I've noticed that when the needle gets close to the "E" side of the display, it engages in a bit of wiggling, causing the gas tank image to light up, when in fact there is at least one-quarter of a tank of gas left. It was quite worrisome at first, but when I realized the multitude of gas stations in my midst, I will never be too far from one even if I do actually drain the entire tank. The price differential, I'm afraid, is another fear factor; The price per gallon varies about 30 cents depending on where you go to fill up. Ponderous.

Fear of Aging: In five months time I will celebrate birthday number 46. Where the hell have all those years gone? I don't feel 46, nor do I think I look 46, although I will never look as good as some famous women my age or older. Admittedly, if I had the financial means to have a personal trainer, chef, and top-flight plastic surgeon at my disposal, things might be different. But, reality says I have to make do with what I have. That means not thinking about the number of my next birthday, but how I feel instead. I have a lot of work to do on that front, and it's time I got cracking.

Fear of Being too Zen: The digital lifestyle I find myself living has made me think about all the material possessions I used to have that are now superfluous. I don't have any records, CDs or DVDs in my home at the moment (all those items are in storage), because I've finally realized that all I ever want to watch or listen to is housed in an electronic device. All my music is on my laptop hard drive or in my phone, and any movie or television show I want to watch can be accessed online. I literally sleep with my laptop instead of falling asleep to the sound of the television. I am afraid that one day, the extent of all our possessions will be reduced to a few pieces of necessary furniture and a handful of electronic devices. The presence of a console television and a rack stereo system would be such a comfort to me.

Fear of Not Being Heard: In April, I will be writing this blog three years. I appreciate each and every one of my readers, even though I sometimes feel this is just another byte of unnoticed bandwidth in the great electronic void. Someone very special in my life keeps reminding me how important it is to write for myself. I promise to try to keep that in mind and focus more on writing what I want to, instead of just writing what I have to.

Fear of the Future: With all the recent events of destruction and violence, both natural and man-made, I fear that the future will be darker, rather than brighter. I don't want to feel this way, but sometimes it's unavoidable. I want to be positive and hopeful, but when I witness things like destructive weather events and unspeakable acts of murder, I worry. Will tomorrow really be better, or are we kidding ourselves? I sincerely hope not.

Fear of too Much Visibility: There are countless cautionary tales about people who have gotten burned online. I've come to the conclusion that the Internet is both a blessing and a curse, and it is up to each one of us to choose how much or how little we share on it. There are literally no secrets anymore, hard as we try to keep them. My only hope is that the mistakes I made in my past will stay there, and the things I hope to achieve will be celebrated. I must also toughen up and realize that all of this is completely beyond my control.

Happy New Year, friends; and try very hard to be healthy, prosperous and happy, despite the lousy number.