Last night I had hot spinach salad for dinner. In fact, last night I had hot spinach salad at Hamburger Hamlet. Hot spinach salad is a treat I used to enjoy very much, back when it was ubiquitously included on menus everywhere you went. But it was with a bit of a start when I realized that the time period when I was so happily scarfing on hot spinach salads was about 35 years ago. In fact, I believe I enjoyed spinach salad at my high school graduation dinner. Is this what Shakespeare was referring to in Anthony and Cleopatra: “…in my salad days, when I was green in judgment…”?
Going to Hamburger Hamlet is another memory trigger. This location, in Sherman Oaks, is the last remaining Hamlet, but when I was growing up, they were located all over Los Angeles. It was a “special occasion” restaurant for our family, where a Shirley Temple with a plastic monkey hanging off the rim would only add to the excitement of dining out. And I loved the French Onion soup; my sister went crazy for the Lobster Bisque. We tried them both last night and they tasted just as yummy and delicious as they ever did. Another sense memory.
I don’t often think about aging. Sure, every now and then when I’m having a conversation with a seemingly fully rounded adult and I’ll realize they weren’t born when I voted in my first election. Or graduated from college. Or started working. Then I might think, hmmmmm, that’s odd. I was 25 (or 32) when this person was born. Wow, that’s crazy. How did that happen?
Yesterday I received yet another AARP membership package. Tore it up without a thought. I know, I could get discounts at movie theaters and a swell bonus fanny pack with my initials on it, but ummm, yeah, not thanks. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I know some lovely proud AARP card carrying people, but I don’t think I can reconcile carrying the card when I’m still wrestling with “what to be when I grow up” and still hoping I can grow my hair long enough to braid it at least one more time.
One reason I think that I’m not daunted by the aging process is the example set by my parents, my dad and my stepmom. If you know them, you know that their energy and enthusiasm is both impressive and exhausting. They are in great physical shape, stay incredibly active and are as culturally current as someone half a century younger. If that’s what 80 looks like, I’ll take it!
I don’t know at what point you start to feel “older” or even fully baked. I do know that I’m not there yet, and it doesn’t feel like it’s coming any time soon. I mean, I know chronologically, I’m well into “middle age” and that’s fine, I wouldn’t give up a year or a wrinkle. I also wouldn’t give up the confidence and experience that the years bring you, for a smaller waistline or less achy bones. Life is such an adventure, and I’m always eager to see what’s coming next.
Besides, wasn’t it just yesterday I was enjoying that spinach salad? Why, yes, actually, it was.
The end, for now
I am, at my very essence, an optimist. I believe in happy endings, that the sun will come out tomorrow, that right will eventually triumph, that it will all work out as it is supposed to, if you just hang in and on, behave yourself and keep passing the open windows. I know bad things happen to good people, I’m not naïve, in fact, bad things have happened to me. But I also believe that those bad things are just hurdles and detours that can cause us to momentarily lose our way; with strength, perseverance, faith, and most of all, hope, everything will be okay. I believe this to my core, it is my creed.
However, I falter sometimes. I am human, and I’m imperfect. My feelings can get hurt, I can get discouraged, and if I go for months at a time without anything going right, or at least a little pat on the head, or the proverbial biscuit, doubt can creep in. Plus, I’m a worrier with a fantastic imagination, so it’s hard not to exercise that gift all the way down the line to the consumptive hobo under the freeway scenario, alone, unloved, with even Daisy Petals abandoning me because I can no longer provide her with premium treats.
I could write about this all day, every day, but I won’t. First of all, everyone has problems. In fact, many people I know and love are also juggling with their own sets of challenges and change. And we can commiserate and support and love and listen to each other, but the truth is, everyone must bear their own burdens. And while your own problems may seem to be the worst while you are going through them, that’s a singular perception that’s universally shared. Does that even make sense? I’d like to think it does. What I mean is, every person’s problems are their own, and to them, they are the most important. My circus, my monkeys. Your rodeo, your horse.
This week, reeling from a perfect storm of disappointments, rejections, more dental troubles, and a whole host of other decidedly ungood things, I have been feeling especially low. I even googled, laughing as I did it because it was so pathetic in the extreme, “what to do when you’re losing hope.” I’m guessing I’m not the first person to try this, because I got 30,700,000 hits! As I skimmed through, let’s say, the first couple of thousand or so, I noticed a prevailing theme. Practice gratitude, count your blessings, and realize how much worse it could be, or might be. And I know this is the right path out of the funk, but truthfully, even this Pollyanna stumbles now and then, and stays down longer than I might, because it’s hard. There, I said it. It is hard to keep the faith and I’m struggling with it.
So what can I do? Not give up, for one thing. Actually, it’s the only thing. No matter what, keep moving forward, and keep that faith even if it feels a bit like walking in the dark with no idea where I’m going. It reminds me of that scene from Willy Wonka, “there’s no earthly way of knowing which direction we are going.” If the worst happens, it happens. I’ll deal. I always have before and I always will again. And I know how lucky I am, even as I struggle. I know how much worse it could be, and how my hardships don’t come close to someone with real hardships, as we were reminded so tragically this week with the earthquake in Nepal. But as I said earlier, everyone’s problems are their own.
I don’t have a pat or cheerful ending to this post. I hesitated greatly to even post it, because it is not happy or uplifting or funny or any of those things I aspire to be. But, after a great deal of thought, I decided to go for it. It’s my reality, and I know I’m not the only one who struggles. So if I can share my thoughts, feelings or process and it helps one person, or makes one person think, or even gives one person an insight that they didn’t have before, it’s a win. And you know what, I really need one.
The end, for now