Monday, June 28, 2010

Going To My High School Reunion--I Think!

The other day a postcard came to me in the mail to herald the 50th reunion of my high school class exactly one year from now. How nice of them to get a save-the-date out to me twelve months in advance—now I will have plenty of time to completely overhaul myself before I dare step on board with I have no idea how many sixty-eight-year-olds who once were “cool in school!”

Since I was never “cool,” I won’t have to make as much of an effort. Ha! I went onto the web site provided on the postcard and saw a current group picture of my reunion committee—none of whom I recognized, although their names were familiar. Regrettably, I never kept in touch after graduation with anyone I went to high school with. I had transferred there after two years of Catholic school—an all-girls high school in my hometown, located across campus from the all-boys high school. The girls were not allowed to be over in the boys’ buildings and vice-versa—yet, there were occasional attempts to “mix” via a sock-hop after a game but of course I didn’t know any of the boys (because I followed the rules and never went over to their building!) except for the few I knew from the Catholic grammar school I had attended for eight years and they weren’t all that mysterious to me having known them since they were about five years old. I was painfully shy on top of it, taller than most of the boys, and I didn’t feel I was pretty. Of course, the curriculum was excellent but curriculum was of absolutely no interest to me at that point in my life (foolish girl)—I wanted to at least look at the boys in class and hope perhaps one or two might speak to me! So my mother wisely allowed me to enter public school at the start of my junior year where I looked forward to each day even though I didn’t learn as much. It is the public school I attended that is having the reunion—although maybe if I am lucky the Catholic girls high school just might send me a postcard too (why do I think their reunion won’t be as much fun?).

Anyway, when I brought up on my computer screen the group photo of the reunion committee, complete with the girls’ maiden names, I went hunting for my yearbook from my senior year to compare. I have to say, time is not kind! But then, I have only to look in my mirror and then glance at my senior photo to know that. I’m telling all the eighteen-year-olds out there right now that no matter what you do—you are not going to look like you do now ever again. The kind classmates on the reunion committee understand this, however, and even say in a really sweet poem on the web site that it doesn’t matter if you are rich, if you are poor, if you are fat, if you are losing your hair, if you have a tummy, etc., etc., come to the reunion! There will be drinking, so that should help. I am thinking, after 50 years it probably doesn’t matter that I didn’t keep in touch with any of them—probably no one is going to recognize anybody else anyway!

But just in case—and because they’ve already indicated our name tags will display our senior photo—I finally have an incentive to try to look as close to eighteen as I possibly can, without the expense of plastic surgery (no reunion is worth $5,000+). And besides, on this same web site they published the 92 names of those classmates who have died over the years—cripes! I looked them up as well in my yearbook and realize I had known some of them—how sad that they are no longer around! I felt better then—after all, I may look older but at least I am still here!

So, I am thinking right now that I just might go—but in case I decide not to go, I am still going to send in my biography with a current photo so I can at least buy the memory book and find out what everyone else has done with their lives. See—I’m really not that all certain I’ll go! I am still shy, still tall, and I still don’t think I’m all that pretty.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Not Always What You Think

It is funny how your point of view—even a simple impression you get—can be skewed by stuff going on in your head. In other words, it’s not always what you think it is.

I like to remember this bit of wisdom whenever I find myself in a “blue funk.” Things aren’t really that bad—it is the filter I am using that is the problem.

Now, this doesn’t work with cold, hard facts—such as your house is being foreclosed or someone dear to you just died. What I am talking about is when you wake up and have a “What’s good about it?” general response to the day that is spread out before you like a buffet. Something, perhaps a comment you heard the day before or a dream you had, has placed you to the side of the road instead of in dead center. You just don’t feel much like doing anything—and if you did, it probably wouldn’t work out anyway. When you are retired and don’t have a stress-filled job to tackle—which usually reduces the blue funk to a pin-prick—this mood tends to linger and weigh you down like a stone. The voice in your head not only plays on, it gets downright chatty and begins to sounds logical!

Like other problems in retirement—subtle weight gain to deal with, the increased need for time-management and self-maintenance, etc.—this one requires serious action. Pull this weed out by the root or it comes back, over and over.

Because time really is on your side—and is not at all the enemy—you can get a grip on it. All my life I have found myself saying, “If I ever get time, I am going to do this or that.” Well, now there is time—lots of it!

Yesterday, after a lovely morning, I arrived home with a sad mood sitting in the passenger seat of my car and it accompanied me right into the house! I didn’t know how it got there at first, but then—because I took time to think about it instead of trying to just smother it with plans to go back out shopping or watch TV or have a snack—I realized when it came out of nowhere and stuck to me like a leech. I had joined a group of ladies whom I know—not really well, but whom I have previously met at various functions—on a private tour of a lovely old home in the nearby hills. This was an 80-year old Spanish-style villa that a Realtor and member of a club to which I also belong has on the market. The ladies I shared “oohs and ahhs” with are from varied stations in life—one writes a column in our local paper, another is head librarian in our town, still another lives in a beautiful historic home on Main Street, and the rest are just like me—what I call “refined without credentials.” Somehow during this tour I must have started listening to that voice in my head which was informing me that had I not made stupid decisions I too could have lived in a better home and had a better life! And, instead, I live in a 40 year-old condo in an “okay” part of town, with a “poor” nice guy—instead of a “well established” husband who is also the father of my children—and I drive a 13-year-old car instead of a newer, more expensive model, and so on.

Yes, of course this is nonsense! But it played on and on while I listened—the gist of the message was, “You could have done so much better—you should have done so much better—and now here you are, your life practically over, stuck, with absolutely no hope of change at this point. I turned and looked at each woman as one by one they were recalling their early days and I determined that they weren’t children of divorce like I was—their parents no doubt had money and so they enjoyed lots of parties and dated the boys from the other “best” families. Their mothers stayed home and wore aprons with heels all day and baked cookies and provided towels for the pool. Oh, this voice was clearly out of control! Even my fellow “refined without credentials” ladies ever so subtly levitated off the floor before my eyes!

Well, at some point the voice of reason should come around, but so far he is sleeping in this morning! Writing about this helps me see that my perception about this is just that. But I realize that my quiet and less-hectic lifestyle invites this kind of destructive thinking—and how many others out there are having similar experiences?

Therefore, others—like me—desperately need to hear kind words at times like these. A friendly smile, a genuine gesture of kindness (not pity) toward that person beside you, can really help! Because it really is okay, you really are just like everyone else! The woman who writes the news column, the local librarian, the owner and resident of the grandest old home in town, even the owner of the Spanish villa—they all feel like crap every now and then, and every single one of them needs to know, at times like that, they are acceptable! It works even better when you fully understand, when you struggled to stand up straight and face the day this very morning. And another payoff is—it helps get you out of that terrible funk that can drag you down and possibly flatten you for good. You almost need to always do it—instead of keeping quiet, listening to the voice inside that tells you the other person could care less.