Role Reversal

Adults...not grown ups

“Too many people grow up. That’s the real trouble with the world.” ~Walt Disney

According to the law, I’ve been an adult for nearly 26 years. Why does that not seem possible? It should. I’ve gotten my degrees, we own a home, we have had 16 wedding anniversaries, and our oldest son will be 11 soon. Yet, somehow, my brain lives on an alternate plane where no matter how old I get, no matter the responsibilities I manage, no matter what my reality is I’m still not grown up. There are times when I’m standing at a rental car counter and I’m flabbergasted that they are going to give me a car. I almost look around to see if I’m going to get away with it. Or sometimes I’ll be in the middle of a parent/teacher conference and it will almost be an out-of-body experience. I’ll wonder what I’m doing there. It’s like the plaque I have in my kitchen: “Who are these kids and why are they calling me Mom?” When the hell did I get so old?

Although time keeps marching on despite my attempts to turn the clock back, I suppose there are benefits to getting older. When we were in college, we could buy alcohol but we couldn’t afford anything decent to drink. We might not have had to pay all our own bills, but at the end of the school we had to go home and live under someone else’s roof with someone else’s rules. We cared too much about what our friends thought of us and not enough about what we thought of ourselves. We looked good in our own skin, but didn’t feel comfortable in it.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been able to relax a bit. I no longer care all that much if people don’t like me or if they think I’m silly or childish. I no longer buy into the idea that an adult should act with decorum 100% of the time. What I find amusing, though, is that just as I am beginning to let go and to live a little, my children are buying into the idea of growing up and acting accordingly.

Last night, we had an intimate wine tasting dinner at our house with a few friends. I have to admit that I felt fairly adult picking out the wines and planning the meal. We cooked gourmet pizzas and had port and chocolates for dessert. Somewhere between the first and fifth bottle of wine that the six of us shared, though, we got a little loud and started having way more fun than our kids thought we should. Truth is, we sort of forgot that our 8 and 10 year old sons were upstairs quietly watching movies. Well into dessert and conversation I heard the tell-tale ping of a text message on my phone. It was from Joe who was upstairs texting me from his iPad.

“Mom…your friends should leave soon. It is 11:00.”

Crap. It’s 11 o’clock? Where had the evening gone? Ping. Another text.

“Very late, Mom.”

Oh okay, okay. Fine. I texted him back.

“We’ll be upstairs in a minute. Brush your teeth and get into bed.”

“We already are. We are very tired. You need to tell your friends to go home.”

I stalled a while, but eventually went up to check on them. Luke was already asleep. Joe was the lone holdout. He looked exhausted and annoyed. He told me that he wanted our friends to be gone no later than midnight.

Geez. Mr. Bossypants. Way to ruin the fun. By the time Andrew and Heather left it was around 12:30 and both boys were, thankfully, asleep. We’d managed to spend five hours in our own house entertaining friends without non-stop requests or care giving. It felt borderline miraculous.

This morning Joe gave us a hard time about our behavior last night. He said we were way too loud and laughing non-stop. He questioned the number of bottles we had gone through. He told us they could barely hear their movie and that we kept them awake. I had to wonder when our roles had been reversed. We spend our entire youth trying to figure out how to be responsible adults and then we spend our adulthood trying to regain our lost sense of youth. Funny the way it is.



Every Life Comes With A Death Sentence

Netflix is my best friend. It is.

About six weeks ago I started watching the AMC show Breaking Bad on Netflix. I did so on the recommendation of my college roommate, Michelle, who told me that if I like Mad Men I would probably like this as well. I didn’t know much about the show before her recommendation, other than the fact that its lead actor, Bryan Cranston, has won three consecutive Emmy Awards for his part in this show that very few people seem to know about. So, about the time I decided to get on my bike trainer again, I decided to check it out. I need something to watch while I’m stuck on the bike indoors. The show has gotten me through 250 miles so far. I am impressed.

If you’re like most people I know who have not heard of the show, let me fill you in. The lead character, Walter White, is diagnosed with lung cancer and receives an unfavorable prognosis. He is a high school chemistry teacher who also works part-time at a car wash to support his family. He realizes that he’s running out of time and he has nothing to leave to his family, which includes a pregnant wife and a teenage son with cerebral palsy. Through a series of convoluted circumstances, it occurs to him that as a chemist he could make a boat load of cash quickly by manufacturing methamphetamine. I know. It’s a crazy premise for a show, but that’s what makes it so interesting. Walt’s transformation from mousy cancer victim to drug criminal is profound.

The episode I watched yesterday while on the bike trainer showed Walt at yet another doctor’s appointment awaiting a scan. In the waiting room, a newly diagnosed cancer patient strikes up a conversation with him.

“It’s like they say. You make plans and God laughs,” the guy tells Walt.

“That is such bullshit,” Walt replies. “Never give up control. Live life on your own terms.”

How easily we all give up when an impediment blocks our way.  Oh well. I guess I’m supposed to do this now. What else can I do? I’m sure in the face of a cancer diagnosis, the first reaction is to feel bad about the hand we’ve been dealt. The man is saying as much to Walt. Cancer is cancer. What are you going to do? Blah, blah, blah. Then, Walt says this:

“To hell with your cancer. I’ve been living with cancer for the better part of a year. Right from the start it’s a death sentence. That’s what they keep telling me. Well, guess what? Every life comes with a death sentence…but until then I’m in charge. That’s how I live my life.”

Wow. I had to stop the show, back it up, and watch that part again. It was brilliant. It’s got shades of The Shawshank Redemption‘s “Get busy living or get busy dying” in it but it’s definitely a more in-your-face message. Every life comes with a death sentence…but until then I’m in charge. Walt’s cancer wasn’t a death sentence for him but a life sentence. He’d been going along in his daily routine not thinking a thing about it, not truly being present in his life, until the cancer gave him a wake-up call he desperately needed. When you stop to confront your death, you might see your life differently. The cancer took Walt out of his comfortable life. He became less fearful. After all, what did he have to lose?

I’ve been thinking a lot about Walt’s little speech. It’s good to be reminded that we’re only here a short time. We’re not in charge of everything that happens in our lives, but we are in charge of how we react to it. We won’t live forever, but we can live on our own terms.

Don’t Forget to Pack a Sweater

It's not Venice, but it's not home either.

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” ~Robert Louis Stevenson

I spent a couple hours today engrossed in one of my favorite pastimes…researching travel. I get nearly as much joy from researching trips as I do from actually taking them. I love to learn about other places. Like my son, I am obsessed with Google Earth. As much as I love Colorado (and I do love it), I need to escape it three to four times a year. I simply need a change of scenery. It doesn’t matter where I go, either. I don’t have to travel to an exotic locale for it to count. Nor do I have to travel somewhere I’ve never been before. I just need to “Get out of Dodge.”

Today I was captivated thinking about a trip we’ll be taking to Boston in October. The official reason for the trip is to attend our friend Jeff’s wedding. Steve and I have never been to New England before, though, so we have a lot to read up on before we go. I am the type of traveler who likes to learn about the area I am traveling to. I research things to do, places to visit, and historical facts. When I get there, I’m then prepared to go with where the spirit leads me as the mood strikes and the weather approves. I suppose I could buy our plane tickets and we could wing it completely, but I’m not that spontaneous when finances are involved. Although it wouldn’t be the world’s worst thing if we ended up staying in a fleabag motel because we didn’t have reservations anywhere, I’d prefer a reliable and well-reviewed B&B if I can get it.

If my life ever comes to a point when I am unable to travel, I will continue to use books and the Internet to go places in my mind. I will get on Google Earth or pick up a travel book and I will envision being somewhere else. I will travel to Bora Bora and stay in a hut over the water. I will drop myself onto streets in Paris or Vienna and explore. I will glide over the vast wilderness of Africa and put myself into a world without Starbucks, 24-hour grocery stores, and homes with two-car garages. I will still get out of Dodge because I have to. I live for the opportunity to escape. Sometimes the only way to get perspective is to step back far enough that the entire picture comes into view. I know that travel (even mental travel) isn’t always easy or pleasant; but, sometimes you have to put on an itchy lambswool sweater to remember how good cashmere feels.