Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Change: 30

Pollyanna, But True
(This is an ongoing story. If you want to start at the beginning, click here.)

I try not to think about how much time and money I’ve spent on seeing AE, but sometimes I can’t help it. I’m a bean counter that way –– time and money must be spent productively.

I know it must seem like I have an endless supply of both, but, sadly, I don’t.

I justify both the time and money by keeping an inventory of all the things I’ve been doing without. I barely play tennis anymore, and indoor tennis is a fortune. I don’t see my chiropractor or physical therapist anymore, neither of whom took my insurance.  I don’t see a shrink anymore (money that, years ago, I decided was better spent on tennis). 

I know all those things sound like big, bourgeois extravagances anyway, and to some people they might be. But for me, those were the things that kept me stable. And even though that sounds like a really self-involved, privileged point of view, it’s also a generous one.

We’re all suffering in some way or another. We lose people we love. We have friends or family who are ill or dying. We’re scared or lonely or feel unworthy. And we spend a lot of our lives making ourselves feel better – with cookies, or martinis, or Birkin bags. (Birkin bags are $15,000 purses, in case, like me, you were unfamiliar with such things.)

Sometimes we’re suffering because someone is acting like a dick. Maybe it’s our kid. Or the guy who owes us money. Or the woman behind us driving the black BMW SUV.

If someone is acting like a dick, chances are it’s because they’re suffering, too.  Maybe not today, while they’re reaching deep into their Birkin bag to find the special cell phone they use to call their illicit lover.  But, you know, a long time ago – when it really counted.

I remember a particular day, at just this time of year. I was in my twenties and was in the throes of some post-adolescent funk.  Maybe it was because of a boyfriend or maybe there was just some disharmony with life events. I was in Morristown, NJ, walking down the sidewalk, and I came upon this little theatre that showed art films.  The sun was out and there were flowers in a big cement planter out front. The owner came out of the theater, picked a few flowers and handed them to me. 

“What are these for?” I asked.

“You look like you needed them,” he said.

We talked for a minute and he asked me if I would do him a favor. I followed him into the theatre and he gave me a piece of paper with a list of movie titles and times. “Can you read this onto our answering machine?”

I sat on a red leather stool and, in my very best diction, recorded the movie times for that week’s showings. How ridiculous is it that his small gestures completely turned my day around? I went home positively giddy.

Now, decades later, I don’t even remember the events that were causing me such suffering that day. Only the remedy.

My friends tease me because I need so many handlers. I just want to live in a world where we can all go out and be like that theater owner.  Where we can be each other’s remedies. And I guess I believe that whatever time and money I spend on AE is going to ultimately help me do that.


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