With awkwardly apologetic thanks to young Mara Wilson, who reminded me today of something important.
I'm sitting at a picnic table in a park. Way in front of me, my son is playing in a baseball game. But it's cooler up here, and breezy, and quiet. Today hasn't been my best day. In fact, it's been a fairly miserable day, the sort of day that causes a woman of my age to have the startling thought that menopause actually doesn't sound like such a terrible point to reach after all.
It looks like a great day, at least.
Here's an example of how bad I've felt today: this morning, someone online responded with a lighthearted flirty remark to a piece of news I'd shared, and my response was, "Meh." I did that, typed it and clicked send, and didn't change it even after realizing the horror of what I'd done.
Here's a real example of how bad I've felt today: I didn't brush my hair. At all. I brought my son here to the park a little over an hour ago, and sat in the parking lot feeling how unbrushed my hair was, and then my face felt dirty, and I started thinking about how I could not write one single word and be honestly myself if I did not brush my hair. Because no matter how I don't like to put on shoes and no matter that my nails are currently garden-stained, or that maybe I could step up the leg-shaving game, hair brushing is a Thing I Take Seriously. Well, my kind of seriously. I brush my hair when I get up in the morning and before I go to bed at night but I didn't brush it this morning and I didn't brush it last night and it becomes a circle or spiral when you feel too bad to do something you know will help you feel better such that you speak about it without any commas at all.
Tomorrow I'll feel fine, but today I needed to brush my hair, so I left the park in search of Kroger or Walgreen's for a hairbrush, and the road was fine but endless. At some point I realized that I was going north toward nowhere instead of west toward the city, and it certainly began to look the opposite of a route toward a shopping center. The air smelled of fertilizer. All the roads were marked "Truck Entrance." I finally came to a crossroad, but couldn't see where it would lead until I passed, but when I did pass, I saw a Petsmart sign, so I knew there'd be other stores nearby. Only I couldn't turn around right away, and I thought about how I wasn't enjoying the music Shuffle was offering or the sunshine and breeze through the car window, because a hairbrush was in the other direction.
Once I got turned around, I was happy to spot a Target sign just past the Petsmart, and then realized I'd stumbled onto a back entrance to the center where we see movies. Civilization! Walking through Target with my basket on my arm, I felt at once cooler and cleaner.
Items for personal refreshment collected, refreshing drink added to my bag, I thought about how it might sound if I was describing all of this aloud to someone across a table who would be studiously examining each bite of ceviche, desperate for me to finish. The things you say and the things you write each belong in their own realm. Sometimes I can read aloud what I've written, and tell it like a story, and other times the ridiculous nature of what I need to share is heightened that way. Reading it, you can hear it as you like or dismiss it as so much blather, and swiftly move on.
Isn't this an adorable shopping trip, though? It all matches.
But, and here is the point I mean to get to, I'm just not an anecdotal person. I read a blog today I enjoyed so much, because it was rich and honest and earnest and anecdotal. And it was written by someone who has taken the trouble to learn to write, to practice it and work to improve her skills, both technically and in a literary sense, which seems increasingly rare to me at the height of my middle years. I work at that, too, but I'm not gifted at anecdote, which is probably the one thing I'd ask of the proverbial wish fairy. I make up funny anecdotes about old people, but seem to not grasp how to share my own, or maybe I just don't fully immerse myself in the experiences I do have, in order to relate them later on.
Sensory details drop clumsily from my fingertips. Could I have described to you the elation I felt when pulling the new brush through my hair? A man was on the phone in his truck, parked next to me, as I fished through the shopping bag for the wipes to cool my face, and the powder and lipstick to freshen my appearance. I relegated his presence to the background with little thought, but you might like to know he was telling someone to find a new hobby he or she could really get into and enjoy. He seemed quite sincere about it. However, that says nothing at all about the hairbrushing itself or the subsequent emotional relief at achieving my goal. I just felt like I could now get on with my evening.
On the way to the baseball field the first time, we passed a little house with a plaid couch on the porch. Two young men were standing near it, shirtless, with crew cuts, and I had a brief unkind thought I forced myself to regret. Okay, good, but I didn't allow myself the reflection that would have led to a better description of the moment. This is all so inward and self-grasping, isn't it? It's easy to be honest when you don't dig very deeply, but it leaves you without much to say. I can do better, much better, all the other days of the month, and am freshly inspired by that fresh voice I encountered today. And in four weeks' time, if I once again catch myself out with an expired ponytail, I'll be prepared with an extra hairbrush in the glove compartment of my car. Then I can focus more on what's going on around me, instead of what's on my own head.