The Shower Spider

I would like to begin this post by saying that I am, for the most part, a normal, grownup lady, and as such, I keep a reasonably clean house and have fairly respectable standards of housekeeping. If you were to show up at my house right now, it’d be a little messy, but for the most part there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Except for one spot. There’s one shameful spot that I cannot bring myself to clean: the window ledge above my shower. I never look directly at it, because it’s creepy as hell, but out of the corner of my eye I see enough: stringy clouds of webs, dried-up bug carcasses, and one enormous, jet black spider. The muscly kind. There’s probably an hourglass involved but like I said, I can’t look directly at it.

If I stand on my tiptoes outside the shower, I can see her suspended in her web, a couple inches above the sill. I check to make sure she’s there every day, because if there is a big black spider in the vicinity, I prefer to be aware of its location. Once I’m in the shower, I can’t see her at all. She’s smart enough not to move while I’m in there.

I have zero tolerance for gross bugs like roaches or ants. Spiders are a little different. I have no love for spiders but I am not phobic. I can usually kill them by myself, so long as they are not particularly jumpy or menacing. Usually I don’t kill them, unless they break the rules* or scare my daughter, but in general, if they stay out of my way, I allow them to live.

*The rules for spiders sharing my home is that they are not permitted to exceed the diameter of a quarter with all their legs extended, and they are not to present at eye level, occupy my bed, traverse the ceiling above my bed, or ever touch me for any reason. Because the spider who lives in my shower honors these conditions (except for the size limit, maybe, but she has the sense to keep her legs tucked up so I can’t be sure), she has lived there for several years.

I realize that it is probably not the exact same spider that I first became aware of sometime in 2015, but likely her descendant. I read Charlotte’s Web so I know a fair amount about the spider life cycle and I know they don’t live that long. I think they can only live long enough to save one pig, go to the county fair and make an egg sac, then they die.  Maybe this one has lived a little longer because there aren’t any pigs in our neighborhood, but still—there have been at least three county fairs since she moved into my window sill, and I found an egg sac on my shower pouf once, so she should have been long gone by now. We are probably on Shower Spider III or IV, I’m guessing.

Further evidence of multiple spider iterations: once, a big, black spider did crawl down the wall of the shower and when I opened the door to get in, it was at eye level. Since it broke the rules, I grabbed a flip flop and smashed it.  (Rules are rules.) Surprisingly, killing it made me sad. I came out of the bathroom in my towel and announced to my daughter, “After all these years, I just killed the spider that lives in my shower.” And she expressed sadness, too, despite her very real fear of spiders. I was a little blue as I showered that day, thinking that my old friend was gone, but the next day, there she was, in her web above the window sill! So I must have killed an imposter spider! My shower spider was either very happy that I wiped out the competition, or sad that I took out one of her kids. I’ll never know.

Once I had a boyfriend who hung around long enough to hear about the shower spider, and he offered to kill her for me. But I knew that boyfriend was terrified of spiders and he was just trying to be manly. I didn’t have the heart to ask him to overcome that fear for me, so I told him not to bother killing her. The truth is that I have mixed feelings about killing the spider because we almost have a relationship now. (The spider and I have the relationship, that is. That boyfriend is long gone.) It’s not exactly fondness, just sort of a mutual respect. She’s probably more afraid of me than I am of her. I mean, she has seen me naked every day for the last several years. She probably doesn’t like to look over the edge of the window sill during that seven-minute period of the day, either.

Sometimes I think about what would happen if I die, and people were cleaning out my house. “That Meg had a pretty nice house,” they’d say, “but what’s up with that disgusting window ledge above the shower?” And that’s fine…judge all you want, post-mortem house cleaners. Just don’t kill my spider.

Unless I died by spider bite, of course. In that case, the flip flops are right outside the shower door.

 

 

 

A Library of Memories

file-nov-08-10-26-35-am
Most of the time I’m pretty happy that I don’t have small kids anymore. My kids are 21 and 24, so I no longer have to make them snacks all the time or help them with school projects. They never throw tantrums in Target anymore. It’s great. Most of the time, I’m just fine with the kids being grown.

Until recently, that is, when I visited the children’s section of my local library, where I was seized with the urge to either have a kid or BE a kid again, just to soak up all the wonder and sheer awesomeness there. I haven’t been to the library in a couple of years—shame on me. And I haven’t been to the children’s section in well over a decade, I’m sure.

First of all, it smelled exactly the same. That sweet old book smell, combined with that clean, air-conditioned, industrial carpet smell, and some kind of paste—that’s how my library smells. It’s right up there with cut grass and summer pine on my list of favorite smells. You can’t stand around in the children’s section and huff the air because that might alarm the parents in the vicinity, but if it were socially acceptable, I might have hyperventilated trying to suck in more of that smell.

Second, there are still giant paper mache creatures there. When I was a kid, they had a stegosaurus that I took for life-size, although I didn’t actually know how big a stegosaurus is supposed to be and I still don’t, but I remember that thing was huge. Maybe it seemed that way because I was about three and half feet tall at the time, but still. Giant.  Now, they have all kinds of animal heads mounted on the wall like trophies, but instead of looking like tragic, taxidermied safari victims, they look like happy, playful animals who’ve only just poked their heads through the wall for a minute. And they appear to be quite large, even at my current size.

file-nov-08-10-26-59-am1.jpeg

There is still an events calendar with activities that are still exciting to me, although I am about 35 years too old to participate: mask making, a World Rhythm party, Pajama Story Time… activities that I would undoubtedly appreciate way more than your average elementary school kid. Pajama Story Time? Are you kidding me? How do I get in on that?

Anyway, I went into the kids’ section to check out a copy of The Secret Garden, which I’m re-reading in preparation for a writing project I’m working on. I needed a timeless children’s novel written prior to the 1930s, and The Secret Garden has always been one of my favorites. But as soon as I got to the library, I remembered: the whole library is my favorite.

I spent a lot of time in the library as a kid. I remember summer reading contests, with badges and coloring pages and lists of books you could check off as you read them. I remember craft workshops and musical productions and Easter egg hunts. I remember a Library Pet Show, where my box turtle, Emily, got a prize for “Most Unusual.” (I also remember burning with jealousy over a glossy, black rabbit that another girl brought to the pet show in a picnic basket, like Dorothy carrying Toto. If you asked what was in the basket, she’d dramatically lift the lid and let you peek in at the rabbit like she was revealing The Mysteries of the Universe. I loved my turtle but goddamnit, I wanted that rabbit in a picnic basket.)

I remember helping my little brother, eight years younger than me, choose books from that same library. And of course, when my kids were born, I took them, too. Oddly, those memories are the least clear; I think I was too exhausted and frazzled to retain sharp copies of those.

Now my kids are technically adults, and even though I’ve sternly warned them not to attempt procreation til they’re at least 30, I secretly can’t wait for them to have babies. I need an excuse to hang around the Children’s section without looking like a weirdo.

In the meantime, I’ll have to settle for my own Pajama Story Time. With wine. Me, in my sloppy gray night shirt, an amazing children’s book written in 1911, and a chardonnay bottled in 2013.

I’ll do this at home, of course.

 

On Writing, Gardening, and the Death of a Grasshopper

Q.  How many posts will I write about getting my groove back before said groove returns?

A.  Every post I write will always be about getting my groove back.

The last several years have been a constant struggle to find my old creative energy.  Much like starting a new diet every Monday, only to find myself face-down in a pizza by Friday, I have made many declarations of, “This is it! I’m going to live like a writer now! I’m going to write every day and post regularly and work on my book and paint paintings and generally be glorious!” –only to find another six months has passed between blog posts. The paints dry up in their tubes. And the book remains in snippets and half-developed scenes in my head.

I sit down at my keyboard, again, to draft another post, again, and write about not writing. Again. My brain skips from angle to angle. I force myself to stay in the moment. Follow one singular line of thought. Start with the basics. Ask one question and answer it.

What gets in the way of working on creative projects? What interferes with the discipline of creativity? Answer it, Meg: what keeps you from posting to this blog?

I am not too busy.

I am distracted. I’m frustrated.

I’m afraid.

I am afraid that there is nothing worthwhile in me to share anymore. I’m afraid that it’s all canned and reheated. I’m afraid that there’s nothing novel or interesting about my life.

I’m living in such a way that nothing is novel or interesting.

I’m wasting my life.

There it is. That’s what’s in the way. I’m afraid that I’m wasting my life. I sit down to write and try to think of something interesting to say, and nothing comes up, so I am forced to consider that terrifying possibility. The title of this blog rubs it in: The Midlife Adventures of Meg. I’m halfway through my years on this earth, and no adventures are happening. Not even small ones.

Surely, I can find some small ones.

#             #             #

A few days ago, I was watering my plants. My daughter and I got a raised planter bed, and we are attempting to grow vegetables. I’ve carved a bed out of one corner of my yard and filled it with California native plants. And all along my fence I have pots: succulents, flowers, and a collection of culinary herbs.  Gardening is meditative, rewarding, and endlessly interesting to me. But if you look at my garden closely, you’ll see the leaves are riddled with holes.

Holey basilIt seems that no matter what I try to grow, grasshoppers come and eat holes in all of it. Grasshoppers are my nemeses.

So I was watering my holey plants, and when I got to the herbs, I spotted a small, green insect on the basil. It was narrow and oblong, with long antennae and arched legs. GRASSHOPPER! Caught in the act! I was filled with righteous anger as I adjusted my hose nozzle to JET and blasted it off its dinner.

Then something snagged in my mind and I looked more carefully at it, wiped out on the fence behind the herbs. It wasn’t a grasshopper. It was a praying mantis. A tiny, baby, praying mantis about as long as my pinky nail.

A month or so ago, I bought praying mantis egg sacs, specifically to combat the grasshoppers. Praying mantises eat all kinds of bugs. The store clerk told me that I wouldn’t see them hatch, but the egg sacs would produce hundreds of praying mantises. I didn’t really want hundreds of them, I told him. I’m not sure I could handle that.

Mantis eggs

“Don’t worry,” he assured me. “They’re very territorial, so they actually eat each other until there are just one or two left.”

Apparently, I’d wound up with at least one of these charming, helpful cannibals, and I’d just blasted it with my garden hose.

I could see the poor thing, about a half inch long, and obviously not a grasshopper. I could see its tiny, sideways head and its signature, articulating forearms.

“I am so sorry,” I whispered, and I meant it. I crouched down in front of the wood fence where it lay, swamped, its antennae twitching slowly. “I totally thought you were a grasshopper. Clearly you are not. Any idiot could see that. I’m very sorry. Please be okay. Please stay here. There is so much for you to eat. I promise I will be more careful.”

As I finished watering, I cursed my knee-jerk reactions. So stupid. Serves me right if I have grasshoppers. I wound the hose and stopped to check on the mantis before returning inside.

Gone. Damnit.

I poured myself a glass of wine and sat on the patio to mourn.  I texted my daughter and told her I’d killed our one surviving praying mantis. She sent a sad face emoji.

Then I went back to the herb planter to try to find him one more time. And there he was, standing on a sage leaf three times his size, walking around on perfectly functional legs.

Mantis“Hello!” I said, no doubt scaring the bejeebers out of him. “I’m so glad you’re okay! I’m so glad you’re back! Please stay! Eat everything you can!”

I cannot overstate how happy I was to see that bug. If my neighbor overheard me talking to it, he probably thought I got a new puppy.  I took pictures of it and posted it on Facebook.

I texted my daughter to tell her that the mantis was still alive. “I was thinking of naming him Walter,” I told her. “But then I remembered that he probably ate all his siblings and decided he needs something a little more badass than that.”

“Skullcrusher?” she suggested. “Doombringer?”

We are currently trying to decide between Doombringer or Vladimir the Bloodthirsty.

I was able to track my little friend for several days in a row. I may have spotted one additional mantis on the poppies, maybe a shade greener than Vlad and a bit smaller. Or it may have been the same mantis in a different light. Either way, I did not spray him with the hose.

I also spotted one small grasshopper. I watched him for a few seconds to be sure he was a grasshopper. Then I killed him.

#             #             #

Would this be a proper Midlife Meg post if I didn’t circle back and clearly explain the analogy for you with a tidy little lesson?

Seriously, this is when my inner critic starts to slap me around.  Here you go with the tidy little lessons again, Meg. So canned. So convenient.

Real life doesn’t come in tidy lessons. Everything doesn’t happen for a reason. Must an experience mean something to be important? Can’t it just be an experience? What kind of a writer are you, Meg?

And yet, this post wrote itself.  Unbeknownst to my waking consciousness, my brain made a connection for me and served me the praying mantis story as I free-wrote, searching for blog-worthy adventures in my small, simple life.

So here you go, O Ye Who Search for Deeper Meaning. A metaphor explained. Let the garden be the creative landscape of my mind. Let the grasshoppers be that self-loathing that creeps in and eats holes in everything. Let the mantises be the hundreds of ideas born there: tiny, fascinating creatures both helpful and powerful, if only I recognize them and let them live.

Mantis 2

Yes, We Do Have Fall in Southern California

I will have Autumn even if I have to make it myself.

I will have Autumn even if I have to make it myself.

People say we don’t have seasons in Southern California. After nearly forty years in Orange County, I disagree.  Sure, if you’re waiting for flaming maple trees and frosty mornings, I suppose you might be disappointed. But I can testify that we do indeed have a fall season, distinct and beautiful in its subtlety.

It was 97 degrees here today, and it still feels like fall to me. You just have to know what to look for.

Fall is in the slant of the light this time of year, the way the sunshine is particularly golden and the shadows particularly long. Fall is the shortening days and the rush to squeeze a walk into the last of the daylight savings twilight.  Fall is thirty-degree temperature swings that bring cool evening breezes and damp, dewy mornings when you can’t decide whether to run the heat or the air during your commute. Fall is the Santa Ana winds threatening in thick, dry breezes that crackle with electricity, then gusting into chaos and returning the smell of wildfires on amber afternoons.

Fall is school kids lingering at bus stops and traffic doubling as colleges return for the semester. Fall is the smell of hot, dry grass, taking me back to my brother’s football practice, triggering a double-edged nostalgia for junior high, with all its painful insecurity and hopeful possibility.

Fall is resisting the rush to sweaters and boots and embracing those last hot days in your sandals, though you’re longing for the temperature to drop, knowing that in a few months you’ll miss these sun-drenched days.

Fall is gambling on whether the last heat wave has come and gone, risking that your pumpkins will rot and your mums will wither if you put them on your porch too soon. And then, when you can’t take it anymore, fall is scattering bright autumn leaves that you bought at the craft store, lighting your apple spice candles, hauling out your Halloween trappings, stubbornly cooking chili and baking cookies with the air conditioning on, and making your own cozy season—regardless of the weather.

Butternut squash chili and pumpkin beer taste good no matter how hot it is outside. Really.

Butternut squash chili and pumpkin beer taste good no matter how hot it is outside. Really.

Save

Keepin’ On: The Internet Dating Update

By popular request, I am writing an update about my dating foibles.

Okay, just one person requested it, but she’s very popular, so I think that counts.

It’s been a year since I wrote this post about not being ready to date. I stayed off the dating sites through the holidays, because starting something new at the holidays is so awkward. You’re not sure if your new beau is ready to join your wacky family for Thanksgiving, but it might be rude not to invite him. Then there’s that question of what to buy him for Christmas, trying to match the gift to whatever stage of the relationship you’re in. New guys at the holidays really are no fun at all. Unless you’re into cozy evenings by the fire, romantic walks through beautifully lit neighborhoods, planning holiday surprises, or having someone to kiss on New Year’s Eve.

But, you know…who really likes all that stuff anyway? Not me, obviously. I waited for January.

Turns out, everyone waits for January. The dating sites were hopping with activity so I had lots of opportunities to meet new people. And I did. I don’t even know how many. Here are the highlights, and I’m using that word very loosely.

I met a funny, sexy, articulate guy named Joe. (There are enough Joes in the world that I can just use his name, right?) Joe was extremely flakey. You know those people who make vague or tentative plans with you and either don’t follow through or wait til the very last minute to solidify? He was one of those. He always left me hanging. I don’t like that feeling, so I backed off and waited for him to call me. He didn’t like that much. “Why don’t you ever call me?” he asked. “Why do I always have to call you?” I said, “I don’t want to chase you. You seem like you’re always half-assing it. I don’t mind if we only see each other occasionally, but you’ve got to let me know what’s going on so I can plan.” And he said, “Why do all girls want to have this relationship talk so soon?”

Huh? Relationship? That’s not a relationship talk. That’s a scheduling talk. But Flakey Joe’s half-assed ways got annoying so I resumed my search.

I met a guy who spent 45 minutes of my time complaining to me about his ex-wife. He asked me how long I’d been divorced and I told him: 17 years. And he said, “Wow. That’s a really long time. What do you think the problem is?” Because there MUST be something wrong with me if I haven’t remarried by now. Duh.

I met one guy whom I actually dated for a couple months. He was not a very good kisser. Do you know how hard it is to get past that? But he was fun to be with, except when he was kissing me, so I decided to give it some time and see how it went. (See? I try. I don’t give up right away.) It didn’t go very well. Bad kissing leads to bad other things. And those other things were pretty bad. (It would be rude for me to get into details here. Buy me a couple drinks and I’ll give you specifics if you want them.) Anyway, I was gimping it along with Mr. Unsexy and then one day, at a hangover breakfast, while I was eating a reasonably healthy half-order of poached eggs and asparagus and he was eating a giant plate of steak and eggs with hash browns and a Bloody Mary the size of my head, he gently suggested that maybe “we” should try to lose some weight.

We. Did I mention that Unsexy was very skinny? And that I am not? Yeah. I decided to stop overlooking his gross lack of skills and get the heck out of there.

I spoke with another guy, a big shot I now refer to as The Onceler, who asked me what I was doing that evening. I said I had to work—I had to write some web content and load it into our company website. He said, “I have a Filipino virtual assistant who does that for pennies.” I think that may be the rudest thing someone has ever said to me that early in a conversation. Not to mention all the levels of wrongness inherent in that statement.

There was the red-headed mailman who spoke a total of 17 words during our whole date. And I had to ask him 17 questions to get those words out of him.

I went out with another guy whose lack of confidence made me cringe. At one point in the date, he got up to use the restroom and when he came back, he looked at me with surprise and said, “Oh, you’re still here!”

I met one guy who was really nice to talk to and very interesting, but he never put the moves on me. Still, it was fun at first. His Pinterest boards were almost identical to mine! He enjoyed looking at old houses, just like me, and shopping for home décor, just like me, and the more I got to know him, the more certain I became that he probably should be dating dudes (just like me). Raised in a strict, conservative, religious environment; adamantly and loudly homophobic; sews his own curtains…it was repression stew. And even if he wasn’t deeply closeted, I can’t date a homophobe.

Oh, that reminds me of the guy with the very soft, small hands and gentle, quiet voice who met me at a bar and then ordered white zinfandel. Everyone should drink what he or she likes best, and if you are happiest with a glass of pink wine in your ladyhand, who am I to judge? But I can’t date someone who seems more feminine than me. Don’t blame me; blame the patriarchy.

Most recently, I met a guy who told me, about a half hour into a coffee date, that I was his first attempt at dating since he got out of prison, and that he would be on federal parole for the next several years. So that was a real mood dampener. But I respected him for his honesty and for turning his life around. Then we started talking politics, and you know what this guy was? A Trump supporter! You can be a felon; I understand that sometimes we all make bad decisions. But if you think Donald Trump is a legitimate choice for president, there is something gravely wrong with you. I could not end that conversation fast enough.

I’m only telling you about the ones that I didn’t like. It goes the other way, too, of course. There was Hot Scott, who was brilliant and interesting—and hot, of course. He took me to a very nice dinner, so nice it almost made me uncomfortable. He told great stories and I thoroughly enjoyed talking with him. But he didn’t even walk me to my car (basic courtesy, right?) so I knew he wasn’t interested. Hard to fathom that someone wouldn’t be interested in ME, but hey, it happens. At least it was an entertaining date. There was also a guy from high school that I found on Tinder. We went out and he was delightful: charming and handsome and so fun to be around. Still is. We landed smack in the friend zone. That happens sometimes, too, and I’m okay with that.

So there you have it: a brief, sad summary of my dating life over the last year.

Sometimes I wonder whether I’m too picky, or if I have unrealistic expectations. Am I like George Costanza, ruling out people for ridiculous reasons? Contrary to popular belief, being single for long periods of time does not make you inclined to settle. If anything, it makes you pickier. I’m old enough to know what I can and cannot live with. While I occasionally get tired of being alone (occasionally is another word I’m using loosely), I am pretty good at it. I know from experience that I’m happier on my own than I am when I’m with someone who isn’t a good fit.

We’re coming up on the holidays, so I’ll take another break pretty soon. My Match.com membership expires at the end of the month, and I’ll shut it down, delete my Tinder app, etc. I’ll have cozy nights by the fire with my dogs, who never tell me I need to lose weight. I’ll plan Christmas surprises for family and friends who aren’t flakey. And on New Years Eve, who knows? I could kiss anyone—anyone but a Trump supporter, that is. A girl must have her standards.

Throwback Thursday: A Classic Comeback to an Age-Old Question

If you have a teenage daughter, you know that there is no better source of cold, hard truth—especially about your appearance and fashion sense.

I rely heavily on my 19-year-old daughter for honest answers to critical questions like, “Hey, is it okay to wear socks with these?” I text pictures to her while shopping so she can assist with wardrobe choices. She screens my outfits before I leave for dates.

This may be her most significant contribution to our household—she keeps me from looking like a dork, or at least from looking like an old dork.

I became aware of Maddy’s gift for hard-hitting fashion feedback when she was very young. Consider this magnificent exchange from when she was just four years old.

I had just bought a new outfit, and it was a bit of a style departure for me. Fifteen years ago, I was every bit as bottom-heavy as I am now. Big butts weren’t as acceptable then as they are now. (They ARE acceptable now. I believe in my heart that they are.) So, I tended to hide my “curvy” lower half under big, tunic-style tops.

This time however, in a moment of body-bravado, I’d purchased a fitted black sweater and a printed wrap-around skirt. It was a long, narrow skirt with a tribal pattern on it. Between the fitted sweater and narrow skirt, my shape wasn’t hidden at all.

“Wanna see my new outfit?” I asked four-year-old Maddy, and she, already clothing-conscious and opinionated, gamely agreed.

I put on the outfit and stood in front of the mirror, where I could see her little face looking at me from behind.

Head tilted, she considered my ensemble with a definite frown. It was so clear that she didn’t approve, I just had to do it: I had to ask that age-old question. And she gave the best answer that I’ve ever heard.

“What’s the matter, honey?” I asked. “Do you think this skirt makes my butt look big?”

“No,” she said seriously, my joke lost on her. “I think your butt makes that skirt look big.”

Maddy age four 3

Birthday Thoughts: 43 and Rollin’ With It

I’m turning 43 today. I don’t really care so much about that, but my birthday might be making me a little more introspective than usual. (That’s saying something. Somebody here might be a narcissist. If you have a personal blog, there’s a pretty high chance of narcissism. Just sayin’. But it’s okay to be a narcissist on your birthday, right?)

There is a very positive development on the horizon for me, and I can’t talk about it because it’s not official yet. But the possibility—the likelihood, even– is so exciting, it’s spilling over into the rest of my life and suddenly everything seems all rosy and full of possibility. I feel happy and beautiful and abundant. I’m actually walking around smiling, buzzing. It’s pretty wonderful.

And, at 43, I finally recognize this for what it is. Basically, this is a mood swing. Nothing in my life is any different than usual. More money may be coming into it, and that’s fantastic and it will feel great. A younger me would be thinking, man, if this happens, everything will be perfect. I will have arrived.

But I’ve learned that that’s not the case, regardless of what new development occurs. Doesn’t matter if I meet a wonderful guy or get a great job or reach my goal weight or whatever. (I have a little shame that these issues are still the yardsticks, but they are. I can’t deny it.) I can be broke no matter how much money I make. I can feel lonely no matter who I’m with. I can feel fat no matter what I weigh, and I can feel sad even when I’m aware of how good I have it. The reverse is also true: I can feel rich when I have nothing. I can feel sexy on my frumpiest of days. I can feel perfectly content and loved when I’m alone.

The absolute crux of my whole existence seems to be mood–not my reality but how I relate to my reality. And when you’re me, with my moods, the one constant is flux. My mood will go up and it will go down. Two days per month it will go waaaaay down. And when stuff goes right, like right now, it will go way up.

Obviously, volumes have been written about this. Not sure what I, small-time blogger, can say that all the greats haven’t already covered. But just like I’m enjoying my UP mood right now, I’m enjoying my grown-up lady perspective that says, “Just roll with it. Don’t grab at it. Just enjoy it while it lasts and see it for what it is.”

This quote from Anne Morrow Lindbergh is lingering with me lately, though the context is slightly off from my own. She’s talking about the ebb and flow of love within the context of a relationship, but I receive it in the context of ebb and flow between me and the Universe, or me and my reality—however you care to phrase it—this is true in the broader perspective, and it helps me to think like this.

We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity – in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.

The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. Relationships must be like islands, one must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits – islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, and continually visited and abandoned by the tides.

Note that she’s not saying there’s no pleasure in owning or expecting or hoping. There’s comfort in continuity; there’s fun in nostalgia. But in the end, there’s no security in it. You can’t bank on it. You are the bank. I am the bank. Kookookachoo.

Speaking of nostalgia, this quote brings back memories of trying to bodysurf as a kid. I grew up in Orange County and have many memories of charging fearlessly into the surf, deep enough so that the swell would lift me off my feet. If you stood in the right place at the right time, the right wave would deliver you smoothly back to the beach. If you timed it poorly, the wave would knock you under and tumble you around until you weren’t sure which way was up, and you’d wind up sputtering and gasping in the sand. I wasn’t great at this, so I did more than my share of tumbling and sputtering. But either way, I’d catch my breath and run right back into the water, over and over again. I’d spend hours in the water, then go home sunburned and exhausted, salty hair plastered to my head and sand stuck in my ears, nose and all the other nooks and crannies of my person. My favorite part was laying in my bed at night, still feeling the ebb and flow of the sea. I could close my eyes and be right back in it, and feel the solidity of my own form against the push and pull of the waves, feel the swell of the water against my legs and the rush of the sand from under my feet.

So at 43, I’ve learned that being a grown-up is about leaning into that ebb and flow. It’s not even knowing which way to lean, or avoiding the tumble and sputter. It’s knowing that there will be smooth rides; there will even be glorious, amazing, can’t-believe-I-caught-that-wave rides. And there will be also times when you hit bottom so hard, you’re still finding sand in your crack a week later.

Whatever happens, good or bad, more waves are coming.

Meg Birthday 43