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    Volume 9 Issue 23| June 4, 2010|

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Writing the Wrong

Crow's Feet and Other Intractable Truths

Sharbari Ahmed

When did this happen? How did this happen? When did I become, well, old? Ok, older. When I smile, the eye lines show themselves, and I smile a lot. I am calmer, though, more confident. Fully aware of my lumps, bumps, and flaws, and mostly accepting of them. The bumps that can be smoothed over are in the process of being so, the ones that are a bit more stubborn require an extra fifteen minutes in the gym or more mindfulness during sitting meditation.

One Friday, as I was ambling home from something my thoughts started like this: tomorrow's Saturday! Ten years ago...okay, fifteen years ago, I would have been making plans, frantically calling girlfriends, trying to figure out where to go Saturday night. I would have been worried that unless I got out there, the world would do something really interesting and I would not be there to witness it, or, more importantly, instigate it. Now, the thought of getting dolled up, shlepping around on subways in high heels, and standing outside a club in NY, where an intellectual pygmy, with a permanent pout and clipboard, who deems me worthy or not of entering the inner sanctum, makes me shudder; the same kind of shudder that I experience when I see disemboweled road kill, or the CEO of BP issuing statements on the Gulf oil spill. Abject dread.

Nowadays, my idea of a brilliant Saturday night does not involve much movement. It involves people, however, but the kind who love to linger, with the remains of a scrumptious meal on the table, to shoot the breeze and listen to music. If dancing ensues it will be spontaneous. The people around me are those who teach me things about stuff. Another wonderful advantage of getting older is that if you are smart and loving you are able to cultivate a magnificent coterie of compadres who know you and love you anyway. Whose loyalty is unwavering and inspire you to be a better version of yourself. These folks have to be earned, though. You have to put in the time early on to be able to enjoy their impressive presences later. If, when you were younger, you were negligent of your own spirit or that of others', then I can guarantee right now you are very lonely or surrounded by people you neither respect, nor trust and who may not really respect or trust you, and whose miasmic energy sucks you down into the nether regions of your own insecurities. Oh sure, you and Darth Vader and his cronies might hang out all the time, you might even share some genuinely joyful moments, because the fact is, you are a wonderful human being, with so much to offer. However, that is all you are sharing, a mere moment. It is not sustained joy. It is as wispy and ephemeral as the plume of smoke at the end of the tenth cigarette you have inhaled that evening, while grinnining gamely for pictures that will be littering facebook walls in less than twenty-four hours. The captions of those photos should be (in all caps to match the level of desperation involved) LOOK! I AM HAVING SO MUCH FUN, WITH SO MANY COOL PEOPLE, BECAUSE I AM COOL AND SOOOO HAPPY! This is okay, I feel, when one is younger. I have done this a lot myself, in different ways. After a certain point, however, it seems problematic. When I was doing it, it was because I was hiding from something. Probably myself.

I am very lucky to have the friends I do considering how insufferable I was in my twenties. I could barely stand myself, I don't know how others managed it. Some of the die hards are still hanging around; brave, dear, foolhardy souls, from even high school and college. Some have saved themselves and run for the hills, clutching a first aid kit and protein bars. I really cannot blame them. I was all ego, attachment, hyperbole and insecurity. Now I am only mostly so. The word that comes to mind in describing me in my youth is pugnacious; always spoiling for a fight. As my mother would say (in Bangla), you are fighting with the wind! Or, (also in Bangla) you are verbally body slamming me for no reason (loose translation).

I am growing, though, in spurts and starts. My perfect weekend also now involves the thwack (!) of a baseball hitting a bat and watching my lanky son lope (when he should be dashing, sigh) towards first base while I scream myself hoarse. I have to admit I get a bit too rambunctious and promptly forget all the lessons I am learning. At last weekend's game I started yelling at my kid, “What're you on a stroll? What're you taking a walk? Are you in Central Park? Run your ass off!” The coach then came up to me and whispered, “You can't use words like ass at a little league game.”

“Why the hell not?” I enquired (politely). One of the major joys for me at sporting events, whether I participate or not is the opportunity to talk smack, as they say, to the opposing team. I have used it to distract my superior opponent on more than one occasion whilst playing tennis, ridiculing everything from their back hand to their political affiliations. In inspired moments, I might combine the two.

“You Republicans take bailout money faster than you return a serve!” I might say.

Later, after his lackadaisical jaunt to third base, and I had composed myself, I gave my kid a long talk on why stealing bases is a necessary component of baseball. “Here, I said,” theft is absolutely allowed,” and launched into a long lecture on how it is all a matter of perception. What seems like a modest line drive into right centre field could lead you straight through to home plate and even victory. Impassioned by my own eloquence, I attempted to make this a metaphor for life, an unfortunate byproduct of aging and what my kid wearily calls, “One of mom's teaching moments”. My own (much beloved) father suffers mightily from this particular malady and it appears I have inherited it.

Eventually, after listening for several minutes, and watching me gesticulate excitedly to emphasise my point, my child said, “So do I get a reward 'cause I hit the ball?”

This reminded me of what my meditation teacher said last Sunday: sometimes it is not necessary to give people dharma, especially when they did not ask for it.

None of this is original, you say. Oh yeah? Then how come you are having such a hard time growing up then? I shall leave you with a bit of Buddhism and the intractable truth I am struggling to accept. Death is inevitable and we are all hurtling towards age, infirmity, incontinence and disease with alarming speed, like the asteroid that killed all the dinosaurs when it hit earth. Smile and have a nice day.



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