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August 12, 2009

Riding Shotgun

This is a repost of something I wrote several years ago. It's about being in the grip of strong emotions. If you've never heard the song, it's one of my all time favorites. To listen to Shawn Colvin's version, go here and look at the top right corner of the page.

I love you so much and it's so bizarre
A mystery that goes on and on and on
This is the best thing and the very most hard
When we don't get along

After countless appeals we keep
spinning our wheels
On this mountain of new fallen snow
So I let go the catch
And we are over the edge
You have left me nowhere to go

I'm riding shotgun down the avalanche
Tumbling and falling down the avalanche...


Somehow I always imagined this part of my life as a tranquil time. Instead, my emotions are no more well behaved than my hair. I've been trying to grow it out, but it annoys me when I'm working. So I tried putting it up in what I imagined as a sleek, sophisticated chignon. But my riotous curls possess no natural dignity. Even hair spray doesn't keep little wisps from escaping and curling up all over the place when it rains. Now it seems all the wayward emotions I kept so tightly throttled while raising my sons are escaping too, annoying me with their unruly nature. The carefully cultivated patina of calm reasonableness is still there, but it doesn't seem grounded in anything very solid. Just under the surface lies treacherous ground. I never know when I might be seized by an avalanche of unpredictable and unwelcome feelings I can't let show.

I remember being sixteen - wanting desperately to be a writer. Fighting against the urge to give in to what I viewed as the irrationality of the creative side of my nature. The more I wrote, especially poetry, the more wild I became. I still have things I wrote that year - some of my best work: filled with passion and longing and sometimes despair, and often a brittle joy that lit up my world like a thousand Roman candles. It seemed an unstable basis on which to build a life: so insubstantial and self-centered. I wanted something more... permanent. I didn't see anything good coming from staying on that road.

At a party this weekend I met a rather odd gentleman. He related how his Mother went loopy on him at 50 - got into extreme skiing (everything was black diamond) and spent summers rollerblading to stay in shape and getting picked up by the local gendarmes for skating illegally. He did not approve, or understand. Didn't sound like there was a husband in the picture. I'm never sure what people expect older women to do for kicks - the mind boggles.

I had to laugh. Last weekend, my parents and brother were regaling my niece and nephew (God I hate it when they do this) with the old stories about what a little monster I was as a child. My brother helpfully included several I'd forgotten, like the time, in second grade, when I started up my Dad's Rambler and had it halfway down the street before I goofed up with the clutch and stalled it out, then flooded the engine... Can you say "busted", boys and girls?

What happened? When did I become so cautious?

I wonder how much of what people think of as 'hormones' is really just decades worth of thoughts and feelings we never made time for because we were too busy working? Or - perish the thought - because admitting them would have meant acknowledging discontent with the choices we're afforded? Or more accurately, the limited range we decided to accept?

I get so angry and impatient with myself these days for not being who I used to be. Then I wonder if that's who I ever really was, or just an accomodation I made because I had an important job to do, and that was the only way I could do it to my own satisfaction? When our first son was born, his namesake made us a wall hanging. This song was on the outside, though of course he didn't put this verse on it. But I've always loved the song, and this is the verse that so haunted me when I was first married:

Well, I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I'm getting older, too
Well I'm getting older too...
Funny, I don't feel old at all. When I'm behind the wheel of my car going way too fast down some country road, I could be eleven years old again: barreling downhill at breakneck speed, doing a pirouette on the seat of my crashed-up old bike with the wind rushing through my hair and the sun on my face.

Look Mom! No hands!

Posted by Cassandra at August 12, 2009 03:52 PM

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Comments

Welcome to menopause.

Posted by: Cricket at August 12, 2009 04:28 PM

*Hoists a libation, and offers a toast*

To growing up!
Again...
and again...
and again...

Posted by: bthun at August 12, 2009 04:52 PM

Heh :)

It never gets easier, does it?

Posted by: Cassandra at August 12, 2009 04:56 PM

I hope you have one of those "Easy" buttons from Office Max that goes:

"That was easy"

whenever you push it.

The biting irony and bitter, clingy edginess of it all. Guilt and self -loathing, expressed as an existential desire to straighten your hair.

Looks like you picked a bad week to stop sniffing glue.
Oh well. That was easy.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at August 12, 2009 05:25 PM

Hmmm... I always thought the symptoms of a mid-life crisis was buying a cherry red sports car...


*running away*

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at August 12, 2009 05:37 PM

Maybe I am missing something Don, but I don't think I am succumbing to guilt or self-loathing.

Just trying to reconcile something in my mind. That's all.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 12, 2009 05:50 PM

Well, to start off - man, I'm still ticked off about Fleetwood Mac splitting up! But there is also the Beetles and "Those Were the Days."

The odd part of it all is that every time I shave, I see a stranger staring back at me, but behind the eyes, there is still the boy, and isn't that what counts?

Posted by: RIslander at August 12, 2009 06:06 PM

The most disturbing symptom of that proverbial mid-life crisis -what crisis?- that I've encountered is the realization that you're approaching the age of legal majority. For the third #$%@&!^ time...

Sports cars, new or renewed hobbies, and interest not becoming a person of seasoned citizen status, is, IMHO, only a means to refresh the spirit and soul.

After all, most have, at that point, put in the time, done the duties, sacrificed to provide for, and raised the next generation to maturity. So when the inner child appears with the reminder that one has a modicum of time, money, and energy with which to once again explore and enjoy life. There is an urge to grab the spouse and let'er rip!

I would have never thought that in my mid to late thirties and forties. All bid'ness, all the time. Sheesh, I'm glad I grew up! =;^}

Posted by: bthun at August 12, 2009 06:06 PM

...every time I shave, I see a stranger staring back at me, but behind the eyes, there is still the boy, and isn't that what counts?

That made me smile. I hope that boy never disappears.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 12, 2009 06:12 PM

Cassandra dear,
It was a joke. I know that is not your real problem.

Believe me, the last two weeks of my life have not been a picnic, watching my so-called "career" start to circle the drain.
I'm thinking of sniffing glue, or at least drinking heavily. :)

Oh well.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at August 12, 2009 06:34 PM

"the last two weeks of my life have not been a picnic, watching my so-called "career" start to circle the drain. I'm thinking of sniffing glue, or at least drinking heavily. :)"
Yikes Don!

I hate to hear of anyone facing such prospects. Although, if I may be so bold, I think that I can understand. My accident gave me the opportunity to explore a new start on my life. Well, having no control over the events that led up to that point, that was about the only view I could take, and remain sane. It's all in how you adjust to the vagaries of life I suppose.

Weird how this tune just popped into my head. I don't care for the fellow's politics but I've always enjoyed his music. So grab your SO, it's a Samba Pa' Ti. May it soothe like an icy, lime daiquiri on a hot summer's evening.

How time flies. The tune dates back to a time when I was a very young fellow with no clear direction, only a multitude of paths before me. I had no celestial indications, and very little good sense with which to choose the correct path. But it worked out just fine.

After the accident, I found myself, once again, at a similar place. Life is strange, but it always seems to work out. One way or the other. And with examples set by those young folks who wear the uniforms of our armed services, how could I think otherwise?

Best wishes for M'lady's reconciliation and your days ahead too Don.

I'm gonna hush now and commence drinking! =;^}

Posted by: bthun at August 12, 2009 07:45 PM

It's all in how you adjust to the vagaries of life I suppose.

I will put in a good word for Don with the head of the Vagary Department. I hope everything works out for the best.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 12, 2009 08:15 PM

Whoa! You've pull in that Department?

Can I give you a cease and desist list-o-items to pass on?

*hic*

Posted by: bthun at August 12, 2009 08:25 PM

Or ask someone to make sure I get some interviews so I can get maybe get a teaching job before yet another school year begins since I earned my teaching certification??

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at August 12, 2009 08:35 PM

"...my riotous curls possess no natural dignity."

Mine neither. I know it's a segue, going off on a tangent an' all, but that why I grow my hair long enough to pull back...where I don't have to see (or care) what it does behind my back. Cut it short you say? Too much ugly scar tissue from a rough life. Honestly...

Posted by: camojack at August 13, 2009 03:49 AM

"When I'm behind the wheel of my car going way too fast down some country road, I could be eleven years old again"
Strangely enough, when I am in the car with you, I'm rapidly aging...:)

Posted by: Carrie at August 13, 2009 08:26 AM

And saying Hail Mary's...

Posted by: Carrie at August 13, 2009 08:52 AM

And I'm not Catholic..

Posted by: Carrie at August 13, 2009 08:53 AM

*cough*

Carrie, Yu-Ain... come to the front of the classroom!

WHAP WHAP WHAP!!!!

*&^%$ smart alecks :p

Posted by: Sister Mary Bag 'o Metaphors at August 13, 2009 09:09 AM

It's only the smart-aleck in us that never ages, Sister.

Posted by: spd rdr at August 13, 2009 09:39 AM

Posted by: Carrie at August 13, 2009 08:26 AM

Posted by: Carrie at August 13, 2009 08:52 AM

Posted by: Carrie at August 13, 2009 08:53 AM

Hmmm. From that I suppose I should, if the occasion to loan one of my little sports cars -none are red- to M'lady ever presented itself, verify my insurance coverage first? =8^}

BTW: Walkin' Boss has naturally curly hair. Most attractive it is when the glass is out of the roof, the windows are down, and the vehicle is pulling negative G's cresting the top of a hill with the engine at full song on a back road... And yes, I too silently recite Hail Mary's while white-knuckling the OH $@!+ handle over the door. SHOTGUN! I called it! All the while enjoying the view, both inside and out.

It's not the age, it's the mileage and the maintenance that counts.

Posted by: bthun at August 13, 2009 09:39 AM

The way I see it, sports cars are a perfect remedy for aging. After all, time slows down the faster you go. It's just good science.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at August 13, 2009 09:41 AM

Sports car? No way I'll ever get inside one -- a guy could get *hurt* in one

Gotta go -- rockets...

Posted by: BillT at August 13, 2009 09:50 AM

Posted by: BillT at August 13, 2009 09:50 AM
Uh huh... Heheh.

Posted by: bthun at August 13, 2009 10:07 AM

I suppose I should, if the occasion to loan one of my little sports cars -none are red- to M'lady ever presented itself, verify my insurance coverage first? =8^}

I will have you know, sir, that my driving record is excellent :p

Only one accident in 35 years, and that was a minor fender bender in a snowstorm caused by someone coming at me head on, in my lane. I felt pretty good that it was as minor as it was, especially as the next 8 folks behind me all ended up in worse ones. I haven't even hit someone else in a parking lot, or while parking.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 13, 2009 10:09 AM

I did not say you were a bad driver, Cass...
just a fast one.:)

Posted by: Carrie at August 13, 2009 10:33 AM

Posted by Carrie at August 13, 2009 10:33 AM
I kid, I joke with M'lady. Walkin' Boss is a very safe driver too. But she will boogie along when she gets the urge.
Posted by: Cassandra at August 13, 2009 10:09 AM
I can appreciate that. I've never caused an accident, but I've been the kinetic energy absorption object in several. Must be why I mostly drive my pickup these days. =8^}

So ok then, the keys are hanging inside the back door on a hook. Just leave a note.

I assume that you can drive a stick shift.

Posted by: bthun at August 13, 2009 10:48 AM

I assume that you can drive a stick shift.

For 33 years that's all I drove. We have an automatic now and I hate it.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 13, 2009 11:13 AM

I took driver's ed through the school district in El Paso when my dad was stationed at Fort Bliss, the summer before we moved to Germany. At the time, the family vehicle was a Volkswagon Vanogan (the Volvo wagon was no longer going to be enough after my Mom got pregnant with my youngest sister. It - like the Volvo - was a stick. I didn't "get it" while also just learning how to drive, and I'm sure it didn't help that the gear shift was way in the middle of the two front seats and had to be pressed down upon to make it move. Took my road test of my provisional license in my grandparent's Buick LeSabre before we left the country. Not that it did me much good then, as the age for driving in Germany was 17, not 16, and then I didn't really need to be able to drive - I could mostly get where I needed to go on foot, or by public transportation or by bicycle.

Now, when my parents returned to the States after I was already a couple of years into college, they found a car - an '87 Civic sedan - that was to be mine, but first I had to master the manual transmission. The summer between my Jr & Sr years, my dad took me out on the tank trails at Fort Hood. Just had to watch out for the occasional cow that is allowed to graze out there. Since then, when it has come time for me to buy a new car, I only consider manual transmissions. I call myself a "5-speed snob". It's also a good excuse when it comes to telling most people that they can't borrow my car - they can't drive a stick...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at August 13, 2009 12:14 PM

I will have you know, sir, that my driving record is excellent :p

You'd better be especially careful for the next few days, Cass. :)

Posted by: Grim at August 13, 2009 12:23 PM

"For 33 years that's all I drove. We have an automatic now and I hate it."
Stick versus automatic, same here. Nowadays, it's become a bit dicey as to whether I'm able to safely do so on any given day. And the truck has an auto so I only have to make one leg obey the brain.

It seems that I've recently become aware of and started falling in lust with a sports car equipped with a 7 speed automatic.

Sheesh, I may have to grow up yet again. Or hope the market recovers a good deal more than it has. Or hit the lottery, which is about the only justification I could use to spend that much moola on a guaranteed to depreciate asset like an automobile.

In the meantime, I'll taunt the fates with this tune.

Posted by: bthun at August 13, 2009 12:28 PM

Cass ~ don't take Carrie's comments too personally. She's just never been in the car with me.

Posted by: Sly's Wardrobe Mistress at August 13, 2009 01:22 PM

Cass ~ don't take Carrie's comments too personally. She's just never been in the car with me.

*snort*

Having watched you surf the 'Net, I can only imagine :p

Posted by: Cassandra at August 13, 2009 02:45 PM

I'll taunt the fates...

O, Lowered,
Won'tcha buy me
A UH-1D?
My friends fly Apaches,
They look down
On me.
Flown low
All my lifetime,
Dodged missiles
And guns.
O, Lowered,
Won'tcha buy me
An old Youuuuuu
Aaaaiiiiitch
Wuuuuuuuuuunnnnn?

Posted by: BillT at August 13, 2009 03:19 PM

Don't you go messing with Janis, Bill.
I've still got a very soft spot for that girl from Brownsville, and ugly things may ensue when you mess with my music.

Otherwise, you seem like a good sort, deserving to live another week, maybe longer.

:-)

Posted by: spd rdr at August 13, 2009 05:17 PM

"Cass ~ don't take Carrie's comments too personally. She's just never been in the car with me."
And I will keep this in mind when we're all out in Cali next month.

Posted by: Carrie at August 14, 2009 08:01 AM

Don't you go messing with Janis, Bill.

Purist!

Posted by: BillT at August 14, 2009 09:55 AM

I entertain dreams of a Rolls Royce Phantom II, or a 1954 MG. However, I think my mid-life crisis will be getting a contract that lasts longer than one year. I won't know what to do if I'm not moving every 12 months!

Posted by: LittleRed1 at August 14, 2009 04:08 PM

Speaking of cars....

I made my final car payment today on my '04 Civic Coupe EX (5-speed, of course)...

Timer just went off. Somebody's brownies are ready for the peanut brittle topping...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at August 15, 2009 01:03 AM

YUM. Sharesies. In the Commune of Cassandraville, all yumyum recipes must be shared.
It is a law.

What, uh, Cass didn't make that law?

Well, I rule by fiat!

(couldja email it to me? The Engineer loves peanuts. I have made candy, ice cream and pies, cookies, cakes...this would be the penultimate)

Posted by: cricket at August 15, 2009 09:49 AM

It'll be on its way shortly. I got it from Sarah - she mentioned the recipe on her facebook, making them for her husband and his team before they deployed. She told me I should feel loved that she dug it out and sent it to me, since just thinking about cooking at the time was making her nauseous...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at August 15, 2009 01:01 PM

Aha...well, when is the baby due?

Posted by: Cricket at August 16, 2009 07:29 PM

She got pregnant when she & her husband were in Vegas during block leave before he deployed... I think she's at about 12 weeks right now. Have you been keeping up with her blog?

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at August 16, 2009 08:09 PM

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