No Senator, I have not now, nor have I ever been, easygoing.
Spontaneous, yes. Wreckless, yes. But even in my swirliest-seeming qualities, there’s a vice grip. So I believe in astrology and psychics and horoscopes? That’s all about predicting the future. Knowing what’s coming so the metaphorical armies can be raised. I traipse off to foreign cities with no itinerary, no map, no plan, no companion? All that means is no one or nothing can interfere with my whims of will. And if there is no plan, there’s nothing to fail at achieving.
I name and categorize and analyze as a way of knuckling the messiness of life into submission.
Seemingly, joining up was an extension of that. So You Think You Can structure? Here’s some real rubrics of existence.
In fact, it was precisely the opposite. Joining the military was the first step in showing this beast the door. There is now nothing about my life that I can stranglehold. No amount of scheming and thinking makes any difference. I live where I’m told, for as long as I’m told, in the conditions provided, doing the job instructed. And no matters of ambition, or pull of the heart, or wish can change that.
I can’t yoga. I have never in my life been able to meditate. I run so my brain can spin unencumbered. I have only used the phrase “Let go and let God,” with the ultimate irony — letting go? Whowhanow?
But in this, my Jesus year, I am learning to do just that. I am systematically dismantling the former laws of the land. I am deciding what doesn’t rule me.
And I am, every day, unclenching my brain. Allowing first minutes to go by without cognitively squeezing something. And then hours. Days. (Maybe. Horses, held.) I am trying to breathe. Actually breathe, not just that impatient OMG WHAT?!? oxygen maintenance.
And I am trying to give things air. Space to be what they are. Let the light in and let them become.
But don’t worry. I am not getting one of those stupid miniature rake sandboxes. Now that’s just silly.
The heckyeah I love my job greeting o’ the day.
Or: How to join the Army and somehow become Aiden before he was Aiden and he lived in teeny tiny Cicely, Alaska with his own little radio show.
(“Chris is also Cicely’s only clergyman, ordained as a minister in the Universal Life Church through an advertisement in Rolling Stone magazine.” This I’d totally forgotten. Dig.)
Honestly. I can’t. I’m not a music critic; I latch onto whatever schlock I happen to be running to that week, call it “mah jams” and it’s all good. But this is more. This is love.
And for once, I don’t have to justify my legitimately questionable taste.
“Can they not hear how marvelous she is?”
That’s the word I would use. Precisely. Marvelous. It’s big and throaty and grand and womanly and bespeaks of fairy dust and wonder. Yes. Go see what I mean.
And lastly, the true measure: is it as good sung in a tiny room with minimal accompaniment? YES. See for yourself. This, this is beyond talent cusping on magic.
Camouflage and PT and reveille aside, the most striking difference about this whole being in vs. otherwise, is that suddenly there’s a whole chain of people who are actually tasked with your well being. Your boss is there partially to make sure you’re safe. This is a shocking departure from jobs of yore, and kind of great.
To get the watchful eye, however, you needs must provide the info. No problem. I’ve been training for that my whole life. There has been no movement, lateral, vertical, or Sunday morning that doesn’t require a check in with the Base Commander. Um. Hi, Mom!
Though I did learn one very important distinction this week between the reporting procedures: “You didn’t tell me you were going anywhere.” “I did! I posted it on the internet.” Works with: Mom. Does not work with: Uncle.
The best part about the whole shebang is the performance art piece, the Weekend Safety Brief. Tips said out loud so you can’t say you weren’t told, it’s usually don’t drink and drive, safe sex, etc. Very few of these warnings apply to my lifestyle. Annnnd there are some…specific additions it probably wouldn’t be a terrible idea to throw my way every Friday night:
- If you drop an entire glass jar of salsa on your tiled floor, the best course of action is not to stare at it for five minutes, eating naked chips and contemplating your misfortune, barefoot. Do not then try to scoop up the whole catastrophe with your bare hands and a plastic bag. And if you’re going to walk in the kitchen for the rest of the weekend, shoes maybe. At least socks.
- We keep the cords of blinds, necklaces, and shoe laces far away from baby’s crib for a reason. Don’t ruin all that hard work by sleeping in your iPod and letting your earbuds progressively wrap themselves around and around your neck as the night goes on. You hear me?
- Frozen hashbrowns are not a substitute for Waffle House and they cook a lot faster than you think they will. The Fire Department already knows where you live. This is not something to be proud of.
- You have an “emailing strangers from the internet when you find their work compelling” problem. They are still strangers. Proceed with caution.
- Be careful of finding 70% off at Benetton. Just kidding. That’s wrong in all the right ways.
I mean, if I were to guess at things I should hear, anyway.
Not based on truth at all.
The Litterbox podcast. Start at episode #70, The New Krew. (I miss San Francisco. No; San Franciscans.)
“I’m mad that I’ve listened to it, furious at myself when it’s done, but I do listen.”
- He: Aw. Annie [sic] Hathaway just threw her phone in the fountain.
- Me: (Silence.) Um. What film are you watching, sweetheart?
- He: The Devil Wears Prada. I just like the part where she decides she can do the job really well! It's like oh my God! She can be an assistant!
- Me: (Head down, helpless laughter.)
- He: Ooh. It's on again right after. You know, Miranda Priestly is the only interesting and sympathetic character in this whole story. We're supposed to care about the girl who has to answer the phones? Oh. Your life is so hard. It's like watching the life of Napoleon told through the eyes of this minion ant.
- Me: You're a very complex person.
- He: No, you are.
There are some lessons you learn from math books and film strips of Johnny Tremain, and some you learn from the forever thumbed and read and re-read paperbacks of your cusp of adulthood. These are the books that shaped my idea of matters of the heart.
The Top 5 Answers to “Who Wrote the Book of Love?”
- Just Friends; Norma Klein. She wrote the gritty, pre-Giuliani-Times-Square of Young Adult Fiction. It was pre-AIDS, pre-aggressive-parenting, adult and completely intoxicating. It’s all about taking for granted who’s always been in front of you, settling for the one who adores you even if it’s not reciprocated, and the complicated space between friends and lovers.
- The Thorn Birds; Colleen McCullough. It’s how you can’t choose love. You can fight against it, rage against it, spite it and deny it, and yet — it will take who it wants in the end. Love can be a battle, a tragic saga, and nothing short of epic. And I want all my love stories to span three parts.
- Romeo & Juliet; that Shakespeare guy. No. Not how you think. We shun the hackneyed around here. Included for this reason: when I was in college and called back for the part of Juliet (no, I didn’t get it, my life is quietly charmed and that’s how I like it) the director asked us each how we felt about having met Romeo. I said “Lucky.” And it’s true. Even in tragic ending, in the most forbidden of unions, finding the one who hangs the stars in the skies, however briefly…makes you very fortunate indeed.
- Lolita; Vladimir Nabokov. I read this when I was 17. It didn’t then, nor does it now, creep me out. Humbert Humbert is one of my favorite fictional characters and I…actually feel for him. She knew. Of course she knew the power she had over him. We always do. And sometimes we’re the Humbert, and sometimes we’re the Lolita. And we’re never confused as to which role we play.
- The Diary of Anne Frank; Anne Frank. Yeeeah. This doesn’t seem like such a romancer, does it? But it is. When read in the time when everything is all, “wouldn’t it be nice if we were older,” the idea of having a best friend, an intimate, in a secret and ever-present role, a comfort and companion and someone to explore firsts and confide in close at hand, is entirely romantic and wonderful.
And in conclusion to this book report in five parts, it’s completely clear I need to read all of these, again, for the first time.
And with that, she embarks upon building surely the most crucial playlist in the history of man.
Stay tuned for my personal attempt at: Bands Who Match. Or, “Gee, Your Costumes Look Terrific!” Because honestly, I couldn’t love it more. Deliberate costuming. Yes.
I was just going to say, “I wish I had a group of people I dressed the same as every day.” And then OH. RIGHT. Check.
Protip: Never Google Image Search “Hives” without applying the modifier “Band.”