Long Exposure — Among the people you’ve known for a long time, who is the person who’s changed the most over the years? Was the change for the better?
All the people I’ve known a long time have changed, me and my husband in particular. Better? For whom?
I am far less sociable and hugely less outgoing. I was quite the party-maker with a wild and crazy social life and now I’m a virtual recluse.
Much of my life centered around work … and I don’t work any more. I’ve gone from being gregarious to being a loner, being work-centric to being survival-centric.
Good? Not good? If I hadn’t changed in response to the realities of life, I’d probably be dead or living on the street. I guess that makes them good, right? I read less, write more.
I keep taking pictures. It’s now more than forty years of photography. That’s consistent, anyhow.
Garry was shy, solitary. He was so driven by career and work he didn’t have time for anything, anyone else. Like making friends, building a personal life. Yet … when I came back into his life, he began to emerge. He started to pull back from work, become more sociable. Now, he couldn’t be paid enough to go back to work.
He used to be the kind of guy who always looked like he’d just stepped out of the pages of GQ. Now, he wears sloppy shorts and old tee shirts or pajama bottoms and sweatshirts.
He remains passionate about sports, but can miss the game and watch a movie without having a crisis.
Both of us eat less, don’t drink at all. Our world centers around each other and a few close friends and family.
You know what? I think it’s good. And appropriate.
I bought a dress from Land’s End. To get the free shipping, I had to spend an extra $10 which would save me $9 in shipping costs. I bought a blouse. Navy blue cotton knit. Boatneck. Long sleeve. It looks exactly like all the other blouses in my closet.
I couldn’t remember where I’d put it and spent a full hour searching the bedroom. I thought I’d lost it, but it turns out, I had hung it up in the closet. One navy blouse amidst a sea of black, dark gray and navy is invisible. I could — I was — looking at it and didn’t realize it. I had my hand on it … and didn’t know it was what I was searching for.
All of my clothing looks the same. I’ve been wearing the same clothing for 50 years. Fashions come, fashions go, but Marilyn wears the same clothing. Jeans. The same Clark’s sandals I was wearing in 1962. The materials from which they are made have altered, but otherwise? The same.
Having told Garry I had lost track of a new Land’s End blouse, I had to tell him I’d found it.
“Where was it?” he asked.
“I hung it up,” I said, expecting him to congratulate me on my neatness.
“Big mistake,” he said. “You can never find anything in that closet.” I absorbed that and had an epiphany.
“It makes shopping for me easy. Just buy me clothing that looks exactly the same as everything else I own. You could buy something different, but I probably wouldn’t wear it. If you feel like experimenting, buy a lighter shade of navy or medium rather than charcoal grey.”
He raised an eyebrow.
“Well, think of all the time and creativity you don’t have to waste trying to find something different. Just buy the same stuff. Hey, you are still wearing the same shoes you were wearing 20 years ago. I don’t mean shoes just like shoes you wore 20 years ago. I mean you’re still wearing the same shoes. So, Mr. Smarty-Pants, don’t raise your eyebrow at me!”
He smiled and went back to watching The Six Million Dollar Man, a show so awful it now qualifies as a comedy.
We are totally creatures of habit. I found My Style when I was 16. Round toed shoes. Flat, comfortable sandals. A-line skirts. Jeans. Turtle necks in the winter. Boat necks or slight scoops in the summer, preferably long, at least hip length. Dark, neutral colors with a touch of red for accent. Sometimes something in dusty rose or mauve. Or taupe.
That I have been wearing the same clothing for 50 years — what does this say about me? So does my husband. And best friend and her husband. We are all still wearing the same styles we wore when we were teenagers. Listening to the same music, pretty much. I’m married to the same guy I used to hang out with 50 years ago.
About the only things that have radically changed? What I eat is completely different and I don’t use recreational drugs. They’d probably kill me.
I’m the same person I was at 16. For all practical purposes, my life has been a gigantic circle back to where it began. I’m less agile, more arthritic. A lot less worried about what people think of me. More impatient with stupidity and bureaucracy. Still liberal, still a Democrat.
Still believe in helping other people, though more careful about who I let into my life and home. I’m still a sucker for animals. Horses, dogs, cats, Most anything furry and cute. I still read all the time, unless I’m writing or working on photographs.
I use new technology to do the same stuff I’ve always done. Technology has made doing what I enjoy easier, but it hasn’t changed what I like.
I still scream at spiders and watch birds. My sense of humor is the same. My hobbies haven’t changed: I write and take pictures. I don’t play the piano anymore. Arthritis finished that. I also am significantly less active, but not by choice.
So … how much have you changed from the person you were in your late teens? What, if anything, do you do completely differently? Do you like the person you’ve become? Are you trying to change? Do you fit in? If you met the young you, what would you tell yourself?
Greatness comes in many forms. From your best friend, to your husband and fourth grade teacher … the fireman, police and soldiers who protect you … the men who invent our world … the people who fight injustice. So much greatness, too much for one post … this is a small start. Related articles Daily […]
I originally wrote this six years ago. I’ve rewritten it many times since. Some day, I’ll get it right. It does seem appropriate for this topic. The deeper meaning, such as it is, is obvious: all us are haunted by someone or something, an evil shadow of what we were and never want to be again.
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Twelve years ago, I lost 160 pounds, an entire full-grown person. I have gained some during the past two years as a side effect of anti-hormone therapy following breast cancer, but I’m still more than 100 pounds less than I was before the story began.
Every since the initial weight loss, there has been a Fat Lady following me. She is me, or more accurately, she is the me I used to be. She is invisible to everyone else, but I can see and hear her clearly. She waddles after me wherever I go. She talks to me, nags me, teases me. She sits with me at meals, whispering in my ear. She’s my co-pilot while I drive. Worst of all, she goes shopping with me.
While I try to decide whether or not to buy the size that looks great and fits just right … or play it safe and get the bigger size … she is there taunting me. This is probably why I have a half closet of clothing that’s too big. Always is the terrible whispering voice of the Fat Lady saying: “Yes, but what if you gain weight … what if you need bigger sizes? What will you do with this little stuff?”
The Fat Lady never shuts up. “You know, your feet might swell. You’ll never fit into those narrow little shoes.” Panic. What if my feet really DO swell? It hasn’t happened in more than 10 years, but still I expect it any day.
What if this is all some kind of weird dream? If suddenly I wake to discover I’m big? Every time I try on a garment, that Fat Lady is there, doing commentary.
Ah! The terror and triumph of shopping; the sheer exhilaration of sliding comfortably into skinny jeans … until the Fat Lady says. “You’ll never get into those pants.”.
“I am wearing them,” you point out.
“So,” she says, “what about tomorrow, eh? You could gain more weight. They might not fit tomorrow. Then what’ll you do? All you have is LITTLE clothing.”
“I’m going to stay little,” you reply, trying to hold firm.
“SURE you are,” she says. “Just like all those other times before …”
There’s no getting away from her. I have to run to the bathroom scale to confirm that I am not, in fact, fat. I stand in front of the mirror and stare at this body looking for signs of creeping obesity. I press my hands hard against my belly.
My belly is flat. Although I’m not longer all bone, I’m normal. Not bad at all for a gal of my age with a lot of miles on her. Perky breasts, too, since the nasty ones with the cancer were replaced with firm, youthful silicon implants.
I can feel the Fat Lady breathing in my ear. “See that flab?” she mocks. “That’s your old fat self. It’s just waiting for you.”
“It’s loose skin from all the surgeries.”
“Hah,” she says. “We both know better, don’t we.”
I have a theory about fat. It’s connected with the concept in physics that matter and energy is interchangeable and that the actual amount of matter and energy in the universe never changes. It just converts back and forth from energy to matter and around and around.
I lost 160 pounds.
That fat went somewhere. It’s in the ether waiting.
My lost fat transformed into a Fat Energy Field. Not only my fat, but all the fat anyone ever lost is hanging in the atmosphere, huge, amorphous, invisible … waiting for some unsuspecting person to cross its path. Then … WHAPPO ZAPPO. The Fat Energy Field transforms back into Fat Matter. Hips become huge, bellies grow pendulous and thighs and buttocks fill with blubber.
How many times have you … or someone you know said “I don’t know what happened. All of a sudden, I just put on 40 pounds. I don’t understand. I didn’t eat more than usual. It just happened.”
That poor soul intersected with a Fat Energy Field. It could be his or her very OWN Fat Energy Field, if he or she recently lost weight, or it could be mine or someone else’s.
So after all is said and done, it really isn’t your fault when you gain weight. You were engulfed in a Fat Energy Field.
All of which brings me back to my shadow, the Fat Lady. She is me, but she isn’t either. She is my shadow, a demon-self sent to discourage and frighten me. Somewhere, deep in my psyche, I know her. Me as my Fat Lady was comfortable and safe in those folds of fat. I sent her away but she wants to come home so she won’t have to remain amorphous, without a true body.
The Fat Lady wants my body back.
I spend a lot of time looking in mirrors. Vanity? No. I look in mirrors for reassurance. I have to keep checking to make sure that I am the “now” me, not the “old” version. I check that mirrored image for signs of bloat, for hints I will be who I was and who I do not wish to be ever again.
There was a movie called “Charly” that starred Cliff Robertson and Claire Bloom, based on a short story called “Flowers for Algernon” written by Daniel Keyes.
Released in 1968, it told the story of Charly, a retarded adult transformed by a miracle of medicine into a brilliant scientist but ultimately, the miracle fails and he returns to his former state of retarded man-child. He knows, before it happens, that it will happen.
How terrifying must that be? How terrified am I? (Note: These days I have lots of stuff to be scared of and regaining lost weight has dropped from my number 1 fear to around number 4 … but it’s still way up there on the worry chart.)
I feel his fear, the gnawing anxiety that he would have felt knowing he would lose all that he had gained. I live with that fright. I am scared to eat, even when I’m hungry. I’m afraid to buy clothing that really fits because I may not fit into it tomorrow morning or even later today.
Life in a new body is a daily adrenaline rush of mixed joy and panic, an endless roller coaster ride that hauls me up then drops me in a screaming rush then whips me around a curve only to drag me up again.
Fortunately, I love roller coasters, the bigger, faster and scarier, the better. If you are going to completely alter your physical self, you need to like living on the edge because you are on it for life. That roller coaster becomes life.
Life is to be lived and excitement, change, and danger make life interesting. We take risks because we want our lives to be edgy. We deny it, claim all we want peace, but we don’t really seek peace. We are ambivalent, wanting safety yet craving excitement.
They say that you stay young by constantly learning. I think you stay young by continuing to take risks. It may not always be smart, but sometimes, smart isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.
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Life happens. We plan. We’re psyched. Announce our upcoming adventure! Oops. Sickness. Financing falls through. The place we were sure was ours sells to someone else. Job offer dissolves; budget cancelled. Harvard said what? Who’s writing this script?
People (who ARE those people?) say “everything happens for a reason.” I’m not so sanguine, but I know we follow our destiny, like it or not. The longer I live, the louder I hear that drumbeat. Plans go awry. If fate decrees we aren’t doing it, discussion over. Make new plans? They fall apart too. Different reasons, same result. Another plan anyone?
Years pass. The you making plans has changed. If you get what you want, it won’t be what you expect. Could be better, might be worse. Surely different.
Take it easy, go with the flow. Bring energy, enthusiasm and a sense of wonder to everything, planned or not. Life’s unexpected, but needn’t be dull.
From womb to tomb, it’s a journey. We are forever becoming. The only thing we can always count on is us. Wherever, whatever, we bring ourselves to the party. The unplanned things were the most important. Never entirely fun. Rarely easy, but critical. Meaningful.
From 13 years old I wanted to go to Israel to live. Not visit. I had no interest in tourism. I wanted to live there, experience culture shock, be enveloped by foreignness. My first attempt to move there — with mom’s collusion — got cancelled when I chose college, a special B.A. program I thought wouldn’t let me in. I planned to study nursing in Israel. I was 16, just out of high school.
Twelve years later, I did move to Israel — on my own with my 9-year old son. No plans to study. I’d gotten my chance 5 years earlier, accepted into an exclusive Master’s program for administrative nursing. I dreamed of running free clinics for people without insurance.
Along came life. My first husband got cancer at 34. After I got up off the floor, I figured I needed an income, not a master’s. I found work as a writer; remained a writer my entire professional life. How would the lives entwined with mine have been changed if I’d moved to Israel in 1963? My son might not exist — or my granddaughter. I’d never have met Garry. I can’t imagine such a life.
This is where I should be. I know it, though not why. If I’d chosen, I’d be richer, healthier, living with better weather and no mortgage. But I wouldn’t trade for what I’ve got. Life’s not what I planned. It’s a challenge. But it’s good. I am where I should be. Destiny.
My dogs are happy. They never plan, except for the next biscuit. I’m with the dogs.
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