Saturday, 22 June 2013

Still life as an aging Avatar

I ran into Donna, an old school chum, at the local Starbucks today.

Donna is an engaging soul, always busy. She was in Starbucks to grab a quick libation on route to a nail salon and then she was off to a life celebration. Donna told me that over the past weeks, she's been staging her home in hopes of selling it, after which she will retire with her lovely husband Jim to a house they are buying in the Maritimes. Next week, she'll be going to Edmonton for work.

Aside from those duties, Donna somehow manages to do community theatre and travel North America as a professional Scrabble player.

What a whirlwind life she leads.

This kind of life is foreign to me. Our chance encounter came as I was walking back from the gym, all sweaty, listening to Bruce Springsteen do a bad impression of Pete Seeger on my iPod. After Starbucks, I was attending the grocery store to see if I could find some half price meat to put on the barbie tonight.

Unlike Donna, I have no place to go this afternoon, except to let the dogs out. Maybe I'll canoodle on the Internet for a couple of hours, have a nap and do the dishes. My lifestyle is hard to talk to busy people about. They have no reference point.

I have no work experience to share. There are no exciting trips or lunches.

I work where I sleep and shit.

My job consists of scouring the Internet for exactly two hours a week for a virtual client across the pond. There is no workplace banter. Heck, we don't even speak the same language.

I haven't had my nails done ever and haven't shopped for clothes in a decade. I have the same uniform I wear whenever I got out: a black tunic top, black capris pants and Mephisto sandals. Yesterday, I split my gym shorts up the middle, shorts I bought in 1994. I kid you not.

I don't have a home to stage, let alone sell, though I am thinking about moving to a smaller more affordable place which is not surrounded by crackheads and rapists of teenage girls. It would be nice to look at some trees instead of the back end of a convenience store.

I'm not planning to move to the coast to retire; I'm just trying to save up enough money to be cremated on the inevitable day I realize there is no point living any longer. That will be when the doctor tells me that I have to give up drinking wine and eating cheese, I suspect.

What a ridiculous life I lead.

It makes it hard to be around people when you have nothing to say to them. I remember, years ago, leaving a women's group to which I belonged, because every luncheon involved a host going around the table asking us what was new. What was new in my case was that I'd just got my kid off the street or I'd lost my house or I'd got myself dumped by some nefarious boyfriend.

Nothing good to say, ever.

My life is better now. The kids are grown, I have a granddaughter and I'm remarried, but my life is still an endless lurch from one electricity bill to the next. I'm not really living, I'm bridging.

My circle has shrunk to immediate family which is still a big circle. One thing about having a large family is that if you invite the kids over, there's always a crowd.

I have two -- just two -- real friends. I know a lot of people and I have an entire army on Facebook, although many of them I would pass on the street and not recognize. Most of them are friends of friends who enjoy my brilliant repartee or share my twisted sense of humor.

I exist in a virtual world.

And I am an aging Avatar.

It's not a bad way to live; it's simple and predictable. There are no obligations. You don't have to make excuses. And you can't get your feelings hurt if you don't let people in.

Mostly, I spend my days talking to myself in this blog. It's great. I've gotten to know myself on a whole different level. I find myself interesting and engaging. I make myself laugh everyday. And I rarely make myself cry.

I like that.

But it makes socializing extremely awkward.

Every once in a while, there is an obligatory occasion that I must attend like last week when I went to the funeral of a long time friend. I was not looking forward to it.

I agonized over the fact that I had dumped a couple of friends who were going to be attending the affair. Would there be a scene? Would they call me out? Would there be tears or explanations needed?

The week before the funeral had already been a disaster. I had inadvertently shared the imminent passing of the friend with another person who had blabbed it on email. Then I got a smack down from his wife.

Then she discovered I had somehow become involved in the writing of his obituary without her knowledge. It was an innocent and well-meaning act, I swear. I had merely been asked for advice.

No matter.

That put me in the doghouse. I was a social pariah and would be forever known as a busy body and interloper.

Me, who never leaves her house. Me, who never answers the telephone.

"Trouble is, you can't keep a secret," Scott said.

There it was, a blinding glimpse of the obvious. I never had much of a filter and now the gates of hell had opened and I had somehow become Perez Hilton. Truth is, I'm a journalist. I need to process things or they burn up my insides. Every single action and thought must be turned around and dissected so that I might have peace.

That is the absolute truth. Just ask my husband.

A lack of filter and an inquisitive mind makes me a good journalist, the kind who gets awards and accolades for getting the story out first, with no detail left hanging. Unfortunately, I've discovered, it doesn't always make me a good friend.

Still, I attended the funeral and greeted my former colleagues and friends, many of whom were on crutches and canes. Some sported pacemakers and artificial hips. One guy mused that it should have been him in the ground ahead of the deceased -- at least according to his cardiologist.

It was a lovely ceremony, fit for a king. The widow had done it up right. Of course she did.

I sat in the front row on the other side with my family and later paid my respects, then deeked out with the smokers for a quick gab. I like smokers -- even though I've never been one -- because smokers are always in shit with somebody.

Spending time with that group cheered me up. I remembered that the reason we used to like each other was because we were all politically incorrect. Each and every one of us had had our cheese slide off our cracker more than a few times.

Didn't matter back in the day. We celebrated and laughed at each other's differences.

Not anymore. We're not the same. The world is not the same.

It's the refrain of aging. You may still be drumming, but your drum has lost the beat.

Sometimes I feel like a gopher who occasionally pops her head out of a hole somewhere. If I'm lucky, I'm not shot by some cranky farmer or trampled by cows on their way to the trough. But like most smart gophers, I keep my head down lest I risk permanent brain damage.

Oh well, it's a life I've chosen. Or has it chosen me?

So here I am back in my comfort zone, away from the glint of the coffee machine at Starbucks and the glare of judgy people. Alone again, virtually.


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