Monday, 19 May 2014

Life and Death, Blood and Genitals





It's been nearly seven years since I've lived in the real world, gotten up, got dressed and went to a real job. This is not a life that I've chosen; it's a life that has chosen me.

Since I've been on Plant Earth, I've only worked in real jobs for five years.

Five years, and I'm coming up on 58.

Not much to put on the old resume, is it?

Itinerant. That's the word that comes to mind.

How did this happen?

Life happened, of course. I came out of journalism school with the usual expectations and sat myself down at a typewriter -- man, now this is really aging me -- and set about to have that exciting career that was promised me. I had that for three years, first as a part-timer, then as a full-time night reporter for the Ottawa Journal. Then the paper folded and I was out on my ass.

I freelanced for the Ottawa Citizen for about year, writing a music column and all sorts of stories about going out in this burg. I spent far too many nights on the Hull side, at strip clubs and discos, or watching Sonny Thomson throw people down the stairs at Barrymore's.

At the ripe old age of 25, I'd already burned out my liver and my ears. It was time for a real job.

I opted for politics. Weird, right?

And stupidly, I picked the wrong political party -- the Liberals -- just when the country got weary of them. Two years in, the prime minister took his walk in the snow, and the Tories handed us our careers on a paper napkin. It was September 1984, and I was out of a job.

Again.

So I got married and moved to Saskatchewan, had two kids, then moved to Toronto and hatched another. This was the best gig ever. I could freelance and raise the kids. I had lots and lots of cash, designer togs and a really beautiful Jeep in the driveway.

Too bad my husband had other plans.

He left me for another vagina. All I had to show for my life was a large mortgage and three mouths to feed.

By this time, I was back in Ottawa, heavily-medicated, barely able to work.

It took me ten years to get out of that hole. Man, when I look back, I'm stunned I made it out at all.

It was about this time -- seven years ago, as I said -- that I got my third real fulltime job working in psychiatry, the perfect place for a woman constantly on the edge of a nervous breakdown. My kids were teenagers. Two of them were already addiction specialists. The other was a road runner.

Something had to give, and it was the job.

It's been seven years, as I said.

If I'm to be perfectly honest, things haven't been too bad. I got married again. I like being married; it suits me. It kind of takes the pressure off.

The kids are grown and out working. And I'm a proud granny.

But along the way, I lost my purpose.

So for seven years, I've been sitting here, in this chair, watching the dog die, while Dr. Phil natters in the background.

Most of the day, I talk to nobody, and I do absolutely nothing.

I have no job, no prospects. I'm just sitting here waiting to reach my expiry date.

I could go out and volunteer, but I don't want to. I've realized that I don't like people very much.

I could try to get another job, but I'm not really qualified for anything anymore. I'd need to get a Master's degree to get the once good freelance work that now pays minimum wage if it pays at all.

So far, this year, I've made $600 and I'm absolutely, positively sure, I won't get $150 of that.

Not much of a legacy.

I don't think making bran muffins counts.

Looking back, it's easy to question your own viability as a human. Everybody needs a purpose. Everybody needs to feel relevant.

Otherwise, we're just blood and genitals.

Lately, I've been questioning everything.

You see, my friends are dying like fruit flies.

I lost three of them in the last year, saw their wives join the Ottawa Widows Club.

Just lately, I saw the meat wagon take away my buddy Roger.

As I saw him being up-ended in his apartment so the attendants could get his rigid body out the door, I thought, that could be me in ten years.

Or less.

I got to thinking of my poor old ma, who was the same age as Roger when she took the same journey.

She, too, had been very sick for a decade, crushed by life, first as a widow then as a single mom, then as an aging textile worker. By the time she was my age, her back was so bad she couldn't walk two blocks.

So I was thinking to myself: is that all there is?

When the gold van comes for me, will I regret the choices I've made, the paths less travelled?

Or will I get up off this chair and become a participant, rather than an observer?

Hopefully, in a month, these strange thoughts will go away. I will resume my usual position.

Hopefully, the dog won't be dead.

Passages, they make you think, don't they?

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