I realise my latest fashion fetish (a uniform of black pants and grey t-shirts chosen to discourage thoughts of wardrobe-improvement and any related episodes of retail therapy) makes me look like an escaped mental patient (you wear what you are, right?) Believe it or not, however, there is method in my madness. There may even be a bit of brilliance.
Take my laundry pile (please). The weather people are promising afternoon rainstorms of epidemic proportions which has put a halt to all housework operations for the day because if you can’t do housework right, you just shouldn’t do it.
We live off the grid (or off our rockers if you listen to some people), so when line drying clothes is impossible, I only do emergency batches of laundry to hang on the racks inside. It’s rainy days like these that I thank my brain and the lucky stars circling it for having the forethought to plan a wardrobe that not only but allows instant changes without ruining my new signature asylum-chic look but keeps my contributions to the laundry pile in check.
I’m going to be bold here and say that such this superhuman ability to avoid cleaning by relying on a style that takes no work or creativity (at all) is the missing link between genius, madness and a mysterious phobia of ritual housework that scientists have been seeking for decades.
You’re the life of the party. You can convince yourself that your kids think your jokes are cool. You’re intensely creative (never mind that the midnight writing session yielded the word ‘the’ 200 times – it sounded good as you were writing it).
But the Upside has a downside too.
I should start by saying that, unlike a lot of artistic geniuses, I (scribbler unextraordinaire) don’t have an active inner monologue or even a dialogue. The voices in myhead sound more like an episode of the noted pundit punch-out show, Sniping, if it were re-enacted by poo-flinging monkeys (which is pretty much like the real show, without the monkeys).
But therein lies the part of the downside of the Upside.
When I’m navigating the Downside, the voices aren’t exactly helpful, but, aside from the suggestive whispers about how to permanently deal with the downside, they mostly buzz quietly in the back room in my brain. They’re a soundtrack for fantasies that get me through the days or weeks or months when the rest of my being feels like it’s being cradled under a wet carpet that needs a few more air holes and a good cleaning (one of the downsides of being a bad housekeeper is that even my mental carpet smells musty, but that’s another post).
Right now, the voices are a bit louder. They’re an accursed cacophony (why can’t I get a freakin’ symphony in exchange for my internal alliteration once in a while?) an always at the wrong time.
My grocery shopping drive time, for example, is blog idea time. Last night, however, as I was spilling my guts to Siri (who hears, records and mostly obeys, unlike my kids) the inner chorus was getting out of control.
“Oooh, that’s a good idea,” they said as one of them pointed out the absurdity of trying to plan a healthy breakfast for the kids while standing in line with a box of Sugar Cubes Cereal and another started giggling about my repetitive stress disorder brought on by seven-year-old Thing2’s recent 1000+ requests for a certain Harry Potter-related app.
Each of the voices had a different idea and they were practically singing them to me.
In a round.
And even when they get sorta hard to understand, they’re impossible to tune out, and they refuse to take turns.
Last night I just listened and squirmed and giggled and thanked the powers that be that most of the roads in Vermont are two lanes so I’ll never have to explain to the cop who pulls up next to me why I was laughing maniacally.
Don’t let my purple complexion fool you, though. This really is a Downside.
See, all this giggling should be going to the blog – my place get the inner multi-logues out of my head and down on digital paper. The problem is that at moments like these it seems like that paper is being used to housebreak an imaginary litter of puppies.
Then I remember none of the characters in my head have had puppies – ever (one of the few things that hasn’t happened in my fantasy land) and I get down to the business of disciplining the mental troops this morning to create one remotely publishable post out of the half-dozen that got started last night as I squirmed in my chair trying to remember why I was giggling.
Sometime in the mid-eighties my Saturday mornings became a cultural wasteland. I can’t remember when exacty – or why I was still watching cartoons so close to adolescence – but some genius decided to replace my beloved Bugs Bunny Show with some live-action ‘educational’ kids show. That was about the time I found something else to do on Saturday mornings, which I suspect was the ultimate goal of the lineup change.
There are consequences to removing a cross-dressing rabbit, greedy black duck and speech-impaired lilliputian hunter trying to eviscerate each other to the classics for our amusement from the morning roundup, and the Big Guy and I only realised how damaging they were when we tried to expand our own offspring’s horizons.
Hubbard Hall, a local community theatre and art center in Cambridge, NY has transformed all our lives with its magic over the years, but when we first tried taking then-twelve year old Thing1 to an opera we thought we’d reached the limits of its magic.
Thing1 was a typical twelve year old boy. He loved getting dirty, building forts, playing computer games and not going to art museums or plays in which the cast occasionally begins singing, let alone sings for the entire production. So we had to do some convincing before we ultimately laid down the law, but we thought it would be easier.
“You’ll love it,”I said (my standard first line).
“I hate singing,” answered Thing1. “Why do I have to go?”
“You don’t have to sing,” I told him.
“I hate listening to singing,” he said. I reminded him how much he loved a Hard Day’s Night.
“That’s almost all singing,” I said.
“Good songs,” he said.
“There are good songs in opera,” I said. “You’ve probably heard a lot of them..” And then I realised he hadn’t.
There’s really nothing on Saturday mornings, even when we had TV. There are loud and obnoxious shows – a few cartoons. But there’s nothing whimsical and none of them play Puccini. Or Mozart. Or any of those tunes I loved picking out when I was dragged to my first opera on a school field trip.
So when the Big Guy and I stumbled on a DVD set of the classics for $19.99, I was overjoyed. Thing1 missed the first opera, but we made sure he was prepared for the next one. Over the next year we made sure Thing1 and Thing2 got a good dose of cartoonish cartoon violence backed up by some of the most beautiful music ever written.
Last year Barber of Seville came to town, and the boys both resignedly put on their good jeans and clean shirts, but when the opening bars began to play, they both looked at us with grins on their faces. Then it was our turn to smile.