“You could have all the crazy thoughts you wanted,
as long as you smiled and kept them to yourself.”
–Mara Purnhagen, Past Midnight
My mind has been a mess lately.
The teachers and students have all gone home for the summer; most of the office staff is on vacation, and the school building is shadowy and eerily quiet. I’m down to the last couple weeks of my 30-year career, and even though a few last-minute jobs have required my attention, most of each day is being spent cleaning out my desk, cleaning out my file cabinets, and cleaning out my computer files. I’ve sorted and purged, sending countless bags of papers to the recycling bin, filling three large trash cans (so far) with “stuff” that isn’t worthy of recycling, and filling nine large boxes (so far) with more stuff that I simply can’t imagine parting with–college research papers, pictures of former students, books I may want to read again someday, and a large assortment of dusty knick-knacks that will most likely stay boxed in a basement closet because I have no room at home to display them.
This has been much harder than I had expected it to be. I had thought cleaning out and throwing away so much accumulation would be a liberating, joyful experience–and it was in the beginning–but with the emptying of each drawer and the filling of each bag has come the sad realization that a very important part of my life is nearing an end, and such realization has been more than a little depressing. I have tried explaining my sadness to a few friends and family members, but since all of them have many more years of employment facing them, they have neither understanding of nor sympathy for my “plight” and no time or patience for my whining. Suck it up, woman . . . get over it . . . quit your crying . . . and honestly, if I were in their shoes, I would probably be offering the same advice.
And so I’m trying (to suck it up, that is). I have put aside my Adele and James Taylor and Nina Simone for now–daily companions who may have been dispelling the quiet, but they sure weren’t taking me to my happy place. Instead, I’m rattling the windows with Queen and Def Leppard and Pink Floyd, hoping to relieve this feeling of being “Under Pressure,” bordering on “Hysteria,” with music so loud and familiar that I can become “Comfortably Numb.” And I’m trying to empty my mind of all the sadness of days forever gone and all the fears of uncertain days ahead–and I’m trying to fill all that empty brain space with nothing but excitement for all the adventures that I’m sure are lying just around the next curve in the road.
A different problem is emerging, though: As I attempt to empty my brain and refill it, I can’t seem to focus, and there’s too much room and too much opportunity for a whole lot of crazy, weird (and, I hate to admit, stupid) thoughts to come creeping in . . .
Take for example my obsession with the canister of mixed nuts I’ve been munching on for the past few days. The packaging proudly boasts “Less than 50% peanuts!”–but how do I know that for sure? I mean, it seems like there are a lot more peanuts than all the cashews and pecans and almonds combined. Is that percentage based on an actual nut count or on weight–and does anyone in the food industry really monitor such claims? And why do I care? (Because I ran out of cashews two days ago, that’s why.)
And why are so many simple words mispronounced? I’m sorry, but it’s “siren,” not “sireen,” and “wrestler,” not “wrassler.” Please don’t tell me about your fears of a “nucular” attack (I’m more concerned about the possibility of a “nuclear” one), and I don’t want to know about your “prostrate” gland (but I will sympathize over your “prostate” woes) or your dad’s “Altimer’s” disease (there’s no “t” in Alzheimer’s–I promise). And if you tell me you’re headed to the “liberry” to check out a book, I’m going to encourage you to look that word up in the dictionary while you’re there.
Okay, stepping off that soapbox for a while . . .
Why can’t we pick and choose where we lose weight? When we’re trying so hard to make certain anatomical features smaller, why must all parts of the anatomy be affected? And wouldn’t it be nice if we could simply re-distribute some of that weight from one location to another? If the U.S. Department of Agriculture can give researchers at the University of New Hampshire over half a million dollars to study methane gas emissions from dairy cows, and the U.S. government can spend over $175,000 determining if cocaine use makes Japanese quail engage in risky sexual behavior, then why can’t we allocate a few tax dollars on figuring out how women can non-surgically make some body parts smaller while making other parts bigger? I’m betting that millions of taxpayers of both genders would be quite supportive of that government funding. (And by the way, I’m not exaggerating–those figures came from Senator Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, in Wastebook: A Guide to Some of the Most Wasteful and Low Priority Government Spending of 2011.)
And then there’s the lead story on many of yesterday’s “news” broadcasts: It seems that a turtle couple is “divorcing” after 115 years of wedded turtle bliss. Apparently their Austrian zookeepers first noticed something was amiss when Bibi tried to rip hubby Poldi’s shell off his back–and then continued to attack him even after their handlers provided couples counseling, plied them with aphrodisiacs and encouraged them to play games together (I’m not kidding). Now, I can understand Bibi’s frustrations–115 years would be a long time to spend with any man, especially one who probably shows up late for every meal and is a little slow on the uptake (if you know what I mean). But I’m wondering why such a sudden turn of events–do even female turtles occasionally take a twisting, turning, spiraling ride on the roller coaster Hormone Hell? (And if so, I can understand that, too.) Will Bibi regret her behavior next week–or will she even remember it? And, by the way, who decided these two former lovers were “married” in the first place? Did an appropriate authority figure actually perform a ceremony and issue a license? I want proof.
Speaking of items in the news, I was intrigued this week by a story about a tomato-throwing festival near Bogota, Colombia. Over 20,000 people threw 15 tons of ripe tomatoes at each other for two hours. Okay, call me crazy, but I think that sounds like great fun–except how do they keep the tomato juice from squirting into their eyes? In none of the pictures did I see anyone wearing protective eye gear–wouldn’t that juice burn? I wonder the same thing every time I see celebrating athletes spewing champagne bottles in the locker room (and what a waste of good champagne). I most likely will never attend a tomato-throwing festival or participate in locker room antics of any kind, but I am determined to take part in a winery’s harvest-celebrating “stomp and chomp” one of these days, delighting in the feel of those little red grapes squishing between my little pink toes and splattering up my legs (but not into my eyes). Anyone want to play Ethel to my Lucy? C’mon, it’ll be fun …
If I screamed at the top of my lungs right now, would anyone in this semi-deserted building hear me? And by the way, wouldn’t screaming from the bottom of one’s lungs produce a stronger, louder, more effective roar?
Could Burger King’s new bacon sundae possibly taste as good as it looks? And why didn’t I think of that? Can a few moments of salty-sweet bliss justify the cholesterol spike? Why, yes, I believe so . . .
Why is it that if I make a complimentary statement about an athlete or celebrity whose talents I admire, someone always feels the need to point out to me that person’s “flaws”? You do know he’s an alcoholic, right? I heard he’s had two DWIs! And I heard she’s an atheist/a lesbian/a Trekkie, and she got caught cheating on a math quiz in 1972! Seriously? We all have flaws; we all have skeletons in our closets; we all have certain characteristics and traits that don’t exactly jive with others’ mindsets. I don’t need role models, and I’m not looking for godparents for my children; I’m simply admiring another person’s abilities, and I should be able to do that without the interference of someone else’s moral judgments.
I wonder if any of my friends have a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey that I could discreetly borrow (strictly for research purposes, with no moral judgments attached) . . .
Why do businesses post signs that say, “Gone to lunch–be back in half an hour”? If I don’t know when you left, how do I know when that half hour is over?
And why is it so easy for me to fall asleep in my sweaty, leather recliner with a television blaring in front of me and a light glaring overhead–and so difficult for me to fall asleep in my comfy bed in my dark, quiet bedroom? Could it be that I’m lying awake at night, worrying about a recent health report claiming that people who are otherwise healthy but who sleep fewer than six hours a night have a greatly increased risk of stroke? Yeah, that’s probably it.
What are the chances that the spider that just crawled from this empty box and skittered behind my desk, disappearing beyond my stomp and out of my sight, will end up in my purse or camera bag before the day is over?
Should I throw away all the confiscated items in the back of my bottom desk drawer (the handcuffs, for example), or should I leave them for my replacement just to make him wonder? It’s tempting . . .
So, yeah . . . I told you my mind has been a mess lately–a crazy, weird, jumbled mess. Did you think I was kidding? I am ready for this transitional phase to be OVER and for the next chapter to begin, to leave behind the stifling, quiet confines of this cluttered, concrete box and leap into the wide open spaces of the beautiful unknown–and I’m sure my friends and family are even more anxious for me to hit the road and leave all this craziness behind. Patience and forgiveness, please . . . I’m almost there.
I’m convinced that Burger King’s new bacon sundae will make everything better.