Remember eight years ago, when you took this new name for yourself? I notice you’ve slipped back into the “old” name (Judy) and the “old” you that you professed just five years before to no longer identify with. What happened? Was it merely the resistance of old friends to call you by this new name? Or was it that you slowly slipped back into being that person–more laconic, giving in to the heaviness and inactivity of age? Did you also give up on romance and change and the excitement of the possibility of forward progress? Did you decide to stay where it is easier with an established routine, people to clean your house and wash your clothes and mow your grass and clean your pool?
I’m wondering if you are thinking about how that is working out for you. I see you even more tied down than before–five cats instead of one, making plans to start more programs for the young people of your community, but will this be enough? That sense of urgency and of time passing that has kept you vaulting from your bed and running outside to try to breathe at night—is it caused by any physical condition or is it me, prodding you to be young for as long as you can and to experience more before you sink into that routine that is the reward for doing all that you meant to do in this lifetime? Is it time to retire and to smooth your own pathway, or is it still time to leap over barriers such as this barrier of yourself and go boldly out into the world to see what else is there?
I’m not trying to prod or push you or suggest the way. I am, after all, a figment of your imagination as surely as your present view of yourself is. I understand that two foot surgeries in two years slowed you down and changed your exercise patterns as well as the patterns of your day. I also realize that friends moved away or moved into new lives and that this also made you turn inwards. There are reasons of one sort or another for everything we do. We all have excuses. At 90 years old, I have excuses, too. I know where you ended up but I also know that there are a limitless number of me’s.
There is the me that succumbed to Alzheimer’s, as your sister did. There is the me who moved to Italy and moved off into a new life that I only hint at here. There is the me who has devoted herself for the past 20 years to making her small town a better place to grow up in. There is the me who finally took off in that boat and went all the remaining places there were to go. There is the me who grew grumpy and reclusive and eventually became dumber than her Smart TV.
There is even the implausible me who did all the “shoulds” and got her other books published—who maybe even got back on the agent/publisher treadmill and did it the “right” way. There is the me who found more romance, the one who converted her entire house into a dog kennel or cat sanctuary, the one who built the house on the adjoining piece of land and hired a nurse/housekeeper and invited her friends to come grow old with her. There are so many potential me’s that I hope it is making your head swim and that I hope will make you think about what you want to do with the remaining 30 or so years of your life.
Things are not over. In the first thirty years of your life, you grew up, went to summer camp, counseled at summer camp, went to University, sailed around the world on a boat and saw all else that life could be, got your masters degree, emigrated to Australia, taught for two years, traveled for four months through southeast Asia and Africa, moved to Africa and had various adventures, good and bad. Fell in love, taught school in Addis Ababa, moved back to the U.S., taught for 7 more years, fell in love, built a house, edited a creative writing journal for teens, traveled to China and Great Britain and Hawaii.
Then you had a dream that knocked you into a recognition of your subconscious. You quit your job, moved to Orange County, CA, wrote on the beach, moved to L.A., fell in love, studied film production and screenwriting at UCLA, worked in a Hollywood agency, joined a writer’s workshop, joined an actor’s studio, worked for Bob Hope, gave poetry readings, was co-editor of a poetry journal, fell in love again, married, moved to the Santa Cruz mountains, became an artist, traveled and did art and craft shows for 14 years, became the curator of an art center, lost your husband, moved to Mexico, self-published four books, traveled, taught English and art, fell in love a few more times, started a poetry series.
This is what can be done in thirty years. So, what are you going to do with the next thirty?
Love, Remi–twenty years older.
The NaPoWriMo prompt today is: a poem that addresses the future, answering the questions “What does y(our) future provide? What is your future state of mind? If you are a citizen of the “union” that is your body, what is your future “state of the union” address?” This rewrite of a piece written three years ago seems to fill the bill, except it was pointed out to me afterwards that it isn’t a poem! Can I get by saying it is a prose poem? If not, this former piece which is a poem also answers the same prompt: https://judydykstrabrown.com/2018/03/15/provoke/