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June 28th, 2010: If Life is a Salad Bar, Am I Anywhere Near the Croutons?

LeAnn Stephenson

For several months, going on almost a year, I have been traveling through my days with a combination of afflictions namely, brooding moods, failing eyesight, and a body so out of shape it would make Jesus weep.  I suppose the conventional term for such afflictions would be "aging," but to be honest, I'm truly uncomfortable with that term, it's not my favorite, so I'm not using it.  In fact, I'm not a huge fan of the whole concept of it at all.  Growing older was not something I ever spent much time thinking about.  I figured I would cross that bridge when it appeared and would do so in an elegant poised manner.  But providence and reality have interfered with my plans, which is why Monday's on the blog are designated for a weekly post called "If Life is a Salad Bar, Am I Anywhere Near The Croutons?"  It's a journal entry of sorts - kind of like an open invitation to "The Land of Too Much Information" mixed in with a lot of "so that happened and that's why I am the way I am."

Today's journal entry has to do with my experiences over the past year and how they have left me taxed and decidedly suspicious of the joys of growing older.  Like anyone who has walked this path through "The Valley of The Shadow of Distress," I have reluctantly accepted a few truths: that every year carries sequestered beneath its surface, the makings of a more wisdom-filled understanding of the world and its workings accompanied by an extra special emphasis on regret, anxiety and isolation.  I'm figuring right about now you're probably thinking to yourselves:  (A)  There are drugs for that sister! and/or (B) Should someone be on "suicide alert?"  And to that I answer (A) Yes, I know, I have a Psychopharmacologist on call. And (B) No, on the "suicide alert" I'm just flexing few of my more finely honed skills - those being melodrama (think Scarlett O'hara) and over-thinking (see Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) with a extra helpings of self absorption just for fun-zees! 

Growing older was never something I doubted that I would do, I just thought I would proceed in a more elegant manner with a great deal more grace.  So, to help me find my voice in this aging deal I have decided to vastly narrow my scope of examples.  Instead of looking to magazines, doctors, psychopharmacologists, and others, I have decided to derive inspiration and strength through exactly twenty-one people.  I won't be so precise as to give the names of these people but I will say that these twenty-one folks constitute a critically important circle of relatives, friends, and such that have helped form who I am. Over many years, tons salad bars, dinners, oceans of Diet Dr. Pepper, and a little bit-o-booze, I have sat with these wonderful creatures and have questioned aloud life and its hardships and rewards.  The collective presence of these extraordinary women, men, and children have influenced my life enormously and I am eternally grateful. My days have been quieted, comforted and my knowledge expanded, simply by their existence.

They range in age from their mid-teens to their early centenarian years.  One of them happens to be my mother; another my late grandmother.  One is my daughter; another my son and yet another my husband.  Ten are mothers; four are fathers.  One is my newest friend; four of them are my oldest friends.  One of them is an old boyfriend - with whom, after twenty years of no contact, I have reconnected with as old friends.  Two of them are my aunts; one is my uncle; another my grandfather.  Three of them are my siblings; another my niece; one I've never actually met.  Five are no longer living; and the rest alive and well.  One was born in Syria; the others in America.  All of them have genius-level senses of humor and wit.  Heartbreaking loss has been experienced by all of them.  Some have some sort of relationship with a divine being; some are devout; some I suspect are completely uninterested in the subject.  Six of them are teachers; eight of them are writers; one a mechanic; one a nurse; another a coach, one an attorney; there is an accountant, a few editors, a designer, a couple of entrepreneurs; a pianist; a guitar player; a singer.  My life is rich, informed, secure, and full of love and support because of these people and their influence has given me and, if you pardon the obvious reference, a Life Less Ordinary.

I'll continue next Monday . . . see you then!

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