I used to be bolder. I used to wear red patent leather high-heeled Mary Janes and go to concerts and big cities alone. For fun. Sure I feel more comfortable in my own skin these days and I am much more likely to speak my mind than I did in my 20s, but I feel I have lost some of my walking around day-to-day live-out-loudness with the creep of decades. It’s not courage – that is something different, made of will and desire and faith. I guess if I try to pin the tail on the donkey with what I’ve gained instead of what I’ve lost it would be maturity, caution, empathy, a longer view. Sense. I am in fact more sensible, perhaps more private, though you wouldn’t know it from reading these little glimpses of heart and soul.
I don’t live my life in fear, as I think many folks do these days, but there are a few things I just don’t have the devil-may-care to enjoy anymore – not counting the obvious terrors of course. I’d like to think it’s the tickly little cough that has kept me awake these last few nights, but there may be a few bigger things constricting my lungs and closing my throat when I try to shut my eyes. There’s gracious plenty to be afraid of – this week, this year, this decade – but I’m talking about how much space I take up in a room, on the road, in the world, how much attention I seek and want, how forcefully I make my way through the day and the world. Pat would chime in here and say I’m clank-tankerous, that I slam doors and drop utensils in drawers and bang around on purpose, but that too is something different. That kind of noisy presence is clumsy or hurried or oblivious to quiet time in the pursuit of getting chores done, not intentional or demanding notice. No, I’m talking about the difference between the two donkeys front and center and the one standing quietly behind, and all I’m saying is I don’t mind that backseat sometimes.
I watched the Inaugural Balls and all their endless commentary with my parents in their pretty Texas living room, way past my bedtime but how can you say goodnight when there are awkward dances to wait for and fake cake to cut? with a sword? And DRESSES??? We made in-house bets on whether each ball would see a new dress or not. I won. In case you were wondering. I need to be right sometimes. One dress, three balls, millions and millions of eyes and opinions and comments. On one side of the stage you have an international supermodel and a family of golden Cinderella children in color-coordinated Barbie regalia. Looks matter a lot in this family. Then you have the other side of the stage, with a man I had never heard of before a few months ago – definitely more of the background donkey than his front-and-center limelight-loving show-stealer – and his poor wife dressed as a blueberry. Their family seemed more what? average?, middle-America? backseat?, and I can only imagine thrilled to be there in their red, white, and blue finery, but how do you walk out on stage to dance next to THEM? The entire idea makes me cringe. Any of it. Walking down the steps to the swearing-in, getting out of the car along the parade route, having to decide WHOSE outfits to wear? This is what I have lost as I’ve aged and softened and settled into the Costco running tights and worn-thin Ibex hoodie I’ve been sporting for three days now: I used to be bold enough to consider that whole scene without wetting my pants or hiding under my horse trailer.
I used to think I could take on the world if I had to and look good doing it. I used to love travel for the sake of being away, crowds for the energy, camping alone for the stories I could tell. I used to clown for the camera after sweaty shake-your-hips dance class was over and buy t-shirts with rhinestones and pop culture references a size smaller than I probably should have. I used to think my ideas were the best ideas, and I could do anything. I still like my ideas, and I probably COULD do anything, almost, I am just finally honest enough to know now I don’t want to. I would love to change the world in a really big way, but I’ve realized I’m going to have to do it in running shoes and a shirt with a hole in it. From a picnic table or my lettuce garden or a folding chair behind the Airstream where I set up my watercolors, not from airports or high rises or ballrooms. Russian and International Studies in college didn’t land me in the diplomatic corps because I realized in time that I’m terrible at cocktail parties and I never learned to golf. I’m happy in the background. It’s much quieter and kinder, fewer flashbulbs. I think I do some of my best work here.