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The Nature of the beast


Does your life sometimes feel, like mine does, as though someone has handed you a grenade with the pin pulled? Life seems to be this continuous, exhausting dance performed on a treadmill and from which one occasionally gets the most fleeting of respites, doesn't it? Or is it just me?
Listen, I think I'm one of the happiest people I've ever come across. Seriously. I've been able — over the past few years — to embark on what I hope will be a lifelong journey of reinvention, which is important. Or else one runs the risk of stagnation, and who wants to exist when they could live? Today, I'm closer to becoming who I'm supposed to be. I love the good life, laughter — I really, really love laughter — and, yes, love. I'm doing what I always secretly wanted to: writing. In fiction I bring all my skills of the observation of other people's lives to the fore, and with this column I'm given permission to observe my own, and, if I do it right, get you to observe your own as well. How great is that! When you do what it is that brings you joy, it makes a difference to how you perceive life. For example, when I worked in a job I had no passion for, weekday mornings — especially Mondays — were difficult. I hated getting up in the mornings because it meant I had to face the day, which was always so drab and boring. I distinctly remember Sunday nights, too. Sunday nights, filled with so much apprehension, self-loathing and depression about the week ahead. How I hated them! Today, every day is a weekend that I wake up supremely exhilarated to greet, and Mondays are actually my favourite days, filled with light, goodness, relaxation, reading, lunch with friends, and whatnot. That's a blessing and I don't take it for granted.
That said, however, many challenges still present themselves. Small earthquakes occur on an almost daily basis, and there's seldom one day that's 100 per cent trouble-free. Especially in this society, which, at best, can be described as going through emotional puberty. Have you ever noticed how rapidly a situation can go downhill? Say, something as ordinary as looking for an empty parking space. How quickly things can deteriorate into near fisticuffs with an impotent security guard determined, through the glowering menace proffered behind his bad-ass sunglasses and the triumphal swell of his chicken chest, to flaunt the power he so desperately wishes he possessed outside the confines of his fertile imagination. (What is it about Jamaican security guards, those ones who don't have firearms? Seriously, dudes, get over yourselves.) God knows we long for the day when we'll grow up and shed the emotional acne and baby fat that blights us as a people. But that's another story, isn't it? The truth is bad things happen, often for no apparent reason, even in the midst of a wonderful life.
An old boyfriend presently going through a divorce recently lamented to me that he thought perhaps he'd been a bad parent. His children - teenagers to young adult - had lined up behind their mother and were treating him with scant regard, and this, I could tell, was a source of unspeakable pain for him. He feels as though the sum total of his life is a failed marriage and estranged children. I've known him since I was 22 — he was my first serious boyfriend — so I know that this man is a good man. Has always been. More importantly, he is an exceptional father, one any of those kids languishing in children's homes across the island would be grateful to have. I suspect his children know this, too. But it's that same emotional puberty that causes us to inflict unnecessary pain at work here. It's, like that old song says, the thing loved ones do.
This past summer, I travelled to New York to spend time with one of my BFFs. We decided, for an adventure, we'd go on a road trip up the east coast, as against the south since the summer was so hot and the south would be wretched.
In Connecticut we ended up in a quaint, rustic little town called Canaan. Canaan, according to a 2000 survey, is made up of a little over 1000 people, 1.48 per cent of them being black. Most households are Republican and they're ones with those scary flags outside their front doors. So it really was stupid of us to decide to go for a walk one afternoon, I suppose. Anyway, long story short: we got attacked by a dog that clearly hadn't had much prior experience with two "ethnic" girls, one flashing an inordinate amount of skin beneath a miniskirt. I was not that one, by the way.
Anyway, the dog, incensed, charges us, as though it's a scene from To Kill a Mockingbird, and I freeze because, having been chased by a dog in my neighbourhood when I was a very little girl, I seemed to remember that the response is never to run. My friend, however, did not receive that particular briefing. Insane with fear, she attempted to bolt. Where? I don't know. But the dog, some weird mix of pit bull and some other horrifyingly ugly breed, seemed enthralled by the challenge, and, I imagined, my friend's exposed legs beneath the miniskirt. The miniskirt wearer, realising she was fighting a lost cause, tried another tack. She decided to use me, her very good friend, as bait. So every time the dog ran back in its yard and then hurtled back out onto the street, she would, standing behind me, push me toward it when it lunged.
("Oh God!" screamed she, hysterically, "Not the legs!" I guess mine were okay to become a mad dog's chew toys. But whatevs.)
We were eventually rescued — miraculously, neither of us was bitten — by its owner who had been trying for several panic-stricken minutes to regain control of the situation. After, we sat trembling in a nearby Chinese restaurant, staring at each other in the kind of bemused speechlessness that I imagine survivors experience, and I found I was unable to be angry with her. Even now, I find myself laughing at the absurdity of the experience. The friendship survived the betrayal, which, weirdly, strengthened it. Why? Because we're all just muddling through life, each of us trying to find our way, and that, for better or worse, is as good as it gets.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

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