Mud or Jasmine, or, shouldn’t I know how to say this by now?

jasmineThis is about the life of my feelings that—were I a brilliant artist of some sort—I should be, but am not, able to create in a way that you’d understand without my having to be explicit. A painting, a short story, a chorale prelude for organ (except Brahms as pretty well exhausted that possibility). Something you’d find beautiful but not quite be able to pinpoint why it’s expressive or what feeling it’s about.

Something more noble than public kvetching. If you don’t want to hear about one person’s (pretty minor in the great scheme of things) difficulties, don’t read any further.

Yesterday I practiced the organ for two hours at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church where I will play the 11 AM service in the chapel on one of my favorite organs today. On the way to the church, I stopped at FedEx and made photo copies of the hymns so I won’t have to lug the fat hymnal around.

Therein, of course, hangs the tale. I did that because it’s ridiculously difficult to carry the Episcopal Hymnal 1982 accompaniment book walking on crutches. Those damned things were supposed to be outta my life by yesterday. They’re not. Day after tomorrow? If the PT says so. What a bother. My hip feels just fine (that’s a lie, but no one needs to know how it feels because everyone is sick of hearing about it, and—I think I’ve discovered—many people simply don’t want ANYONE, especially someone they like/love to be incapacitated).

The FedEx store didn’t open until 10 AM on Saturday, and I got there at 9:50 and had choices about what to do. So I waited, and then it took 30 minutes hobbling around to do the copying. So by the time I got to the church it was 10:30, whereas I had intended to be there at about 9. My own fault, obviously. You don’t need to point that out.

The practice was difficult. It’s been more than a year since I played a service. My hands are stiff from holding me up on the damned crutches, and the organ’s pedal board is flat so one has to stretch legs (even the one of which one is under doctor’s orders not to flex) sideways to reach low and high pedals.

I was feeling out of sorts—mainly because I wanted someone to at least commiserate with the way I was feeling, if not fix it.  I was feeling impossibly alone even though a friend had dragged me fewer than 12 hours before to see one of the finest movies of the year, “Mud,” starring Matthew McConaughey.

Yellowstone mud?

Yellowstone mud?

Now there’s a work of art that grandly explores the kind of small feelings I was having: loneliness, fear, unrequited love, physical difficulty, and frustration at the inability to accomplish a goal. Grand explorations of the (petty or simply insignificant?)) feelings I was having.

And then last night I saw “Blue Jasmine,” starring Cate Blanchet. The same feelings, the same angst, but with the twist that, while Mud accepts his responsibility for his impossible situation, Jasmine does not.

Of course, in neither case are the lines so clearly drawn. Responsibility, limitations, and damned bad luck get all intertwined with the actions and )limitations of others—especially the ones we (I, at any rate—don’t know about you—and Mud and Jasmine) love and want to be able to count on. Then, of course, there’s one’s own psychological and emotional and neurological make-up to contend with.

There’s a very real sense (and this is so commonplace I don’t know why I even bother to write it down, much less share it with you) in which the whole problem is that I (we, you and I) don’t want to be alone. Never mind all that stuff about how we were born alone and we will die alone.

While we’re here, we don’t want to be alone. And if we do want to be alone, we’re probably missing out on some aspect of being Homo sapiens that helps make sense of being here at all. When I feel joy, it hardly seems real or important if I can’t share it. And when I am frustrated, angry, frightened, or sad, if I can’t make a real connection with someone, it just gets the better of me.

???????????????????????????????To some degree that’s what both Mud and Jasmine are experiencing. And it’s what I was being overwhelmed with yesterday. I’m luckier, perhaps, than either of them. I get to go over to that big church and participate in the Holy Mysteries—no, silly, not the Eucharist! The MUSIC—and do that thing that I can always (yes, always) rely on to make a connection. Make a little music. It’s better when there is (are) someone (someones) to share it with that I really know and love, but even the connection with strangers will do.

Don’t read this if you’re skinny and immortal

‘You fool! This very night..." (Luke 12:20)

‘You fool! This very night…” (Luke 12:20)

Yesterday a friend announced on Facebook he has slowly “somehow” lost 14 pounds over the last year. That’s not huge news except it’s almost impossible at our age to dispose of weight and trivial to find it again. Two years ago I dropped about 50 pounds. In the last year I’ve picked up 15 of them again.

I can blame old age—or something over which I have no control—for part of the repounding. If you read my palaver often, you might remember I fell a couple of months ago and hurt my right hip. Bruised the ligaments is the two-out-of-three diagnosis of my doctor, my PT, and my trainer.

The fall was not the result of old age. It was sheer carelessness. I was trying to put up the shower curtain rod which I had somehow pulled down reaching too far to clean my bathtub. I added the injury to the insult by standing on the toilet to reach the other end of the tub to tighten the rod. It was not a “help-I’ve-fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up” moment. It was a “help-sometimes-I-do-the-dumbest-things” moment.

I’ve been in nearly constant pain since February 1.

The pain has kept me from walking. It has kept me from yoga class. It is kept me from getting started with my trainer after one session to analyze my condition. It has kept me from sleeping many nights. It has kept me excessively grumpy (how could you tell?). So I’ve been sitting around nursing the pain and being physically inactive. Add to that my spending half of my time with my inamorato for the last year and two months—and we do not eat particularly healthfully because we’re enjoying ourselves. The recipe for finding those fifteen pounds.

The pain is almost gone. The physical therapist is the miracle worker. Today I’ll join the fitness center at SMU and begin “water walking” in the pool. (My only fear is I might run into students while I’m in my swimming suit—or, horrors!—the showers! Perhaps the T. Boone Pickens YMCA is a better idea even if it is five times as expensive.

So I was thinking about why I want to take those 15 pounds off. The first and most obvious answer is to be even more loveable for my inamorato.  And then so I don’t feel quite so much like a fat old man when I’m around my students. And those new clothes I bought after I had taken off the 50 pounds. You know. If you’ve ever struggled with weight, you know.

Scene of the crime

Scene of the crime

This morning I’m adjusting the belt around my butt—yes, it may be true that the way the PT works miracles is to have me wear this belt 24/7. It keeps my ass from moving in ways that reinjure the ligaments (wear it inside my jeans, of course). On March 29, I used this pain in my ass to talk about the horrific racism rampant in this country—especially targeted at President Obama.

Today I have a different question. Why do I (why does my friend) (why does anyone) think it’s a good idea to lose weight? So we can live longer?

Seriously. I want you to consider before you continue reading how strong you are. How able to think about things you don’t want to think about. How you will react to my writing (once again) about death. If you don’t want to think about it, STOP READING. If you’ll think I’m suicidal or depressed, you may continue reading—but keep your opinions about my mental, emotional, or physical health to yourself.

I’m 68 years old. My trainer says my body is that of a 75-year-old (because of my BMI). I don’t like having let my body get into this condition.

Let’s say I get over to the fitness center and get to work and lose fifteen or twenty or thirty pounds. Great. Let’s say I live to be close to my parents’ ages when they died (92 and 97). So when I die, will I be equally dead whether that’s next week or in 30 years? Will I remember the 30 extra years I’ve given myself? What difference does it make if my apartment is unkempt and has no “style?” When I am dead, am I going to remember a chic décor of clean lines and beautiful things and the impeccable style of a gay boy any more than I remember my early-graduate-student thrift shop mélange?

Is that fool Rex W. Tillerson going to remember his billions any longer than I remember my $1334 per month Social Security?

“For you could not know that which is not nor utter it; for the same thing can be thought as can be. . . . That which can be spoken and thought must be; for it is possible for it, but not for nothing, to be; that is what I bid you ponder” (Parmenides of Elea. The Pre-Socratic Philosophers. G.S. Kirk & J.E. Raven, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964. 269-270).

But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ (Luke 12:20).

Early modern graduate student mélange