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Dog Days of Summer 2020

Lighten Up

Wrestling with reality can weigh a person down. I’ve tried to wrestle it to the ground during these past months of COVID confinement, and I’ve actually lost weight. I think the pounds were ready to drop off, given the 3-story rental house that I’ve inhabited during the past 2 years. So don’t blame COVID-19 for the Quarantine-15 that you’ve packed on. The key to effective and safe weight loss is to look at the headlines online, anywhere, just before breakfast, or any meal — and you will instantly lose your appetite!

Weight loss and humor are inter-related. A little laughter does a lot to de-stress the body. Stress can calorie-ize your life. It’s important to have fun, on a daily basis. I realized this morning that I just don’t have as much fun as I used to, when I was a single woman.

I do not attribute this lack of comedy in my life to my marital status, although a very dear co-worker-friend once informed me that the most happy individuals in America, in descending order, were:

— Single woman

— Married man

— Divorced woman

— Divorced man

The married woman and the single man did not even make the list!

The trick to thinking like an independent woman is, I have discovered, believing that your decisions and desires need not be based on the needs of other people. The bold journey away from co-dependency rests upon this salient thought:

I can do what I want, without worrying about anyone else!

There was a time in my life when thinking of just myself was automatic and instinctive. My wants were not in conflict with my needs. It is nonetheless true, as Sophia Loren once opined, that as a woman becomes a mother, she is never alone in her thoughts. She thinks twice, once for herself, and once for her child, even her unborn child.

My co-worker friend was an engineer whose child-bearing years coincided with mine. She discovered that she was not “thinking the same way” that she had, before giving birth to a child. I agreed, but I said that the thought process was a further development of innate organizational skills. This woman had a strong sense of structure to her time-management. Mine is stronger, mostly because I allow for unplanned, often spontaneous interruptions to the routine. That flow of life feels more natural to me and inspires creativity.

I do not work well on a deadline. Something in me rebels against it. My very soul is at risk of diminishment.

I was asked by this woman, and by many moms working at home, how I adjusted so well, going from office to domicile. My answer was:

I used to work as a waitress. The mental pressure to do 5 things at once, alongside 6 or 7 other things is part of the work of waitressing. In fact, I find it fun.

The hum-drum of life is what gets me down. The stultifying expectation to tie myself to a fixed routine, day-in day-out, for weeks, and months, even years — who can live that way? Who can live happily that way?

The Daily Grind is the name of the coffee-shack that Dear Husband frequented, for many years, on the way to his Federal job. My work at home has been a concerted effort to NOT become part of the daily grind. It grinds on a person, especially a woman.

The single way of thinking can be reclaimed if a wife-and-mother looks at life as the ever-changing, always open vista that looks out upon the world in ways she has not yet explored. I’m an adventurous soul, but even I have struggled to disband My Committee, the fuss-budgets embedded in my brain. Those nagging messages consisted of:

should, should not, ought, ought not, must, must not, have to, need to, don’t, can’t, and won’t.

When the COVID-19 Nit-pickers emerged, each one with a list as long as your arm of rules and requirements and restraints, emergency prohibitions and no-no’s, I silenced, hopefully forever, the cackling of My Committee. Those internal nags have hectored me for decades! I believe I am approaching the state of nirvana where They simply do not exist! Unlike many other Americans, looking for a committee to glom onto, I am ridding myself of any vestiges of group-think.

I find it interesting that I have had to wrestle to the mat the Overlord Oppressors of my internal committee. Yet when external commands descend upon me, I have no problem mocking the most foolish among them, and abiding the more justifiable ones that, after a while, are jettisoned because they’ve served their purpose and then became even more ridiculous than the foolish ones.

My quick-and-fast, down-and-dirty Judge/Jury/Executioner of decrees and statutes were well-developed by early adulthood. I was raised with far too many rules and restrictions, starting with Calvinist dogma, continuing with Blue Laws, and ending with two-faced tenets.

It’s a wonder I believe in any authority!

Some authorities, however, are worth listening to, even obeying. One of them was a professor whom I encountered during my first semester at the George Washington University. As a journalism major, I was required to take a survey course in Political Science, or Poli Sci. Those were the days when Politics was deemed a science, albeit a soft one, and Science had not yet been invaded by Politics.

This American Political Science class was taught by a Russian, a rather large and rotund man, called Professor Gyorgy. The other students in this amphitheater of a classroom pronounced his name: Georg-ee. I called him, Professor Ghee-or-ghee. The differences between myself and the hundred or so other students consisted of more than merely the alternative voicing of the name of this sardonic Soviet.

I can still hear him saying, with the hand dropping down: “In Communist regime, the axe falls fast.” There was also my favorite of all of his sarcastic quips: “The Lunatic Fringe: The far left and the far right go so far off the edge as to join together to meet in the middle on the other side, but they still hate each other!”

Those students, the nouveau riche from Long Island, caught onto the fact that I, the poor girl from New Jersey, the one on a full merit scholarship, was ace-ing every test. She had a mental rapport with the Professor that defied their understanding. You see, I too had just escaped a totalitarian regime that mandated, Don’t Leave Home.

Just before the final exam, the one that made up 50% OF THE FINAL GRADE, half a dozen students asked me if they could borrow my notes, to photocopy, thinking that somehow the genius was in the scrawled annotations in my notebook. I handed them the pages, with a smile, on a Friday, and said I did not need them back before the exam on Monday morning.

They really thought they’d pulled a coup d’état on the note-taking blonde. After the test on Monday, however, they came to me and said:

“We used your notes, but a lot of them were in some weird handwriting, like some foreign language.”

My French class took place just before the Gyorgy poli-sci performance, and I took those opportunities to practice my translation skills from his broken English/Russian into French.

I confessed to them that I wrote most of the Poli-Sci notes in French. Nowadays, I would intone, with a soupçon of mystery, that the undecipherable language is written in code. Deep down inside, I’m a code talker!

Those students were, of course, humorless. Which was how I was able to excel in wit and farce and fun, against their dead air of doldrums. Of late, I’ve seen the same type of funereal stiffness of mind, the complete absence of frivolity that is the sure sign of an aging, if not a decaying, mind. I’ve thus come to the conclusion that the lack of fun in my life is not entirely my fault. There’s a plethora of stuffy Puritans out there, unable to laugh, or even smile!

THEY need to lighten up!