After weeks of soul-searching, and I'm aware that I'm a little late to the game here, I have finally hit upon a New Year's resolution:
I hereby resolve not to go crazy.
I have a good reason to fear going crazy. A few weeks before Christmas, I went on leave from my job in order to help my mother through a serious illness. The crisis came upon us quite suddenly, with my official status going from underemployed to unemployed overnight. I also made the decision to move in with mom for the time being, and I've been here ever since.
Hardly reason enough to push me over the edge. However, given the abruptness and totality of my recent lifestyle change, certain reactions are not surprising. Even under the best of circumstances, it would be a bit of a culture shock to go from the dazzle and stress of big city life to 24/7 at one's mother's house, with a social calendar dominated by visits to hospitals, doctors, and the occasional field-trip to a Hungarian grocery store two blocks away.
Mom is a reasonably pleasant companion (although 24/7 with anybody can have its trying moments), but she is also given to having conversations like this:
Mom: "I hear Andrew is taking the kids out kayaking this weekend."
Me: "That sounds like fun."
Mom: "Yeah. I would love to go kayaking."
Aunt: "Mary, you can't go kayaking."
Mom: "Yes, I can."
Aunt: "You're 78 years old."
Mom: "So? That doesn't mean I can't go kayaking."
Aunt: "And you can hardly walk."
Mom: "I'll be sitting down in the kayak."
Aunt: "Kayaks flip over. You have to know what you're doing to go kayaking."
Mom: "DON'T TELL ME I CAN'T GO KAYAKING! I'LL GO KAYAKING IF I DAMN WELL FEEL LIKE GOING KAYAKING!!!"
Mom also has an unusual devotion to Christmas decor, a devotion so fanatical it makes non-devotees feels like heretics in the presence of the Inquisition. Combine this devotion with the ability to engage seriously in conversations like the one above, and one has a bit of a minefield on one's hands.
I thought I was handling it rather well at first, but with the holidays finally laid to rest for another year and facing the long and dismal month of January, I noticed that something disturbing was happening with me: a craving for the company of stupid people.
There is a certain high that results from interacting with stupid people. Frustrating as the experience may be, one comes away from it with a thrilling sense of superiority. Short-lived, yes. Hollow, yes. But thrilling nonetheless, and thrilling is thrilling. I had obviously become addicted, and my place of employment had become the opium den that kept the monkey off my back, providing an abundance of irrefutable proof on a daily basis that I was, indeed, brilliant. And also providing me with the justification for a well-deserved nightly martini, sort of a reward for my deft handling of the day's assortment of morons.
I have - more or less - been cut off, cold turkey. My mother is not stupid. True, last night she turned off "Juliet of the Spirits" in order to watch a rerun of "Different Strokes", an inexplicably bizarre action. But she understood - and enjoyed - what she saw of "Juliet", evidence enough of a solid intellect. So no help there.
Nor have any of the medical people who now populate my known world been stupid. Or anything less than wonderful, actually. And the people at the Hungarian grocery store are stellar.
So I find myself in state of painful withdrawal. And fearful as to what will happen to me, and my repertoire of writing topics, should the situation continue unchecked.
Obviously, if I chose to make the effort (and I probably should), I could turn all this into a productive time of personal assessment, quiet reflection, and spiritual growth. Unfortunately (or fortunately; time will tell) I usually deal with stress by becoming wildly self-indulgent, so the only revelations visited upon me thus far have been:
- I'm allergic to wool;
- I gain weight when I eat cookies
- Talk shows suck. Really suck;
- Pat Boone is still alive.
And, after a month of watching mostly '80s reruns, I have also been blessed with the realization that shoulder pads - when worn by women - are not, never were, and never will be a good idea.
Of course, there are other steps I could actively take to preserve my sanity. The purchase of a martini shaker and a lemon zester might be one such step, and would help revive my flagging interest in shopping, another sign that my sanity might be in peril.
Hence the resolution. I'll worry about losing weight and spiritual growth next year.