Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Steal Your Attention

“Today is a day of profound introspection,” wrote a fictional journalist in his fictional column. Today is my twenty-sixth birthday. It’s a good time to contemplate the last whole year of my life, in which I accomplished, survived, and realized more than in the last five years combined. It’s a good time to sit back and take stock.

I am happier today than I have ever been in my life. Doesn’t that seem like an outrageous claim? I had a wonderful childhood. I’m sure I can’t recall some days from those years that most likely hit the very top mark on my own personal happiness-meter. I do remember a few days in my teenage years that were out of this world, those high school days full of firsts and triumphs and learning, which always fulfills me the way few things can. But as far as the soul-deep contentment I’ve got going on these days, there’s just no question that it beats all. Even though I am now subject to the burdens of adulthood, there’s no more of that crippling adolescent doubt, no more frustration at the limitations of youth. All things are open to me. I am finally in control. I am truly, serenely happy.

The past year hasn’t been easy. I ended a five-year relationship, a figurative amputation that both gave me hope and tore me apart. But I also learned that I am the opposite of codependent, and I will never again let anyone try to force me into that mold. A few months ago I lost my father and the grandmother who helped raise me, both in the space of three weeks, and while it has required considerable emotional restructuring to learn to function without them, it has also been a release. I don’t think I’d prefer them to still be here, unless I could have them back healthy and able. They were suffering, though I didn’t realize it until I thought about what would have lay ahead had they continued. I started a new career in January, which may have begun as an escape but quickly became the best thing that ever happened to me, employment-wise. The intense acquisition of knowledge was like electric defibrillation for my numb and stagnant mind; suddenly I wanted to learn everything about anything again. I work with three men whose company I enjoy and whom I trust and respect, and I love the daily routine and even the occasional major tasks, the physical labor and dirt under my fingernails. For the first time in my life, there is no part of my job that I dread.

I am finally comfortable in my own skin. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never have perfect hair or be a size six. I am proud to have my parents’ genes, my Eastern European color and health, strength and bulk (shoe and ring size: 9), and the vivid gallery of personality that comes from being an international mutt; I value the Scottish, Irish, English, French, German, Native American, and unknown blood that fostered my hot temper and considerable talents, my patience and adaptability, my prudence and kindness. I embrace the redneck within. Ditto the artsy bohemian, the rather Victorian sophisticate (who loves the macabre), the flirty, vain tramp, the striving intellectual, and the outdoorsy, tinkering tomboy. I have a mean streak a mile wide (the kind that, when provoked, begets a hot, vicious rush of power, that clenched-fist, clamp-jawed, snarling primitive blind anger. I have a tendency towards physical violence when extremely pissed off or frustrated, which is, fortunately, tremendously rare and may be permanently tempered by my newfound inner peace) and enough compassion to flood an animal shelter with tears. I am a Republican and a jack-Mormon, a witty bundle of old-fashioned and new-fangled, a sometimes childish and always scheming dreamer. And somewhere in the last year I began to forget to wonder what anybody else sees when they look at me. I notice people love me more when I am myself than when I am not. I have fairly relaxed morals and superior hand-eye coordination, and a strange blend of silliness and ladylike dignity, depending on the occasion and environment. I know there’s always room for improvement, and I’m trying to be the person I want to remember me as, but I love to reinvent and will likely never stop.

That’s not me in a nutshell. Nobody can be written in a page. But that’s me on a Tuesday in August 2005, and I happen to think that my birth date is one of the best days of the year, seasonally, especially in Wyoming. “Sure is a pretty mornin’,” says jovial little Jeff, as we climb to the top of the concrete water storage tank buried at the peak of Red Mountain. We are measuring the actual level of water in all our auxiliary tanks (to compare to the sensor reading on our SCADA computer) with a fiberglass measuring tape in a big black plastic disc, and I can’t help noticing how golden the day is, how pure. There are no mild days in this wild corner of the world, because the wind always blows and the rain and snow fall and the summer sun bakes, but some summer days are as intrinsically pleasant as any in a tropical paradise, because they are fresh and bright and incomparable. The town is still green at our feet, but I feel fall in my bones, and even though I love the Wyoming summer that goes by in a flash, I love the long, dying autumn still more. Fall is the season that makes me pull over somewhere scenic and evaluate the life I live, and today I am sure that it is a great life. I couldn’t ask for more, even though I’m waiting patiently for the rest of it to begin. Today is enough, and I am not afraid to wait, and work, and try.

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