the ass of time

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Warning: The following post is even more potty-mouthed and -minded than usual, and I say that as the woman who writes for a blog called “Figuring Shit Out.” I’m not sure whether this ranks as more or less fecally fixated than my post about digging literal crap out of a hole in the basement, but either way, I want you to be prepared.

Some years are such lovely and charming visitors, and I’m sooooo sorry to see them go. Some years I’m like, “Yo hot stuff, why such a hurry to leave? Sit back and stay a while, mrrrroww.” Other years I barely notice the boring old thing has arrived before it’s gone. And still other years, fed up to the point of wide-eyed, wild-haired, fang-baring, nostril-flaring exasperation, I spit in its face and howl: GET THE EFF OUT OF MY HOUSE, YOU GIANT POOPY ASS.

As it happens, about a month ago I wrote a really, truly, phantasmagorically terrible year-end poem on this very rectal-specific, annus-as-anus theme. I did. I even read it aloud at a party. The whoooole thing. Yep. And most importantly, people kept talking to me afterward! Would you like me to quote said fanny-poem at length right here? You wouldn’t? Well, tough. My blog, babycakes. My. Blog.

I titled it “The Ass of Time.” No, I’m not kidding. It begins:

Twelve months ago — a little less — we watched the last year pass
A new one loomed as clean and bright as yonder baby’s ass. . .

What do you think so far? Isn’t that a lovely image? New Year = infant tuckus? No? I beg to diffah.

And so we leapt into the fray, our broadswords sharp and shiny,
Inspired by the infant year and its resplendent heiny.
We bravely trundled forward, hope aglow in our hearts —
We kept the faith in that baby, waving off the stench of its farts.

Okay, so I badly screwed up the meter on that one. Give me a pass. I told you it was terrible.

The year and its butt had other ideas — in November we gave up the faith —
Those gastrointestines had the last say, and took a big crap on the eighth.

In all seriousness, of which I am at times capable of feigning, I am at peace with the year about to leave us. For personal as well as political reasons, it wasn’t always easy. But it’s over! Over over over over over. No going back. No warping the space-time continuum to undo what was done and do what was undone. Minutes and weeks and months only progress in the one measly direction, THANKEE GOD. If they didn’t, and we had the capacity to rewind to some precise retro-moment and tinker away at the past, we’d be stuck in yesterday and blind to tomorrow. We would never ever ever come back, and if we did, the present would be nothing but a perpetually tweaked disappointment.

Besides, 2016 had plenty of upsides. Yes! Upsides! I count them on my fingers and toes and many tiny arm hairs. Top o’ the list: My three blessed offspring. My large, loving family. All the old friends who stood by me; all the new friends I met through gypsy jazz; all the jams I attended, all the solos I attempted, all the music that swirled and swung and plucked and scratched around me.

All the laughs I shared with coworkers under dim fluorescent light. All the sci-fi I watched with my son (“Stranger Things”!), cuddling our two crazy kittens. All the books I read that changed me: Svetlana Alexievich’s “Voices from Chernobyl,” John Hersey’s “Hiroshima.” All the trips I took. All the walks I walked in my chummy neighborhood. All the chit-chat I swapped at Stewart’s with guys named Al and Al.

All the meals around warm, happy tables with so many family members in so many places, so many of them who entered my life long after I was born.

And you know what? The time itself was a gift. Time always is. The time that passed means that I sucked in air and expelled it for another 12 months, and that’s a good thing. So I look back at the departing giant butt of 2016 and feel an awe at living, just living, nothing more than living, and at the chance to love that comes with being alive. Isn’t that all we have? The year gave me plentiful occasions to live and to love, and if — on some days, fighting some pain — I screwed up at one or both, it wasn’t for lack of trying. At least I didn’t shrink from the life or the love. At least I didn’t cede the trying, or the day.

On that note, as we bid the big backside adieu, I leave you with the last two stanzas of my craptacular bit of comic verse in rhyming iambic tetrameter. May it not ruin your mood, or your year.

So years will come, and years will go, but one thing’s sure to say:
A shitty year now nears its close, its end (two days) away.
A new one waits ahead of us, its tush sits on the horizon,
We tweet and text our gloom and dread, our overages aiding Verizon.

And all we have, in months ahead that pile into years
Is laughter, tunes and poesy to stave off snot and tears.
The fundament will soon depart, the year’s behind behind us.
This year’s ass is leaving soon. But next year’s sure will find us.

Happy 2017, y’all!

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words matter

I’ve been thinking a lot about words. Of course I always am, but lately I’ve been thinking about how devalued words are these days, how ignored and slighted and spat-upon. And I’ve decided that it’s a problem of acute market disequilibrium.

See, I took (and almost failed) exactly one economics course in college, and I remember exactly one significant concept: supply and demand! Yes! I learned that! The more stuff there is around to sell, THE LESS PEOPLE ARE WILLING TO PAY FOR IT. And if you really start to flood the market with the stuff? They’ll be willing to pay even less. They will laugh in your face at its wretched undesirability.  They will decide to buy little piles of beaver dung wrapped up as party favors instead. In other words, THEY WILL TOTALLY STOP GIVING A SHIT ABOUT YOUR STUFF. plunger

This is where we are with words. There’s a glut. They’re everywhere all around us all the time, and we bat at them like gnats. No one takes them seriously any longer in this post-truth, post-knowledge, post-learning, post-evidence, post-reality age. We are living in a new and strange dimension where facts are dismissed as beside the fact, where tweets blat and rage, where fake news gets shared reflexively while real news struggles for a hearing. Truths are now transient. Challenged, they shimmer into nothingness. They and the words that express them no longer matter as they once did.

This is what I have to say about that: Words matter. Words are real. Words have weight. Words spring from the mind, enter the world and linger there, changing us. Spoken, they alter the speaker and listener both. Written, they bridge miles of earth and understanding between writer and reader, building fortresses of imagination no less tangible for lacking mass. Words create and destroy. Words spark love, sow hate, stir resentment, inspire hope, instill fear. Words hold power, bearing the authority and currency of poets and prophets and God. In the beginning was the Word, yes? I read that somewhere. But what about the end? Where will words be then?

Words build nations. Sway nations. Fell them.

It’s words that got us into this crazy mess, and words will get us out. But ONLY IF WE TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY.  Only if we value them. Only if we stop treating them like some party-size bag of cheapo tortilla chips that we bought at Wal-Mart that day and then stuffed into The Cabinet of Neglect (which every kitchen has) and never thought of again, much less ate.

Just to prevent the punsters among us from going there first, no, I’m not suggesting that we eat our words. But I am suggesting that we treat them with a little more respect. Listen to them. Weigh them. Hold them for a moment in our palm and consider their heft. If they’re hollow and shallow and convey only lies, we discard them. If they bear truths – even unwanted truths, even the hardest and most painful to grasp – we must tighten our grip and carry them to safety. We owe it to them, and to ourselves.

we’re not dead yet

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Last night, stricken and and sickened by the election results, I stayed up into the wee hours texting and emailing people I love. I just wanted to tell them that they matter to me, that I’m grateful for them, that I’m glad they’re in my life and I love them, I love them, I love them. I blasted off of a few more of these little missives in the morning. Probably I missed a few people, as I was groggy and hurried. If so, I’m sorry. I’m glad you’re in my life. And I love you, I love you, I love you.

Saying this was all that mattered last night and this morning. It’s all that matters any night or morning. But it matters especially in the aftermath of loss, and the events of yesterday surely mark a big one for those of us longing and planning for a different outcome. When I snapped open my eyes today and remembered, I felt cuffed hard by the unreality of it, the injury to the universe and upheaval to the laws that govern it. Oh, shit, I thought. How did this happen? How will we move on?  And as I did, I recalled a similar cosmic bafflement — a sense of a world suddenly re-ordered — each time I woke after the death of a loved one.

Grief isn’t about the distant past. It’s about the absent future, the timeline disrupted, the dreams unrealized and memories not made. To bury a loved one is to bury your hopes and plans and visions. Your relationship. Your own sense of self. Your idea of life, its possibilities, its narrative. And this what 60,000,000 Americans are mourning today: our idea of a country that renounces fear and hatred in one fell swoop on one swell night, then moves boldly on.

That never happened. That future is gone. But we will move on, after a fashion. Another future will take its place, and we can’t stop trying to make it better and bend each sunset into sunrise. Life is hope and hope is work and work means getting up out of bed in the morning, not curling up under the covers and reliving our pain.

As my dad told me the day my husband died, “You’re life isn’t over.” He was right. It wasn’t. But my life had changed irrevocably, and I had to change along with it: I’m not dead yet, I told myself, quoting Monty Python. Neither is this beautiful, resilient, powerfully misguided and deeply divided country of ours. We’re not dead yet. Our life isn’t over. We’ll figure this out. But in the meantime, let’s hold other close and say I love you, I love you, I love you.

 

five

This past Monday marked five years since two cops appeared at my door to say that my beautiful, brilliant husband had leapt to his death from a roof near our home. Every year, I try not to dwell on the anniversary of Chris’s suicide. Every year, I fail. chris-in-fedora

At work I hit my deadlines, chit-chatting with colleagues and making my plans for the week, all while carrying the weight of the day inside me. I didn’t want to feel it. Don’t go there, I told myself. I wanted Monday to be normal, the week to be normal, my whole life to be normal.

It isn’t, of course. But whose is? And who doesn’t carry around a pocketful of dates that throb with consequence and pain?

In remembering Chris, I try to focus on the joyous markers and all their many blessings: his birthday, our wedding day, the births of our three children. I try to dwell with gratitude on his life and lingering gifts. I want to remember the light and love in his eyes, the way he laughed and kissed and cracked a grin. The fedoras he used to wear, the bike rides he used to take: I want to remember those, too.

But even when I try hard not to focus on the anniversary of his suicide, it focuses on me.  The 26th of September licks at me like the flickering tongue of a snake.  I think of Chris’s profound sadness, the changes that overtook him in the months before his death and the rupture in the universe — the outrageous, senseless, gaping violation of it –that sucked him away. I think of the long day that followed. An endless day. A day that still feels like yesterday. A day that always will.

And yet a lot has happened in the five years since he died. More life, more love, more loss. I’ve traveled to Ecuador, Edinburgh, Jamaica, Yosemite. Watched one daughter graduate high school, another graduate college. Marveled at a son who turned 16, filled with strength and kindness. Wrote a book about grief. Told a story for “The Moth.” Did a Tedx talk. Buried my second mother and my best friend. Held my baby grandniece — Chris’s baby grandniece, the most perfect creature you’ve ever seen, born to parents who wed on Chris’s birthday. Laughed.

I got laid off from one paper and hired back by another. Started this crazy blog. Took up jazz fiddle. Shoved the piano into the living room (alone). Contemplated getting a tattoo (still contemplating). Adopted two kittens. Made new friends. Turned 49, then 50, then 51, then 52, then 53.

So here I am, a little older and grayer, a little creakier, a little more arthritic in my knees and lower back, but not yet as old or gray or creaky or arthritic as I’ll be tomorrow. In another two years I’ll be 55, Chris’s age when he died. Yet more life will have passed, then more life, then more.

I believe in the eternity of the human soul. I believe in the solidity of human love. I believe that souls are love, and eternity is solid, and no one who spends his life embracing and lifting others is ever truly gone. I’ll see Chris again, of that I’m sure. But not right now. Not right here. My job is to be in this world, going about the business of living with whatever faith and relish I can muster.

So, no, I didn’t want to dwell on the anniversary of his death. But dwell indeed I did, all through Monday and the week that followed, thinking about the permanence of a moment and the transience of a life. Five years are forever. Five years are gone. How strange, that I lived five years without him.

that word again

baby fistI’ve been thinking about love in the last few days, itching and twitching with excitement as I awaited the arrival of a new and blessed human into the clan. She finally came, this great niece of mine with her mop of hair and splendid howling maw, and she’s perfect. She’s gorgeous, of course, but that’s not what I mean. I mean she’s perfect in the way that all babies are perfect, as an emblem and ambassador of all that we long for in this life.

She isn’t merely loved. She’s love embodied. I haven’t had a chance to meet her yet and hold her in my arms, but I already love her and know her as love. I already know that she’s a gift, not just to her parents and grandparents and uncles and aunts and great uncles and great aunts and cousins, but to the world. To everyone else. To all of us here, groping through the everyday with faith that it will lead us somewhere with light and meaning.

Love is a verb and an abstract noun. But it’s also a substance, a thing made tangible and real by living, touching and giving of one another — a thing that sparks to life in the arms of our beloved and grows with each new embrace. We rock our babies, and they become toddlers. We kiss our toddlers, and they become schoolchildren. We hug our schoolchildren, and they go on to high school, then college, then jobs, then marriage, then children and grandchildren of their own, making yet more love out of yet more love in an endless, fractal branching of fertility and hope.

My own three babies, no longer small, are the proof and stuff of love. So was my late husband, this new little girl’s Great Uncle Chris, who made our children with me. So was my late sister Lucy, whose death prompted us to have kids sooner than we’d planned. So are all we love who leave too soon, who cease to be present in this world but never cease to be real, because love never ceases to be real. How could it?

This is the lesson in every baby: that nothing, nothing, nothing is more real than love. Not time. Not loss and pain. Not life itself. That first holy moment cradling a child lasts forever. It is forever. People call parental love unconditional, but it’s more than love without condition; it’s love without end. All love is. All babies are, this one included. She’s love, and she’s loved. And all is right with the world.

trump, and our job as ants

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Today, heading out on one of my periodic hoofs around the neighborhood, I found this on the sidewalk: a mob of ants clotting around an earthworm. I leaned over for a moment, considering the industry and anonymity of the army at work, wondering why We Humans can’t join forces and shoulder away — for storage, safekeeping or disposal — whatever blessed gifts or toxic burdens come our way. Donald Trump and his hateful and divisive rhetoric sprang to mind. Surely, if we all came together, we could solve that nagging problem. How about everyone who’d rather not see him as our 45th President just assemble on a square of pavement at his feet and peacefully, diligently, carry him off the sidewalk?

I considered the logistics of this as I pressed on with my afternoon constitutional. In short order I passed a black man in a skull cap, swapping quick hellos. A few minutes later, inside a pharmacy, a young woman with a South-Asian accent chit-chatted agreeably as she rang up my chocolate and greeting cards. She smiled. I smiled. Nice gal.

Down the street, I encountered two men leaving an Orthodox shtiebel, deep in conversation in some language I didn’t immediately recognize (Yiddish? Russian?).  I said hi. They looked up, nodded quickly but politely, then returned to their discourse, walking lightly in heavy black suits on this far-too-muggy Sabbath.

Barely half a block down the street, I stopped and tried on a leather jacket (sleeves too long) at a yard sale, gassing a bit with the African-American family gathered out front.

On the rest of my stroll home, I passed a new Mormon church and my old Catholic church, lately transformed into a hip media company. I exchanged smiles, greetings and pleasantries with an Italian friend at an import store, a black woman who accidentally knocked into me with her Stewart’s bag — she apologized profusely, and I assured her I survived — and an old white fellow that I scared the bejesus out of when I walked up beside him and bleated out hello.

“Ahhh!,” he yelped, laughing. “You startled me!”

My turn to apologize profusely. He grinned and regained his bearing, and as he did, I thought: We are a horde of ants going about our business together, aren’t we? This rainbow bunch of people milling around my neighborhood, my country and my cosmos are living, bustling proof that no one is in it alone, that all of us share the burden and shoulder the weight of everyday life. Much of the time, from our microscopic solipsistic egotistical perspectives, we’re focused on our own tiny errands, our own tiny selves — and we only see the differences between us, the variations in skin, religion, party, perspective and language that build fear and walls. We like to think we’re all that different, but we’re not.

What would the ants think, if they could? If you could pluck one from the crowd and stick a microphone in its face, what would it say? Would it see only differences? Would it go on a bigoted rant against its neighbors? Would it claim superiority based on the length of its antennae and the sharpness of its mandibles? Would it express stubborn individualism? Small-minded parochialism? Lockstep partisanism? Would it gripe, “Dude, the other ants don’t pull their weight. They complain too much. Takers.” Would it go on social media to bully, insult, demonize (hashtag #LoserAnts)?

Okay, so I’m reading way too much into a worm. But still. If all of us are ants already, then the Trump thing is straightforward business, isn’t it? We should give it a shot. We’re all in it together. We can carry him off the sidewalk, I’m sure.

 

 

 

the view from here

view from hadley

Today, for Mother’s Day, my two youngest and I hiked up Hadley in the lower Adirondacks. It’s not a big mountain, not a long hike, not at all difficult or dangerous. But it was enough of an expedition to make us feel as though we’d gotten out into fresh air and sunshine, and it was enough of an exertion to work up a decent sweat. It was also plenty windy. At the summit, buffeted by wild, chilly gusts, we stayed just long enough to snap a few photos and peer up the fire tower (nope, no climbing that, not today, not without flying away like gum wrappers in the wind) before skedaddling back down the trail.

We last hiked Hadley as a family of five several years ago, back when my youngest was wee, my oldest was home and my husband was still among the living. To say I recalled him — and the family we once were — as I hoofed up and down today is to state the obvious. Of course I remembered him. I see him everywhere we ever went together. And of course I remembered our children in their younger days. How could I not? Being a parent means seeing children with eyes that view the past as well as the present, flashing back through earlier incarnations (baby, toddler, kindergartner, middle schooler) while regarding the fully formed creatures before us with love, admiration, worry, gratitude and something close to shock. How the heck did that happen?

My oldest daughter couldn’t hike with us today, because she’s about to graduate from college. That statement is so outrageous, I have to re-type it in all caps. SHE’S ABOUT TO GRADUATE FROM COLLEGE. How the heck did that happen? My younger daughter just came back from volunteering in Australia. How the heck did that happen? How the heck is my son about to finish his second year of high school? How the heck did I give birth to three such colossally spirited, resilient, interesting, good, compassionate, loving, intrepid souls?

It’s a mystery, just as every gift is a mystery. So is every loss. God only knows why anything happens to anybody, and I mean that literally.  All I know is this: I loved their father. Because I loved their father, these three people sprang into being. Because they sprang into being, the mother I am sprang into being. Every fumbling step I’ve made through parenthood sprang into being, too. Every decision I’ve made. Every mistake. Every moment of pain, frustration, insight, joy. Every piece of who I am now, who they are now, who they might be next week or next month or next year. All of that transcends time, transcends space, transcends any comprehension of the cosmos as finite or linear or in any way confined by my puny capacity to understand it.

My kids embody all of that. They give shape and sense to things too misty to grasp: the love of God, the looping movement of days, the sense of blindly hiking through a thickening fog to an unknown summit. I can’t and don’t know squat, really. Who does? What can we know in this life beyond the value of the people walking beside us?

Looking out from the top of Hadley, I saw the rolling peaks, the bundling clouds, the elbowing curves of the Great Sacandaga Lake.

Looking over at my children, I saw love.

 

 

yes

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This here is my fridge list. I scribbled it down after Chris’s suicide, slapped it up on the icebox and kept it there for daily inspiration. As you can see, it’s a bit worse for the wear — stained, crumpled, curling at the edges – than it was when I first tacked it up back in late 2011.

The list is old news. I wrote about it in my book and blabbed about it in my TedX talk early last year, so if you’re sick to death of hearing about it, I apologize. But to me it’s as necessary and now as the morning I wrote it. Not a day goes past that I don’t stare it in the face and think, “I’m not giving enough,” or “I’m not playing enough music,” or “I’m not present enough in the moment,” and then poke myself with a silent reminder or write it on my hand (in Sharpie!).

I will never NOT need this list, because it tells me to embrace life and love no matter what, even when something reaches out and knocks me on my ass. Very often my response to such ass-knocking is to bleat: SCREW THIS, I’M NOT GETTING UP AGAIN, IT TAKES TOO MUCH FOOKIN’ EFFORT. But that is precisely the moment when I must get up. I must when I’m wounded. When I’m terrified. When it makes no sense to try. When all I want is to slouch back into my Naugahyde recliner of fruitless, lonely solipsism and give the hell up on myself and other people. (No, I don’t actually own a Naugahyde recliner. But I could.)

Life demands engagement. Life demands a Yes. Bunches of Yeses. A whole shitload of Yeses. A sequence of Yeses uttered in hope and fear and blindness. Yeses spoken knowing full well they might be shouted down by Nos. Yeses that affirm life over death, love over apathy, even as death and apathy bully and bring us down.

Yeses spawned all of us into being. Yeses brought us into union with the lovers and spouses who helped us make our babies. Yeses got us our first kisses, our first jobs, our first creative flights. No poem was ever written without a Yes. No song was ever sung. No estranged souls ever reunited without one, no ailing child was ever nursed back to health.

My father said Yes when my mother asked him to marry her. My mother said Yes, and Yes, and Yes again when she rose each day to care for my father after his suicide attempt and the dementia that followed. Each moment of their marriage was a reiteration of Yes.

I’ve been thinking of Mama lately as I glance at my fridge list. I’ve been marveling at all of her living and giving and loving and laughing, at all of her Yeses that might have been Nos. But she never bailed on any of it. She never stopped growing and learning and praying, being grateful, being present, making music or having faith — although, like me, she always failed to stand up straight.

She didn’t have a fridge list. She didn’t need one. She was one. I didn’t realize this when I first scrawled it down, but she’s all over my little blue list, every wobbly letter, every gasp of pain and longing that pushed me down and made me write it. I wrote it because I believed that Yes was enough, that No was a lie, that life is its own reward. But I didn’t stop to think that I believed because Mama believed it first, and lived it well. Yes. Yes. Yes.

the sun, when it comes

sun pic

I was feeling a little glumpy. My late husband coined that word, a cross between “grumpy” and “gloomy,” and it captures my mood as I hauled bags of disgusting wet crap out of my recently flooded basement

I had crawled inside my belly button and, not liking what I found there, crawled back out and started whining to God about the tempests that have periodically swamped my realm. I got a little pissy about it, wondering whether my life would, in fact, unfold in a non-stop parade of literal and figurative shit-storms (which reminds me of “shit magnet,” my brother’s apt coinage.)

SERIOUSLY, GOD!, I howled in silence from the depths of my soggy basement. IS THIS HOW IT’S GONNA BE  FOR ME? JUST ONE SQUALL AFTER ANOTHER UNTIL I KEEL OVER MELODRAMATICALLY IN AN EXHAUSTED, PATHETIC, MOLDY, STINKING HEAP, MY DENTURES RATTLING SADLY IN MY HEAD??

As I said. Pissy. And God, as it turned out, had something to say in response.

But I didn’t realize this. Not at first. All I knew was that I needed a walk. Emerging glumpily into the daylight with a final bag o’ crap, I looked at the sky, blinked at the sun and set off for a hoof around my chipper little neighborhood. I’d been walking for 40 minutes or so when I saw a man — a stocky fellow — step to the edge of the sidewalk about half a block ahead.

As I walked up, he regarded me closely. He said something I couldn’t understand, contorting his transparent, gentle face with some obvious effort. He looked worried. He lacked a few teeth. Maybe he had some other deficit, too.

Hello!, I said.

“I wanted to give you enough room,” he explained, taking another step to the side.

Oh, thank you! But that’s not necessary — I don’t need a lot of room.

“But I just wanted to give you more room.”

Well, thank you, sir. You’re very kind. Have a nice day!

“I don’t know if I can. That depends on the weather,” he said, looking worried again.

It’s sunny today. That helps, right?

“But I don’t know what the weather will be. When it’s windy, that makes it colder. It just happens. I can’t do anything about it.”

That’s true. But at least it isn’t windy now. Just a slight breeze.

“But yesterday — yesterday was cold. And it was windy. That made it colder. We just can’t tell what weather will happen. We don’t know if it will be cold. ”

You’re right.

“It’s not up to us. It’s up to Mother Nature. We can’t really know what we’re going to get. Mother Nature does that.”

You’re right.

“We can’t do anything about the weather. It just comes.”

You’re. So. Right. It’s not up to us. It just comes.

I looked at this dear man — this sweet, simple, wise stranger issuing necessary truths — and I recognized God’s rejoinder to my glumpiness. No, I can’t predict or control the storms that come my way. It’s not my business to know when they’re coming. It’s not my business to even ask, and it’s certainly not my business to complain about it.

All I can do is accept what happens. Cope and clean up. Look to the sky and rejoice at the sun, when it comes.

Amen to that, and to strangers.

 

 

 

 

 

life’s rich pageant

Remember that time the temperature plunged to -1,000,000 and my pipes froze and sprang a leak and I swore and swore and swore? I remember that, too. It happened — ooooh, let’s see, now — less than two weeks ago. The leak’s been fixed. Yay Hurray! Happy ending!

BUT GUESS WHAT.  Today I’ve been dealing with a flooded toilet AND a flooded basement, and when I say “flooded basement” I mean up to my floppy soppy ankles. As I type this, The Mighty Sump Dump is doing its job while bowls and buckets and laundry baskets and other plasticky vessels and shit are floating around my cellar like abandoned dreams in a sad Scandinavian arthouse movie. plunger

But I’m not complaining. No way! I’ve only sworn once so far! I know how lucky I am to own this house o’ mine, just as I know how lucky I am to traverse a life that’s been chock full of oh-so-interesting triumphs and disasters. This is all part of the daily thrill of being alive. Just the other day I was thinking, “Wow, I’m only 52, and already I’ve done a lot of living!” It hit me: If I died tomorrow, and I so hope I don’t, I’ll have led a rich and interesting life.

And I have. I’ve loved like crazy, given birth three times, watched my children grow, traveled bunches, read books, written three, played soccer, played Dvorak, sung Bach, worked as a journalist for 34 years (holy old farts!), MET SIR ANTHONY HOPKINS, been assaulted by turkeys and assorted South American creaturesfallen hard, gotten up, felt the sublime, laughed like hell AND undergone minimally invasive cardiac surgery for a wacky heart condition that I’ll write about some other time, but don’t worry, I’m fine. Plus! I got to have a colonoscopy when I turned 50, which is something my dear late sister Lucy never got to experience. That was quite a trip. Everything was.

Even the painful stuff has been a blessing, in its way. Even the failures, the flooded basements, the floating receptacles of crap. Even the broken bits inside me, the wild furies of fear and human weakness. Even the losses — everything that cracks me open and lets in the light and warmth. I feel. I live. Can’t do one without the other.

A coworker reminded me, today, of that bit in “A Shot in the Dark” where Clouseau falls into the fountain and emerges sopping wet. The sexpot maid played by Elke Sommer tells him he should change his clothes or catch his death of pneumonia. He replies: “Yes, I probably will. But it’s all part of life’s rich pageant, you know?”

As I drove home to deal with the basement, I thought about this. And I realized: My life is a “Pink Panther” movie! AND I AM JACQUES CLOUSEAU! Minus the accent and the mustache. He was the embodiment of slapstick catastrophe, whether smashing a priceless Steinway (“not anymore”) or vacuuming a woman’s boobs. And he coped. He fumbled forward and figured shit out.

So here I am. My basement is flooded. My bathroom’s a mess, or it was until I mopped it with bleach. My whole damn house is a mess. My whole damn self is a mess.

But I’ll live, I guess. I have already.