Monday, May 27, 2013

the shittiness evangelist takes memorial day off

1. dispatch from debbie downer

I’m writing this at Huntington Gardens. A few feet from me, there’s a pond full of Jurassic-looking lily pads and well fed gold-brown fish. Two families of geese are roaming about, getting harassed by families of humans.

With lily pads and random children.
We wanted to start a "Hey girl..." meme featuring actual goslings.
I’m telling you this because I worry I’ve acquired a reputation as a Debbie Downer. On Friday Alberto was talking about taking care of his parents when they get older—when he’s fifty and they’re seventy-five—and I said something along the lines of, Yeah, hope I make it to fifty. As if taking care of one’s elderly parents were a First World Problem akin to one’s yacht needing polishing.

I know my odds of making it to fifty are actually very good, but I’m superstitious. I want the universe to know I don’t just take things for granted (even though I take all kinds of things for granted, like clean air and well stocked grocery stores and the possibility of emergency loans from my dad).

This concoction of magical thinking and gratitude have merged with my occasional inability to talk about good things, for fear that those good things will go away, and for fear that people will think, Aw, how sweet, Cheryl is appreciating the little things. Because that’s all she has. But I haven’t given up on the big things, dammit. Long life. Kid. Vacation to Tasmania. Critically acclaimed midlist novel.

Also, I’ve become a sort of evangelist for owning up to life’s shittiness, which I really do believe in.

But maybe, as a result, people think I’m really depressed?

I know people mostly don’t think about me one way or the other. That’s the nature of people. I’m sitting here not thinking about them right this minute.

But still, I want you—as people—to know: Life is good, in big ways and small ways.

2. open mic, open minds

For instance: On Friday night AK and I went to a barbecue/comedy-writing party hosted by New Friend Molly. Her husband took a standup class a while back, and the group still gets together, draws a topic from a hat, writes on it for fifteen minutes and then performs it at a mic set up in their living room.

The idea of doing standup comedy—even for a small, friendly and sufficiently intoxicated crowd—was mildly terrifying. I think of humor as a pleasant byproduct of writing and conversation. Actively trying to be funny is like taking a class to meet chicks; if you make that big of an effort, it probably won’t happen.

Then again, I do enjoy the sound of my own voice, on paper on otherwise. There’s no denying that. And although it’s a big cliché, it’s true that big scary illnesses make you fearless about anything that’s not a big scary illness. (The little-discussed asterisk is that it’s not because you’re so into embracing life now; it’s because you’re busy fearing the obvious, so you don’t have time to fear anything else.)

Now that I think about it, standup comics are the ultimate evangelists for life's shittiness.
Both AK and I made some people laugh—the topic was hair, so I had a built-in prop—and felt proud of ourselves. On the drive home, the gist of our conversation was, “Why are we so good at this?” (“Well, we’re literary types, so we naturally pay attention to detail and story….” “And I think we both come from the school of thought that things have to be true in order to be funny, and you should go for the truth first and the funny second….”) (Other possible reason: small, friendly, slightly intoxicated audience.)

On Saturday my organization threw a reading at the Last Bookstore, one of those warm, inspiring events that left me buzzing. This morning AK and I went to yoga and I felt like I was working all the gnarls out of my legs, which have recently taken up running again, ever so slowly. Some teenagers barged in toward the end of class and wanted to shoot a movie there. They clutched fistfuls of wigs and camera equipment.

Tonight we’re going to have drinks on a roof. It feels like summer.

8 comments:

Claire said...

Love the Huntington Gardens! They're so cool!

Also happy to hear you're enjoying yourself, not that I thought you weren't.

Life is ups and downs. Easy to focus on the downs and downplay the ups due to absence blindness. I'm trying to balance this out more.

Cheryl said...

Absence blindness is a good phrase. I need to get me some night vision goggles.

Una said...

I think you are good at this (aka: comedy) because you are both actually funny. I wish I were there to listen! I love The Huntington Gardens as well. I miss it.

Cheryl said...

Miss you too, Una!

Peter Varvel said...

Yeah, I take getting older for granted. But sometimes I remind myself that there's always a chance I won't make it to the next birthday (things like scooter accidents on the freeway ...).

It's not a bad realization. I'm glad I got to do so many fun things in life so far.

I want more.

P.S. I'm typing this with the laptop precariously balanced on my kneecaps. The black cat feels entitled to the main lap space.

Cheryl said...

You know who really takes things for granted? CATS.

Sizzle said...

It's hard to take anything for granted when you've faced your own mortality in a way you never really wanted. At least it's been like that for me. Sometimes I WANT TO take shit for granted because it reminds me of the before-cancer me. Weird, right?

Cheryl said...

Me too! I always think of this Onion headline that went up shortly after Sept. 11, 2001: "America Longs to Care About Stupid Bullshit Again."