Much like in the prairie days when Ma and Pa went into to town to the Sundry Store to fetch dry goods and gingham, once a week I leave the lake and venture into the big city. Every Wednesday, I gather up all of the laundry and our cans, bottles, and plastics (Burgin doesn’t have a recycling center), pack up the old laptop and some fancy clothes, leash up the hounds, and haul it all into the metropolis of Lexington. Even on a good day it’s a bit of an ordeal that takes three trips with a garden cart. I should mention that the path from my house to my car requires crossing a concrete dock, then heading through the wooden walkway referred to as Spider Alley because of the surfeit of arachnids, then avoiding otter shit while navigating around the bait shop, over another wooden dock, then another concrete pier, across a rickety bridge, and up a ridiculously steep incline nicknamed Hell Hill. The trek is ¼ of a mile. I make it a minimum of four times a day to take the dogs to the shore.
This Wednesday was going to be just another journey into civilization until I noticed that one of my cats was having trouble breathing. Oscar Brown, who was usually Oscar Brown the Meanest Cat in Town, was listless and lethargic and wheezing and rattling. I gave him his favorite wet food. He refused to eat. He refused to move. His eyes were glossy. His little lungs were trying to suck in air. It looked painful. He was pitiful. He needed medical care.
I called my usual country veterinarian, but was informed he was out vaccinating pigs and wouldn’t be available until morning. I couldn’t wait until morning. I had a meeting I did not want to miss in Lexington at 7pm. And, I was not about to leave a distressed Oscar on his own. I called my Lexington vet. He could get me in at 4pm if I could get to town. It was 2:30, the drive was an hour, and I hadn’t even started to load the car.
I ran back and forth across the dock, cart bouncing behind, boob sweat pouring, leaping over duck dung and finally got the car packed up except for the beasts. I wrestled Oscar into his cat carrier and hooked up the dogs. When we got to the car, Doc Grizzly decided he wanted to ride in the front seat, which was where Oscar needed to be. I had to physically lift all eighty-five pounds and shove him in the back. This was not done without much cursing that echoed across the water. I grabbed the cat carrier. Simultaneously, Oscar urinated and defecated on himself. It was now 2:50pm. No time to go back. I dumped the carrier, snatched a Sponge Bob beach towel from the dirty laundry, wrapped Oscar in it, and put him on my lap. On the way out of Norman’s Camp, a giant S-10 pick-up nearly ran me off the road. I swerved into a ditch and out. The dogs fell in the floorboard. Oscar pissed again. This time all over me. Still, I drove and drove, through the Palisades—five miles of the most narrow and windy roadways always riddled with drivers who refuse to stay on their side and tractors that putt along at thirty miles an hour. As I went around a particularly sharp turn, an errant turd rolled out of the carrier and into the floorboard. Still, I drove and drove with a limp and stinking cat on my lap. I made it into town and pulled up to the vet’s office with no time to spare, which meant the dogs had to go in with me. We've established that Doc is eighty-five pounds. Rufus is one hundred and fifteen. So, that means I now must carry the cat and control two hundred pounds of canine.
I sat Oscar on the exam table. He immediately jumped up and began batting at a light cord. Somehow he was dry and all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I was still soaked with urine and sweat and covered in orange fur clumps. The vet put the stethoscope to Oscar’s chest, which was no longer heaving.
“What do you hear? Is it bad?” I asked.
“I really can’t hear anything. He’s purring too loud. But he seems fine. Is he always this chill?”
Apparently, there were two possible explanations for Oscar’s miraculous recovery. Either the adrenalin and epinephrine from the ordeal acted as a natural steroid and cleared up his respiratory tract or it was kidney stones, which he passed when he pissed in my lap. As the smell wafted up from my dress, I demanded, “Euthanize him.” The vet refused, so I loaded cat and dogs back in the rank-smelling car and took them home where Oscar Brown resumed his reign as Meanest Cat in Town. Just another day in lake life.
I just wanted to give you a glimpse into my oh-so-so glamorous world.
Last night during the Emmys, long before the touching Robin Williams’ tribute, I started to cry. And not because I realized I now have Kathy Bates’ physique, but because I realized that it is getting less and less likely that I am going to make my dream of becoming a writer for Saturday Night Live come true.
Now, in my experience there are two different types of dreams. The kind you love to fantasize about on rainy days, but realize on some deep level, will never come true and wouldn’t make you happy if they did. For example, being able to fly. Seriously, you’d have to get all your clothes tailored and wings would be hell to keep clean and you’d either have to sleep on your stomach or alone since they’d take up most of the bed.
Then, there are the dreams that, no matter how lofty, you know are...or were...achievable. The ones that you know you could have made come true if you’d just been in the right place at the right time, or worked a little harder, or made different life decisions. Those dreams--the ones you really, potentially could have made them come true, but didn't--are the ones that are hard to swallow—at least, without puking them back up.
In my mid-twenties, I was in New York City. I was meeting people. I was going places. My work was being produced at comedy joints like The Duplex. Then, I came back to Lexington to make a film. And, not just any film…the film that was going to propel me into the career I so desired. Then, the investor dropped out. So, I drained my bank accounts to pay off the cast and crew. The experience not only knocked all the wind out of my sails, but ripped them into rags. I gave up on myself. And, I gave up on my dream of becoming a successful NYC comedy writer. Worse, I stopped allowing myself to dream big altogether. For the last twenty years, I’ve kept my dreams small and manageable. And, I have suffered for it.
This leads me to one of the happiness habits from the Huffington Post article. It claimed that, as a rule, happy people are resilient people. Depressed people are those who give up on their dreams and succumb to failure.
Then during the acceptance speech for Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special, I had an epiphany. I could still accomplish that. I’m 46, not dead. I could still win an Emmy. Why the hell not? After all, I can still type. I wiped the tears from my eyes—which burned like hell, since I’d been drowning my sorrows in salted, buttered popcorn and still had residue on my fingers—and decided that I don’t want to be a Dream Quitter. I’d rather die trying to accomplish something amazing even if I don’t succeed, than to live without trying.
For in the words of Mark Twain, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Recently, my Muse has been on a black-out moonshine drunk, but none the less, I was determined to write a blog today. So, I turned to Holiday Insights, which lists all the bizarre holidays on the calendar, in hopes of finding inspiration. Come to find out, August is “Admit Your Happy” Month. I can’t. For most of this summer, I have struggled with a case of the blues. Not the deep clinical depression that requires immediate medical attention and plagued me throughout my twenties and early thirties, but a low-grade gloom that I just can’t kick. The kind that doesn’t completely paralyze you, but slows you down so much that you can’t get anything worthwhile accomplished. It zaps your creativity and energy, lowers your willpower, steals your inspiration, and makes you vulnerable to that voice that declares, “You’re not good enough. You’re not talented enough. You’re not smart enough. You’re not pretty enough. You’re just not enough to deserve happiness.”
Of course, I’m pretty damn good at fleeting pleasure. But usually it’s the kind of pleasure that is followed by overindulgence, guilt, and often a hangover. However, I’ve never come close to mastering the art of being consistently happy...and it's about damn time I did. I want talking the kind of self-sustaining happiness that comes from an internal sense of peace, well-being, and belonging. The kind of happiness that allows you to navigate through the world with confidence and joy and trust. The kind of happiness that breeds spontaneity and success and smiling at strangers. Experts say it’s a choice, a commitment, a habit. So I’ve decided that, at forty-six, it’s time to take this happiness horse by the reins and commit to learning how to be happy on a daily basis. But, where to start? The Huffington Post, of course. I found an article, The Habits of Supremely Happy People, on the topic and I’m going to make it my mission to try and adopt each of these habits over the next few weeks and share the results with you. What’s the worst that could happen?
I think every author dreams that one day their novel will be made into a film. To learn my dream cast for The Miracle of Myrtle: Saint Gone Wild and get a full menu and soundtrack for your next "Myrtle" book club follow this link to the Dae&Writes Blog.
As a bonus, I shared my recipe for Purgatory Eggs...so good they'll make you slap your mama, then pray about it.
Sharing All I KNOW about the fine art of voluptuating. here's to living the lush life.