The Best and Worst of Firsts

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Out on the deck and under the umbrella, before the real heat of this August day, Sylvia wondered. Would it be more of the same? Coffee, household chores, lists. Or would she experience something new today? Perhaps a first of the best kind? As she gazed out into the woods behind the house, her curiosity wasn’t piqued by the panoramic view of the landscape that had recently changed in her life. From the quiet, seamless lines of blue where sky meets water on the cove to the lush drapes of greenery that fortressed her now, the change marked a beginning and an end. Or an end and a beginning. And that is where she stopped. The order of things had her baffled momentarily, yet with the very next sip from the sweaty tumbler of iced water, she was struck by a concept that she had never really thought about until that very second. Beginnings and endings are always, always, always firsts.

Sylvia: Firsts are daunting, anxiety-ridden, and paralyzing, Erma.

Erma: Firsts are exciting, hopeful, and motivating, my friend. Just think. When something unpleasant ends, it’s the last of it. That leaves you open and eager for the next step, a new lease, a new beginning.

Sylvia: I get that, but it also signifies the end of an era, a final point in the history of a relationship or process. That’s sad, wouldn’t you agree?

Erma: Sylvia, stop. Not every morsel of life needs to be qualified as happy or sad. It’s not that simple–or in your case, that complicated. Some times, most times in fact, firsts and lasts just happen. It’s not until you look back and you are in the thick or thin of another life experience that you can even begin to really define the impact of a beginning or an end.

Sylvia: Okay, for once I’m going to sit back with my mouth shut and let you explain. At this very second, every first of my life is flashing before my eyes and as I see each of them again, I’m becoming more and more distraught. Trapped somewhere between nostalgia and progress.

Erma: Jesus, Sylvia, it’s now afternoon, and we’re just beginning. No pun intended. I’m going to grab something out of your wine fridge. So, clear your mind, and don’t think until I get back. Seriously. Do not think at all. Do not deliberate, contemplate, and above all, do not ruminate. I’m going to share with you the best and worst of firsts over a nicely chilled Pinot Gris today. You’ll see. You can’t catalog the moments of your life as happy or sad, or as beginnings or endings for that matter. You can only define each moment as a first, for better or worse.

Firsts are when and where life takes place. All of it. Every moment. Some actions and events seem repetitive, and indeed they are! That does not mean that they aren’t different though. Two moments in time are never identical. Erma learned this powerful tidbit over the last seven-plus decades, and that fact alone imparted credibility to her words, even as she explained how brushing her teeth each morning had become firsts for her. She illustrated how she had gone from grinning ear-to-ear as she brushed her pearly whites each day of her teens and twenties to watching a reflection of a waning smile as she lost enamel and gained wine and coffee stains in her forties and fifties. And now, as she thought about those decades of brushing, Erma introduced more examples of firsts. Caps, crowns, root canals, veneers, and partials. “See, Sylvia. There are no instant replays or do-overs. Each brushing is and was a first. Each day is a first.” All of this seemed obvious and a bit comical as Erma so often tried to weave a lesson with just a dash of whimsy. It should have been clear, but it wasn’t to Sylvia. Until she and Erma mulled it over and hashed it out, Sylvia hadn’t considered that firsts represent both the best and worst of life.

Through smiles and intermingled tears of joy and sorrow (none of which either woman could attribute to the rich, sweet, golden elixir or to the fact that they had consumed the entire bottle of it as they indulged in one of their ordinary chats), Sylvia sat looking out on the verdant scenery she now called home. She reflected on those singular firsts which transported her from joyful and full of hope and pride one minute to melancholy and brimming with fear and guilt the next. First friend. First sleepover. First move. First date. First kiss. First one to travel abroad. First “D” and “F”. First one to graduate from college. All her firsts. She paused, took a breath in, and then exhaled. She began again. His first breath. His first tooth. His first word. His first step. His first tumble. His first day of school. His first heartbreak. His first paying job. His first apartment. She beamed for a split second. She hesitated, looked out to the woods beyond the fence, and started again. The first time she heard the word cancer. The first night without her. The first morning they woke up to her empty room. The first time he left the water running. The first time he forgot she had passed. The first time he couldn’t remember her name. The first time he needed to be fed. The first time he looked at her and somehow spoke more clearly than ever with his eyes because the words were no longer there. All firsts. Each and every one was the very last first of its kind. The best and worst of firsts, indeed.

Sylvia (sighing) : I get it now, Erma. It’s how you look at it and what you learn from it.

Erma: That’s right. You’ve got it, my dear. Love it or hate it? That’s not the point. Appreciate it all. Every first is your last first of that kind, with that person, in that place, at that moment. Beginning or ending.

Sylvia’s Scraping Skies

Do you see that? Yes, that right there? I’m a part of that. Just an ever-so-small but necessary part of this microcosm. I say necessary because today I’m sitting at a table looking out on this daunting yet somehow comforting urban landscape and feeling that I belong.

Lately as I’ve been sharing with Erma before I can share with anyone else, I have felt like I’ve been playing Jenga; but today, this afternoon to be exact, as I furiously click away at the keyboard just rambling (I like to think of it as collecting thoughts) and trying to make chicken soup from chicken shit, I realized that I am not playing Jenga at all. I am a piece, THE piece, in the game. I’m that corner block, the one on the 39th floor, the one that has windows from top to bottom that always gets light. I’m the block that gets so much light that it can make the room uncomfortably warm on occasion. That same block also provides the only heat source at times. I’m also that single puzzle piece that when missing prohibits you from completing the game but only because you have no choice. That misplaced piece almost always requires the game to come to an end, an anti-climax of sort forever making the feelings of completion, fulfillment, and what some might consider victory elusive until that piece can be substituted, replicated, or replaced.

Erma: Sylvia, I have absolutely no idea where you are going with this. Are you saying that life would be incomplete without you? Are you saying that you are an integral part of life as we know it? What the hell are you saying?

Sylvia: Let me see if I can explain it better. I’ll pour us each a cup because this might take a bit.

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I don’t pretend that I am so relevant that life could not or would not go on without me; that’s not at all what I’m suggesting. The corner piece of the building does not hold up the rest; and obviously, it’s not a part of the foundation. It rests upon and garners its strength from all of its surround. Here’s what that block/piece represents though – it’s how I’m beginning to see myself. I’ve learned that while everyone does not particularly enjoy its presence (especially when it is unbearably warm in the summer sun, even with the air conditioning running steadily), there are many who count on it. Just being there to fill in. Well, guess what? I’m not replaceable or even an interim filler. I’m not an extraneous puzzle piece! I’m the biggest piece– in my game. So, if you make it to the 39th floor, and you can stand the bright light and the warmth, even when it is a scorcher of a day, participate in the game because here’s what I, Sylvia, and every Erma has learned over time: the 39th floor has the most magnificent and bold views. And once you have reached the 39th, there really is no need to go any farther. That corner room is the most welcoming, the brightest, the warmest, and the only piece in that game of Jenga capable, strong, and perfect enough for the place it occupies.

Be the irreplaceable piece in your game. Sylvia’s scraping skies, and she’s going to come out on top. If you want the view and can stand the fluctuating temperatures, join her. If not, the elevator going down is right there waiting for you.

One Teardrop At a Time

Let the tears flow. Tears of survival. Tears of determination.

Erma: I assure you, Sylvia, it’ll pass. It’ll be over soon.

Sylvia: You think so? Promise? Because honestly, Erma, I don’t know if I have anything left. I’m so tired.

Erma: Bullshit, Sylvia. There’s always something left, so grab the Kleenex.

Keep It Simple

Sylvia deliberates, ponders, ruminates, and reflects. Today, Erma has reminded her that life doesn’t always have to be difficult.

 

#findingmyway #becomingme #overthinking #overfiftyandfine #lifeliveit #yourlifeyourchoice #keepitsimple

The Most Important Person in Your Life

A sunny Saturday on the cove provides the perfect back-drop for old friends sharing bold coffee, laughter, and of course, a requisite dose of wisdom.

Erma: How was your week?

Sylvia: Same old. Been trying not to over think things. I hate that I take so much of what others say to heart.

Erma: Example, please?

Sylvia: Well, when I’m told to get over myself is the instance that comes to mind. It’s a strange concept for others to tell us how we should or should not be feeling and reacting to the relationships we are a part of, don’t you think?

Erma: I’ve always found it somewhat dismissive, even hurtful, when someone tells me it’s not about me -when the very way she or he is acting and interacting with me affects no one more than it does me. The subject matter may not be about me directly, but the very fact that I’m being used as a sounding board or a confidante (and looked to as a friend) engages me in his or her drama du jour.

Sylvia: You hit the nail on the head. How can a relationship in which I am involved- either as an integral player or as one on the periphery- not be about me? How can it not concern me? How the other person feels about the situation-at-hand may not be about me, but how I feel about him or her in that situation is definitely about me. I own that. That shit is mine.

Erma: Absolutely, Sylvia. Above all else, remember that the most important person in all of your relationships is YOU.

Both Erma and Sylvia agree on a couple of things. First, you are completely encouraged and definitely allowed to be the center of your own universe, just not of the entire universe! Second, most conversations of this ilk might be best served with wine. Just a thought.

To “B” or Not to “B”

Sylvia’s been thinking about this for far too long – since summer actually. And now that the frigid temperatures have arrived along with the ice on the cove, she’s daring to dream again, especially of a warm-weather B&B. As she sits at the kitchen table with a mug of her favorite blend, a startling rap on the kitchen window brings her back to reality…

Erma: Pondering your existence again, Sylvia?

Sylvia: Oh God, no, Erma. Nothing existential about this at all.

Erma: Well, I was out front ringing the bell, but when you didn’t answer, I had a strong feeling you might be cooking something up in the kitchen. Now I realize that you were absolutely cooking something up. That coffee must be piping hot because you appear more than a a bit dewy, my friend. Dare I ask what’s on your mind?

Sylvia: Nothing. Well, that’s not true. I was just thinking about the prospect of a clean slate in a tropical locale. Promise me, Erma, no eye-rolling when I tell you what has me bemused today.

Erma: You know me, I can’t promise that, but now I’m really intrigued. Do tell, Sylvia, do tell. I’ll grab myself a mug and pour a cup.

When Sylvia met Cam little did she know that whether or not she was wearing her Spanx would be the least of her aesthetic worries. The concern that popped to the forefront quickly went from how the unbridled parts would look once they were set free of the constricting undergarment to the actual landscaping of the nether regions. Cosmopolitan, aka “Cosmo”, had long ago provided an in-depth foray into waxing and its stimulating benefits, but now Sylvia who hadn’t seen the tree through the forest in years -decades even- was curious. She thought seriously, “What would it be like to get rid of the thicket? And, if I don’t like what I see, will he?

Well, after a mentally and physically grueling appointment with her aesthetician (never mind what anyone tells you – yes, it’s painful and unpleasant, perhaps akin to how much it would smart if you were to catch the hair on your head in a Dyson vacuum cleaner; and I’m hazarding a guess and thinking for guys who haven’t manscaped in a while or ever, the pain might parallel getting kicked in the nuts with cleats), Sylvia sheepishly looks in the mirror that is handed to her. “Look, Sylvia. Prettiest pussy ever.”

Really, Sylvia? Can anything be left to the imagination at all? “To B or not to B” takes on a whole new meaning when one is staring at parts that have not been pampered and primed let alone examined by her owner in nearly three decades. Bush. Bikini. Brazilian. Bare. So, the obvious question begging to be asked (and answered) is, “Why now, Sylvia?” Much like when you deliberated over holding it in or rolling with it when faced with the Spanx dilemma, you need not agonize over something so incredibly personal. Your vagina. Your choice.

Erma, what I need to tell you and share with the other Ermas and Sylvias out there is that the process is progress. Learning to love myself, both the inner core and the outer shell, is a full-time job; and it is and should be a labor of love. There is no better time than now! It’s taken me fifty-plus years to accept myself and even give myself credit for a few things. I’ve been putting me off for a very long time. No one’s fault mind you, but now that I’ve become increasingly aware of what doesn’t bring me happiness, what doesn’t feel good, and what I don’t like, I’m all about discovering – perhaps even uncovering – that which puts a smile on my face, a spring in my step, and the ohs in “Oh, my; oh, yeah; and oh, God.”

Erma:  Who would have imagined what a woman can learn about herself from a waxing?

Sylvia: That’s just the point, Erma. You never know what you are missing until you open yourself up to new things. And by new, I just mean that everything old can feel new again. And it does. 

The benefits of waxing are so much more than not having to worry about stubble or the errant strands playing peekaboo from your bathing suit or sexy lingerie bottoms. Less is so much more in this case. Life-changing, in fact. Little did Sylvia know that the eradication of what some refer to as “vintage vag” would lead to a new lease on life. Seriously. All of you Ermas, you know a great deal and can teach us much, but trust your Sylvias when they say that if you withstand those thirty minutes of pain on the aesthetician’s table, you’ll unveil uncharted territory which just may lead to some of the greatest and most satisfying discoveries of your life.  If you’re happy visiting the same places, then that’s okay as long as you are happy; but if you are looking to be transported, you should seriously consider Option Bs.

Not that it should be the deciding factor when you decide “to B or not to B” but at the very least consider the following. Lovers and partners think that we make the decision “to b or not to b” taking into account two primary considerations: first, we may want to appreciate our natural beauty how God intended it; and second, we want to look good to ourselves and to them. Perhaps both are true. Indeed, Sylvia wanted to look good and feel good for herself and for Cam. When Sylvia met Cam, she was on the precipice of change. She was exhausted. In every way imaginable. In every way that a fifty-year old woman is when she has back-burnered herself to make everyone else’s life easier and their dreams come true. The choice to explore with Cam was uncharacteristic and unexpected; the decision to get rid of any barriers to pleasure of any kind, however, was necessary.

I have heard from a Saturday-night-filled pub of couples in the world that the difference between the Bs is much like the difference in selections on a menu. Is it appetizer or main course? Chicken or Steak? Palate cleanser in between courses or is it the bread basket that will stay on the table and be grazed upon throughout the meal?  I really don’t know. Neither did Sylvia.  Sylvia decided it wasn’t about providing a veritable smorgasbord for Cam (although his enthusiastic taste in the offerings only proved to her benefit); it was about discovering what fulfilled her and satisfied her appetite. It was about experiencing something new and exciting. Discovering what she liked instead of eliminating what she disliked. Just as some guys are only interested in the food and being full after the meal, some women – I’m venturing to say most- savor the total dining experience. For Sylvia, her choice “to B” provided her the clean slate that allowed her to enjoy, from her head to her toes, a destination that had eluded her for a very long time. It never occurred to Sylvia that the barrier to her happiness, to her finding herself, to her discovering what transported her from exhausted and people-pleasing to spontaneously sensual and satisfied would be her willingness to try something new. Sylvia’s decision “to B” was liberating and exhilarating. Inner core and outer shell, she was beginning to love it all!

Erma (pouring out the remaining coffee in her mug): Sylvia, and just think, you’ve only gotten to the Bs in the alphabet! 

 

Sylvia Sums Up Life in a Word…or Two

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Sylvia: There’s nothing that a good fuck can’t cure. Seriously. It’s one of the most honest, if not the most liberating, pathways to freedom.  

Erma: Well, I’ll take your word for it, Sylvia.  I might be a bit too old to go that route.  

Sylvia: Well, first of all, you’re never too old! But for God’s sake, Erma, I’m not talking about the act, although admittedly that can be therapeutic and invigorating, not to mention fun. I’m talking about the word. F-U-C-K. Yep, fuck. Best word ever.  

Well, well, well. There’s food for thought most certainly.  All of her life Erma has searched for the right word.  A word that is so empowering that it possesses the unparalleled ability to convey deep dark angst, utter disgust, and unbridled joy and passion, not concurrently mind you, but at just the right times when all other vocabulary escapes you.  And in one fell swoop and three old-fashioneds later, Sylvia, more frequently the student, becomes the teacher and Erma’s purveyor of the nuances and more deeply seated meanings of what Erma and her generation used to call the golden word. FUCK. Gilded by virtue of its forbidden nature– something you can do or think but never say.

Taking long, generous sips of their afternoon cocktails, Erma and Sylvia engage in what might just be the most meaningful, candid, and unexpectedly humorous conversation of their friendship.

“Here’s the thing, Erma. Fuck holds so much power because it’s multi-purpose. It’s universal. Fuck fits everywhere. In every exchange fathomable between two people, you can imagine, feel, and use fuck. It’s a noun, a verb, an adjective. It’s a word, an action, and an emotion.”  

“It’s also quite funny, Sylvia. I have to admit that just hearing you say the word over and over is titillating.  It makes me feel like a school girl. Almost a bit giddy and undoubtedly a bit naughty. Tell me more, my friend.  I have a feeling that I’m in for a real life lesson– one that may be immediately applied.”  

“Erma, all I can share with you is what I know first hand.  I never heard my mother utter the word. Goddammit. Son-of-a-bitch. Shit. Jesus Christ. Yes, all of those would come burgeoning out at full force, especially when she was agitated duly or unduly by one of her children, her husband, work, or the dog. It wasn’t until Mom’s early 50s that fuck came into play, that it became a part of her lexicon. I remember it vividly. She was making the bed, of course in a bit of a rush as she always was in her valiant and ritualistic attempts to get organized and out the door before 7am.  As clear as Sunday church bells in a small hamlet, I heard it. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck’r. Fucking fuck. Fuck. Little mother fucker.” And there it was in all its glory. Unbridled. Free-flowing. She had stubbed her toe- the bad one, the big one with the corn and the ingrown toenail- on the over-sized, maple-footed ball of the bed. And needless to say, it hurt so much that FUCK was the only word, the sole expletive that fit.  At that moment though, as Mom grabbed her toe with tears in her eyes groaning out fuck after fuck, I had an epiphany. My mother was human. Fuck rendered her mortal. The power of fuck had been unleashed.”

“Well Sylvia, that was nothing more than a gut reaction, don’t you think?” Erma suggested, almost apologizing for Mom’s foul language. “A spontaneous response to an annoyingly unfortunate event,” she added.  

“Perhaps,  Erma, but I think it revealed so much more.  I think it was a release for her. No other word in the world could have expressed her anger while providing her with such liberation and cleansing. With each fuck, each hard and exasperated fuck, came freedom.  And in all its power and glory, fuck gained instant standing and acceptance in my book because Mom had used it fiercely, passionately, and unapologetically.”

“I get it, Sylvia, but tell me, you can’t actually believe that one single word accommodates other life situations as well?  How can one word be so multi-faceted?  Give me examples–minus the obvious, of course. 

“Fuck in a nutshell is what you are looking for, Erma.  Here goes.  Disgust: When your significant other feigns concern about your well-being and then proceeds to ask if his whites are done and what’s for dinner. Are you fucking kidding me? Joy: When your grown kid texts you before his bedtime (not yours) to share a pic of his favorite diva whom he happened to sight on his way to the subway. That’s fucking awesome! Incredulity: When the person next to you on the plane puts a used tissue in the seat-back pocket. What the fuck? Anger: When you finally find the perfect parking spot at the mall, have your blinker on to properly claim it, and then an oncoming car goes around several waiting vehicles to steal the spot. Fuck you. (That one must be accompanied with a look of disdain and the appropriately inappropriate finger.) Fatigue: You come home very late, depleted of every ounce of physical and mental energy after an excruciating day, only to find that a raccoon has rummaged through your garbage barrel leaving trash everywhere including your neighbor’s driveway. I don’t have one more fuck to give today. Indifference: When there’s just no pleasing anyone. I don’t give a fuck. Fuck it! And even though you don’t want to hear about the obvious, Erma, it really has to be said. Consider it a reminder to all women that you only get what you ask for. Desire: When you are with your lover and he’s willing to do anything to see you fulfilled time and again. Fuck me. Please. So, see Erma, the word is pure gold.  It can be melted down and morphed into so many emotions.  But of all the feelings, thoughts, and deeds that it encompasses, none is greater than the other “f” word that all fucks lead to–the mother of all “f” words–freedom. Don’t you agree, Erma?”

As Erma sat swirling the remaining ice cube in her tumbler, she thought to herself, “Fuck?  Fuck, yes. Absolutely, Sylvia, freedom indeed.”

 

 

 

 

 

 



  

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