Sunday, March 13, 2011

G is for Grown Up

I'm just coming off a day in bed.  When I was little, I used to perversely enjoy these, but now, after just a single 16 hour-period devoted to lying around and reading/watching bad TV, I'm eager to do something.  Anything.  We're talking following-the-lettuce-harvest-up-and-down-California desperate here, folks.

My body hasn't fully signed on.  My throat still feels as if a nest of black widow spiders has taken up residence there, and I have the energy level of someone several decades further into this business called life.   My brain, foolhardy, thinks now would be the perfect time to join Academic Decathelon.

These days being sick -take-to-my-bed sick- makes me feel both childlike and acutely, painfully, divorced from being a kid.  I want the things sick children want -pats on the head, someone to feed me spoon after spoon of soup, someone to fuss over me and perform the rituals of temperature-taking, forehead feeling, water fetching- only, nowadays, I don't get any of them.  Instead I do it myself.  Root around in painful semi-consciousness for the thermometer; stare at the water cup and order it to fill itself; stagger out to find soup and then lie on the floor, too pathetic to eat.

The definition of adulthood is that you take care of yourself.  I'm not sure it was always this way, but these days, your adult days, you're judged on your ability to minister to your own needs.  Thus Japan, devastated by a series of earthquakes, has been, at least in the past, slow to accept or solicit foreign aid.  Thus, unemployment becomes a liability for securing future jobs; if you are accepting government aid, the logic goes, you are sub-adult, unfit. Thus, government employee pension plans come under attack: All you retirees, go take care of yourselves!

I wonder, at some level, if we aren't locked in a vicious cycle of capital-A adulthood.  Folks who have had to shift for themselves resist giving anyone else a helping hand.  Those who don't receive helping hands learn they must shift for themselves.  You don't scratch my back; I don't scratch yours.

Slowly, I'm coming out of it. Yesterday I wasn't able to write.  Today I might actually make lunch.  I'll get my own orange juice; hunt through the cabinets for my own bottle of zinc.  I'll even drive 100 miles round trip to teach a workshop this afternoon, not because I feel up to it, but because I am, for better or for worse, an Adult.


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