I’ve been accused, on occasion, of having a few screws loose. I’ll admit it. But that’s not what this blog post is about. I have never been accused, however, of being a loose screw—at least not to my face. But that’s not what this blog is about either. This one is about what’s in my toolbox. Which toolbox? you might ask. Your writer’s toolbox? Your self-mastery toolbox? Your aging toolbox? Your literal tools toolbox? And a resounding “YES” will be my final answer. It’s all about my toolboxes, apparently. So much so that I have been challenged to a TOOLBOX DUEL!
And I come to this duel with all of my nuts and bolts, screws and screwdrivers, staples and staplers, and nails and nail-guns fully loaded—so let’s get hammered together!
To begin I must prepare you somewhat. First, grab a cup of whatever liquid lightning you prefer to imbibe during what’s destined to be a long but hopefully hilariously entertaining and enlightening read. My toolbox is quite large when you consider that LIFE IS MY TOOLBOX. Ten paces—here we go . . .
I am a writer. Writers have a sort of toolbox containing all sorts of inspirational tools for painting a picture with words. We have to play a kind of volleyball between our creative, big-picture right-brains and our nit-picking, editing left-brains. In the final analysis, neither side can win unless they both win. Life is this way. Writing and Life are simpatico. What’s in my writer’s toolbox? Humor, compassion, imagination, observation, and irreverence toward any person, place, or thing that would assume to “should” on me. My solution to limitations is simple—screw them! Write from your heart and you can never go wrong. (Keep that last sentence in mind, for the punch-line cometh at the end of this duel . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . .)
To wit, I write books and help other authors write their books. I write this multi-faceted blog, and my hubby and I write a separate blog about aging. Hubby and I are experienced in the department of aging—so much so that we should probably apply for a government grant to fund our department’s continuing research and development . . . and medical bills. Our aging toolbox (yes, it’s getting older too) is crammed with the vises, grips, clips, and adhesives we use to hang onto our hats as the winds of time try to blow us into the great beyond, one failing body part at a time (although some days they seem to want to take off in groups of two or three).
We hold on as best we can, caulking the cracks with silly putty as we watch our parents and friends and cherished pets slip into the meat grinder of life’s designated end (here in this world for the moment, anyway), to become fam salad. It can be overwhelming, all the emotions and work that we do to keep from losing our minds, but our overall experience has been that laughter is indeed the best medicine that money can’t buy. What’s so funny about that? Well, it’s laugh or cry. We just happen to believe that one without the other is not really very healthy or helpful. Nine paces . . .
In the course of Tweeting about aging, we came upon another “old fart” out there, muddling his own way up the ladder to fam salad. His sense of humor still somewhat intact, impressed us so much so that we started following his blog about his journey. (At our age, blogging through elderness is a whole lot easier than jogging through wilderness.) I call this character my friend now because we share so many similarities in the “deep thought” department—and we both seem to have a few loose screws. 😉 I don’t know that he’d invite me to camp in his back yard should I ever visit the UK, but I’m fairly certain he’d recommend a decent hotel and coffee shop, and maybe even join me for a biscuit and latte and a sweet chat while I was in town. HE is also the fine lad who has challenged me to this duel. Eight paces . . .
This friend—I call him “YAY”—is, like me, pushing 60 and writing about life. He also has the kind of ever-so-slightly twisted sense of humor I thoroughly appreciate. When I read most of his blog posts, I laugh so hard I can barely breathe and am often seen running for the bathroom lest I pee my pants. So when he writes about his sorrows, pain, regrets, childhood memories, and melancholy, well, it’s pretty unbearable to read. Many of us, his loyal fans, turn away, cajole him, or try to cheer him up, anything to change him back to his funny, ol’ self. Misery may love company but rarely the other way around. I mean, you’d have to have a couple of screws loose, right? Seven paces . . .
Now, I don’t want to offend anyone here, but have you ever listened to Robin Williams explain the creation of the game of golf? If not, you must (unless you’re under 18 years old, or over 18 with an aversion to strong language). I am not a golf virgin. I have played the game. Eighteen holes on a hundred and seven degree summer day in one hundred percent humidity with no damn cart. It was my first and last game of golf, much to the relief of all golfers across this great world . . . Play through! Now, mind you, this is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the tequila or the worm. And on the third day, I did rise again. (A little late for this month’s Easter story, but that was my experience at a much younger age—complete with feeling extremely cross at the smell of rotten eggs the next day, with some idiot calling me “hunny bunny” while asking if I wanted to have another whack at it.)
And, no, this is not a picture of my putter. Indeed, it’s my very own 16 lb sledgehammer, and I broke it myself during the dismantling of a piece of furniture I could no longer stand to look at. Apparently, I was exceedingly tee’d off at the time of my last swing.
Anyway, I really tried to hang in there with YAY as he went down the rabbit hole into his grave repose. But when he announced that he had started a golfing blog . . . well, that was just more than I could bear. How could he abandon us this way? I wept. Then it hit me, like a line drive with a nine iron . . . (oh, so sorry, did I muddy that one up with one of my other favorite (not) sports?) One of YAY’s lady friends has a golfing blog and really has the Tiger by the tail on it, so I had to wonder—was he in love? Well, if so, jolly good for him! Anything to bring him back to the living! Bravo! But what about us? The trail of laughterless bodies he’s leaving behind? Nevermind then. Good for him. Maybe an eggselent hole-in-one will set him upright again. (Momentary thought to pause here—don’t hate me, dear lady; we’re all here in good fun. 😉 The world knows you’re not a loose screw. Be well.) Sex—I mean SIX paces . . . (one can never have too many types of tape for packing and shipping and fixing things like 16 lb sledgehammers, btw) . . .
The other night I opened my email to see I’d received YAY’s most recent blog about his old and dying cat. Good God Almighty, he’s such a downer these days! was my first thought. So quick to judge am I. But I’m a cat person and my own cat is ambling along through his elderly years by my elderly side, so I opened the email to read YAY’s tail . . . I mean TALE, and sure enough there it was, the eulogy he’d written for his presumably dead cat. Five paces . . .
(My aging kitty is still very much alive . . . well, mostly, and I’m ever so grateful.)
I read on. So sincere was he, and with such care and compassion did he pen heart and soul to the memory of . . . whatever his cat’s name was . . . hey, it’s well documented the memory is first of three things to go with age and I can’t remember what the other two are. (R.I.P. Mr. Cat, just in case you’ve gone and done it while I was taking so dreadfully long to get this blog together.)
On and on YAY blubbered, all love and flubbery emotion poured into it. How could I have been so judgmental of him over the past few weeks? I chastised myself. Just because the poor guy was processing his arse off about getting old and leaving so much of life behind, losing friends and family, and now his furry little feline companion . . . What a jerk I am, I realized. I was just plain mad at him for depriving me of his humor, the laughter he provided, and the escape from my own blues—the escape I’d come to rely on him to provide and was now demanding of him. Yeah, what a jerk I am, I told myself again. My cat gave me that look of “you’re just noticing now?” Four paces . . .
I read on. Oh, I was bored and fidgety and unfocused. I should have been writing a blog to post. I should have been writing a chapter in the book I am trying to finish so I can publish it. I should have been working on any one of a number of projects I’m in the middle of. But I couldn’t get my mojo going. Like a lawn mower out of gasoline, I’d pull the cord and get nothing out of it but a putt-putt-phew (not a golf reference, but it could be). Good thing it wasn’t a parachute cord or I wouldn’t be here writing this now!
I read on, mostly because I was in search of something, anything to rev up my creativity. I’d already been through a dozen youtube videos—from cats corrupting the minds of their crazy humans, to conspiracy junkies trying to convince the world we’re all going to be eaten by aliens —(It’s a cookbook?! OMG!)—but no response from my creative center. I tried on some meditation music and then switched to rock’n’roll, but nothing was working. So I read on.
Maybe my electrolytes needed a boost, I thought, so I headed for the fridge. Have you ever stood in front of an open refrigerator full of every kind of food imaginable, and just stared at the contents for ten minutes, and then walked away with nothing but a glass of water, wondering if your taste buds had been stolen by extra terrestrials during last night’s abduction? I returned to the computer, unsatiated.
It was late in the evening and I was pondering the Bible’s Book of Revelations—you know, the part about the stars all falling from the sky, which has been rattling around in my mind ever since that one night two years ago when . . . oh, yeah, I can’t spoil Chapter One of my new book before I even release it! Anyhoo, I realized just then that there was something I needed to get in order to do whatever it was I suddenly realized I needed to do, so I headed for the closet where I promptly forgot what it was I went in there to get and why I needed it in the first place. Three paces . . .
Dismayed and exhausted, I returned to the computer and, with a heavy sigh, read on. Another paragraph into the eulogy, an incoming email from Netflix caught my attention. Netflix! Yes! That’s what I’ll do! I’ll log into Netflix and continue my binge-watching of “Haven”! But wait. I can’t do that without hubby here. It wouldn’t be fair. So I yelled across the house, “Are you ready to trade your troubles for Haven’s yet?” Of course, this is my hubby I was shouting to so there was no way to know if he had heard me until he rounded the corner fifteen minutes later.
However, by that time, I was back to reading on . . . and suddenly burst into a fantastical fit of laughter so uproarious that I fell off the bed and onto the floor with a thud! I rolled and howled, and just about blew a lung trying to catch a breath. “YAY is back!” I gasped inaudibly as I grabbed onto the blankets to pull myself back up to the bed.
Hubby stood staring at me for a minute or two until I gathered myself together. I motioned him to sit down, and started from the beginning.
I read the eulogy aloud this time, trying to hold my best poker face as frozen in place as possible. And I read on. And as I read on, the laughter came over me once again, my voice shrilling higher and higher and tighter and tighter as I failed miserably to contain myself, until finally, midway through, I went running for the bathroom just barely in the nick of time. Two paces . . .
Hubby, not being able to understand most of what I had read to him—the words sounding more like Gaelic than English due to my hysteria—waited patiently for me to dry my eyes and various other parts and return to the laptop computer.
Once again, I went back a few paragraphs and began reading aloud, trying this time to maintain a level of vocal clarity. It was impossible. Do you know how hard it is to enunciate when you’re doubled over in laughter? I had to go back at least a dozen times to get through it so he could comprehend what I was reading to him, and I still found myself slipping into deranged delirium over and over again.
By the time I’d finished reading the entire blog post my shirt was soaked in tears from laughing so hard, my face hurt from contorting uncontrollably, and I was clutching my sides in a desperate effort to keep the muscle spasms from pitching me into genuine agony. It was bliss, such belly-busting, jolly good humor!
Granted, not everyone shares the same off-the-wall sense of humor that YAY and I revel in, so I don’t expect you all to run to his website to read the aforementioned post (although, if you do, then you simply must check out the fun “comments” section as well 😉 ). But after all the family illnesses, hard work, long hours, sleepless nights, and trauma I’d been through this past month, it was indeed the medicine that cured me.
One small pace for me; one giant leap for . . .
I can’t tell you anything more about YAY or his cat or the blog post he wrote (except that I distinctly remember that his cat’s name isn’t/wasn’t Uncle Arthur) because I don’t want to spoil it for those of you who have a mind for adventure and a taste for our kind of “funny”—but I do want to say, “Thank you, YAY! You win! I promise never to begrudge you your ups and downs, or judge you in any way as you share your very human heart and soul in whatever way suits you best on any new day. Thank you for teaching me some very important lessons in all of this. I do get it. To be real, we all need to do just that—be real. And, YAY, I hope you will help write my eulogy if it ever comes to that.”
If you, my dear reader, are reading this blog post today, which obviously you are, it means you’ve survived April’s full moon and the retrograde of Mercury. Congratulations. Not everyone did. But not everyone survives any particular day, and as I age it becomes more apparent that aging is not necessarily a determining factor so much as fate, destiny, common sense, wisdom, and some of the other dictators of life’s longevity. While we’re here, however, let’s just be real and bare . . . I mean BEAR in mind that no matter the nuts and bolts of life . . .
Laughter truly is the key . . .
Now, do tell, dear reader, . . . what’s in YOUR toolbox?
Comments are open, LOL!!!
© Jennifer Sweete, April 2017
Look for my future Jennifer Sweete blog posts right here!
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Books I have enjoyed reading this season:
Plato and Aristotle. A fascinating study of two philosophers somewhat at odds . . . but maybe not really as much as it looks on the surface!
Diane Duane writes YA books and my grandson has started me reading her So You Want to Be a Wizard (first in a series). Finished that one and her second in the series called Deep Wizardry and #3 – High Wizardry. Working on #4 now – A Wizard Abroad. Interesting study on Suspense Writing for YA! This author is DEEP AND HIGH AND BROAD in her understanding of the Cosmic Consciousness and she knows how to DELIVER the message!
Until we meet again, keep reading, keep writing, keep dreaming!
Jennifer Sweete is the author of Dear Sandy: The letter that wrote itself into a Book (2015) and The Poet & The Widow (2016). She is a Certified Massage Therapist and Usui/Holy Fire Karuna Reiki® Master and teacher, a small business and writer’s consultant, self-mastery coach, musician, poet, and author. And they all fit snugly into the same hat! She’s currently serving her 2nd term as President of the Chaffee County Writers Exchange while assisting other authors through the processes of editing, self-publishing and marketing their books. She resides with her husband, grandson, and furry friend in sunny Colorado. For more info, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.