It’s A Jungle Out There

Life is always under construction, but currently so is my house, it feels as if I’m perpetually bewildered, unbalanced, on the brink of the unknown. It’s awkward like racing into the women’s bathroom and realizing you are surrounded by urinals.

We celebrated Mother’s Day in our backyard this year, Nic cooked his fabulous meatball lasagna, Kelley surprised us with appetizers from Sushi Confidential, Dante replenished the beer supply, Jim and Sue made a delicious dessert but all I remember is the homemade whip cream, Nancy arrived with gifts and fine wine. It was a full table with granddaughters and dog mulling about.

We were discussing, okay disparaging, the design and functionality of my old kitchen. The one that has been gutted and carved as if a pumpkin at Halloween, and yes, I take everything personally because as Kelley claims, “it’s all about me.”

Julie says, “when we were living here (note the appreciative tone) we needed two coffee pots because Dad’s coffee tastes like muddy water.”

Nic says, “honestly, it wasn’t drinkable.”

Larry says, “It was plentiful and free.”

Dante says, “they had three coffee pots cluttering the counter, there was no room to make toast.”

Cheryl says, “yeah, we had a pot for the muddy coffee, one for the millennials, and a Keurig for those of us that need a caffeine hit in the afternoon. But our circuitry is ancient, you can’t have two things operating at the same time, or we blow a fuse.”

Sue says, “Wait, why didn’t I know about this?”

Larry says, “It’s true, you can’t run the toaster or microwave if the coffee is brewing or everything blows.”

Everyone looks at Larry as if he’s missing a chromosome.

Sue says, “How long has this been going on?”

Cheryl says, “Thirty years.”

Jim says, “Why am I not surprised?”

Julie says, “Nic and I would wait for Dad’s coffeemaker to beep and we’d run in from our room to hit the start button on our pot before Dad stuck his oatmeal in the microwave.”

Cheryl says, “it was the Amazing Race, people sabotaging each other for energy usage, I was brutally condemned if I ran the dishwasher during prime time.

Nancy says, “I imagine if the television was on the same circuitry it would have been fixed decades ago?” (my sage)

She gets the look from Larry who says with the practiced calm of a felon, “the entire house has been rewired, we can now run all the appliances in the kitchen at the same time, even when the television is in use.”

Julie says, “perfect timing Dad.”

I had the perfect comeback but I held my tongue because “my thoughts were so awful it would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish (Anne Lamott).” You’re welcome.

Here’s the real issue I’m struggling to rope but keeps alluding me.

How do you retire when you still have some fight left in you? It’s as if I’ve been flank strapped, lassoed, and callously wrestled to the ground? Cowgirl style. And trust me I don’t have the balls for this sort of activity.

This is not my first rodeo, but it’s most likely my last, by the first of June I will have sixty summative projects to grade, final classes to conclude, co-workers to bid farewell, and a LinkedIn account to retire.

I mean who am I without a job? A retiree?

The truth is most of us stay in occupations, homes, even relationships long after they no longer serve us. In fact they can be toxic and yet we remain loyal, trustworthy, and professional until the bitter end. Why is that? If I were honest I would say I’m scared of living without purpose, of not being valued, of giving up the leverage a paycheck affords me, and the security of being in close relationships, even imperfect ones.

Can I just admit I’m freaking out! How will I spend my days? I won’t have anyone to lecture, lesson plans to fuss over, papers to grade. My bank account and brain function will be as stagnate as a pond in the middle of summer. I’ll have nothing to write about. WHAT WAS I THINKING?

Something could be wrong with me, but I’ll need to grieve these endings, I’ve convinced myself that this is quite normal, and I’m pretty tight with my self-deceptive side, so please don’t try and get between me and my delusions. It won’t end well for you. Ask Larry.

“There is a tiger in my room,’ said Cheryl.
‘Did he bite you?’ said Larry.
‘No,’ said Cheryl.
‘Did he scratch you?’ said Larry.
‘No,’ said Cheryl.
‘Then he is a friendly tiger,’ said Larry. ‘He will not hurt you.’
Go back to sleep.’
Russell Hoban [adapted]

When my mind is in the middle of a massive gentrification, I try not to go in alone, that’s why I write so I don’t have to chase my thoughts around as if a tiger chasing her tail. There is a children’s story about this, but it’s no longer considered politically correct (consider this is your tiger trigger warning), and has been condemned by cancel culture but strangely enough I still find it a potent tale.

The story goes like this, a stylish kid goes for a walk when he encounters four covetous tigers and has to surrender his colorful new clothes, shoes, and umbrella so that they will not eat him. The tigers (symbolic of the way my thoughts behave) are vain and each thinks that it is better dressed than the others. They have this massive argument and chase each other around a tree until they are reduced to a pool of butter. The kid then recovers his clothes and goes home, his father later collects the butter, which his mother uses to make pancakes.

This imagery is so deeply embedded in my subconscious and it surfaces when I’m trying to manage my internal conflicts. Outside the doors of my home it’s uncivilized, envy is crass, some things are not worth fighting over, but resolution can be found in a good meal, with lots of butter. I’ve organized my life around this philosophy. How could it be canceled?

As John Vaillant notes this is precisely where the tension lies, Panthera tigris and Homo sapiens are actually very much alike, and we are drawn to many of the same things, if for slightly different reasons. Both of us demand large territories; both of us have prodigious appetites for meat; both of us require control over our living space and are prepared to defend it, and both of us have an enormous sense of entitlement to the resources around us. If a tiger can poach on another’s territory, it probably will, and so, of course, will we. A key difference, however, is that tigers only take what they need.

Really? And they need my most fashionable vices?

As my tension reaches a crescendo I start thinking a new kitchen is not enough, I need a whole new house, a new religion, a new career, a new wardrobe, maybe a therapist, when what I really need is a long walk, a glass of water, and a medicinal movie with heavily buttered popcorn.

We all have to decide if we’re going to buy into this illusion of control or if we’re going to honor the muddy, unappealing, flagrantly futile truth about being human, we’re fragile, and it’s a jungle out there.

We don’t need to be pleasant all the time, or appeasing, we’re enough with or without our crazy, circuit-blowing, disordered predicaments.

Silenced, placating, controlled people don’t change the world, they go after the uncaged, wild, living on the edge types, who can abandon the trappings of modern culture with the bravery and majesty of a tiger.

I’m Living in the Gap, my current situation is primitive, let’s roar.

Anecdotes:

  • “Life is a tiger you have to grab by the tail, and if you don’t know the nature of the beast it will eat you up.” Stephen King
  • “The romantic movement, in art, in literature, and in politics, is bound up with this subjective way of judging men, not as members of a community, but as aesthetically delightful objects of contemplation. Tigers are more beautiful than sheep, but we prefer them behind bars. The typical romantic removes the bars and enjoys the magnificent leaps with which the tiger annihilates the sheep. He exhorts men to imagine themselves tigers, and when he succeeds the results are not wholly pleasant.” Bertrand Russell
  • “With destruction comes renovation.” Wally Lamb

36 Comments

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  1. Having no children, I cannot really identify with the conversations. I have also benefited from good electrics for all of my life, so can have everything running at the same time with no danger of a blown fuse.
    But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy your post, and I smiled as I imagined the scenes you describe so well. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good morning Pete (at least it’s morning where I live), I so appreciate your comments, as you always give an honest response to my work and this informs my future posts! I’m glad you enjoyed my attempt at humor in the midst of a chaotic environment with more changes than I’m ready to manage. Looking forward to the morning when men don’t arrive at the house at the crack of dawn, with tool belts and jack hammers! Warmly, C

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hate domestic disruption, and I think you are very brave to carry on living in the house when it is going on. I always get the humour in your writing, dear Cheryl. 🙂
        (Almost 6 PM here, opening my wine soon!)

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        1. Oh my, I didn’t realize the time difference between my house and yours Pete! Thanks for your kind words, you put a big old smile on my face, cheers my friend, C

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  2. You do sound in a right 2 and 8 with yourself. I worry that your brain will explode. 🥴 I’d advise the long walk and popcorn. I can’t wait to retire (well I can because I’ll be older then and I don’t want to be older too quickly) so much other stuff I want to do that a working life doesn’t give me time for. Maybe that’s what you need to find, something after work ends, just for you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Fraggle, I believe you are right, my brain seems a bit on edge lately! I’m managing with a large doses of humor and wine. I was out with friends the other night and one of them is also retired, he asked what I thought I would do with all my free time? I told him I planned on writing more and after that I was hoping the universe would fill in? We’ll just have to wait and see. I’ve never experienced a time when I had too much time on my hands or was bored in any way so I’m convenienced this pattern will continue. I have four kids spread out all around the world and my plans include traveling as soon as the restrictions lift. I might have to make a stop in the UK and pay you all a visit! Keep at the good work Fraggle, retirement might be overrated, thanks for sharing your thoughts, warmly, C

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Cheryl, I thought for a moment this was going to be about the tiger roaming free in Houston the last few days. I am not sure if it has been found.

    As for walking in on the wrong bathroom, I watched a male colleague do that at a client, only to witness a line of women forming after he went in.

    As he came out, he said he thought it was very progressive for the company to have a tampon machine in the men’s bathroom. Then, he saw the line of women. Oops. No tigers, though.

    Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Keith, I hadn’t heard of the tiger on the loose in Houston, I had to look it up, and it appears it has not yet been found.

      Love the story of your male colleague mistaking the women’s for the men’s bathroom and commenting on the progressive tampon machine! Bahaha!

      Like I said, ‘it’s a jungle out there,” thanks for the comment, warmly, C

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I really enjoyed your Mother’s Day conversations. I am so glad your “circuitry” will now be able to handle multiple appliances running. Enjoy that coffee and may the reno be over soon!

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    1. Thank you Leigh, so glad you enjoyed the post, and personally I am overjoyed to be able to run the toaster and coffee pot at the same time! It will be like Christmas every morning! Here’s to finished remodels, I can’t wait! All my best, C

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great musings neighbor! Ya know, most human types just don’t do change very well – be it the self-initiated kind or the abrasive type that gets thrust upon us. One major event bumping around one’s sub-conscience, especially a remodel, and all the “fun” that accompanies it. . ., let alone ‘two’ is enough to take one off their center.
    If I may be so bold, may I suggest a plan to reestablish inner balance & chi to your universe? Have a nice chilled glass of white Bordeaux, vinted by “Ports De Bordeaux”, (a TJ’s exclusive and a fine representation of the region).paired with some nice TJ’s organic cream and berries enjoyed on the patio. Hopefully, the combination will smoothly soothe you right back to your center. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Chris and I am definately one of those human types who defy change ~ self-imposed, in the scheme of things, or an act of God! I’m not having it, accompanied by an annoyed, and vexed Cheryl! I’m way off center and but totally enamored with your bold suggestion! I’m sitting here with my eyes closed trying to imagine a glass of chilled white Bordeaux with ice cream and berries! Booyah! xxoo

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    1. I totally agree LA, the more I try to maintain some element of control, the more I fail. It’s all an illusion and I’m learning to work with that reality. Have you heard the song, I am Woman? It’s my new mantra. C

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi dear Cheryl! You will find your purpose, bit by bit. Enjoy your new space, and all those electrical outlets! I have to keep reminding myself that one can only eat an elephant one bite at a time (not that I would ever eat an elephant!) Enjoy the time retirement will allow for just thinking, just musing, not having to juggle when the dishwasher can run. All the 100s of things that soak up our power as we navigate the lovistics of each day will POOF!!- be gone. I have found with my close circle of friends whom I met when my children started preschool, that now that the kids are grown and sll of us are retired, it’s harder than ever to find time to get together – and none of us has any excuse or anything tangible to show for it. We’re all just living day to day.
    Keep writing…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my gosh, I was thrilled to see your name appear in the comments, thank you Kit for your words of wisdom and gentle encouragement. My understanding of retirement is much like when you get on a roller coaster, strap yourself in, and your fear builds during the long climb, it’s going to crest the hill any minute, take the curve on two wheels, turn you upside down, but when you land you turn to your friend and say, “Let’s have another go around.” I’m looking forward to the thrill of it all and I assume I’ll find much to fill my time! Warmly, C

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  7. Your Mother’s Day sounded lovely and busy and filled with good food and good people. I think that’s all we can ask for. I’d like to ask for every day to be Mother’s Day…alas. You’ve got so much on your plate, I think retirement will suit you, once you try it on and live in it for a while!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Rebecca, it was an exceptional Mother’s Day and this year with neighbors, sisters, and friends joining us at the table which made it all the more enjoyable. I so agree, retirement is the dessert in life, right, a soft gelato, covered in whipped cream with a cherry on top. What could be more desirable or enriching! Or fattening! Can’t wait, C

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Your Mother’s Day conversation brought a smile to my face Cheryl. As for retiring, I know exactly how you feel. Due to health issues I was forced to take early retirement/disability when I was only 47. I admit, I floundered for quite awhile. I loved my job as a children’s librarian and after 26 years, I was completely lost. I felt as though I had lost my purpose in life. And then, in 2014 I stumbled across blogging, and while I’m not sure my blog has quite the same impact in regards to helping people, I like to think I have some sort of positive influence. I have no doubt, you’re going to figure this out. I know you’ve mentioned that you have book writing plans in addition to your blog. I for one am looking forward to seeing what you accomplish in this next chapter of your life!🤗 BTW, I highly recommend Sam and the Tigers, by Julius Lester. ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m overjoyed to have put a smile on your face dear Kim! And thank you for sharing your story with me, it feels less lonely knowing I’m not the only one who stumbles when life is dark and I’m wandering around in the unknown. People say I’m not good with change and they are absolutely right. I love that you found purpose and joy in blogging and I believe your blog inspires many, you support so many authors and fellow bloggers, and you definitely help others to find their way, not to mention whimsical Wednesdays! I am excited to have more time to write and I pray that allows me to publish! I’ll check out Sam and the Tigers! Thanks so much for the encouragement Kim. Warmly, C

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I still haven’t been able to figure out retirement and I have been retired for 1-1/2 years already. It appears that once you retire your kids love the availability for a free and trusting babysitter. All of your friends and family want you to eat out constantly and drive them on their day trips! Lol Sounds like you have been lucky with that wiring in the house.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my gosh Diane, I didn’t know you were retired, I assumed your writing was your work? I remember you had the grandkids for much of the pandemic because you daughter and son were first responders! That was such a blessing! Not to mention the demanding family and friends. How do you do it all and maintain your blog? I end up writing in the early morning and at night! I’m looking forward to having more time to devote to writing and less time worrying about when I can run the dishwasher! Win, win! C

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  10. We are living in the gap, too, and it is scary. We both have the possibility of contract work so perhaps it will be a staggered retirement. There were plans to renovate both bathrooms but it seems like so much work. We have compromised on having two rooms painted with new carpet. We have no children and live thousands of miles from relatives so there are no family occasions to plan for although solitude suits us.
    Good luck with the gap!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kerry, thank you for your comment! Retirement is a scary step but writing will definitely give us something to grapple with during those long stretches of time. I do love paint as it changes the entire atmosphere of a room and carpet is like laying new sod! Thanks for the good wishes, enjoy the solitude, hope to meet you here in the comments again soon. Warmly, C

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Cheryl!!
    Sounds like you had a fantastic Mother’s Day. You have great family and friends. Everyone contributed to the festive occasion (way to go Dante with the beer!) Interesting to see how you all sort of worked around the circuitry issue. It was never quite bad enough to bother fixing. I can relate.
    As for retiring, how should you retire? How will you spend your time? Will you still have purpose? Can you step into it gradually? Can you be a substitute teacher? Will you dive straight in? Do you have enough things to do? As far as who you are, a retiree does not seem to describe you. Sitting in an Adirondack chair sipping wine at Clear Lake all day long just does not seem like you (except maybe the wine part.) I would say you are a writer, and a rather entertaining and prolific one at that. I think you can make a go of it by continuing to devote yourself to writing/ reading / along with grand-mothering etc. This will keep you busy for the next 40 years, and by then you can call it quits, having lived life well.
    Next up, is the elephant in the room, so to speak. The story book about which you so tactfully danced has indeed been deemed offensive (aka cancelled.) I too have fond memories of it. Reading your description of the story, prodded me to dig a little deeper. When I think about it objectively, I feel the writing and theme are not offensive (this is obviously in the eye of the beholder and your mileage may vary,) but various versions of the artwork truly are. The story clearly takes place in India, and is written by British woman (and as such is a likely product of British Imperialism.) It has become more offensive through the years with the evolution of the eponymous (not sure why but I was dying to use the word titular) character’s name, which has become derogatory (certainly not a term of endearment,) and also the pickaninny artwork. You certainly showed some “balls” in addressing this topic. But hey, who doesn’t like butter?
    Welcome to the Jungle!
    https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=welcome+to+the+jungle&docid=608017019593302272&mid=395156A3C7D82B820446395156A3C7D82B820446&view=detail&FORM=VIRE

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    1. Hi Mike, I finally found a quiet morning in which to reflect and respond to your comments. It’s been a little crazy around here with colonoscopies, remodels, and bittersweet farewells. A hardy mixture of distractions for sure. As the remodel moves forward I’m getting more and more excited for it to be done! I will never take for granted the ability to heat up leftovers in the microwave and brew a cup of coffee at the same time! It’s going to be extraordinary! Especially as a retiree who will be spending copious amounts of time in my easy chair with a computer on my lap. I’m hoping to up my game with the writing, maybe take a writing class, or self-publish a few essays on life. We’ll see what the future holds? I love that you spotted the elephant in the room, it was helpful to hear your take on the long arms of counter-culture. I understand the offensiveness of our past, my personal past carries a lot of cancelable episodes, and I would never want to be held accountable today for the shenanigans of my 20’s. Another example, my Dad’s name is Richard, he went by Dick his whole life, which was not a derogatory name in his time, but its meaning and associations have shifted over time. I just think we’re sort of throwing the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to our literary works but I appreciate the shift in our understanding of the underlying influences. I still think the story has value even if it’s only for the historical context or personal nostalgia. Thank you for taking the time to look into the controversy and share your findings. We can certainly continue our discussion up at the lake! Looking forward to your upcoming visit! I have Nancy on board for that weekend and the Goudreau’s! Should make for an unforgettable weekend with cancelable prospects. Great song, by the way, hugs to all, Cheryl

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