To Live Out Loud

It's been over a decade since I saw the movie Living Out Loud in the theater with my girlfriend, and for some reason I've been thinking about it this week. It wasn't exactly my type of movie, and I only have a vague recollection of the plot about older women finding themselves(which somehow involved a romance with Danny DeVito). What's stayed with me over the years is one of the main themes of the movie, something that struck a chord with some of my girl's frustrations. Normally quiet, she was quite outspoken after the movie about her own desire to live out loud, to not bottle up feelings and emotions. I wish I had a bigger picture at the time of what might be bothering her, more than just the gist of it. Perhaps it was keeping our office romance a secret, in such a small office. She had one friend who was constantly trying to fix her up with guys, and she was running out of excuses. I never had the same problem, perhaps because no one thought a loser like me should be dating. I think her desire to “live out loud” was beyond our little fling though. She had to deal with the fact that, once she'd finished 8 years of school and returned home, her parents separated and finally admitted to years of growing emotional distance that they put off addressing until she'd graduated. At work, we all had problems to deal with, stupid things we couldn't really complain about and were powerless to deal with. People were let go, and responsibilities increased and definitions were stretched. When she was eventually let go, receptionists inherited her copyediting work. Life throws us all kinds of curve balls, and sometimes we just want to scream, especially those of us who are quiet. Pressure builds when the lid remains on a boiling pot.

11 years later and I find myself wanting to live out loud, find moments where I open my mouth and no words come out. Sometimes it's restraint, based on past experience. Other times, I simply don't think on my feet, and realize much later what I should have said. Most days I just trod along, nod, and mumble the occasional assent. Most days I maintain my zombie routine, always with the nagging feeling that I should be doing more or be doing something else. Sometimes I have a clear idea what that something else is, while other times it's a hazy vision, like a dream. I think about the me that I used to be, or the me that I could be, and wonder if I'll ever be anything more than what I am right now. Past experience should count for something positive in these moments of fear or self-doubt. I've come a long way from the kid who climbed out on a second story window ledge or got his finger caught in a hole in the teacher's metal desk. I bet a lot of people who knew me in elementary school would be surprised to find that I work in an office, carry on phone conversations, drive a car, or still play a musical instrument. I even have areas of expertise, where my opinion will actually be sought out. So if I draw a projection between where I was then to where I am now, I can guess where I'll be in the future if the trend continues. Unfortunately, the graph does occasionally flatline, and even dip. I don't think it would fully decline to the point where I'm a dopey 8-year-old, but it is harder to climb back up from some of these dips.

I also wonder if the dopey 8-year-old would be so bad. He spoke his mind. He never shut up, actually, and it got him in a lot of trouble with both teachers and other students. If I wasn't in the principal's office, then I was behind some bushes getting punched in the stomach. Still, I do miss the freedom that kid had; he was living out loud, even if he was paying a price for it.

Senses dull over the years and we become numb to certain things. It helps us function and get through the occasional flashes of “what if?” or “remember when?” Other senses become sharper, and we excel in different areas. Right now, I'm fairly concerned about the senses of Cubby, our youngest cat. Technically, though I still remember him as the little kitten my mom rescued from a window well, he's about 13 now. For the last few week's, he's developed an odd habit of walking in a clockwise circle. He'd go in one direction, turn his head to the side, and do a complete 360 until he was facing the same way. My mom remembered how one of our past cats, Cindy, went through something similar after a few strokes. But she would spin and fall down. Cubby gets disoriented, but after a turn or two, usually finds his way to a toy or more often food.

I came home after work on Friday night, having chosen the gym over a late social gathering prior to an early Saturday morning gig. Cubby was sitting on the floor of the kitchen, while my parents watched. The latest theory is that he might be blind. His pupils weren't cloudy or uneven or showing any of the other signs associated with glaucoma, cataracts, or a stroke, but they both seemed to be dilated. He's always been a little skittery though, and that's his normal fear face. He's not walking into things, but he does seem to be overly cautious and his eyes don't follow our hands. Either he can still see partially, or his senses are compensating, from smelling to hearing to feeling with his whiskers. The only real indication that anything is wrong is that damned turn he does after taking a few steps. My mom originally made an appointment with the vet for Monday, but after observing an increase in his odd behavior, she may try to get in to see someone over the weekend.

Hopefully, it's nothing too serious like a brain tumor or other neurological disorder. He hasn't lost weight; far from it. And he still has a healthy appetite. But something is definitely off with the big guy, and we need to find out what it is. Blood work and few scans should show the cause, and it may be something treatable. If he has lost his sight partially or completely, he's an indoor cat who's spent most of his life in my parent's room. He can find his way no problem, and most of my research supports not changing a thing from the position of furniture to the position of his food.

It seems like every year something happens with a pet or family member, some crisis. A few years ago my mom spent a week or two in the hospital with atrial fibrillation. The following year, my cat Chirp had a bad respiratory infection and didn't eat for days. Miraculously, he's probably the healthiest one in the house these days, more than his old self. Then of course there was my dad's shoulder infection, hospital stay, and subsequent time in a nursing home. This was followed by my uncle's dementia. And now Cubby may have a problem. Those last three all hit within 2009; time was we had a year between crises. That's life. Thus far our prayers have been answered and we've gotten through these tough times. I know it's not as easy for others, and not everyone is so fortunate. We're all on the same road to the same destination, even if the bumps in the road are different and hit us at different times in the journey. How many of us actually live out loud, fully live? I'm not alone in this. I often think of a quote that Lorna has used, something about dancing as though no one was watching us. We hold back because we're afraid everyone is looking, when the real fear should be that no one is watching us. We all hold back at something, or don't explore our full potential. If we turn to the right, we might get hurt, but we might find something better. Why do so many of us keep turning left, then? My cat has an excuse for walking in circles, even if we don't know what it is yet. What about the rest of us?


Blogger Lorna said...

My goodness, there's so much in this post!

about Cubby---our cat is blind and has been for over a year. The thing that gives it away is that she walks around the outside of the room rather than confidently across it. It seems quite manageable, and I hope that youll find whatever is bothering your cat to be something relatively benign.

As for living out loud, I don't know anyone who has more potential to do that. You are so articulate, funny and thorough in your self-examination---but you are a bit self-deprecating.

Another saying I have memorialized by slapping it on the wall in the entry is Dance to the Song of Life. It helps me get my "on" face on when I go out the door.

Good weekend.

10/03/2009 9:51 AM  

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