On Being an Adult

When I was little, I longed to be an adult, because I figured that would mean I could do whatever I want. Boy oh boy, but I had no idea what I was talking about. Not a clue.

It’s true that grownups can do whatever they want. They can commit crimes. They can be selfish. They can be greedy and thoughtless and cruel. They can abuse the planet. They don’t have to pay taxes even though they take advantage of the infrastructure that’s provided by taxes. They can make idiotic decisions. They can disrespect their elders. They don’t have to think ahead or consider consequences or feelings or take any responsibility whatsoever.

Grownups can get away with that stuff. And since 2016 I’ve been seeing more and more grownups doing just that. It really makes me weep for the future of this planet.

But what I’m beginning to realize is that even though all adults are grownups, not all grownups are adults. It takes integrity and conviction to be an adult. It takes maturity. It requires that you realize that the world does not revolve around you. It is all about understanding that your actions effect other people.

One simple, straightforward example is the wearing of masks during a pandemic. Doing so may not be fun, but it says that you care about the people around you, whether you know them or not. And yet I’ve heard so many “grownup” excuses.

For some reason people think getting tested is some get out of jail free card. Testing negative only means you haven’t been positive for COVID-19 up to that moment in time. You can test negative and contract the virus 5 seconds later. You still need to wear a mask unless you’re selfish. And unless 100% of the people you are spending time with are getting tested every 5 seconds, the risk remains. “Some of us get tested” is just not good enough.

Another convenient excuse is, “Well, I tested negative after my risky behavior, so what’s the big deal?” To that I say congratulations and thank God. But do you want a cookie for that? Because you gambled with your life, and the lives of everyone you come in contact with. This time you won. But that doesn’t mean you always will.

People also think that if their job puts them in a high risk situation, then there’s no reason not to engage in high risk experiences while off the clock as well. That’s like saying, “I’m exposed to radiation all day at work, so I may as well get irradiated when I’m home, too.” In contrast, an adult is even more cautious at home, to reduce their odds of shortening their lifespan as much as humanly possible.

We are all under an enormous amount of stress right now, so some people believe that a little self-care by socializing with friends every once in a while is worth the risk, because it improves their mental health. Poppycock. One person dies of suicide every 12 minutes in America. That’s horrific. But one person dies of COVID-19 in America every eighty seconds. So you’re 9 times as likely to die of COVID than you are of suicide. I’d rather be alive and mentally disturbed than sane and run the risk of killing off another human being.

And what’s wrong with socializing with a mask on and 6 feet apart? Why do people have to be all up in each other’s faces, taking selfies cheek to cheek? I know it feels like you’ll live forever, but no. Death comes for us all. No need to flirt with it.

Yes, self-care is vital. But your right to self-care stops right at the line where your actions can potentially harm others, especially the more vulnerable amongst us. Adults know that. They understand that the golden rule isn’t a suggestion. They have a moral compass.

Adults also realize that other people love them and worry about them and they make decisions accordingly. Adults realize they have responsibilities and obligations. And adults know that they have to set an example for others who look up to them.

I don’t know how so many of us were never taught the importance of being an adult, and the importance of taking care of others. It’s a serious failure of society at large. I think, perhaps, that was why societies were invented, though. Societies are meant to protect us from the grownups who refuse to be adults.

We all live within a societal contract. There are rules we are meant to follow in order to experience society’s perks. It’s not supposed to be a tug of war. The contract isn’t supposed to be null and void every time you get a wild hair to cut loose. It’s supposed to be common sense.

In my county, we’re not supposed to gather in groups of more than 5. We’re supposed to wear our masks. We’re supposed to remain 6 feet apart. It’s not fun and it’s not fair and some people view this as judgmental or political or controlling rather than a matter of life and death. Those people are not adults.

Humanity is becoming more of a disappointment with each passing day. And we’re all going to pay the price. It’s all so senseless. I’m becoming so scared that I’m practically blind.

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A Deeper Look at Coloring Books

I must confess that I have adult coloring books. And that really does feel like a confession to me. Isn’t coloring the stuff of children? I’m slightly embarrassed by this activity, but I find it very comforting at the same time.

In a world that feels increasingly out of control, coloring is wonderfully predictable. There are established boundaries. And while these boundaries do exist, I still get to choose how pretty to make the spaces within them. It’s my way of feeling creative without actually expending too much mental energy on it. I can get lost in the patterns and set my anxieties aside for a brief, colorful moment.

So when I came across an article entitled, “The Dark, Forgotten History of Coloring Books”, I didn’t want to read it. I didn’t want my multicolored bubble to be burst in any way. But, as is so often the case, curiosity got the better of me.

It seems that coloring books first came out as a way to induce submission in children. They were used to teach them how to behave. It’s part of the reason so many of us are loathe to color outside of the lines. Them’s the rules, after all.

The first coloring book was called The Little Folks Painting book. You can see it here. It includes lessons which are really warnings about not being disobedient. Don’t play tricks on people. Don’t be selfish. Don’t oversleep. According to the article, one of the lessons is,

“Never be discontented, never wish for anything you cannot have.”

Well, now, isn’t that creepy? By coloring, we’re being compliant. We’re being contained. We’re learning to accept the things we cannot control. By killing time in this way, we’re also not being trouble-makers. And John Lewis reminded us how important it is to make good trouble.

Even more chillingly, the article says,

“To color is to inhabit a world designed by others, to dwell in an environment where you are left with no options but to memorize what is already there… After days of coloring these diminutive dreams, I came to see the energy I spent on it as dimming my capacity to imagine how a future can be conceived and built.”

Shades of 1984.

So will I stop coloring? Probably not. Sometimes you just need to shut off your brain. But it’s crucial to remember to turn it back on.

Maybe I’ll have to come up with even more ways to make these designs my own, besides simply choosing which colors go where. Perhaps I’ll use the designs as wrapping paper for a gift. Or maybe I’ll fold them into Christmas ornaments. Maybe I’ll take the author’s suggestion and tear them up and make a collage. Or I’ll create a tattoo.

I’ve always been rather noncompliant. I don’t suspect that will change any time soon. I do believe in certain rules and regulations, simply in order to live without chaos. But I hate the idea of being manipulated in any way. So yeah, I’m apt to color outside the lines of life.

But every once in a while, it’s nice to let others make the choices for you, if only on the page of a coloring book. As with any habit, though, moderation is key. I don’t want to turn into a Stepford colorer. That would not be good.

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The First Word

While relaxing on my back porch the other day, with my dog in my lap and the sun in my eyes, I allowed my mind to drift in lazy spirals. Talk about the epitome of privilege. Doing nothing. If this were the 1800’s, I’d be out there chopping wood for the winter. Anyway.

I have always been fascinated with firsts. I once wrote a post entitled, Who Was the First Person to Think Lobster Would be Good to Eat(Whomever it was, bless him or her.)

Following that tangent, it occurred to me that someone had to be the first person to utter a word. Who was it? And what distinguishes a word from a grunt? For my purposes, let’s define a word as a name for something or someone or a concept. (I know that’s overly simplistic, but hey, it works for me as I bask in the sun.)

So, did some adult suddenly realize there was value in being able to name things, or was a baby’s first word the first word? If it was a baby, the word was probably some form of Ma, as it usually is. Ma is kind of the sound you make when enjoying mother’s milk. Ma is the source of food, after all, and food is critical to survival.  So that’s a possibility.

But what if the first word came from an adult? What would it be? What could have been so important that it would cause one to bridge that societal gap? Perhaps some simplistic form of “Saber Toothed Tiger.” Or simply, “Run!”

Whatever the word was, I wonder if its speaker realized that this was a huge deal. By making that sound he or she was destined to change the world. Even this humble blog wouldn’t have been possible without that person.

Given our inherent selfishness, especially when faced with survival, the word could have been “mine,” or “give”. I doubt it would have been anything as complex as “love”, because how could you possibly be sure that love meant the same thing to you as it does to the next person?

Hmmm… maybe it was love, after all.

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I Don’t Feel Like Adulting Today

Just for today, I’m going to leave my dirty dishes sitting in the sink. I’m going to eat things without worrying if they’re healthy. I’m not going to run my errands. I’d say I’m not going to exercise, but who am I kidding? I never do anyway. And yes, my laundry will remain in a big jumbled pile on the chair.

I plan to sit in the sun, if there is any, and read a book. Or take a nap. Or take a bath. Or watch Star Trek reruns on Hulu. Or all of the above.

I’m not going to watch the news. I’m not going to answer my phone. I’m not going to reach out. I’m not going to ask questions. I’m going to let the world take care of itself.

No doubt it will all be there, waiting patiently for me, in the morning.

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Slumber Parties

Did you ever have a slumber party as a child? Just thinking back on them gives me butterflies in my stomach. It was always so exciting to change your routine, stay up late, giggle with friends, eat unhealthy stuff, gossip, bond, play… Seriously, why did we ever stop?

I think it would be great fun to have a slumber party as an adult. The biggest hurdle would be finding adults to invite who wouldn’t think you were completely off your nut. I think this is one of the reasons we go camping and sleep on the cold, damp ground. We aren’t willing to admit that what we really want is a slumber party.

So this week I did a little thought experiment. Every night I had a slumber party with my inner child. I indulged myself. I got comfy, cozy, ate stuff that wasn’t exactly good for me. I watched movies, snuggled with my dogs. Stayed up late. It was kind of nice, actually. You should try it.

“When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” ― C.S. Lewis

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Coloring for Adults

I seem to have stumbled upon a new fad: coloring books for adults. These are books of very elaborate line drawings that you can then color with pencils or crayons. I even heard on National Public Radio yesterday that it’s become so popular that there’s currently a worldwide shortage of colored pencils!

I discovered it the other day because oddly enough, my local library was having a coloring for adults get together on one of my days off and I thought it would be fun. Now I’m hooked.

What appeals to me so much is that it’s a chance to live the childhood that I didn’t really get to live the first time around. It’s a rare opportunity for my inner child to come out to play. And yet the pictures are detailed enough so that my adult self doesn’t get bored. And it’s relaxing. I’ve always found creativity to be relaxing. Anything that causes me to focus and not think so freakin’ much is relaxing.

So here’s my very first creation.

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I had planned to bring it home and put it on my refrigerator door (where else???), but then I realized that today is the 90th birthday of my very favorite aunt, so instead I sent it to her. (Waving hello to Aunt Betty, and apologizing that the picture won’t get there on time for her big day.)

I think she’ll appreciate it. I get both my sense of humor from her and also my tendency to neglect my playful nature. If it makes her smile, giving her my first coloring in 40 years will have been worth it. Aunt Betty, I hope you get to play today! I love you!

“Crap, I’m an Adult.”

Recently I was talking to my niece, who is in her late twenties, the mother of two boys, and is working on her Bachelor’s degree. I was telling her how nicely I thought she had turned out, and that not that many years ago she really had me worried.

I’m so proud of the woman she has become. When I asked her what had triggered such a profound turnaround, she said, “I don’t know when it happened. One day I just woke up and it was like, ‘Crap, I’m an adult.’”

I’ve had those moments. I still have them. I’m kind of having one right now. I’m about to make a major change in my life, and although I want it really badly, it’s not going at all smoothly.

I want to throw a tantrum. I want to get fetal and suck my thumb. I want to hit someone with my pail, take my marbles and go home.

Most of all, I want someone to help me. I want someone to fix this. Several people have stepped up and done what they could, still others have given some really good advice, but as far as a source for a total resolution, I’m it. That is not inspiring confidence. Sometimes I feel like a little kid playing dress up.

Now is the time for me to look in the mirror and say, “Are you a man or a mouse?” My response would probably be tart and barbed, because I’m neither of those things. So I guess I’ll just have to make the best of it. That’s what adults do.

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[Image credit: crazyaboutmybaybah.com]