Now that AARP has seduced me into its cult of early-bird specials and discounted movie passes, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the past fifty years of life in this kooky world and share my musings with you all.
As we know, the ideal beginning for young people includes following a linear course in life, aspiring to make wise choices that will guide them down the path of least resistance. And then there was me. I was the one always veering off the road into ditches or getting stuck in the vortex of those vexing rotary circles at every opportunity.
Robert Frost suggested that taking the road less traveled made all the difference. However, at times I’ve posited that the reason the road was less traveled in the first place was because most people were smart enough to avoid it. It’s overgrown and littered with the fuckery of such things like incompetent people rising to the top and the exasperating inanity of perpetually picking the slowest line in the store or the lane of traffic zipping along only to grind to a halt the moment I switch into it.
No matter what I did, it seemed I was destined to do it ass-backwards. Even my early educational path was obstructed with dubious choices. Later when I got my shit together, I’d think, dammit, if I knew then what I know now I would’ve installed myself in an all-girl college and joined the field hockey team. But nope. By the time I realized I wanted to finish my college degree, I was almost old enough to play the Rodney Dangerfield role in Back to School. Yes, I eventually earned my master’s degree, but what had I missed out on taking such a divergent path? A big lez-fest of sorority house pillow fights in our bras and panties? Or was that just lesbian pulp fiction wishful thinking?
Missed opportunities in Sapphic experimentation aside, by the time I’d turned 40, my “happily ever after” long-term relationship had ended and my life had become a cliché in desperate need of a total reboot. Ironically, the evil empire that is Facebook would be my deliverance, and I would never again doubt the power of female friendships, both old and new, in enhancing the enchantment of life’s journey.
Now as I turn 50 (insert Sally O’Malley impression here), I feel like I’ve finally learned the most practical and beneficial of life lessons. I’ve come to realize that every time I gave a fuck about the minutia in life that won’t matter a year, a month, or a week from now, I was giving away a piece of my joy. Recently inspired by the self-help idea Du jour of “decluttering,” this year I decided to declutter my vast collection of fucks to free up space for more joy. Yes, when I’d used up the last fuck on something like feeling the need to apologize simply for being me, I vowed that once my fuck reserve had been depleted, I would not restock.
When I say I’ve defucked my life, I’m not talking about the simple daily fucks one needs to give as a member of a civilized society so we’re not banished to the colonies—things like caring about my career, my loved ones’ and my health, and recycling so that I’m not part of the army of douchebags who continue to leave their toxic footprint on the necks of our future generations. I’m talking about the big, festering, self-defeating fucks we store up and then expel in the form of crippling guilt and anxieties. Women worry much more than men that on any given day we’re failing everyone around us or that we’re not measuring up to some ridiculous, idealized expectation society uses to oppress us. Then we allow those fucks to sit there on our shoulders, weighing us down, stiffening our backs, and upsetting our stomachs. Those are the fucks from which I have resolved to divest myself.
For some reason Millennials have been able to figure this out with their “Imma do me” mantra that often irritates the shit out of elders around them. Maybe what we are so annoyed with is that these young’uns have reached this level of clarity a lot sooner than we have and thus, will enjoy many more years of living their best lives.
But now I’m sounding like the fuck of bitterness has perched itself on my shoulder. So do you know what I’m going to do? Flick that fuck right off me and remind myself of my own mantra, “what is.” That’s the tricky part. When the fucks land on you, you can’t allow them to roost. You must be mindful to shoo them away like a horsefly at the beach the minute they alight on you, trusting in your new fuck-free existence.
Now that I am further out than in, I approach all things with a hearty helping of perspective. While I’ve not yet entered that Zen zone of total enlightenment and still drink too much craft beer and laugh too hard when someone farts, I know that I’m doing the best that I can. Some days it will be enough and some days it won’t. But rest assured that even on my worst days, I’ll disperse no further fucks against myself.
I don’t give away my power to anyone or anything anymore. I’ve been through enough to know that no matter how bad it is, we all find our own ways to cope and press on with our lives. I’ve been luckier than some in this world and others have been luckier than me. But that’s how the fucks crumble. And if I can convince myself that I possess the power to make it rain on a beach day or ground the airplane that was supposed to carry my high school friends and me to Vegas, then I know that I also have the power to live in peace and find and accept joy in all its forms.
Going fuck-free is the best 50th birthday present I could’ve given myself.
Jean Copeland is an award-winning author of several lesbian fiction novels. For more info, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Jean-Copeland/e/B00P7YT9DS%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share