In Anne Lamott’s thoughts on turning 60 (posted to Facebook, of course), she writes: “The greatness of love and laughter, the pain of loss, the bearing of one another’s burdens, are all mixed up, like the crazy catch-all drawer in the kitchen.”
It’s one of those isn’t-life-grand-precisely-because-it’s-so-heartbreaking essays. At the end she writes, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”—presumably to God, who gets a few mentions earlier in the essay.
To me it all just seems exhausting, and it makes me glad that I pretty much checked out of life more than 40 years ago. I hate pain and burdens and things that are all mixed up. I especially hate catch-all drawers, with their rubber bands, expired vegetable seeds, mystery keys, and other dirty, useless stuff.
I keep remembering a sentence from a movie that I think no one besides me remembers or even saw. Permanent Record featured a pre-stardom Keanu Reeves as the best friend of a seemingly happy, successful teen who—spoiler alert!—kills himself. He has mailed his friend a note that explains, “I wanted everything to be perfect, but it wasn’t.”
One reason the movie stuck with me was that it evoked my own high-school days. Back then I had a catch-all-drawer kind of life, filled with friends, activities, ups, and downs. But after some particularly bothersome episodes, I started to keep everything and everyone at a safe distance.
And that’s why I’ve always remembered that line: I know perfectly well that things are not perfect, but, lacking the courage to make a clean break, I’ve spent 40 years in limbo, or purgatory, or whatever you call the place that’s somewhere between life and death.
My therapist seems to think that my lack of connection with people is a problem. She rarely has an original idea, so I assume that I’ve characterized it that way in my whinier moments. But it’s really quite comfortable here in limbo.
When I was caring for my convalescent sister, I would bring her each day’s pile of cards from well-wishers and say, in all sincerity, “I’m so glad I don’t have friends.” Then I made the mistake of telling a neighbor that I was turning 60, and I ended up with two cards, two emails, and an African violet. The email I can tolerate (though it’s embarrassing), but the cards went directly into the recycling; the plant will surely be in the compost bin before too long.