May 11, 2017

11 05 2017

I am working extra hours (Yay!) and have furiously thrown myself into spring cleaning and organizing projects, so I have less time to write. A temporary thing. One can only devote oneself to so many things at once. Especially when one reaches a certain age. As my friend Mary and I used to say, At 65, one can do all the things one did at 35, just more slowly and with a few allowances.

It started with the painting project. I decided that I needed to figure out just exactly what we had for paint and painting gear. This meant I had to get into that part of the basement where it was stored. There was such a mess down there (my ex was a hoarder—compulsively saving odds and ends that “might be useful”) that I girded my loins and did battle with the whole catastrophe (details in a previous blog).

So far, I have tamed the area of paint (original goal) and excavated the gardening area (collateral victory). The work bench remains a daunting monolith. 90% of what’s there I wouldn’t ever use, even if I knew what it was used for. Yet I hesitate to get rid of it, because I’m not sure what additional 10 – 20% the kids might need. So I settled for tackling the heaps and boxes piled around it.

And the filing cabinets, which startled and dismayed me with their contents (again, see previous blog).

Aside from the occasional vital paper or useful manual buried in the slag, I found a couple of drawers of stuff from my UNH days, going back before I was married. And I found a couple of boxes I had packed and sealed long before, carrying them with me from place to place as I moved. I discovered—

Me. Before I was married.

I was writing letters to the editor protesting damn near all the same things I am protesting now. Back then it included anti-nuclear activism (Does anyone recall the Clamshell Alliance?). We were fighting against political corruption and the rising oligarchy, the trampling of human rights, especially those of Native Americans. Bigotry against women, gays, and non-whites. Destruction of the environment. Christian domination and the persecution of non-Christians (I leaned more towards Paganism back then). Dear god, how little has changed, except that it has gotten worse. The current administration makes Nixon, Reagan, and the two Bushes look like great liberal statesmen.

I followed local bands around and wrote articles about them. I wrote short stories and poems for an assortment of small press magazines. I was involved with Earth First, the Green Party, The Church of the Subgenius, and subscribed to the Stark Fist of Removal. Several college friends and I started an underground ‘zine called Th’ Fishwrapper, a leftist, absurdist, anarchist rag which I continued to publish for several years. We had contributors from all over the place, including Chris Cloutier, an artist living in New York City, and Bill Griffith, creator of Zippy the Pinhead. I had a number of personas, including Xeno L. Smith, Julian Fry, and Max Gestalt. I dressed like a hippie. I was heavily involved in the drug culture (but never the hard-core stuff—we were into mind-expansion, not self-destruction).

I went to dance clubs in Boston with my best friend Jon, a gay man who was among the first wave to die of AIDS. I hung out at the Stone Church in Newmarket. I studied philosophy, history, religion, linguistics, anything that caught my interest, because back then, if you worked at the University (which I did, in the basement of Thompson Hall, as Archives Clerk) you got to take classes for free. I finally graduated, fulfilling my last requirement for a BA, after seven years, and with a boatload more credits than I needed because I’d taken so many other classes out of sheer curiosity. I officially have a dual major in Philosophy and English with a minor in Religious Studies.

Wow. What a life. What a character. I quietly thanked my past self for saving all those bits and pieces, to remind me of who I was.

Mind you, I wouldn’t want to be that person again. I have matured. I have learned patience, tolerance, and compassion. Back then, I was snarky, confrontational, rude, irrational, and intolerant. I shudder at some of the things I did. Stupid things. Insensitive things. Selfish and cruel things. There are people I wish I could go back an apologize to. But what is done is done. The thing is, I’ve grown. Hell, I’m not beyond mistakes; nobody ever is. To err is human. But I won’t make those sorts of mistakes again.

So the big lesson from this? I had a life before I got married. And I’ll have a life after that marriage. I am eager to see what it’ll be.

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6 responses

11 05 2017
Paul Sunstone

I’m like you, Justine, I wouldn’t want to go back to my younger years. At least, not unless I could go back with the brain I have today. Be nice to have a younger body — but not so much a younger mind.

14 05 2017
justinegraykin

I do miss the strength and endurance I used to have when I was younger. Although I have never been particularly concerned with my appearance, I do feel a passing regret from time to time at what age has done to it. Especially now that I’ve been thrust into singlehood. I have decidedly mixed feelings about entering the partner market again; alone is much easier.

14 05 2017
Paul Sunstone

Alone can also be much happier. At least, it has been for me.

12 05 2017
heretherebespiders

I like you now, and I like your then, too – you might have made mistakes as we all do, but I get the feeling you did most of them out of love. I do find it interesting that you really are still you, wiser now, but definitely missing a part of yourself that was blanked by your ex. Ah I barely make sense to myself these days, so if I sound like an eejit please forgive me!

14 05 2017
justinegraykin

Nope, I’ll confess. The mistakes I regret the most were done out of anger, revenge, and other forms of malice and insensitivity. I suppose that’s why I am so suspicious now of any impulses that come out of that dark place. One cannot help having these emotions. One need not act on them.

15 05 2017
heretherebespiders

I’m actually surprised to hear it. The anger, yes. I have done some horrible things when rage takes me. I don’t regret any of my pathetic attempts at revenge, as I was pretty mild (inserting ‘I am a jerk’ into an ex’s resume, for example). I’ve done things that seem selfish in retrospect, but at the time kept me from doing something worse. And again I’m writing from a mental state that isn’t quite on track.

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