Wednesday, March 27, 2013

This is Only a Test

It was about six months ago I turned 50 years old.  At the time I took it in stride. It barely made a ripple in my psyche.  Now I am starting to worry I may be having an issue and turning a half century old could be at the root of my current malaise.  I don’t want to be a stereotypical gray-haired, pot-bellied father of nearly grown children who steps out of normal everyday life into a mid-life crisis but that may be where I am headed.

OK, even if I am going down that path “crisis” is way too strong a word.  I am thinking I may be suffering from a mid-life truly-inconvenient-stage-of-life-in-which-I-use-words-like-malaise-to-describe-myself phase.
The first problem I face if I am going to fully jump in and have a mid-life crisis is I still love my wife.  This makes it very difficult to chase young women in an attempt to recapture my youth.  This brings us immediately to the second problem.  If I were to recapture my youth in regards to chasing young women it would mean I would spend an inordinate amount of time staring at the phone with the particular object of my affection’s phone number clearly written on a scrap of paper in plain sight yet my finger is unable to dial the number because my brain has ground to a halt of epic proportion making it so I cannot read numbers or form coherent thoughts much less words capable of wooing.  (That is probably another contributing factor to not being successful with the ladies. I use words like wooing.)

I’m sure those of you who have been reading my musings for the last few years find it unbelievable this silver-tongued wordsmith did not have any woman he wanted eating out of his hand, au contraire my mon petit chou.

My very first slow dance with a girl was like many other boys, in the gym of a junior high school.  Everyone knows how that setting is just dripping with romance.  If junior high school gyms had been around in Shakespeare’s time his greatest love scenes would have surely taken place with a basketball goal hanging dreamily over the heads of the starry-eyed youths.  Also, like many of the boys of my generation that first slow dance with a girl…I probably ought to stop saying it that way, it implies my previous slow dances were with a boy…anyway, that dance occurred while the Bees Gees played over the tinny sound system and since it was a slow dance it was “How Deep is Your Love?”  To this day whenever that song comes on the radio I am immediately whisked back to that spring night at Liberty Junior High and I have to fight the sudden and dramatic urge to jerk the steering wheel hard to the right and drive into the nearest tree.  You see that dance didn’t end so well for me.  We were silent for the first three minutes and 40 seconds.  I was concentrating on at least approximating smooth steps and arduously avoiding direct eye contact for fear of…for fear of …just plain fear.   Therefore I didn’t talk.  Then she broke the silence by uttering these words which will forever live in my memory and dreams: “Boy, this is a long song.”  My next slow dance was about six years later and the Bee Gees were nowhere to be found.

So, my mid-life crisis will not involve dancing.

Fine, what is the next best thing?  Most men who start feeling that life has passed them by look to get into a racy sports car and drive as fast as they can to see if they can catch up with it.  I am far too cheap to do that.  Don’t get me wrong.  I think it would be fun to have a cherry red convertible which goes from zero to fifty a heck of lot faster than I did.  Then I think again and realize a convertible is only really a good idea in southwestern Kansas about seven hours a year.  If the temperature isn’t arctic blast or oven hot the wind is blowing like it needs to get to Nebraska before dinner.  There is sometimes an afternoon in late April when it would be perfect to put the top down and go bombing around town.  I repeat, sometimes. 

Well, it appears I do not have the makings of man willing to fully commit to a mid-life crisis.  I guess I will have to be content with buying a new hat and moving forward with a fabulous wife and a sensible sedan. 

Christopher Pyle will entertain other suggestions for how he could pursue a jolt to his current life at  

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Frozen Snack Foods of Joy

The other day a podcast I listen to (WNYC’s Radiolab) shared something truly cool. 

A story about Aleksander Gamme.  He is a Norwegian, uh, he’d probably say “adventurer”, where I’m more likely to say “person-who-clearly-hates-being-comfortable”.  He went on a trip all by himself to Antarctica in order to walk to the South Pole.  The hosts of Radiolab are talking to him because of a video he posted to Youtube. 

It is near the end of his trek, day 86.  He is tired and he is well beyond hungry.  He comes across a stash of supplies he buried in the snow towards the beginning of his trip.  He has no real memory of what is buried there.  He pulls out the bag of stuff and starts to go through it.  At first it is just stuff, Vaseline, zinc oxide, some rope but then comes the Holy Grail and the Golden Fleece rolled into one, a bag of Cheez Doodles.  He yells out to the miles of snow with such energy and enthusiasm I very much felt genuine happiness myself. 
Do yourself a favor and find the video on Youtube.  The reaction is priceless, unadulterated joy.  It is also really entertaining to hear a string of blissful Norwegian words with the undeniably English words “Cheez Doodles” wedged in the middle. 

Watching the video and listening to the podcast guys talk to Mr. Gamme got me to thinking about just what causes happiness. 

If you ask someone what was the happiest day of their life they usually respond with the day they got married or the birth of their children.  I don’t think so.  Now before you jump to any conclusions, gentle reader, I am happily married (more so than most I’d wager) and I believe my children to be the best parts of my life.  The problem is getting married and the process of childbirth isn’t really happy.

Think about it.  The day you got married may have been a great day and there may have been many fabulous moments but there were also moments of stress or even abject terror.  When my wife and I got married it was not an extravagant affair.  It was at the Reno County Courthouse.  The judge was late and then we had to use a substitute judge.  No stress there.  To be totally honest I just remember snapshots of the day, pleasant snapshots mostly, but really the happiness of the marriage is in the bigger picture, over time, because I chose wisely.  The day of marriage was not a giddiness sandwich served on two slices of delight. 

The three days in which I experienced the birth of my children were better characterized by anxiety and a sense of being superfluous than a feeling of bliss.  All of them were c-section deliveries so I didn’t even get the role of Lamaze coach.  My jobs were to distract my 65% numb wife and make sure not to look. 

Really, having a tiny person forcibly removed from the midsection of the person I like best is not a day at the beach.  For Kid #2 they had to completely knock my wife out.  Tell me it is fun to be in the room with your betrothed when she has her eyes taped shut and various medical professionals looking for the prize in the cereal box that is her abdomen and I will tell you you are wrong.  The majority of the time I was staring at the doorknob.  Then I heard the newly minted Alice start to cry.  In my mind that meant she was now separate from her mother and it would be safe to look.  Bad choice.  Her head and shoulders were “out” and she was angry.  I went back to examining the doorknob. 

Now, back to the yelling at the sky happiness Mr. Gamme felt about his Cheez Doodles.  Most of us don’t get to that level of happy but we do have little moments of giddy.  The other day I opened my desk drawer at work and inside were two, count ‘em, two, fun size Milky Ways.  If the ladies in the office hadn’t been nearby I would have cried out with joy.  The other day one of my imaginary friends (I use that term for people I only know via the internet – don’t worry, no stalkers) remarked about her great happiness about getting a brand new sponge for working in the kitchen (“It is just so clean!”). 

It really is those little things which we need to stop and truly enjoy, and maybe even whoop to the sky about.  People will mock you, but who cares, you’re happy.

Christopher Pyle wishes you and yours a wonderful week of whooping.  He can be contacted at