Monday, March 5, 2012


I encountered the nightmare scenario this morning when boarding the bus this morning from Tucson to Phoenix: no empty seats. This meant I would have to choose a seat-mate. I suppose this is preferable to being chosen as a seat-mate, which can lead to unpleasantness outside of ones control. However, I’d been hoping for a very spacious bus ride this morning and it quickly became painfully apparent that that wasn’t going to happen. I looked up the aisle…  my eyes rested on a lady who looked to be middle aged, with a short bob, a thin face and a leather Betty Boop varsity jacket. I’d like to say the jacket came into play when deciding to sit next to her, Betty Boop being a favorite character of my most favorite roommate of all time, but I didn’t really notice that until later. I sat down next to the lady, who was having a chat with the two guys behind her about her ill-fated travels thus far. She’d started out in Alabama and had been delayed almost a day because of a missed connection. I could relate. We started up a little small talk after she noticed one of the photos I was editing and complimented it. Pretty soon I was entrenched in every facet of this woman’s life. She told me about her three divorces (two had cheated, the middle one had a drug problem) her 3 children (all girls, one from the first cheater and the next two from the drug addict,) her children’s children (the oldest at 28 had 3 babies, the middle one was gay and the youngest had a child on the way.) and their various misfortunes and triumphs. Usually when a stranger begins unfolding their life story to you, it is an awkward and uncomfortable situation from which you want to extract yourself right away. This woman seemed different. She had a lot to say, and a lot of it didn’t surprise me, like the drug addict thing, or the 3 divorces, or the fact her 18 year old daughter was having a baby. But a lot of the things did surprise me; one of her daughters was at university in California, studying law, the other was studying to be a pediatric oncologist. Two spoke fluent French and had lived in France, one spoke fluent Spanish. She herself had been a Human Resources manager for security at LAX before it was taken over by the federal government after 9/11 and she’d been booted. She’d been born in Hollywood and raised in California. Her youngest daughter had been pronounced clinically dead after an amusement park ride accident at the age of 5 but was resuscitated. She’d started her own life over three times, and was on her way to the fourth, going back to her hometown after years of living in Alabama.
I liked so much about this woman’s philosophy… life was an adventure. She didn’t sweat the small stuff, and as cliché as it sounded to hear it, it just sounded right. She didn’t care about her girl’s sexual orientation or the color of the skin of their partners, she just wanted them to be happy. She didn’t want them to make the mistakes she did. She loved them and wanted them to make good decisions. She wanted them to learn from what she went through.
She knew her worth and the worth of her daughters wasn’t to be measured by another person; that her daughters had to be secure in who they were before anyone could love them properly, and that the person who did end up loving them properly had to be their best friend.  It wouldn’t matter to that person, she said, whether you had thrown up all over yourself, because they loved you, inside and out, through thick and thin. According to her, friendship was the only thing one should look for in a partner, not lust or looks, because beauty is fading.
I’ve heard all of this cheesy nonsense before, in chocolate wrappers or on Dr. Phil or whatever, but that was ok. It was nice hearing it from her, a woman who knew her own mind even if it took her 30 years to get to know it. It made me feel better about where I am in my life; making choices that are unconventional but nonetheless strengthening my character and teaching me the things I really need to know. It made me realize that it is ok that I’m still figuring it out, because really that’s what a whole life is for. You just keep figuring it out along the way.  It’s never going to come to some sort of satisfying conclusion.  And anyway, that would just be boring.