It’s always One Thing or Another … a lighthearted look at aging, life, and the absurdities of it all.
By Mark McNease
Life is about downsizing now, reducing the number of things someone will have to have hauled off when I’m dead.
Readers of a certain age will recognize the title reference from Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, Robin Leach’s hit show about the rich and infamous that ran from 1984 – 1995. It was the granddaddy of celebrity voyeurism, the original orgy of window shopping into lives we would never experience, caviar we would never eat and champagne we would never drink.
While the windows have changed from analog to digital, from cathode ray to flat screen, and from supermarket tabloid to Twitter feed, our culture’s tendency toward possession envy rages unabated. We know we won’t own that yacht or have the money to pay for those implants without a second mortgage, but, damnit, we can dream. We can scratch off another lottery ticket, we can play $20 on Gorgeous Empire at the local racetrack, and this time, this time, we’ll win. We’ve been told anything was possible so long that by the time we realize a Plan B would be wise it’s sometimes too late.
I’ve reached a point in my life when wanting what other people have just doesn’t do it for me anymore, whether it’s furniture, fortune or fame. I can be happy for them while not being sorry for me. I can wish them well while not believing I’ve missed out on something that was never mine. I’ve learned to know what enough is, and to believe it’s what I’ve had all along.
Life is about downsizing now, reducing the number of things someone will have to have hauled off when I’m dead. I want space, not clutter. I want to move slowly, not hurry from one distraction to another. I want calamari, not caviar, and I’m perfectly content being a cashier at a grocery store far from a city that claims to never sleep. I don’t need to be an executive anything. Editor and Publisher have nice rings to them, but what is that, really? A guy with a computer and a website or two. Perspective is seriously underrated and a very good thing to have, especially when you see old piper Time coming up the street for his pay.
Among the benefits of being in my late 50s is that I don’t need to be anything I’m not. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone but myself, and those things I need to prove to me are not all that difficult. I won’t see my name on a Broadway marquee, I won’t win a Tony or a Pulitzer. I’ll write the odd mystery, short story and column, and when the day comes that those things aren’t pleasurable anymore I’ll just use my keyboard to shop and make travel arrangements. It’s okay. The birds have no problem with it. The grass is not any less impressed with me today than it was last year.
Time is the non-renewable resource we waste most thoughtlessly and mourn the wasting of when it’s too late. The time I have is no longer spent climbing a corporate ladder or rungs to success. Success for me means sleeping till 6:00 a.m., writing a few paragraphs, appreciating our cats another day (they get old even faster than we do), and working four days at a grocery story. Gone is the 19th floor view of Manhattan. Gone is the idea that a city of eight million will someday take note of me. Gone is the city itself, as my husband and I move to a small house in the New Jersey woods where a vegetable garden needs attention and our neighbor sells us eggs from her chickens.
I’m a cashier now, and I like it. I enjoy interacting with people I may or may not see again, asking them for their bonus card and telling them to have a good day. It’s a life as simple as my ambitions had once been large. It’s free of grandiosity, but full of hope and wonder. I find peace in it, and that cannot be bought with all the caviar and champagne in the world.
Mark McNease is the author of six mystery novels, two story collections and various short fiction. He’s the co-editor of the anthology Outer Voices Inner Lives (Lambda Literary Award finalist), as well as the editor and publisher of LGBTSR.com, “where age is embraced and life is celebrated.” He’s the co-host of The Twist Podcast and was the co-creator of the Emmy and Telly winning children’s program Into the Outdoors.