Smacking Cows

I fell asleep last night reasonably happy and content, as usual. Slept through the night, dreaming of high school classmates, as is unfortunately usual. There was something else about smacking cows — but maybe that’s not important here. I woke up at 6:15 as usual. When I awoke I sat bolt upright in bed, terrified. This is not usual.

What terrified me was the realization (don’t you love those?) that I had nothing to look forward to this week. Especially not today. I don’t give a rat’s ass about anything that I have planned for today. This is not a good thing to realize at 6:15 in the morning. I laid back down and let terror swirl over me…the room started to swirl with it. I was seized with an urge to run away. Quit my job today. Run off screaming to the hills of my ancestors and live alone in my grandmother’s house. Or run off to New York City and live on the street, helping to pull bodies from the rubble of the World Trade Center. How much of this has to do with the half-hour of “Third Watch” I saw last night, where they interviewed real-life rescue workers? Maybe my dream of smacking cows was a hidden message that I really want to be a fireman. I don’t know.

The swirling hysteria came to a thumping stop with one heavy thought: CAR PAYMENTS.

Oh shit. If I run away screaming, how will I make my car payments?

Is this what being responsible means? Sacrificing passion and impulsiveness in the name of independence and mobility? Why am I, at 26, emotionally an 80-year-old British aristocrat? So frightfully dim and proper, don’t you know. Pinky curled and all that. Jolly good. I’ve had my heart broken severely twice — the first time taught me to appreciate Aretha Franklin, the second sent me into therapy. Ever since then I’ve been…how shall I put it…contained. A little quiet with the occasional bursts of madness, but on the whole very presentable.

That’s not honest! I’m not presentable, really. Is it the

href=””>Paxil that’s suddenly making me want something — anything — to feel passionate about? I’ve gotten riled up on occasion in the past few years, and felt grief more than once, but that’s not exactly the definition of living on the edge.

Part of me is derisive about this whole outburst. I keep thinking of Ally Sheedy’s line in

href=”″>”The Breakfast Club”: “When you get older, your soul dies.” How very melodramatic, dear. I have a holy horror of being melodramatic. Or is that the 80-year-old British woman in me talking?

Several people think that my problems would be solved if I got a different job. Admittedly,

href=””>the job I have now is keeping me alive physically, and that’s about all that can be said for it. But I don’t think that rushing to find another means to a paycheck is going to solve anything. The problem is, at this point, I don’t know what will.

This morning, after feeding the horses and letting them back out to pasture, I stood in the yard and stretched my palms up to the sky. Then I leaned over and brushed my palms against the wet weeds at my feet. There. That’s alive. That’s real.

But if you find one day that I’ve run off to be a fireman, don’t say I didn’t warn you.