THIRTIES IN THE REAR-VIEW

I.
In the mid-1980s,
my mom professed her
crush on George Michael.
Being quite young,
I was certain
my middle-aged, Mormon mother
was going to leave
the suburbs of Utah,
her three children and my dad,
move to England,
and set up house
with George Michael.
(In hindsight,
I suppose she would have
been in a relationship with Andrew Ridgeley
of Wham as well)?

II.
Knowing there are others
who feel this way,
think this way,
and want the crush of madness
to stop, is what wakes me up most mornings.
I don’t have news alerts turned on —
I don’t like being reminded
about what’s coming next.
Yet I read voraciously,
like it’s my job.
The words of reporters and authors
are my lifeline.
They say “the struggle is real”,
and many days, I know it has just begun.

III.
I am glad I didn’t turn 40 in 2016.
Last year was filled with death,
depression,
earth-shattering,
life-altering events.
Taking on another decade
would have overwhelmed instantly.
My heart felt stretched in January,
again in April,
and by November’s end,
my lungs headed for collapse.
Put a star on the wall for me.
I was one of the casualties
of the soon-to-be prophesied “American carnage”.
By February,
I rose up, bandaged,
a resurrected, bettered zombie
of my former self —
and this one isn’t putting up with any shit.
Forty is the new 1984.

THE RIVERSIDE SHAKESPEARE

“I say there is no darkness/but ignorance.” — William Shakespeare

Today,
for the first time in more than a decade,
I dislodged The Riverside Shakespeare, Second Edition
from it’s prominent place
on my bedside table,
and blew a collection of dust from its cover.
Its primary use over the last few years has been:
to prop up my oil diffuser,
make a stand for the Kleenex box,
and create a handy shelf for my smaller book of “Shakespearean Insults”.
I had a love/hate relationship with this
behemoth
all through college.
The love part came
during the late nights of reading
“Macbeth” and “Twelfth Night”
while taking copious notes
in ragged college-ruled binders,
while dreaming up ideas for my next
20-page paper.
The hate part came when I had to lug the
15-pound volume across campus,
up several flights of stairs to the classroom.
(I’m sure I have curvature of the spine to this day.)
I’m re-reading “As You Like It” for the one-hundredth time,
as I will be seeing the play at the Utah Shakespeare Festival
in a few weeks.
I have a stand-alone, sparse copy of “As You Like It”,
but something from the bowels of  The Riverside Shakespeare
called to me.
As I cracked its well-worn binding
and leafed through its vellum-like pages,
all the notes and underlining
came back in a flood.
I used a silver gel pen
and the markings are thin and precise.
Hanging on Will’s words (and play on words) was a hobby of mine.
Only two Shakespeare classes were required for my major:
one tragedy, one comedy.
I took at least three additional,
including an independent study course
on the plays no one wants to read. (“Troilus and Cressida” anyone?)
Delving into Shakespeare’s meanings and teaching them in a concise way
was an expertise of my professor who had her own volumes of knowledge.
I’d been to her home previously,
where guests were greeted in her entryway by a suit of armor.
Her house was a living testament to the finer parts of the Middle Ages.
Reading Shakespeare plays is a difficult fete.
Understanding them is not easy — especially if you haven’t seen the play.
But in the end;
we know Macbeth’s wife cannot get out the damned spot,
we know Romeo & Juliet are destined to die,
we know Puck lurks merrily in the woods creating mischief.
However; I figured out more about myself from Shakespeare
than from any other classes I took in college.
In many ways,
even though Shakespeare’s era was more than 400 years ago,
I feel an indelible connection
to his snark, his wayward characters, and those he makes lovable.
Yet, all the while,
it reminds me of a period in my own life less than 20 years ago,
which was also riddled with
comedy,
tragedy,
darkness,
uncertainty,
and in the end, the brightest light.
The Riverside Shakespeare