So I read this essay by Judith Viorst today. She’s the one that wrote one of my favorite children’s books ever. Okay, fine. One of my favorite books ever, full stop: Alexander’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I refer to it with an almost embarrassing frequency. As in I’ll tell friends that I just had a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I actually have the book prominently displayed in my living room, even though I’ll be the first to admit Alexander is an entitled little sh!t. (I double dog dare you to say “snowflake”.) But he at least learns early on that life can just come up with almost comical ways to go from bad to worse. He never gets to sobbing on the floor deplorable, but it is a kid’s book.
Anyway, I digress.
In her essay, Viorst talks about what gives her the most happiness as she approaches the ripe old age of 90. I’m not going to go through her whole list. (Notably, she does mention the privilege she enjoys of a relatively healthy body and an intact marriage. Good for her. Not everyone is so fortunate, and she knows and acknowledges that – kudos!) What I do want to mention is what she says about finding humor in the sh!t. Well, that’s not quite how she puts it.
All the same, it resonated with me, given that I’m someone who has from time to time had a comically bad year, or stretch of years – you know, almost like Job. (As an atheist who is still afraid a god might smite her from the sky with a hilariously timed and cringingly public lightening strike her down and makes her pee her pants situation, this messing with blasphemy is a very fun, thrillingly risky endeavor – like my version of skiing down Everest. Wait, do people do that? No? K, neither do I, so the people and I are even on that front….) Point is – I’ve had some sh!t go down. You know how some years are all, oh I dunno, let’s give you a serious medical condition, a massive surgery gone wrong, disabling chronic pain, death, the sad explosion of a romantic relationship with the one one thought was The One, the loss of more than one job, the maybe fatal blow to one’s career, the sudden deaths of one’s fur babies, public professional humiliation, PTSD, and, you know, the kitchen sink exploding with sewer water all over the kitchen? You know, just as an example.
Anyway, Judith Viorst comes through again, in mid-life, just as she did when I was a kid – and it all boils down to (wait! are you sitting down? Imma tell u the Meaning of Life) all us Alexanders out there gotta just laugh at our Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (or week, month, year, decade, body, country, government, society, universe, you get the picture.)
So in the spirit of that more grown up, less twat-ish Alexander, can I tell you this thing that happened?
Remember that squirrel that fell from the sky – you remember him, right, from the puppy and the squirrel post?
Well, (clearing throat), are you still sitting down? How can I tell you this? He has passed. He’s dead, in other words. He’s an Ex-Squirrel up there somewhere with Monty Python’s Ex-Parrot. He has ceased to exist. And omg many days ago from the looks of it.
You remember how I wept over him cuz he reminded me of me? A mini me fallen from the sky totally unable to run to safety cuz his legs had been all kinds of f’d up? Yeah, that’s the one.
Well, today I stepped in him. Not like on, but in, at this point. IN, PEOPLE – as in, I had to look at my shoe like I’d stepped in poo. Ew, yeah I know.
But at this point, I’ve got this little internal dialogue running in my head:
Oh poor squirrel!
You asswipe! You knew he was gonna die an ugly death. You stood by and did not a thing. Now here he is, poor thing, and you never got around to even throwing him a squirrel funeral.
Ew the flies! Holy Jesus, that’s his skull? Already?!
Oh holy sh!tf*ck is that him I smell? How the F did he decompose that quickly?
Sorry, Mr. Squirrel decomposing mat of flesh and fur and flies, but you do kinda need a shower. And holy hell if you got on my shoe like in a way I gotta scrape your guts off now, I’m gonna cry.
At least I didn’t step on your skull by mistake. (They say gratitude is good – this is good!)
And so on and so forth.
So here I am, in the little shared green area behind my apartment building, and I’ve got my cat on the leash looking at me like, what the hell are you doing? And I am like, I’m looking at my shoe cuz I just by mistake stepped in the squirrel!
And then – I just start laughing. You know, as one does.
Here’s the thing. You, Dear Reader, know me well enough by now to know what happened next, yeah?
Yep. Cuz I am alone and it’s a wee bit public back there – now that I’ve started to laugh, I just crack up even more.
So in my head, I’m watching this whole scene from the vantage point of an imagined onlooker, a person who lives a few floors above me.
So yeah, let’s roll the tape:
Here’s this mid forties (don’t you dare say middle-aged) crazy cat lady with her cat on a 30 foot long bubblegum pink leash, and she’s half crying half laughing over the decomposed body of a squirrel (more like a squirrel-sized smudge now) – the squirrel we saw her cry over last week with its broken legs, and she’s looking now at the bottom of her shoe and she’s – oh sh!t- she’s losing her balance and omg she’s legit starting to fall! But – wait, what? – she calls out for her, you guessed it, cat. Her cat! She’s out there alone with the cat and a dead squirrel and she is cracking up like a crazy person. She is actually kinda hilarious at this point. You guys! Check this out. She’s actually kind of entertaining in her absurdity.
But at least she knows it.
Yeah. In my defense, at least I know I am absurd.
So, thank you, Mrs. Viorst. Yet again. You remind me at this stage in my life, as you did when I was a little kid reading Alexander’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, that the point isn’t not having a mini-me squirrel that goes and dies on you, and the point isn’t even not stepping in it later – the point is laughing your a$$ off when you inevitably do.
Inevitably. That’s all I’m sayin’.
*Alexander is still a twat tho. Just being real.