Who Calls You on Your Bulls***?
By Nancy Aronie
I have always hated carrying things. I did my homework in class while the teacher was talking so I wouldn’t have to carry my books home. When we have doggie bags I am not the one who brings them to the car. I don’t use a pocket book though i have an assortment of really beautiful, leather designer, non-leather designer, arty, small, large, silly, and stunning purses. They hang on hooks in my closet . I don’t like to carrying stuff . A few days before my first ever teachers meeting, at my first ever job out of college, I was 22 and knew I should not go to this meeting with my license and my five dollar bill (mad money we called it) in my bra; that maybe it was time to buy a bag. That’s what the girls I knew called them; bags. Nice bag. Oooh, wheredya’ get that bag?
So I went shopping and bought a lovely black number, brought it home and the next morning before I left for my first ever teachers meeting at my first ever job (as a grown up) i modeled in the mirror to see if i could pull off this new role. Everything was fine but the new addition to my new image looked vaguely wrong. I had taken the stuffing out of the new purchase and somehow if you looked for a mili second too long, you would know that the bag was sunken in like a mouth without teeth… empty. Show me a woman with an empty bag andI'll show you a kid, someone who has not needed aspirin from the din in her den, from the men’s poker game or an energy bar for after her pilates class, or a phone for changing plans, making dates, getting GPS, finding the nearest Thai restaurant, a pair of cashmere gloves and alpaca socks, yarn in case you should continue the knitting lessons she started last November, bandaids, all sizes, in case someone on the train cuts themselves, a jar of mustard that should have been discarded but must get returned to the market because of spoilage, a silk scarf with tiny multicolor dragonflies embroidered on the edges, a wool forest green scarf in case of a drop in the temperature, a library book in case of bumper to bumper traffic, a Seduko ripped from the paper in case boredom sets in at the dentist office; in other words (are there any other words left) most women I know have bags that are filled to the brim.
And so, when I looked in the mirror all I saw was a life unlived, forget about examined. So i did what anyone wanting to impress the other teachers at the meeting would do: I left the stuffing in. It wasn’t completely empty. I had put a pen in there and sitting next to the French teacher, also her first day, when I opened my new accessory I saw her look askance, first down and then quickly up, and then a cursory look at me. Our eyes met. I snapped the thing shut, took my notes and on the way out, she said can I ask you something.? The laughter began a friendship that has lasted lo these fifty three years. So not carrying has always been one of those things I have managed in my life. No one would gossip and say geez have you noticed how Nancy Aronie never seems to be carrying anything. Do you find that odd? So Ive gotten away with this character flaw. It hasn’t hurt anyone (except me).
So since the topic is who calls you on your s*** I guess this intro is about long enough. Time to address the prompt.
The simple answer is Gerry. My friend Gerry calls me on my Bull. Nicely. Gently Lovingly. But directly. Honestly.
Many years ago I had heard that there was very rich compost inside the Beech trees down Flanders Lane and I had wanted to go and collect a big garbage bag full for the garden but I knew I’d never be able to carry it back to the house. Hey, I said to Gerry one day while he was visiting, wanna take a walk? My plan was to amble to the grove, fill up the sack, and ask Ger to carry it home while I continued on down for my daily constitutional. Sure, he said and off we went. I hadn't let Gerry in on my plot but he's got an easy way about him and I felt sure he'd agree to take the compost back to the house and I’d get to have a nice little hike.
Gerry has been a kind of teacher for me. He has lots of innate wisdom and he has his doctorate in psychology. When we have traveled together he carries everything without complaint. He jokes and says I’m Nancy's personal Sherpa. I seriously call him my personal shrink.
The beech tree grove is about ten minutes from my cabin and when we got there the sun was high in the sky . We ducked in and sat leaning against the cool trees. I said, Ger what do I need to learn next in my life. It was almost as if he had somehow tapped into my brain and knew exactly what I had diabolically designed.
He said you need to start carrying your own shit. After I got over the shock that I was busted, I started crying. I said I don’t know why I have always had weak arms and I have always hated schlepping. He said your arms will get stronger and lets have you begin right now. He said take your walk and carry the bag in front of you as if you were pregnant. That might be fun for you to reminisce and feel what you felt all those years ago. Well if I thought I had been crying before that was leaking. This was sobbing. I had not enjoyed my pregnancies. I had not celebrated the miracle of life. I had not walked around feeling blessed and glowing. I had felt fat and was surethis was the wrong time. I’m not supposed to be sitting home with a baby. Im supposed to be out in the world working. And yet of course the actual births were gorgeous and the experience of motherhood was a miracle.
Then it’ll be a do-over he said. Walk with the big heavy loam and feel grateful and excited about the reimagined future.
And I did it. I wept the whole way, but truthfully it was one of the best things I have ever done. I literally got to pretend and feel the joy I had missed as a young woman.
Gerry still calls me on my bulls***.
And for that I have more gratitude than ever.