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And now a word from my inner free-range chicken

peekaboo“I can’t really care about that.” I hear that a lot in my head these days. It pops up as I scan Facebook, especially if I happen to jump to the linked articles. It chimes again when NPR intones the latest revelations of plots to justify almost-invasions, invariably misguided. It chides when I listen to the smart girl/mean girl journalist read her last snarky-occasionally-insightful book on CD. It punctuates most evenings of film or theatre and interviews with the makers of same.

It’s not quite the angry-resentful “who gives a fuck” that echoed so loudly in this same head, six to eight years ago. It’s a mellower, more time-protective dismissal. There’s less “I could have done that” lurking in the back of my throat, bidding for affirmation. There’s more annoyance-and resignation that consumer-ism deploys bleak obsessions into marketing opportunities rather than places calls for health or balance. (Perhaps that’s just a mental version of a retro-virus, or a retro-version of the mental aberrations that used to power us before they came to be pathologized. But let’s not digress just now.) And then again, the target generation, big “T” and little “t,” is no longer my own. Yes, age and power—increasing and diminishing—-are definitely a part of this new hymn.

“Fine, you’re not showing me yours? I’m taking mine home:” recognition and release.

On good days, this release prompts me to ground myself, to be generous and grateful and live richly in my own sphere. On lesser days it feeds my anxiety. Am I becoming isolated? Discarded? Which side I land on may be an ineffable mix of the momentary breeze.

The “Who gives a fuck?” campaign carried the slogan “In the long run we’re all dead.” That torch only glows brighter this decade and I imagine it will consume more oxygen in each succeeding decade, if I’m lucky. The older we get the closer to death–at least as far as our limited understanding allows us to think. Why bother? What self-importance is that? Who would read/know/care? Or more productively–time is brief; use it well. And like most things–that means whatever I find it to mean in my own head and heart. And so I ask, good-naturedly-rather-than anxiously, am I becoming isolated? detached, disengaged?

My “can’t really care” is also not the “How many fucks I’m not going to give” meme that makes the social media rounds. I’m not propounding rebellion and recognizing my own voice, though I applaud that step in time. I’m not embracing or bragging about my bad habits, defiantly poised against corporate motherhood telling us to eat our broccoli and go to the gym. I’m good with broccoli and gym. I’m good with motherhoods of many types. I’ve done a few. Instead, I’m recognizing the drumbeat in my own ears and I’m embracing my inner free-range chicken.

What the…?

Well let’s examine that peace-cry, shall we?

Inner: my directions come from inside. These last two decades have increasingly released me from what I refer to as high school—those codes of how I should look, be and think. Phooey and poof: gone (mostly.) I am mostly responsible to myself.

Free range: I find I have to hunt and peck without much knowledge of where I’m going. I’ve never been particularly goal-oriented. And I’m not sure most goals are well set. They’re too narrow and at the same time too broad–problematic on both fronts. I can say that now, but it’s a recent step. First I had to get it myself. So many of my most-esteemed friends proudly proclaimed goal-orientation. Why did it always ring so hollow for me? It’s one of those should-be’s from my young adulthood that I took much to heart and didn’t achieve. Either I failed to meet goals or I failed to set goals that turned out to really mean anything to me.

I had been warned from the start against goals—one of my Father’s inexplicable teachings that began to make some sense to me as I neared 45. As doubt continued to mature from attitude to conviction, I began to recognize my disaffection for goals, my inattention in making and fulfilling them and increasingly, my sometime-comfort with this probable-failing. And of course with age, this process presented me with pieces of its own rationale.

But chicken?

Face it–anyone can love her brave side–but it’s brave to embrace my inner chicken, with her squawks, messes and cultural connotations. (For the moment, let’s put aside my culture’s reverence for ingesting the juice and meat of that bird.) My chicken has brought me shame, primarily internal shame since the long-ago shames of not being chosen for kickball teams. Who can care about internal shame? And who can escape it? Rarely, if ever, have people pointed and laughed at my chicken-ness, at least to my face. They don’t need to. I was taught to scorn the chicken early on and the lessons continue. If others don’t actually lay the shame, why then I can just project their shaming on to them. How self-reliant I am.

But now I shall embrace my inner chicken: those parts of me that are fearful, that want to slow down and speed past; to watch carefully and turn away; to take over and follow anonymously; to devise systems and be spontaneous. She worries about speed, athleticism, popularity games and commitment. That inner chicken probably balances my inner mongoose, which I just made up and haven’t reflected upon, yet. But we all know the mongoose is fierce. She bites the heads off cobras, or some such thing.

I don’t need to rebrand the chicken into a swan and wow the crowd with grace and perhaps beauty. Chickens after all, are very popular these days in the world of urban chic. They strut in fancy condo/coops in my neighborhood. Swans? well women of a certain age don’t show-off their necks. And then, I can’t really care about that, either.