Sunday, September 8, 2013

Poisoned By My Metaphorical Claude Rains

Have you ever seen that movie Notorious with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman? If not, you should, it’s a great movie. I won’t go into the whole thing, but towards the end, when Claude Rains finds out his wife, Ingrid, is actually an undercover spy sent to get info on his Nazi friends, he is told to kill her by slowly poisoning her over time so it looks like she just has some weird withering disease, until Cary Grant, who’s been denying his love for her comes, in all his smoldering spy glory, and carries her out the front door as Claude is judged harshly by his fellow Nazis.

I feel a little like Ingrid Bergman.

Let me explain.

I have always been an optimist; a glass half full, believe people’s motives are pure, lemonade out of lemons optimist.  Recently, however, I have felt a withering away, a tarnishing of my rose colored glasses, if you will, which has even made me toy with changing the title of my autobiography from “Mary had a Little Laugh” to “Death of an Optimist.”

In full disclosure, I do come from a split family; my dad is an optimist, my mother a pessimist. So there is a genetic pre-disposition for either. But let me be clear, I am not talking about being sad or even feeling sorry for myself. No I just find that I am slowly letting go of or lowering my expectations for hope and am settling into a Switzerlandish state of neutrality.

I realize it is an intricate internal security system that I have installed in my psyche to protect myself from all intruders. I had a beta system installed when I was a kid, which handled softball breaches like boys not ‘like-liking’ me and not making the basketball team and my parents’ divorce. But I have since refined it into a high tech comprehensive protection plan complete with emotion sensors and automatic total lockdown to insure ultimate protection against passive aggressive marital behavior(coming from both parties), the past (and therefore imminent) doom and gloom of my children’s relationship to school, the loss of loved ones, the financial realities of the market value of any of my skills, the disappointment at the empty Entenmann’s box at the end of a long day, and all the other shoes that are waiting to drop. It is, in fact, possible that I have acquired a system so invincible that therapists and Prozac couldn’t even penetrate the first lock let alone the floor lasers, the three-headed dog and the rolling boulder. (extra credit if you can name all the movie references)

I haven’t gone full pessimist yet. I do not expect the worst, but I am not surprised when it happens.  I scan my emails at the end of the day with dread for fear of seeing a teacher’s name and the title heading “Teenager #1 in class today,” or “Missed homework for “Teenager #2.” I am grateful for the communication because I am a parent and I’m supposed to be, but it is like another dose of poison administered by my metaphorical Claude Rains.

I still believe that Cary Grant will swoop in (though he’s more of a saunterer than a swooper) and carry me through the door with my flawless skin and impeccable hair. And I know in this case Cary Grant is hope and I will still fall in love with him and he will break my heart again, and the alarm will be tripped and I will go into lockdown recoup my losses, heal and venture out into the wild again because deep down in my nougat center, that’s who I am. Love and pain and panic and euphoria and anxiety and contentment and fear and pride rely on each other for existence. I get it. To allow yourself to feel one you open yourself up to the risk to feel all. I know to feel is to be alive and life is messy an unpredictable. (BTW my inspirational posters are available on Zazzle)

So I will fight the poison and defy Claude Rains. Not everyday, but I’m still aiming for more than half.

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