I haven’t been very secretive about the fact that I have been unraveling a bit lately. Mostly because when it comes to my own secrets, keeping them to myself feels like the equivalent of keeping myself in a cage. And if you know me well, you’ll understand I am wild through and through and cages are always meant to be smashed to smithereens. In fact my dad and I got into a little spat about this the other day. Not my wildness per se, but the wilds in general. My dad is the most easy-going, genial person that could exist. And the person I am least likely to ever argue with. That is unless you bring up politics as my father is a staunch republican.
And that is all well and good, but I get a bee in my bonnet when he turns anything to do with the environment into a black and white political issue. Being that the environment, animals, the sea and forests, along with their protection is one of my greatest passions, I naturally get a little sassy on their behalf. One of the points I made to my father is caring about the environment or saving the whales isn’t because I am a hippy (though I kind of am) or that the liberal media (his words) have brainwashed me. It is something that has been with me as far back as I can remember. I relayed the story of my first encounter with zoos. I cannot remember how old I was, but I was surely very young. I think my first visit to the zoo was the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing. For anyone who is not familiar with this particular zoo, it can be described as dismal at best.
I remember walking around in the sticky heat, feeling pretty nonplussed and irritated. But then I got to the lions. There was the king of the jungle in his shabby cage, mostly concrete with a few sprigs of matted down grass in the corners and a faux rock looming behind him. He looked hot, depressed and void of any of the regal airs he might’ve once possessed. But you know what the worst offense of all was? The flies buzzing around his eyes, while he looked lifelessly back at me. The poor lad didn’t even have a roar left in him to alert those pesky flies to back the fuck off. My heart was broken. And immediately following my sadness at the lion’s sadness was rage. I hated zoos. Why was I here? But worse why was this lion here? I have been loathe to set foot in a zoo ever since.
Now I asked my father, was it the liberal media that got me to see the lion that way? Or was it my bleeding heart? Or what about when in the fifth grade I read an article about drier states wanting to siphon water from my beloved Great Lakes? I wanted to write to congress. I wanted to become an environmental lawyer. I wanted to tell them to just move to Michigan and get over themselves. The Great Lakes were ours!
Nope, the liberal media hasn’t influenced me, I was simply made this way. I have always understood I have an innate wildness running through my veins, like bulls charging the streets of Pamplona. Even animals that lack a physical cage—the horses that pull carriages in Central Park for instance—still have that sadness in their eyes that the lion had that day. They are shackled to an existence that is sucking their soul dry. I couldn’t lovingly touch the lions mane and convey to him that I wanted to set him free, but every time I see a horse that looks this way, I touch his face, his mane and look into his eyes and nod my understanding. Maybe you can’t be set free, sweet sir. Maybe if I set you free I’d get thrown in jail and then where would we both be? But I’ll tell you what I’ll do guys. I will spend my life being as free as you ought to be. And I very much equate being free with being wild.
And maybe my wildness is getting a little out of hand. Maybe I should grow up and get a 9 to 5 and a 401K. But much like my unwavering understanding as a youngster that no longer cared to frequent zoos, I know what my wildness is telling me. It is the reason I feel trapped by my circumstances and somewhat unhinged by my failures. I have put myself in a cage thinking I am limited by those failures and circumstances when in fact I should be emboldened by them.
No one cares about a successful girl who is super fetching and laughs gaily all the time and wears oversize fisherman sweaters and has a flat midsection and a funny, flannel-wearing financier boyfriend and a really great house-trained husky and pays all her bills on time and everything is as easy as peach pie. Who is that girl and who cares about her?
Give me the slightly erratic, maybe a little insecure girl who does laugh, but not gaily, maybe with a slight hyena like hysteria, and who falls asleep in the bathtub because life has wore her right out and who makes lemon blueberry cake out of all her lemons and has a pudgy midsection but still goes after it with gusto: the love life, the career, the hopes of a flat midsection but who the fuck knows, the freedom and the wildness, all of it. Give me that girl. I like her story better anyway.
And then when that girl does get the beau, the book deal and the husky—the husky that pees all over the floor, the book deal that was ten years in the making and the beau that puts his socks in the hamper inside out—well she’ll appreciate all of it in the most exquisitely human way. And she’ll understand the importance of her story being flawed and rife with uncertainty and therefore very much worth telling.