When I nine or ten years old, my parents gave me my first big bike as a birthday present, a blue Schwinn that I loved beyond measure. My father wheeled it out of the garage with a huge bow on it, and I immediately jumped on and took off down the street, despite the fact that I was supposed to be blowing out the candles on my cake. I also didn’t bother to let my dad check on a few safety things first, like whether or not I could actually reach the pedals. “I’m just trying it out!” I called, as I disappeared. When I didn’t return after five or ten minutes, my cousins launched a search and rescue. They found me in a heap, covered in an alarming number of scrapes, technically termed abrasions, but more appropriately called strawberries. Needless to say, I had no desire to attempt another ride, so we wheeled the bike back up the street where my dad was waiting to administer first aid. This was always his responsibility. My mom was what is known as a hemophobe, or a person who is terrified of the sight of blood. When injuries happened, she tended to go hide in the bathroom. The first line treatment for strawberries back in the 1960s and 70s was the orange horror known as mercurochrome, which was banned in 1998 due to fears of mercury poisoning. Before we knew anything about that, however, we wore our orange stained scrapes like badges of honor. In the days after my bike tumble, I can remember studying those strawberries every day and waiting for them to go from oozy and worrisome to scabby and then good as new. As they healed, so did I. My confidence in riding my bike returned, and before long I was drawing my maps of the neighborhood, tucking them into the little pouch behind the seat, and taking off on my many adventures, often very much on my own.
We are all familiar with the idea of reprising a television series or a movie. Some of these do-overs can be fantastic, hitting all the right notes, while others can be absolutely abysmal, threatening to ruin our memory of the original we enjoyed so much. I confess that I’ve spent some time recently binge watching And Just Like That, the largely popular reboot of the wildly successful HBO series Sex and the City. I did not expect to be wowed, but I most certainly was. Because there is such a wide range of quality when it comes to TV and film reprises, l think we’ve all come to approach them with a fair amount of caution. This led me to wonder what is it exactly that makes for a successful do-over? Why does one work, while another fails so miserably? In terms of And Just Like That, the answer has a lot to do with the fact that the new series captures the feeling of the original perfectly, yet moves the storyline in new directions that are completely unexpected. These shifts allow us to accept that the characters are on new journeys, and any new additions to the cast have become both comfortable and complementary. Even the absence of the beloved Samantha has been handled deftly, and in such a way that makes us feel as though she is still present, yet changed. Because And Just Like That bathes us in so much familiarity while making it clear that this is 2023, and not 1998, it made me think of the times that we try to reprise something in our own lives that comes from a certain time period or place. I wondered if there were any parallels that could be drawn between our own do-overs and Hollywood reboots. Does the same formula for success apply?
I spend a fair amount of time thinking about getting older. How could I not? The days go by like they are passengers on a speeding freight train, and suddenly I have children in their thirties and almost thirties, and an oldest granddaughter who just turned six. Some days I really do wonder when all that happened, even though I know I’ve been present for it the whole time. I’m not someone who minds being the age I am; I don’t want to give the wrong impression. There is, in fact, something that’s quite nice about recognizing myself as the same person, with the almost identical thoughts and reactions that I’ve always had, but now with the additional layer of solid experience that lends a bit of wisdom to share. As long as I’m healthy, I’d really like to be one of those white-haired pasta granny ladies, still cooking in the kitchen at 102. And yet, there are days when I don’t love what I see in the mirror, and I worry and wonder about growing old gracefully and remaining vital and relevant to everyone who knows me. I certainly believe in the reinvention of the self, at any age, and I’ve done it in big ways and small ones, but lately I’ve felt that I want a mantra that I can put up on my wall that will reassure me that everything and anything still remain possible.
I’ve been giving a lot of thought recently to the idea of staying within or moving beyond our comfort zones. By definition, a zone is an area that is delineated by fairly hard edges. In some cases these boundaries do not move at all, while in others they may vary under certain circumstances. Plant hardiness zones are definitely shifting north, for example, and a zone defense in basketball might need to collapse onto one player if he or she happens to break through it. Time zones, on the other hand, have remained rather constant, with the exception of the ongoing debate about daylight savings, but that has very little to do with the zone itself. I think we could say with a high level of certainty that comfort zones tend to shift as we get older, or if we experience some kind of a trauma, with both of these being something we might be willing to work beyond. When I was young, I loved roller coasters; the bigger the better as far as I was concerned, especially if it was one of those wooden ones. Now, they terrify me. At one time I loved to fly, but I had a bad experience on a plane after talking off in a thunderstorm. Needless to say, I am now an apprehensive flyer. Yet I have, on occasion, pushed against these self-set limits in order to experience the momentary thrill of a really good roller coaster or the extended exhilaration that comes from traveling somewhere amazing. In both instances, I have been willing to stretch the edges of my comfort zone.
Many of you who know me well may see me as the consummate Virgo. I am, as the title of this post suggests, a person who finds a great deal of satisfaction in the idea of mastering and then streamlining the process. It’s all about the details for me, at least in the area of my life where I fill my purpose in the world. That’s what a person who has the Sun in Virgo does. While focusing on the particulars can be a highly productive and supremely important thing, it tends to create a head down kind of mentality, and because details are omnipresent, Virgo Suns tend to want to always be churning out large amounts of work. As a consequence, when there are no external specifics to be catalogued, organized, or refined, they turn that same energy inward and can become highly introspective, rattling around in their heads looking for something that needs labeling or color coding. While I raise my hand and say “yes, guilty” to all these things, I also want to offer up the observation that as a society, I think we turn more and more into Virgos every single day. We want to be busy, busy, busy, and if we’re not, we feel like we must be doing something wrong. We’ve lost the ability to find joy in having a day that stretches in front of us without obligation. We do and do and do, to the point that we’ve forgotten how to simply be.