If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?

We have to be constantly jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.
Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut is living proof that you don’t have to be living to be alive.

I thought I was going to be writing about Cougars today. Cougars being what older women who are involved with younger men are called. One definition defines it as an older woman (35 or older) who preys on younger men.

Older men who are involved with younger women, on the other hand, are generally referred to as Lucky. I think men start being considered older at 50.

Whatever, this age thing is absurd. I remember an episode of Picket Fences where the widowed father of the character played by Kathy Baker (I think the character’s name was Jill) brought the much younger woman he was involved with to Thanksgiving weekend. Chaos, outrage, and judgment ensued. Jill became unhinged.

Then, came the reveal. Her father wanted someone younger because he didn’t want to have to go through losing another spouse to death. The younger woman, however, had cystic fibrosis. She would not live to be an old woman. She would die a young woman. She wanted to be involved with an older man because his experience of life was closer to hers—they were both closer to the end, rather than the beginning of their lives.

It turned the age thing on its head.

I don’t know whether it is only American culture that is so clueless about what to make of women as we grow older. Actually, I think it is more accurate to say, “I don’t know whether it is only American culture that is so terrified of women as we grow older.”

The meaning for the Cougar in the Animal-Wise Tarot card deck is “coming into our own power.” I think of that every time I hear a woman referred to as a Cougar. That is certainly what growing older means to me—shedding whatever isn’t my story to make room for what is my story.

Whew! What a relief. I don’t need to worry about being nice anymore. Not that I always was, but at least now I don’t worry about whether what I do is nice, or not.

Being kind is another thing. Kurt Vonnegut also said, “There is only one rule that I know of, babies—, Goddamnn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

I think it is kind to live and tell your own story, and respect that others are doing the same.

The end parenthesis that is death makes for good grammatical living. It forces us to pay attention to meaning, or perhaps more important, meaningfulness. It’s been almost a year since we took the leap to start the next phase of our lives (Tom’s and mine). It has taken much longer than either of us thought to settle into our home. Where we put things, hung art, placed books on shelves took on a deeper meaning to us. There was awareness that this could be the last place we live. So how did we want to do it—live our lives.

We were a bit like a deer caught in the headlights. It was disconcerting and for a while innervating. But that still time was necessary. Then there came a point where we just plunged ahead. We jumped off the cliff so we could develop wings. And so we discovered our new home. We live in beautiful surroundings. Our home is filled with art and books and music.

“If this isn’t nice, what is?”

That’s also a quote from Kurt Vonnegut. His Uncle Alex used to say that to note a particularly lovely moment, like sipping lemonade under a shade tree in summer. Uncle Alex thought it was a terrible waste to be happy and not notice it. (Oh, right, I live in Happy Valley).

And so, as I become a Cougar, I fill my heart with power, knowing that there is no time like the present to embrace my story and live it assertively.

I leave you with one last quote from Kurt Vonnegut, “Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories.”

All quotes in this post are from If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? The Graduation Speeches by Kurt Vonnegut. I read it in one sitting. When I finished I thought—if this isn’t nice, what is?

5 thoughts on “If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?

  1. I’m doing good, Karen. Just got through taking down my most recent monotype print show at SOMArts and ramping up to produce more images. Writing is mainly correspondence these days and I’m enjoying it. More later/soon! 🙂


  2. Pingback: Keep Your Hat On, I’ll End Up Miles From Here | Writing Shed

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