Monday, June 23, 2008

Summer of 42

Bill Clinton, during his gubernatorial days in Arkansas, circa my age (42) ...youthful, sane and surprisingly organized. Say what you want about Clinton, but he made 42 look EASY.

In just a little more than one week, I will celebrate my 42nd birthday. As a friend recently pointed out, Bill Clinton was well on his way down a short path to running this country when he was my age.

The comparisons are ... non-existent.

In 1988, at the age of 42, Clinton was serving as governor of Arkansas and facing a possible presidential nomination by the Democratic party. Four years later, he was in.

How is that possible? How is it possible that someone my age can run a country or a state, and I have trouble deciding whether to return a phone call. Or knowing what to do with a package of chicken breasts. Or whether I have already read this book that I just checked out from the library. Is this Monday or Tuesday? It feels like Tuesday.

If I were running the country, I'm afraid I might sound a little like George W. Bush. Employing plays on words that make absolutely no sense, laughing inappropriately in sensitive situations, appearing either startled or lost almost ALL THE TIME. As president, I would require an entire team of assistants to remind me why I came back to the Oval Office from the Green Room ("Mrs. President, you forgot your shoes") or to alert me, AGAIN, that it isn't Tony Blair waiting for me in the Rose Garden ("Mrs. President, remember? This is Gordon Brown, who replaced Tony Blair? Ring a bell?").

At the dinner table recently, we were saying our fallback blessing -- one of the rote memory prayers where you eventually forget what the words even mean. I started with "God is great, God is good," and somehow ended with "Don't forget to go to Wal-Mart tomorrow." I opened my eyes and found five pairs of eyes staring back at me. And then all five LAUGHED at me. I may have had a stroke, or maybe I was speaking in tongues. For a few days, I thought it might be the Midol, which I have begun to consume like popcorn, or M&Ms. For an entire week each month, Midol sustains me. If I could freebase it, I would. But the 3 million grams of caffeine may have been taking their toll, and my synapses were firing all over the place like the Fourth of July. I hope God understood because I sure didn't.

Was my mind going away, or was it just going too fast?

How did Bill Clinton navigate his 40s? Did he take Midol? Let me put it another way: Why was he so lucid and able to manage an entire state as he planned to lead the entire Free World, and I (at roughly the same age) wake up each morning looking forward to an afternoon nap?

Not that he wasn't without his share of problems, but still.

When it came to his mental clarity, maybe Hillary was to thank (or blame), depending on how you feel about Clinton. Maybe it was the fact that he had only one child, no mortgage and a fairly certain political career. I'm not sure. Even if I wasn't his biggest fan then, I am certainly one of his strongest admirers now. But that could be age (and the Midol) talking.