Winona Ryder is my spirit animal

Just read this article. Because Kai woke at 3:30 a.m. and decided that was a good time to get up. R tried to put him back to sleep, but Kai wasn’t having it. So up we are.

I am not complaining. No way would I have had the time to read this otherwise. It took me nearly the duration of The Lorax to get through it — and I read quickly.

I have always felt a kinship with Winona. She is the only celebrity my mother has ever compared me to, and while my physical resemblance to her is slight, I put more stock in that comparison than others. Partly because it comes from my mom, and partly because the resemblance is more than physical.

As the article points out, Winona has always been an outsider struggling not to fit in, but to coexist. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t feel that way. I didn’t  fit in as a child, a teen, a young adult, and I am continuing my streak into middle age. I am persistently ahead of or behind the times — except when I am completely out of step with them.

My relationships weren’t with as pretty a crowd as Winona’s, but they crashed and burned nearly as quickly. Until I met R, I wasn’t sure I could maintain a relationship beyond a year and a half. For all my connections, I seem to have moved through life relatively unentangled, despite actively seeking connections. After a while, you figure out that the problem is, at least in part, you.

But it isn’t merely the fitting in, the cheekbones, the dark hair with pale skin, the small frame. The article describes Winona as embodying an “anticipatory anxiety,” and an “anticipatory nostalgia.” There is no better way to sum me up. The anxiety…well, it is my oxygen. But the nostalgia — that I find interesting. Because I am currently in the throes of nostalgia for my youth — a youth I did not enjoy. I loved the clothes and the music, but hated myself and pretty much everyone else. I was misery personified. And now, weirdly, I miss it.

At the same time, I am obsessively recording every second of every day, afraid I will miss something, forget some fragment of my kids’ childhood. I want to memorize them, capture every moment behind glass to remember when I am old and alone.

So I am simultaneously longing for a time long past and anticipating a time in which I will long for today. “Ambivalent” is another word the author associates with Winona, and it works for me, too. I am ambivalent. About everyone and everything.

But not unhappy. In fact, I am the happiest I have ever been. It’s just that happiness in middle-aged-with-children is like swimming in a lake — patches of icy cold mixed in with bathwater warmth, with who knows what lurking beneath the murky surface, so that you are never completely comfortable. And I look back to a time in which the music and the clothes made sense, a time in which, despite what I believed then, life was brimming with possibilities. And I yearn for those possibilities, for the wide-open landscape that was my days.

But I wouldn’t change a thing. And I think that is at the core of Winona, as well. The things we went through were things we needed to go through to become who we are: 40-something misfits, still looking for a place to belong.

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