Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pet Peeves

Well now that you all know that I'm so oil-of-olay sensitive to comments here is my shallow post. I have pet peeves as we all do and I'm going to share three of my favorite: the side stander, the non-acknowlegder, and the story-trapper--if I don't have a trademark on these terms I now claim them in the name of Madman. Just to give you a pre-text I will give you a general definition followed by an example, can't help it, it's the teacher in me.

First, the side-stander. definition: This is a person who, while you are in line, any line, comes up behind you and instead of remaining behind you snuggles up next to you. Forgive me but the purpose of a line is for one noun to be in front and the other to be in back. Now I like drawing outside the lines as much as the next person, but not in this situation. Know your place side-stander!!! Which is not next to me, diagonal to me, but purely and directly behind me. Don't talk to me, I'm just not that social. The other day I bought planting flowers at the store with my daughter and while in line a women comes up with her cart and stands next to me. "Get away!" mind of the madman e.s.p.'s to the side-stander. "How much did you pay for those flowers?" side-stander. "None of your god damn business and go check for your lazy self (mind of madman). "$12.95 for 32" Noraml me. "Wow that's robbery!!" side-stander. I nod, "Go scratch!" (mind of madman). I pay and quickly leave the side-stander in her proper place.

Next peeve, the non-acknowledger. Definition: Someone you know, are an acquaintance of, or have had at least a memorable conversation of; basically someone who you have a memory of and who, you know, has a memory of you. The situation is that you encounter this person, try to make eye-contact and even make an acknowledging gesture; the smiling-nod and the nervous wave to name a couple. Again I was shopping with my daughter, now in the supermarket, and I see someone I used to work with in the same isle pushing a cart. I see him and he makes brief eye-contact with me and I make the smiling nod. He turns away and starts whistling acknowledging the chicken stock instead. As I passed him I smiled to myself confounded as to why my attempt was thwarted, not disappointed, just confused. Maybe I smell, that's probably it. I asked my daughter if I smell, she just wanted bubbles. I saw this "ghost of the past" one more time in the store from a distance, him knowing I was there and choosing to ignore that fact, me crushed beyond all recognition (sarcasm of course).

Final peeve, the story-trapper, the one peeve I aspire not to be; I hope I'm not being oximoronish (is that even a word? If yes, I call dibs on the royalties). Definition: person who you meet at any social event that traps you in a pointless, uninteresting story, where you zone out and tell yourself that you must have done something horrible in a past life in order to deserve this torture. Unfortunately I don't have a recent example of this. Let your membranes reminisce.

So there you have it. Maybe these are flaws in me, in others, or just in the human condition, or a little of each, or not flaws at all. Pet peeves, we all have them, things that bother us for one reason of the other, things that in our own tiny paradigms just don't fit or don't seem right.

We are all trapped, happily or not, inside of ourselves, from birth to death, dealing with life's experiences and how it impacts us and the world around us. It can be confusing, exciting, depressing, and crystal-clear, all at once or not at all.....peace.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

When the Bubble Burst

I grew up in a bubble. I didn't want for much, no abuse (that I was aware of), no severely traumatic moments (except the usual), all the trappings of a comfortable suburban childhood. So when did the bubble burst?

I remember waking up in the middle of the night sweating, not knowing where I was......Then I remembered I was working three pathetic jobs having just failed the Bar exam for the fourth time. This wasn't how life was supposed to turn out, things were supposed to be easy, weren't they?

I tried to go back to sleep, peeking at my lovely wife who had all the faith and confidence in me that I didn't have. She would be dreaming of family and love and future, where I was traumatized trying to figure out how to make her dreams come true.

"Where is life going to take me?" I asked my cat, who was the only one awake, and supposedly hanging on my every word. Maybe I was dreaming and I'll really be living the life I'm supposed to be living when I wake up, probably not.

I wipe the sweat off my forehead, the cool breeze hits it and reminds me what reality really is.

Instead of letting the anxiety bind me in the straight jacket, I repeat my mantra "You're a good person, keep working hard and be honest and things will work out." I have repeated this mantra hundreds of time, not letting it slip past the frontal lobe.

I'm slowly drifting back to sleep and as I'm gripped by its paralyzing sweetness I feel a little dampness begin to form against my temple and realize that the bubble no longer exists, it has burst all over me; and this is me weeping for the loss of it.

It's now five or so years later, I have a beautiful family, a secure job, and am truly happy. But I sometimes ask myself would I be where I am today if I didn't have those night terrors? I don't know. I know the bubble needed to break. I know that life is cyclic. And I know not to mess with Karma. That is life.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Human Experience

What is the human experience?

We basically have 80 years of life to suffer and enjoy all. What connects us is empathetic, sympathetic, or envious situations; and that applies to both suffering and joyous occasions.

I had an interview yesterday. Most of you can relate to the interview experience: making sure your shoes are just right (which no one looks at), making sure your breath doesn't smell like stale coffee, and making sure your hands don't have that layer of nervous sweat.

I arrived a half hour early, sat down, heart fluttering like a humming bird. I reviewed all the little tidbits of information that might give me that slight edge, or so I'd convinced myself. I took some slow deep breaths to calm the mind, disillusioning myself into a sense of calm.

"Oh, you're here! Please fill this out, we'll be right with you." I now prepared to have my whole life examined; a mere 32 years disected in a matter of minutes. Would these strangers really see the true me? Probably not, but hopefully they'll get a glimpse.

Like a dream it begins without warning or preface; hands shake, introductions made and slightly forgotten amidst the stifling situation. "What was your name again?" I asked; the first crack in my stoicism appears.

The questions and answers swing by like a awkward pendulum, some expected, some not. The probing of the soul continues, the spotlight in the interogation room, senses sharp, now becoming dull.

"Thank you Mr. Madman!" Is that a real smile, or just courtesy? Its like the end of a first date; is the kiss on the cheek true affection or a farewell peck? Mind swirling like a tornado I get up and leave, hoping not to trip and break my soul.

The next part is the hard part, the ping-pong game of going back and forth between I nailed it and I failed miserably; and no matter how strong some of us pretend to be, we all experience this part.

The human experience often involves periods of time when we sleep on the thorns while hoping for the petals. This shared experience binds us all together for better or worse, probably a dash of both.

Cheers!! Hears to the journey!! May it be long and filled with experience.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Rules! Pressure! and More Rules!

Well I've been told not to sound cliche, cheesy, or embarrass anyone. But I love all things French including fondue and naked push ups. And i enjoy Breaking rulesss/

Living with a perfectionist is like being the chief of staff for the President of the United States; let your collective minds wander. My wife is beautiful, brilliant, honest, and the best person that I know. There is a reason that I felt as though we were meant to be together even before we met, and will be together travelling into the great unknown; unless she runs me over with a car. The advice tonight that I will be applying is the "be brutally honest" part. So here it goes, here is my work day at a glance or glimmer, whatever you prefer.

I will use an analogy, subsequently, to explain a typical day in the life commuting to and teaching in Washington Heights, just north of Harlem, in NYC.

I was 10 years old and just got a new dirt bike, it was late spring or early summer, I don't remember which. It was the time of year when the sun rose early and was warm, an ahhhh satisfying warm, and the shade was a cool crisp mist, refreshing and reminiscent of a season past.

I was going to ride this new bike over every bump and ditch in a 2 mile radius as fast as my 10 year old body would take me; this was my aspiration for the day. I sat down on the stoop to tie my shoes glancing at the magnificent new vehicle: the rubber tires with the small rubber icicles still standing from each individual tread, the fresh smell of the grease on the chain, and the unscuffed profile. I was ready, hopeful, as excited as a ten year old boy could be.

My younger sister decided to tag along and followed me as I cut along the lawn at break-neck speed. As I approached the road, my first major test awaited, the shallow ditch before the hard surface; I would turn it into a jump, flying high and landing smoothly........

Over the handle bars, face and forearms meeting asphalt. A momentary slow motion where flesh and concrete were one. In that moment the road felt cold, hard. The moment stretched into the reality that it actually happened; yes, I crashed!

In those seconds after the crash, that time period when I realized that yes I was hurt and bleeding, but no I wasn't seriously injured, the moment balanced itself out. On my knees, assessing the damage, part of me was enveloped in the cool, damp shade and part of me was in the warm, comforting sun and each was reassuring. Each reminds me that the day is still young and will be long, that the scratches hurt, but will heal. I can't wait to see if the bike is ok and I can continue my expedition.

Next time I will open up the membrane and share some real experiences from the Heights with you, rather than stumble about in analogy and memory. I hated the pavement in the moment, but I treasure its memory now.