Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bless Me (A Parting Shot to 2008)

Or maybe I should say that I have been blessed. Not just by appreciative friends, but by the Big Kahuna, the Universe and Everything.

My life is largely perfect... it's true. I have a job (knock on wood) and I have multiple ways to get there (knock, knock). I am by and large healthy -- despite being somewhat large. I have a lovely all-white cat who puts up with me, even though I often don't want to play when she does, I never give her enough tuna, I won't let her outside, and I don't sleep when she wants to, thus negating the sleep-cuddle. It's actually a lot like having a girlfriend, except that there's no sex (wait, that's kinda like having a girlfriend) and I don't feel nearly as bad for ignoring her needs.

I have a home -- nicer than I should be paying for. I bring down the curb appeal value just by having all my shit in it. I spend more money than I make, which makes me a great American, propping up the economy with the dreams of money I might have. I am surrounded by great friends. People love me and I love them back.

What else could you ask for?

I mean realistically. Sure, I could have a partner or spouse, but being partnered isn't the end-all be-all... trust me I know. I know it's just as valid to go solo. In fact, it might a requirement for me. Successful, by many standards, what does a human then do?

That is the grace of our time, isn't it? We've mostly figured out the food, clothing and shelter part of existence -- at least we the privileged have. Now we can delve into the other parts of our psyche.

My boss has a new painting on his office wall. It was painted by an orangutan at the National Zoo, Bonnie. He said that there is a study about animals who paint. Apparently orangutans and elephants in particular have a penchant for painting. (Not cats, because the book "Why Cats Paint" was a joke I didn't get until years after selling it.) Not all elephants and orangutans want to paint. Only some.

One part of the study showed that once the animals were done, they were done. They'd just as soon eat the painting or use it to wipe their butts than to matte and frame it. So apparently there needs to be some sort of human intervention to rescue the artwork. Bonnie selects her own brushes and colors, although she's not using a canvas stretched over the a frame. Her work was in greens and purples, and involved some sort of folding over, along with detail work . Facinating.
So I ask him, my boss the I-O psychologist, does this mean that there is something natural, something inate about the "human" need to create art? And what I didn't ask him but also thought: is it the actual humans who have inserted their ego into what they create, so that they should want fame, glory, and adulation for their work?

Two months ago I didn't have this blog. I had, and that was it. Jahbear is a stripped down website, completely built by hand, by me. It is completely alterable. There is no template. It also takes me WAY longer to change and update, so that doesn't get done as much.

It was the extreme transformation that Facebook perpetrated on my life. Connecting me with people whom I had almost forgotten, Facebook has been a space-time vortex, sucking hours away from me with the vigor of a good video game. It's also made my affliction for the passive voice horrific. I try, I do, to pry myself away from it, to stop looking for the people that made my life possible through the formative years. I have learned to approach folks from high school slightly cautiously. Either I am much farther out than I used to be, or I just don't understand as well. People from college click with me quickly or not at all. I guess we've all learned what we want since then.

The other thing I got from Facebook: a muse. Part competition, part infatuation, I am compelled to write it all down, like never before. I've always been a jotter. Okay, not actually jotting it down, but in my head I'm writing all the time. I'm flipping out phrases and comparative statements like breathing in and out. Now, between the ease of updating and the desire to connect, I'm prolific. For a few weeks it was all I did. Literally. Especially over my vacation. Happy as a pig in mud, I've been rolling around in the twisted English of my friends and splurping out quips of my own. What would you call that? Verbal interaction in writing? It's lucious, that's all I know. I love it. It loves me back.

So... another skin is shed, another part of life begun. Where I used to count my years out in girlfriends, I'm now responsible for the meaning in my life. Just me. Free to be. It's a horrible responsibility, really. And yet... today, right now, I'm not afraid. That's about as good as it gets.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Great Ship

I can't imagine being on Noah's Ark. I read the exact dimensions every year, and I marvel at a G-d that understands the need for a multi-level, extra water-proofed vessel. I marvel at the direction communication that breaks down instructions like an IKEA manual.

I can imagine being on a giant ship... all of the people on it being subject to the same tides and waves. I imagine this great ship with all my friends, all the people I care about. Sometimes I'm right there next to them, as they're blowing chunks over the side of the boat. Sometimes they're in the front and I'm in the back and we're all being tossed around, just dealing with the deck furniture flying around.

I talk to my friends, all the time. I think that living alone may have exacerbated this situation. I know I used to do it before, sometimes actually speaking out loud, in a sudden burst of emotion and startling myself back to reality. When I was perpetually partnered, I would crave time alone just so I could have these sort of internal conversations (that occassionally crept external). Now I have the time I want, and I relish it. And, I talk outloud sometimes.

The perspective from the outside of my life looks way more fantastic than it is. I guess that's normal. What to me is wandering aimlessly on my Vespa is to someone else a mini-adventure. So what if I'm freezing or frustrated by my inability to get to class on time, I'm still cruising around on Awesome... and I'm free.

I am critical of my relative success. Watching and re-meeting my friends on Facebook makes me a little nutty about success. I want to be speaking Hebrew. I want to be beautifully, ridiculously skinny and gorgeous. I want to be nicer, and not scare people away with my fire. Calculations of my success look something like this: (workout*2) + martial arts(3-1) + late night eating+95% - no Hebrew*18 + socializing*1 + services*2 + purring cat. It really doesn't look that much worse from the inside... The truth is, my life is good. I've got money stress, and work stress, and I could use some physical affection, but I don't want to give up my life or my freedoms. The truth is, love and affection is too important to be tossing it around randomly around people I care about. Maybe this is why gay men just cruise and screw anonymously. I don't want to break anyone's heart, and I don't want to get involved. I just want to smell and kiss a beautiful woman. Periodically. Potentially randomly.

Maybe I could run into her on the lower deck, after the ship has stopped rolling around in the storm.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Wake up and purge

I was sound asleep until my stomach started to gurgle. It was sour as hell and waking me up. I could feel little furry feet pressed against my back and I blinked my eyes open. "Ergh, " I actually said out loud. I had to get up.

I chomped down two Super Extra Tums and I knew even then that those suckers were gonna come right back up. I drank some cold, clear water and waited about sixty seconds. Yup -- find a recepticle now, cuz here comes dinner.

Some people are barf-phobic. Thank G-d I'm not, or my whole life would be hell. Both of my parents like to tell stories of me as a kid, embarassing them in a restaurant by managing to nail our table and the next two with my impressive gastronic purging. Ibarf when I'm too nervous to deal with stress. Sometimes it comes on immediately, like an innocent witness reacting to nasty crime scene photos, and sometimes my stomach churns for hours until it decides on the grand finale. And that's just the emotional ralphing. I can't decide which this is, physical or emotional.

I was incredibly upbeat all day today. Even through two meetings with incessant technological problems, I was chipper and patient. Incredible. So it can't be that.

The building I live in is referred to by the owners association as a townhouse. It's a square brick building with four floors, and eight apartments. There are real working fireplaces in each apartment and folks have been having fires all night tonight. I can smell them from my place. There is a rich woody scent, like someone paid extra for some kind of balsam wood or something. Not your average fire, something fancy. Figures.

When I woke with my super sour stomach, I noticed that my apartment had a faint smokeyness all around. I wasn't sure at first if it was me without my glasses thinking it was foggy or what. So I wonder if the saturation of fireplace scents and smoke isn't making me a little ill.

Or maybe it was the homemade pot pie I had for dinner.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

management = parenting?

I gotta wonder.

I yell, I scream. I demand and I set timelines, deadlines. They look at me and blink, then talk about what to do. They know that I am demanding, and they do try... they try to meet my expectations. Exhausted and punchy later, I laugh at myself for being so keyed up. I am grateful for their efforts, and think they're doing okay.

Then it'll be a few days, maybe a week, maybe more... we'll be chugging along, doing things. Someone will start to come in really late, and say the same things over and over again at team meetings. I'll wonder what they're doing all day. I'll start sniffing around, getting overly involved in the details of their work, and they'll start to feel me getting prickly again. I yell, I scream.

Okay, honestly I don't really yell and scream. I do say things like "... and this is the last time I'll say it" and "I'm serious! This is your job!". I am insistent. I want good quality work from everyone. I insistent on at least the effort to attain that, even if the mark isn't reached. Evidence of effort is required. Except for when I get tired and distracted by my own work.

And right now, that's what's suffering. Haven't even touched those two sticky projects yet.

Ah... work. Love it. Hate it. Either way it keeps you out of the rain and fed. Now... stop piddling around and go back to work! Sheesh.


Ever had a heavy sense of dread, pulling your stomach down, making your butt all tingly and weighing down your insides? I've got that today, like a virus. It's probably related to my Happy Time of the month. Or maybe the impending holidays and my unwillingness to participate... except for sending happy shit to friends.

So I'm doing "non-work" things while multi-tasking mundane things. What I really need to do is focus on those two projects that are giving me ulcers.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


What a loaded topic. And, with the passage of time, an even more loaded one as my friends become mothers.

I struggle. I know my mother was not 100% evil, but the extent... the content... evilness was there. Not just the usual "mama don't understand me" crap. Not just "she didn't love me" or whatev'. No no. Seriously sick shit. That was the content. Part of it. Enough.

So... I struggle first with a basic precept I have sworn to myself and G-d to uphold: honoring one's parents. I give myself a pass with not saying anything, not going into details, not being outwardly, actively hateful. But the hatred is there, G-d help me. And deserved... and that's where the root is, making it hard to weed out.

I don't want to get into a contest, a whose-mama-is-worst contest. I don't even want to share stories really. I don't want your details and I don't want to give you mine. Not really. I replay them in my head enough as it is. I slash at the memories with an imaginary knife and muy thai moves I've never seen. I am the memory killer. Or so I try. If I could get numb enough, I might not have the memories. For years I tried to let them wash through me -- an emotional storm tearing through a wide flat landscape. I tried the Eastern religion trip... the life is suffering, so just expect less and you won't be pissed all the time trip. It works. Especially if you're in the running for the best doormat in town. At least that's how it worked out for me.

No the issue is and continues to be: when I put my wants into the equation, I can't balance for peace. If I put nothing into the equation, I can accomodate, duck, support, whatever. But when I show up, in all my glory and splendor....

I'm pissing on myself, of course. Already. Verbally, loquaciously and with every corner of my vocabulary I'll smack myself around. Makes it sound good. Makes it really important and very right. This is how it's done. Rise up, smack down. See? I do it to myself, I've been trained so well. THAT wins the "good job", the "nicely done"... not the effort to incorporate what I want into the grand equation of life.

Easier. Known.

Still not safe.

There is no peace here. I am frightened... out of my mind frightened. But I have to change. Now.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Destiny vs Free Will

One of the starkest differences between Orthodox and Reform Judiasm is the difference between believing that G-d has a plan and everything is predetermined, opposed to the idea that we all have free will, regardless. Now, I don't know if the Orthodox view also includes free will, and just deals with the tension between the two opposing options as part of the mystery of life or what. I do know that by and large Reform Jews don't believe in our lives as being predestined.

Rabbi Lustig retold an older story (imagine that) about a man -- Zussman, I think -- who upon entering heaven was asked why he was not more like Zussman. Not why was he not more like Jacob, or more like Moses. But why was he not more himself.

These actually are connected. If we believe that all is in the hands of G-d, then what will spur us to act? We must act. We must take action first, and then perhaps Divine intervention will take us the rest of the way... perhaps. We must be ourselves fully; to understand oneself, and allow all of it to become real, alive, full, vibrant. Each of us with our own gift, with our own uniqueness, has a responsibility to ourselves and everyone around us, to be ourselves. To be real.

I know, I'm spinning in circles. Hang in there with me. Think of the things you've done in your life. Think of what could've happened if you hadn't done some of those things. Sixty thousand dollars in debt, but two beautiful children. Increased rent and additional sneezing but a beautiful home and a loving, fuzzy cat. Hormone therapy and the horrible side-effects, but a child nonetheless. Money stress but the knowledge that studying continues, and the path shortens a step each day.

The future is wobbly and uncertain. We fear. Still, steps must be taken. Maybe believing it's all predestined makes it easier to step. Maybe wishing for a Big Papa in the Sky will ease our concerns, soothe our fears. It's hard to take the idea that we are all alone, whether we are childless or not, single or not, loneliness creeps in through the cracks. People pull us together, eventually. The magic of friendship and love connects us to a life line. And there we find G-d. Time passes, and a heavy heart becomes lighter. Crazy thoughts subside and clarity breezes into the brain. Everything changes: up and down. Rollercoaster rides are macrocosms of our internal self-sitting, how we view ourselves as we respond to the turning of time. Sometimes we steer, sometimes we just hang on for dear life.

At some point, though, you must try to steer. Overcome, overwhelmed, overtaxed, overburdened. Sure. And this too, like even happy times, will pass. Space to breathe? Time to think. Plan. Think. Act! If not now, when? The next time we can come up for air? Sure, except there's no itenerary for when that will happen again.

You know, I say these things, but there is nothing saying I can do it myself. I am coaching myself, as much as anyone, believe me. Myself, I get scared and I hide. Very good at hiding. I can duck and cover like no one else. And it's only me saying to myself: Get up! Get up! The sun in shining and you are alive and breathing. So many times -- how many times -- I thought that would not happen again. Amazing.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Finals, Fury, Fear

Okay, so I took my Hebrew final. I didn't do nearly as well as I wanted to. I've been trying to keep a stiff upper lip about it, but the truth is I'm pissed. I did well on the oral exam; she told me right away it was a 92. That's kinda low. I am hoping I got at least an 85 on the final. The vocabulary from the last two lessons just weren't totally in my head. Rocked the verbal part though... I guess I should be happy about that.

Okay, then there's the truck. The engine light has been on for months. Today, on the way to class it started to smell differently. On the way home the amber "check engine" flashed and the temperature gauge was all over the place... very low to mid-range, back and forth. That can't be good.

So I go home. I debate going out tonight, even though it's poker night. I debate going to martial arts class (and didn't go). I tried to pay my Verizon bill. For some reason, I'm $90 behind ever since I moved, even though it's in my automatic payments. So the phone doesn't work... thank G-d the Internet still does. I tried EIGHT times to try and pay it, both through their phone prompt system which rang busy all day today, and with their website. WHY must they make it so difficult? I don't think I paid it yet.

I was overcome with anger. Rage. Blinding. I screamed, deep, throaty, and wild. Scared the piss outta my cat. And I tried, really hard, to not want to break something, kick something, throw something. I bent my head, knuckles to the center of my forehead, motionless. Overwhelmed, I started to cry.

Been weepy ever since.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Bear and a Moose walk into a bar...

... and the Moose says to the Bear, "I don't think we've been here before."

It's just a bar, of course. We all know what a bar consists of, generally. Just like pretty much everyone knows what a Blog is these days. I've tried to do Blogs before... a craptastic one off of my website host, I think I've even had one on Blogger before. It also seems like all of my pals have been writing Blogs for years. They've all got months and months of old posts, and I feel like I could take a whole day just to read what they've been through.

Me, I've got Jahbear ( which I started in earnest right when I was leaving Heidi for Lauren. And then life got even more complicated than usual. But it's not a Blog so much as a light HTML sampling of color combinations and nifty images. I have complete control and as a result it's not the easiest thing to update.

So, as usual, I am one of the last to jump into the water. It's a Blog, just like other Blogs you know. But we (me, the Bear and you, the Moose) haven't been here before.

Wonder what's on tap?