Friday, January 30, 2009


I officially can't take it. Officially.

There have been two deaths in the HumRRO family this week, one an employee, the other the father of an employee and a friend. I don't know if my friend expected her father to die. I know he had been ill. The employee who passed was in a hospice situation, otherwise known as waiting for death. And while not surprizing, the loss of life is still a shock to my psyche.

So I'll be starting off Superbowl Sunday with a funeral. One more reason to go to someone's house for the game... make myself be social. Make myself sit next to someone. Force small talk. Force myself not to weep.

Then I read a blog post of someone dear to my heart, and like the little stinker writer she is, she pokes her finger into my softest spot and relays her results like a champ: "A love that can stand up straight, won’t bump its head on conditions, run into glass walls. A love that won’t drown in miscommunication, in things left unsaid. A love that can handle a good fight, a love that realizes fighting for each other is the best kind of fighting, even if things get messy now or then, even if it seems too late in the game."

And that just does it. That's it for me. Sanity, signing off.

Can't take it. Can't take the idea that it's my own effing conditions, it's my own freaking glass walls... me me me, my stopping myself, me taking down the possibilities and sorting them into all the ways it'll go wrong. All the while it's still me looking into faces and asking is it you? Can you hear me? Do you understand me? Is anybody out there?

I'm pretty sure I'm not.

I'm curled in a ball in my bed, sobbing until I can't breathe, wracking my brain for a way out of this downward spiral. I'm scaring the cat.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Distinct Pulling, East to West

First let me say: all praise due Facebook! Facebook has given me cherished souls that were long lost to me. Facebook has uncovered personalities previously missed. It has hooked my heart and at least one quarter of my productive time at work. Praise be.

Okay, next, due to the amazing powers of Facebook, I have reconnected with the complex and dangerous minds that probably saved me during high school. And here's a link one of them gave me:

I've heard from other friends too, about this Eastern concept of expecting less, or having no expectations. They're not entirely the same topic... the link talks about not giving in to the desire to "be somebody", as in the guise of wanting to become famous, I suppose. Although I suspect that if you expect less, you won't become famous.

I wonder if the Eastern flavor of lesser expectations and unplugging wants is the 21st Century way of alieviating our psychic stress. In the Middle Ages the people were promised a glorious afterlife, and that seemed to do the trick, right? The concept has lasted us until today, where some still cling to it. Maybe the Thinking Man's Heaven is a dismembered spirit, where one's inherent instincts are denied. If you're a monk you might even practice with things like hunger, pain, cold or needing to pee. But what we really want is relief from our complex instincts: our need to achieve, to feel like we contribute, to feel real (whatever that means to us).

No, I disagree with the Eastern perspective. I understand it provides relief... even if we can't unplug our desires, we can at least point to them and say THAT'S the problem and focus on that. Problem is, those feelings, those desires, those emotions are still part of us. Denying them, suppressing them is just temporary, for they will surely grow back like weeds. Maybe, like unwanted hair removed by waxing, if we just keep after it, they'll grow back less and less, thinner and thinner, until we just don't notice them at all.

And then?

Would we be a nice, compliant, vegetable of a person? Would we be devoid of passion? Is life without passion life at all?

I know I'm something of a hedonist, but I can't imagine it. Even though I seriously torture myself by giving my heart away or pining for what could never be, I would rather -- G-d help me -- I would rather weep and pine than know that my heart is so hard that it can't feel at all.

The Rabbis say that within each of us is both the yetzer hara, the evil inclination, and the inclination to be good, yetzer hatov. Both exist within us, regardless of wisdom or age. The ability to master them, however, is the variable. Still yetzer hara provides us with the motivation to DO things: build a house, achieve in business, etc. Yetzer hara is the inclincation for competition, and it spurs us on. It is not entirely evil, it is just ... self-centered.(Genesis Rabbah 9:7) Rabbi Joseph Telushkin even says, in Jewish Literacy: "A rich person, for example, might have an overwhelming desire to be famous. Let him fulfill that potentially ignoble desire through tzedaka (charity); that way his name will be known because it is engraved on the wing of a hospital, or a college library, or a Jewish day school. These sorts of activities would clearly fulfill another rabbinic teaching, that people should worship God with both their yetzer ha-tov and yetzer ha-ra." The Reform Jewish (and other Jewish strains too, I reckon) belief is that we do have free will. And with that free will, we can choose how to deal with our desires.

Much like I don't believe taking sex out of one's life has made Catholic priests any more G-dlike, I don't believe taking our emotions, wants or needs out of our everyday life will bring us any more happiness. It's just avoiding the issue that we must choose. We must wrestle with ourselves.

The technique could be used as an analgesic, I'm sure. And to be sure, I'm using it now to stave off the PMS-blamed rollercoaster I just got on. You know, I've been sick for days. It makes me cranky and I've started yelling at motorists more. I yell and then I think, shit Shel, you just don't feel good. Take it easy. I can spend three-quarters of a lovely Sunday farting around the house, taking pictures of pancakes and videos of myself acting the fool. But one quarter could still be spent in internal wailing: why not me? why alone? why now? why this?

Peering through welling eyes, the screen going diagonal through the teary prism, I take a deep breath and try to unplug my feelings. They'll come back. But until they come back a little happier, I'm going to breathe, and wish them away. I'll wish my brain into interest about something else. Dive into Hebrew. Hide my head in dry governmental documentation. Go through the motions. Am I living? Am I breathing? Am I feeling?

Sort of. Yes. Soon.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I often tell people that the religion I was raised with was astrology. My mother was always one-foot-out-the-door of whatever religion she was trying on at the time, and facing the old stand-by of astrology. Church of Christ... Mercury in retrograde... Methodist... Venus trine Mars... Unitarian... double shot of Taurus with an Aries ascendent. Astrology was the only real consistency. That and her Edgar Cayce stuff.

So I know what my chart says, mostly. I get it re-plotted every so often and take a look at it, and try to pull real meaning out of a computer generated reading. I ran my numbers again yesterday and read my chart and the associated break down. And I realized, I'm older now than the last time I read this. I've tried to fix some stuff. And occassionally something surprizes me.

"You are a doer and thrive on freedom, challenge, and activity." I never FELT this so strongly before, probably because I was always working within the confines of a relationship. Yes, I must have my freedom. And if you don't give it to me, I will take it. I am a thief at heart, just trying to do right.

"You have three major faults: one is your bullheaded obstinacy. The second is your unwillingness to deviate from your safe, predictable routine. And the third is your tendency to always insist upon realism and undervalue the imaginative, speculative, and fanciful - in other words, you lack the ability to play with ideas and possibilities, to open your mind to the new." Okay, I can't really get rid of the first, just try to be aware. I actively battle against the 2nd. The third fault is susceptible to time and the swinging pendulum of my mind.

"The unusual and unorthodox appeal to you, and you do not allow tradition, convention, or other people's expectations to dictate how you are going to live your life." Amen.

"A great deal of physical affection, closeness, and touching is essential to your well-being, and you have a tendency to overindulge in sensual comforts and pleasures. At times you substitute food for emotional comfort and love." Mmmmhmmm. Pet me please. It will make me skinny.

The computerized astrologer is also often contradictory. It tells me that I'm at once gentle and aggressive, self-serving and extremely giving, and on and on. I consider these to be areas that I've worked on, or continue to work on. It also tells me that I tend to be a loner and yet "you tend to feel lonely, even when you are in the company of others." What to do with that?

"You like to be original and do not mind going it alone. You may feel that you do not fit into groups very well, and that you do not naturally blend in and cooperate with others very easily. You like to be either a leader or a loner."

Ah, lonely loner, where are you going?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Shelly is observing her body shrink in stages.

Shelly is observing her body shrink in stages.

It's freaking me out more than it should be.

My estranged wife weighed over 300 pounds when I married her on October 31st, 2003. She was less than that when we met, but over the course of our relationship she discovered she was diabetic and had been on insulin injections for a while. Apparently insulin, given to type two diabetics who are usually overweight, causes serious weight gain. (And with this information I wonder if there isn’t a reason to merge lawyers and doctors so that folks can get some satisfaction from the struggle between meds and the damage they do.)

She had gastric by-pass surgery, although in which year following 2003 I can’t be sure. Life during that time is a blur for me. She did have the surgery, and with some post-operative complications, she came out fine. She began to lose weight radically quickly. It would go in stages: First her flub, as it was, would get soft. The once firmly fat parts got a little squishy, lose about the skin. The skin puckered and wondered where its friend went, I’m sure. Then the skin would respond, and shrink to fit. Now for her, she was losing weight faster than her skin could respond, leaving her with baggy thighs and an oddly deflated stomach. She began to talk about surgery to fix all that, dollar signs flashing in her eyes and falling out of her mouth.

I left her at the end of 2006, the same year my Jewish conversion was completed. They are connected, but that’s a different story. The real connective tissue there, however, is that I felt finally that I had a responsibility to take care of myself. I probably weighed 255 or there about when we split. Maybe more. That’s a lot on this 5’2” frame, for sure, even if some of that is heavy, dense muscle, as I often interject when talking about my weight. Today, I’m at 230-something, which is something. It’s shocking every time I see it, especially because I’m so used to the 250-something range. Twenty pounds ain’t much, I know. Realistically I’d like to lose fifty more, and then see where I’m at. I dread putting all this information in writing because I feel it might make me somehow stop losing weight. I might jinx myself entirely.

Right now, however, in direct opposition to the jinx, is reality: my softening thighs and gut. I poke at them gingerly, wondering if what I’m seeing is real. There is an incredible pain going from my inner left thigh down to my knee. After considering it for a moment I recognize this as a muscle that hasn’t been used properly in over twenty years. Welcome, I think, and get busy, I’m gonna need you.

So, the question typically is “What are you doing to lose weight?” This question can probably be asked of well over half of Americans, and everyone will have some sort of answer. Here’s what I’m doing: not eating after 9 PM. That’s mostly it. I’m exercising, as I need to for all other kinds of reasons, mostly bodily health and flexibility. I go to martial arts class three times a week, and I hit the elliptical machine in the apartment complex’s gym whenever I can. But mostly, I make myself deal with the hunger pains and munchies from late night until early morning. I keep telling myself that if I’m up at 6 AM (or 5, say) then I will gladly roll into IHoP and down a stack of pancakes, hash browns, a mess of eggs and turkey sausage (keep the defib paddles handy). But if I can deal with being hungry at night, I just might slay this dragon.

Then I just need to deal with my head, and the loss of my protective outer covering. If I can’t hide, then I’d better be strong.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


I figure that I'm about 98% gay.

That leaves 2% of room for my very loud and obnoxious ovaries to smack me around about the potential for sperm donors in every moderately good looking man that crosses my path. I understand, the ovaries are just trying to do their job and procreate. I get it. I just don't want it.

I'm quite happy with the idea that the gene pool of at least one side of my family will not propogate. I'd be more than happy to raise and live with someone else's womb-fruit, should I be called upon to do so. But without divine intervention, that doesn't seem particularly likely. And so the ovaries scream. Just like they're doing right now.

I drove through the Taco Bell drive through the other night and nearly hit on the dude with the earphone and mic set on. He was way too cute to be handing out hot sauce through a freezing cold sliding window and I nearly told him so. Why am I not so nearly bold with women? Is it really just the fact that I probably popped an egg while ordering my pintos and cheese?

Who knows. I tried to be straight in junior high, once, and that went horribly after I stuck my tongue in his mouth and he screamed like a sissy-boy. Of course, he *was* a sissy boy. And then there was the guy in Germany. Again, another tragic pairing of two clearly gay people trying just one more time and with plenty of liquid courage. At least he and I stayed friends.

No, now I find myself staring at one particular martial arts instructor and his rippling forearms. I'm sure it's the lesbian in me drooling over his powerful hands, but there is something about this guy that makes me wonder how wiley that 2% might be.

Friday, January 16, 2009

“… and they were disgusted because of the Children of Israel.” 1:12 Exodus (Shemot)

“… and they were disgusted because of the Children of Israel.” 1:12 Exodus (Shemot)

I read this and instantly began to cry. I mean, I know I’m premenstrual. Knowing doesn’t always help, however. And it’s not necessarily always the culprit… it could just happen to coincide with something else awful. Of course, it could just be PMS.

But here’s what I was thinking, as I was crying: Why? Why were the Egyptians disgusted? Was there some new story about someone’s daughter being raped or a botched wedding plan with a stand-in bride? Did the Israelites piss someone off? Or was it really just the fact that they grew, they multiplied, and would not be kept small?

My hormone induced mind does what most women’s does, I think, and it began to draw connections.

Isn’t this related to the issues currently in the Gaza Strip and Israel? Bad blood, for unclear reasons. Factions on both sides wish the others would just go away. And what do the ones in power do?

“The Egyptians enslaved the Children of Israel with crushing labor. They embittered their lives with hard work, with mortar and with bricks….” (And suddenly I have a taste for charoset.)

I’ve been talking with a lot of different people about the recently violence in Gaza and Israel. (I say them separately like a wish: May we each have a home.) My personal Middle East peace plan requires Israel to develop, support and care for the ones lofting rockets and missiles at them. We can’t pretend we’re not related. We’re family, like it or not. Whether you think we’re all descendants of Abraham or you think we’re all human beings, we’re family. And we have responsibilities to each other. We are not separate, two distinct peoples fighting without history and without bonds. Mother – child or warring cousins, I don’t know. I dare say the power dynamic will shift and change between many relationship paradigms. It all depends on who has the power. And right now, I believe the power is in Israel’s hands, really. And I believe that to retain that power – as I wish Israel would – then Israel must wield it wisely. And to be honest, I’m not old enough to know if it’s being wise or not, but I sense it’s becoming not so brilliant.

But I digress. Back to more fascinating topics, such as “How is it that someone could not like me?” Which is where my mind went next, when it turned back to the essential phrase “they were disgusted.” I’ve been in that position, personally. Young, too young to confront the disgust of someone I was supposed to trust, to rely on. Vicious, twisted and angry is the action from a disgusted position of power. Another’s will inflicted upon you, just to watch you writhe. Why? What did I do, except exist?

Were the Egyptians somehow insecure about themselves? About their standing? Maybe their philosophy was at stake, and watching the vast hordes of reproducing Israelites freaked them out. Like some white people I know when they talk about how there will be more Spanish-speaking people in the US after so many years and such and such. Their eyes get wide as saucers and they clutch their alligator logos. “And most of them are Catholics.” Shocking.

Rashi references the rabbis that came before him, saying that they believed the word for disgust, ya-ku-tzu, come from the word for thorn, kutz, indicating that they were a thorn in the Egyptian’s eyes. (I think we say “thorn in the side” now, but Rashi’s from 12th century France, what does he know?)

And what do you do when you find yourself in the role of thorn?

Yep, I cried. I wailed and cried. I covered my face and my nose knotted up and my tongue folded in and I cried and cried until I coughed for air.

How? How do you make yourself so small that you don't hurt others? And should you?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Time is a Fantasy

How quickly I go back to the groove I was in before. Still, I might complain about how constricting it is, even if it is all self-imposed and also good for me. That's probably the problem, that it's good for me, and therefore takes time away from things like skipping around on Facebook or watching T.V. or something equally time-sucking.

Time is a figment of our imagination. I'm pretty sure of it. Mostly because it starts and stops, slows down and then goes whizzing by and we suddenly feel like we need a Day-Runner in quarter-hour increments but WHEN will we find the time to fill it out?

I would LOVE to be able to slow down time and speed it up at will. Then I could've spent what would feel like days in each stop of my recent roadtrip. A few hours, somewhere between 17 and 23 hours, I spent at three different locations. I drove over 1400 miles in total. I spent a grand total of 24 hours on the road driving. Not too shabby. I drove through rain and leftover snowfall. G-d bless the Yankees who know how to (a) clear the roads and (b) drive in it.

Sheri I saw first, a high school friend who has grown a family since the last time I saw her. When was that? 96? That was a while ago. Her hubby was sweet and her two boys sociable and good natured. I only had to watch one play video games for a little while, and later distracted him with juggling. He also taught me a simple game that kept both of us busy for a while: guess the number in my head. It was really a negotiation of rules for the game, which was interesting in itself. Smart guy. Dinner was delish! The image of Sheri cooking was wacky for me, but she was totally at home with that roasted bird. Yum.

Roads here were pretty good, except for that moment when I tried to turn around in a residential and slightly icy driveway. I learned that my rental car was a front-wheel drive. That's good, I thought, rocking back and forth and spinning my wheels until they found pavement.

Lisa B. and Jenn are both from college. That's stop number 2 and 3, respectively.

Lisa B. and I did what seems like a lot of driving together during my college years, as well as holidays spent together. Felt a lot like visting family after not being in touch for a long time. It is wacky how easily and quickly that comfortable feeling comes back. Even with the passage of time and a lot of unknown history, having that past-past connection gives a certain grounding. I met the dog, and that was cool, having had a poodle before myself (tho not one of the giant ones).

After a lovely evening of football -- we watched a game and a half -- we retired happily. Snow fell that night. In the morning, after toast, eggs and tea, we played in the snow for a while. I drove away moments later, swerving boldly on packed snow. WHOO HOO!

Now that drive was more fun. Slow slow going down Route 7, sliding down the Vermont landscape, with beautiful visions on either side. The snow wasn't falling. But the trucks were rolling, and the sun was melting it a little, enough to spatter my windshield and for me to burn through my wiper fluid before arriving at my next destination.

Jenn and I knew each other in college. We bumped into each other at off-campus dinners and on the pages of the Scarlet and Black. Figures we'd bump into each other in Facebook and continue our ourpouring verbiage. So if it's possible to have an old-new friend, that's what I've got. Most excellent!

I've been hearing about "foodies" for so long... I've decided that I'm a "wordie" and it's nice to find others whose word-knitting. Jenn's basically famous, in a nascent kind of way, through her blog Breed 'Em and Weep. By nascent I mean a shitload of people read her blog. And by shitload I mean nearly four figures worth of unique visitors a month. Pretty effing impressive. My Jahbear site probably gets ten total visitors a month, and that's me hitting it twice from two locations. My corporate site doesn't get that much traffic. Did I mention she's basically famous? Anyway.... Activities with the offspring consisted of trying to get foam animals in gel capsules to be freed, attempts at belching the A-B-C's and doing some fashion consulting. Her girls are fantastically brilliant and adorable. Figures.

So... now it's back to martial arts twice or three times a week, Hebrew twice, and more than 40 hours of work a week. Squeeze in some writing, and a healthy amount of Facebooking. That's pretty much my life. Maybe that means I don't have to update my FB status any more. Except for when I go to Minneapolis to that Hum-Office and to visit with other awesome college friends and cool bloggers.

Yeah, I'm so constricted. Puh-lease. Life is good... don't let me convince you otherwise.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Refusing to settle for less, the Bear steps into the fray.

I’m resisting the urge to update my Facebook status.

Shelly is resisting the urge to update her Facebook status. Shelly is happy that she finally got the BCS Championship Bowl on the T.V. She was about to cry. Seriously.

Shelly is getting a little worked up about her trip. Nervous? Nervous? Hells yeah! People I haven’t seen in over ten years. Three different people. Three different GROUPS of people. What the hell am I thinking? That I am Superman. I am intrepid Shelby T., fighter of injustice, teller of things what to do, driver of the night roads. Smartypants Extraordinaire.

Shelly’s converting anxiety into excitement. And really, it’s not hard. I WANT to see these people. I’m thrilled, that at the last minute, and quite unexpectedly, each one has invited me into her home.

Shelly is laughing at the Tostitos commercial. The dude is lost in thought in the chip aisle. He must be high.

Everything I touch rattles. Things that shouldn’t rattle. The T.V. in the hotel room is buzzing unnaturally, like some tube inside is loose. Yes, it’s a gi-normous cathode tube T.V., or whatever. The laptop I’m using makes noise. I’ve already discussed replacing the hard drive. It’ll have to happen. The rental car has lit the low tire-air light, a menacing orange tire with exaggerated tread and flattening sides. The engine sounds suspiciously a lot like the busted engine of my Rover that I left at home.

I don’t really expect everything to work perfectly. So what is this telling me? (I decided long ago that the world creates it’s own poetry, telling us subtly and some times not so subtly what’s what.) That if my expectations are low then that’s what I’ll get? Settling for less means getting less? How then to compete for better, without being a bitch?

Shelly gave in to the urge to change her Facebook status.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Splorf Goes the Willpower

Splorf: (v., adv.) 1. a gelatinous movement, an oozing 2. one way to move a piece in Andy's Secret Project PD-09 3. a completely made up word, propagated by silly bears.

Splorf goes the diet. The diet only consisted of a) not eating crappy food and b) not eating before bed. Something about the end of the year, the excessive partying, or simply my own lack of will has led me to break both rules. Late late, too late last night, with one stiff martini in me, I drove up to the 24-hour McDonald's. It's been a LONG time since I had a Big Mac, and MAN that shit was good. What do they put in there? It's ridiculous, really, how they have me by the short hairs.

So I'm trying not to totally crucify myself about it, while also not completely letting myself off the hook. Great mental exercise. I err on the side of "whatev'." Not good.

I was just getting moving, really, on the whole "know the body" routine. I'm still on the edge of the zone. I can feel my legs rebel when I sit in this one position on the sofa for too long... the one I'm in right now, tippy-typing away. But I'm also cramping in my calves and in my feet. I haven't gone to the gym as often as I should have. I've been slacking, sitting at home on the sofa, eating cheese (as Grandmaster says). I've been watching T.V., being bored, being comfortably numb.

The upside of my late night escapades last night was going to the 24-hour Giant to buy groceries. Just a little food in the house makes a compelling argument for not ordering delivery Chinese. (The delivery food is always a little bit of a let down, too. Strange that. It used to make me so happy.) So I got some chicken breasts... and I caved and got a 12 pack of Coke Zero. Bad. But no doughnuts. Good! No ice cream. Very good.

Gotta get my head back into the zone. Remember WHY. Yes, why. Why bother trying? Not just for the annoyance of baggy underpants. Not just for the benefit of fitting into the skinny clothes again. Because I DESERVE it. I deserve to have an excellent body, taking me around in this lifetime. I should take care of it, try to keep it running. Ease the stress on it. Love it.