Thursday, June 28, 2012

Are you a fraud?

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This is NOT my nightstand, but I wish it was...seems like fun.

I keep scrap paper and pens on my nightstand at all times. Quite often, as I'm trying to unwind my brain after a day, and go the f*ck to sleep, random thoughts get stuck or come up and I have to write them down. This either kills the thought, or reserves it for the next day when I can go back to it.

Today is squirrely. I woke up to a piece of paper with writing on it and I have no recollection of scribbling the words, at any point, all night long. Additionally, I misspelled a word in my sleep, and frankly, that's what I find most troubling. Here's what I wrote:
I look around and I see insecurity and weackness masquerading as self righteous indignation and so much puffery. 
There are a multitude of things running in my head lately, as usual. It's bothered me how vicious and "base" people got when Jerry Sandusky's verdict was delivered. It made me think of how awful and cruel our "justice" system is and how that man will be purged of his humanity in no time at all and how much the normally loving, caring and peace-minded people around me were frothing at the mouth while thinking up ways to torture and debase him even more. The stuff of cartoons...because taking a fundamentally sick person and shoving them into a cage where they get no help and no treatment is a great way to meet out justice. 

How could we be so horrified at children bullying a grandmother on a bus when in the same week we were devising ways to mutilate a sick man's body? Can anyone else out there see the hypocrisy in that?

It's been bugging me lately that we spend weeks and weeks praising old singers, once they've died, for the contributions they made but within moments forget that child trafficking is taking place all around us, in every town and city, all over the world. No doubt, there's zero fun to be had in the muck and mire of reality, so we choose to steer clear of it. 

Instead we focus on the fringes of our torn up garment. It's simpler to point a finger at the cloth and denigrate the maker of the thread, the sewer, the distributor. Who really ever wants to look right back at themselves and say, "Yeah, but I'm the idiot who BOUGHT it!"?  That's an uncomfortable thing to do at best and downright mortifying at worst. 

I'm insecure; HUGELY so. Every time I post one of these I think, "Well, this is it. Certainly there's nothing good left, because I am a fraud and eventually someone's going to figure that out." Every time I write anything, for anyone, that's what I think. It's what I think when I leave my house, dressed up for any function: I'm out of my element and someone's going to notice.

And I'm weak. I make mistakes over and over again, unable to learn the lesson until I'm black and blue from its message. Wrong choices seem absolutely correct until I stand back 3 inches and see that, clearly, they're not. But how often do I take time to stand back and evaluate my OWN choices, when that means I might see that some of them are wrong?

If a person admits they've made wrong choices, thought wrong thoughts, been closed-minded and all puffed up, what is that really saying? Do our insecurities and weaknesses allow for a moment that bare? Fundamentally, I don't believe there is weakness in taking honest looks and saying, "I was wrong." I think it takes a stronger person to reflect and be willing to see error than a self righteous puffball, bouncing around spewing their diatribes of derision.

Maybe I was talking to myself. Perhaps I am the self righteous one who needs to calm down and let go of the hot air. If that's case, well...crap. This whole post has been a waste and just proof that I'm a fraud with nothing left to offer. Let me stand back 3 inches and I'll let you know.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

He seems trustworthy enough
"No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody or something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest levels it grades into ennui, boredom."
― Vladimir Nabokov

Do you know what this feels like? I was stumbling around the interwebs, looking for the languages of the world which have words for "shades of love." In English (the only language worth speaking...DUH) we have one word for "love."  It's "love." We're practical and efficient that way. We love cheeseburgers and a joke as much we love our children and American Idol. It's all the same.

Other languages recognize the nuance of feelings that emanate from the chest and deep brain area, but we don't care about them. Love is love. 

Then there's "toska"....I LOVE this word: toska. I know this feeling, and it's expansive and huge. Nabokov's description is everything I've ever felt without a word to describe it.

I feel toksa like this: I'm homesick while I'm sitting in my own living room. I'm desperate for my love when he's right next to me. I'm filled with a vague melancholia and malaise, from which nothing can shake me. Never before could I say, "I feel toskish." (Full disclosure: I have no clue if I can currently actually SAY toskish, because that might not be a word, but I'm gonna start saying it anyway.)

So while I love people in all different ways (with passion, with deep attachment, with fury, with a lifelong commitment to what was, or with semantic appreciation and mental craving) I also love dessert, my children, one of my dogs and my phone...dear God, I love my phone. Now, however, I know how to describe the feelings I feel when I'm walking around and nothing is right. Where my woefully inept language (still number one though!) falls short, Russian really nails it. 

Good thing, too....I'm wildly popular in Russia.

Friday, June 15, 2012

My peaceful mind is freaking me out
This guy is probably brain dead.

So here's what's new and exciting in my world: Bikram Yoga. It's a whack-a-doodle sort of way to twist and turn your body into wonky positions for NINETY FULL MINUTES, in a room heated to roughly 4 degrees below whatever the sun's surface temperature is. 


Amazingly enough, if you can get over the fact that you might just die then and there of the heat, and you can then get past the fact that there is no earthly way for a human to do the things they're asking you to do with your body, a really marvelous thing happens. Your mind goes completely quiet. I'm not kidding; even the constant ringing in my ears disappears. There is NOTHING happening in the part of my brain usually reserved for the three-ring circus. 

Additionally, after only 5 classes, I can do some of the wonky positions! (I'm practically a professional by now, as I'm sure you've already gathered, and I expect that Bikram himself is going to be emailing me soon to ask me to lead some workshops.)
This is "Camel Pose." It makes you nauseous to do it.
Doesn't that sound fantastic?!?

But here's what freaks me out: a calm mind is super duper weird. My sleep is messed up (what's up with falling asleep right away and not lying there for 2 hours anymore?) my reactions are somewhat more subdued (why am I not losing my marbles and screaming at my delightful children?) and I am not at all comfortable with this surreal sense of well-being that seems to be infecting me. I'm telling you, it's messing with my whole system of existence.

I was perfectly happy to take my retinue of pills every day for all manner of maladies: pain pills for lower back excrutia, anti-anxieties for when the three-ring circus suddenly grows exponentially and takes up every corner of my brain, and fistfuls of ibuprofen because something, somewhere has a dull ache. These pills have just been sitting there, sadly, unused for over 2 weeks. I'm trying to be sad about that, but I'm too calm to care. 

Anyway, I'm not saying everyone should be over the moon about Bikram Yoga, because I like to be in classes where I don't know anyone. There's a whole wall of mirrors so you can watch yourself as you slowly turn into a puddle of water and compare how you're doing with those in the front row. (This part has the strange effect of turning this blissful experience into a competitive sort of thing...I WILL be as bendy as those jamokes.) You sweat like a competitive eater having his last hot dog right before he dies of a coronary, you fall out of poses in weird ways and your hair is a complete freak show by the time you're done. Of course, who cares? Because you're so blissed out from your calm mind the last 90 minutes, that as you walk to your car in your drippy wet, skin tight work-out clothes, with your hair looking a little like Eddie Murphy's Buckwheat, all you can think about is...nothing.
I bet he just did Bikram.

Try it out. If you've never had time where your mind has gone totally quiet, I highly recommend finding a way to do it. Your pills won't thank you for it, and neither will your late-night friends on Facebook, but you will. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

The perfect cliche

It's so strange sometimes how a very random string of events can lead you to a path you didn't see. Wtf am I talking about?

I got this from Pinterest. It orginated

This morning, I saw this picture. It's funny to me for the obvious reason..the one that makes it funny to EVERYONE. But then I realized that it could realistically be any number of my father's cousins. Truly. That could well be my 2nd or 3rd cousin...the world is really much smaller than we think and once a picture is shared electronically, you have no clue where it's going to land. I have some close experience with THAT one this week. (Amanda....) 

Anyway, back to the picture. I stole it, shared it, and it sparked a smallish conversation with a friend. Now I'm sharing it again because the conversation made me pretty nostalgic for a family intimately mine, but very far away and not intimately known. What's so great about my family is that we don't need to be intimately known to one another to be intimately each other's...and that's something cultural, I believe. 

Italians are a lot of things: loud (this is the first, most obvious, and always most important), obnoxious, opinionated, extremely talkative, secretive, suspicious, ravenous, passionate. You name it, Italians got it. Ten to one, the sins of gluttony and covetry are Divine nods to the boot on the map. But where we have it right on the money is in our idea of kinship.

I met portions of my Italian family on a trip there over 11 years ago. I sat at kitchen tables sharing wine made of leftovers from bottles so long gone, who even knows what we were drinking? ("Does it taste good?" Yes. "Then it's good wine, that's what kind.") We ate simple, clean and perfect food, cooked by hand for us. And we ate it, and ate it and ate it. And then when there were only four bites left, we ate those too, because no one denies the geriatric hostess when she comments, "it would be such a shame, such a shame, to leave just that."

Uncle Talino and Aunt Giuliana, who gave me two afternoons in sweet familiarity, have died now; those two afternoons are all I have and all that I'll ever be getting. But here's the thing: that was the end of our long relationship, not the beginning. I didn't walk into their home as a stranger. I was their niece from the start, and despite never having been together and the barrier of language, I was their intimate family the moment our plane landed, the moment we decided to take the trip...indeed the familial bond was forged in steel the moment I was born, whether they ever met me or not. In MY family, family is family. Because it's family. It's Italian (and I'm sure other cultures share this, but I'm still an American, so I don't have to concern myself with anything other than what I feel like).

So here I am immersed in my memories of 3 hour dinners at Nonna's table, my Nonno roasting the coffee beans on the stove top and grinding them by hand while they were still warm, my uncle winking at me as we conspired to make my Dad mental by ribbing him and picking at his every word and nuance...being four years old and told no by my mother, but then turning around to find that Nonna was sneaking me the sugar cube I so desperately wanted. 

Everyone talked at one time, and we were having 13 different conversations, feeling free to jump from one to the next randomly (think AOL chat room, IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, in real life), feeling like a powder keg was about to blow and then realizing it was dad telling a joke. I remember my Grandpa looking down at his plate, nearly in tears, and lamenting, "This chicken was old when it was killed, I can tell by how it tastes..." and then slowly, ever so slowly, looking at my Grandma to be sure she wasn't holding the butcher knife in her hand, poised to murder the old man. Wine bottles, plates of meat and cheese, heaping bowls of pasta and loaves of bread. The cliches are all true, I swear to you. 

The picture above is a cliche, a joke and dead honest truth. That right there is my family. And man alive, the bitches do love wine.