donnie darko & frank get freaky

Look how happy this guy is!Have you ever noticed how happy people look when they run for the bus and catch it? I myself feel absolutely elated when this happens. I’ve come up with a few ideas why.

Clearly, other passengers who run for the bus must feel similar feelings, or else why would they always smile when they make it?

This blog, 1000 awesome things, list some other thoughts on this topic.

So, if any of my two readers care to share their ideas on why running for the bus rules so much, please do so.

In the past week, I was involved with two incidents of significance. One was that I severely sprained my foot. Another was that some no-good thief stole my 81-year-old mom’s wallet. These incidents have no obvious relation, but I saw an amazing similarity in people’s responses to them.

When I sprained my foot, I was jumping down from an acrobatic move and somehow missed the ball of my foot and instead landed on the side. There was a loud, disturbing crunching sound so I assumed it could be broken. After about 15 minutes of trying to assess what was going on, it seemed I’d better go to the dreaded emergency room.

I was in class with K and W, and being coached by S. Immediately everyone felt guilty and try to take the blame for what had happened. K kept trying to talk through what we had done to figure out where things had gone wrong. S said he had not been paying close enough attention to my energy level (or lack thereof). But I said repeatedly, and truly believe, it wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was just an accident.

When my Mom’s wallet was stolen, we were having dinner in a restaurant with K and HWC. There was a weird guy sitting at the table behind my Mom. I thought he was mentally ill as he was pretending to talk into a cell phone and kept looking over at me. Then HWC went to the bathroom and K and I looked away, and the guy and my Mom’s wallet was gone. We didn’t know my Mom had her purse on the ground; the guy had just reached in a grabbed it.

Immediately everyone started blaming themselves for this mishap. Everyone felt they had blown it and the crime was their fault. Including me. My Mom wouldn’t stop calling herself “stupid” and “idiot” for hours until I made her take a deep breath and repeat after me “It wasn’t my fault. I am not to blame.” Everyone took their turn saying how they had failed, including HWC who somehow failed just because he went to the bathroom.

I wonder what is it in our culture that makes good-hearted people act this way? What is it that teaches us to start insulting ourselves when something goes wrong? We clearly think we should always be in control, always be alert, and never make mistakes. It’s an unrealistic expectation, and no good comes from the self-blaming. In reality, it just drains our energy and nothing more.

I wonder how much this happens in other parts in the world. I wonder how much is human nature and how much is culture. There’s this little blurb in Wikipedia, which indicates it’s cultural, but clearly more reading would be needed.

Thankfully, my foot is just sprained and not broken. And thankfully, no one actually harmed my Mom. I’m sure to injure myself again in acrobatic class, it’s something that just happens sooner or latter. None of us will be caught off guard by a similar thief in the future, and the amazing thing is that none of us had had any experience with a similar crime even though we had 267 years of human experience between us when it occurred.

Hopefully we can just move on from misguided shame.

(Based on an arbitrary experience)

The Fountain of Youth by Lucas CranachThe other evening I was helping another developer with with some client training, or should I say, trying to help another developer. The client was ornery and obstinate, make the training a long, painful experience. We spent 2 1/2 hours for what was scheduled to be an hour meeting. My colleague and I were in one room, and the client was in another city, and fortunately we weren’t streaming video because at some point all my colleague could do was shake his head. He could not even speak for about the last 20 minutes.

I was feeling okay about the whole thing until about five minutes after my colleague was rendered mute, the client had the chutzpah to ask, “What do I need this for anyway?” Really? The functionality you paid us to set up, and then stole 150 precious minutes of our lives for, you no longer see the point of it? AAAIIIEEEE noooOOOOOO! Thank god we had started drinking beer after the first hour and a half. Let me tell you, I have never NEVER drank alcohol while working, but it was desperate times. And that beer probably is why I could make it as long as I did.

Somehow we ended the dreaded call, and my colleague offered me drinks and dinner to make up for this fiasco (it was his client, after all). I did not refuse.

I’m sure I’ve written somewhere else on this site about what a spindly lightweight I am when it comes to alcohol consumption. I think I also mentioned in Adventures in Blandyland that I couldn’t drink. I can drink now. Yes, it is a glorious thing to enjoy happy hour on a Friday afternoon, which I now do every week. Because when I drink, even one drink, I quickly think that everything is wonderful. Drinking focuses my attention on the present more than any meditation technique; I don’t worry about consequences because all there is, is NOW.

So, as my colleague J and I vented about the client over some nice vietnamese noodle dish, I got pleasantly soused, and it was during this time he convinced me to play a board game with him and some friends who were stopping by his office for this very purpose.

Here’s where things could have gotten a bit ridiculous. First of all, I hate board games. I see no point in them. If you’re in a room of people, why don’t you just talk for the love of god? Why do you have to do these twiddley pointless actions, with endless trivial rules? I didn’t say all that to J, I just said I tended not to like board games and hadn’t played one in decades.

Secondly, I’m a misanthrope, so the likelihood that I would like his friends was negligible.

Lastly, it was nine fucking o’clock on a weeknight and I am usually in bed by ten, so this meant I’d be staying up late for no damn reason.

Ah, but alcohol solves everything! I gleefully said yes.

J spent a good 20 minutes explaining the rules to the game. It was very complicated. I thought, what the fuck did I get myself into? I’ll never see my bed again. My soft, fluffy bed that I love so much.

His friends showed up, a gal and a guy. The gal was already clearly stoned. Very, very stoned. But if you’re stoned out of your gourd on a weeknight and you’re around 30 years old, that doesn’t mean you’re a drug addict like it probably does if you’re 50. We started to play the game. We joked around and teased each other. I thought, can these people not see how old I am? I am CLEARLY much older than them. Then I remember: some young people don’t give a crap about age. Their youth was much more noticeable to me than my age to them. They really didn’t care. And then I didn’t care. And then I forgot about my goddamn age. The drinking helped. I forgot about my age. For a brief moment in time, I thought I was 30 too.

At some point, the gal started smoking hash. She passed the pipe around. How I wish I liked hash, because I cannot remember I even had an opportunity to smoke it. More amazing to me was that she brought out the pipe with no self-consciousness. It was the most ordinary thing in the world to her, this notable event for me. The lack of self-consciousness permeated these people. They were not weighed down with responsibilities. Nothing was too serious — not their jobs, not their relationships. Their future was still a vast, optimistic playground. I remembered these feelings, and at that moment they didn’t seem that far in the past. These feelings were suddenly intensely familiar.

The game went on for hours, and I did start getting tired, but it would have been very poor form to leave before the end. I stayed on and by the time I got home it was midnight. Like Cinderella, the spell was broken. I was no longer young. I saw my exhausted, wrinkled face in the mirror. I worried about being tired at my job the next day.

Somehow the magic continued: I didn’t feel tired at work the next day. I felt fine.

Every year, when the Jewish High Holidays roll around, I’m in a pickle. I don’t believe in god but I want to sing the old prayers because I love the way they sound. I want to be in a room full of my people even though I can’t relate to half of them and the other half irritate the hell out of me (Yes, the ones that irritate me are the ones that I can relate to. Of course.) Some years I spend Rosh Hashanah in nature; some years I blow off Yom Kippur; some years I go to synagogue and find it meaningless and tedious. I’ve been in a no-win situation with this one for years.

This year I thought I’d go to shul with a friend for Yom Kippur(really she’s K’s friend), but this year she decided to do the Yom Kippur in nature, much like I had just done for Rosh Hashanah. I thought, figures, when I decide to give a new synagogue a try, the person I thought would take me isn’t going. So it was almost Kol Nidre and I had no plan for the holiday.

One thing I wanted to do, oddly enough, is try fasting again. I haven’t fasted in many years due to migraines at first, then because it seemed meaningless. Mysteriously, I had a renewed interest in this. I started remembering how in the afternoon of Yom Kippur I used to get a floating, other worldly feeling. This feeling would lead me to thoughts that maybe time didn’t exist. This was way prior to current new physics theories saying as much. It’s just that that feeling on Yom Kippur afternoon was so unique and distinct, it seemed like all Yom Kippurs were the same day. This is what I wanted to re-experience.

I didn’t intend to fast to the afternoon this year. I figured I’d try to just fast to lunch. It’s been at least a decade, and I wanted to test the migraine-infested waters first. I haven’t had a migraine for ten months, but I didn’t want to get all slap-happy about it. If it worked out, I’d fast a few more hours next year.

This is why I was interested in going to synagogue this year. I just couldn’t go to shul on Yom Kippur if I had eaten. It made me feel like a phony. Everyone’s looking peaked and talking about how hungry they are. Not that I speak to anyone, but I just didn’t want to be an unintentional fake. So, since I was going to fast, maybe I could pop in.

Well, as I said, it didn’t work out.

Suddenly, an idea occurred to me: shouldn’t there be synagogues who webcast there services? A quick search on the internet revealed that they did. A ha! I’ll just go to virtual shul! I went to Kol Nidre in New York and it was very satisfying, although several hours early.

The next day I looked for a shul in my time zone and had to watch a few until I found one that wasn’t completely dopey. This is the thing — I wasn’t brought up in Reform temples, so things like choirs and guitars just seem weird to me at services. Also, the melodies they sing are very perky, and I like the dirges from the old country. I finally picked one, mostly based on the rabbi repeatedly talking about the importance of compassion. He seemed nice, so I tolerated the choir until I realized that I didn’t have to. I could just mute the sound and sing my preferred gut-wrenching, melodramatic, minor-key melody instead. I found this immensely satisfying.

As for the constant mentions of the patriarchal god–as my Cousin Danny says, you take the good with the bad.

Here’s the weird part. It turns out my sister did the same thing, also for the first time, without us discussing this with each other.

Oh look, a Wikipedia entry on Jewish Atheism!