Monday, January 31, 2011

When life hands you lemons, demand whiskey and make it a double

You take a wrong turn, literally, and it’s a chance to navigate the city with only your wits (assuming you are sans GPS). You thought you were buying bananas, but no, you get home and realize they’re plantains. It’s a chance to experience a new...fruit, or something. You get a flat tire and have never changed one before. It’s a chance to test your knowledge and strength! You see a movie and it is absolutely wretched. That’s ok, because you got to spend quality time with your significant other, friend, mom, insert movie companion here.

Not everything goes according to plan. We make mistakes. We misjudge. Bad things happen. Call it bad luck, divine intervention, or what the hell is a plantain? Either way, these moments are inevitable and we have to deal with them.

At one point or another we’ve all been told: “When life hands you lemons...”

Usually the person saying it doesn’t have lemons of their own and they wear a big cheeky grin on their face. But despite their condescending tone and get-over-it attitude, the sentiment is still there: When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Look for silver linings. The bright side. Turn your frown upside down and make the negative into a positive.

We’re supposed to be making lemonade, but really, how many people over the age of seven actually drink lemonade? You can take your sorry analogy back, sir.

There is a healthy part in all of us to find the good in the wake of the not-so-good. We try to focus on the positive because it’s supposed to be better than wallowing in sadness. But what about the unhealthy part of it? How can constantly telling ourselves “look on the bright side” and “it could be worse” be the only answer, all the time?

Sadness, anger, frustration - they all exist for a reason.

Sometimes you take a wrong turn and you need to regret not buying the discount GPS on Black Friday. Sometimes you buy plantains and you need to be annoyed that you actually have to cook the things in order to eat them. Sometimes you get a flat tire, and you need to curse and moan. Sometimes a movie just sucks, and you don’t have to pretend to be happy about it.

We are subject to a spectrum of emotions. They are all in us, all the time. It’s natural to feel mad. Sad. Disappointed. It’s also natural to experience happiness, gratitude, and joy. It’s not natural to embrace some and ignore others, no matter which way you flip your flapjack.

Sometimes, when life hands you lemons, demand whiskey and make it a double.

Have your bad day. Have a good cry about it. Pour another drink. It's not healthy to bottle up the more unpleasant emotions for an illusion of happy.

Still a sorry analogy? When life hands you lemons, throw them back and demand chocolate.

When life hands you lemons, squirt the juice in life's eye.

When life hands you lemons, wonder where all these lemons come from. Then sell them on ebay.

When life hands you melons, you know you're dyslexic.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

When stars know you better than you do.

There are moments in everyone’s lifetime that can never be forgotten. Those moments of shock that jolt you and resonate with every piece of you. Those moments that transcend beyond the present and are scorched into your memory forever. I’m talking about those days. The days you’ll never forget. When you first heard about 9/11. The JFK assassination. Or when the world finally received blue M&Ms. In a lifetime we are privy to about a dozen of these days where “I will never forget when...”

I will never forget when I was no longer a Sagittarius.

My girlfriend sent me a message via g-chat that said “So...I’m no longer a Capricorn?” and was accompanied by a link. There it was folks. The truth about the Zodiac. The sun signs. We had all been duped. Fooled. You thought you were an Aries? Tough. There’s a guy in Minnesota who says you’re a Pisces. Deal with it.

This moment was burned into my mind whether I wanted it to be or not. In an instant all the memories and emotions I associated with being a Sagittarius vanished. I was raised highly aware of my horoscope and the meaning of my sun sign. My mother loves reading about the signs of the Zodiac - and not in a voodoo kind of way, but in a healthy, cute way. She would lean into the Sunday paper and read me and my sisters our horoscopes - but now, it was all for nothing. All those times my mom told me, “Ellen, it’s because you’re a Sagittarius.” Pointless!

Because now I’m a Scorpio?! Dear All-That-Is-Holy, anything but a Scorpio! In an instant I went from the free, outgoing, optimistic, humorous, and insightful Sagittarius to the volcano-ready-to-erupt Scorpio?! I might as well not even bother to blog anymore. Now I can’t be the funny, witty Archer, I have to be an intense, over emotional Scorpion. Nice knowing you.

In one day, a published scientific study changed my personal identity. It begs the question - am I outgoing, humorous, and a heavy-thinker because that’s who I am, or because it’s what Sagittarius told me to be? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?!

Whenever my mom told me, “It’s because you’re Sagittarius,” it magically lifted any and all responsibility off my shoulders. I was too “care-free” to clean my room? Psh, it’s because I’m a Sagittarius! It certainly had nothing to do with being eleven and not wanting to do it - it was fated in the stars! And you don’t mess with what the stars have to say.

It’s natural to want to believe in something higher than ourselves. We want to believe in the magic of something we cannot fully articulate or explain. We didn’t choose where the stars go. We didn’t choose the day we were born. It’s all part of some higher, cosmic order, and there’s nothing we can do about it. There is something so romantic in the wake of our powerlessness. You were destined to be born on this day, with the sun here, and the stars there, and “they” know what kind of person you are going to be...before you do.

And now it’s all for nothing?! Rubbish?! All the time I spent reading Sagittarius was time wasted?! I’m supposed to abandon everything I have ever known about myself and become a Scorpio?! I share a birthday with Tina Turner. You wouldn’t tell Tina Turner she’s a Scorpio, would you?!

For those of you who followed the 24-hour hysteria, you know that these new Zodiac signs are only supposed to affect those born after 2009. We could all take a deep sigh of relief and could soundly sleep at night. Our personal identities remained intact. I was still a Sagittarius. Phew. I never really lost my destiny! I was always supposed to be this person and I am so happy that hasn't changed!

I, however, still find this hard to believe. It’s not like the Earth magically decided to tilt its axis in 2009 and throw off the stars. It would have progressed over time, and the Zodiac signs have probably been incorrect for centuries. But of course, avoid panic, and tell people that it will magically change in 2009.

Of course, believing what we’re told will be left for another post. Happy star gazing!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Some days you gotta dance

I was sitting at the corner of Neighborhood Coffee Shop and Some-Other-Cross-Street when I saw a woman dancing.

Sunglasses on. Headphones in. Skinny jeans, an over sized t-shirt, and a hat. Check, check, and check. She was alone and waiting at the crosswalk. Her dance moves included, but were not limited to: toe-taps, hip swivels, snapping, shimmying, and some very tasteful leg swings.

It was like standing in the beer aisle and everything was on sale - I was staring and couldn’t make up my mind.

People walked past her and didn’t seem to notice. But there she was, keeping the beat and making it look easy. A shoulder dip here, a head tilt there. Then she paused for a moment, pulled her ipod from her pocket, and with new authority went right back to dancing. The increased intensity of her toe-tapping made it obvious her new song was even more up-tempo.

After several minutes I shook the dazed trance out of my eyes long enough to realize the stop light had gone through multiple rotations, but she still hadn’t crossed the street. What was she doing? And more importantly, why did I care so much?

I tried to guess what song she was listening to, then pondered, even worse - what if she isn’t listening to anything? What if she’s crazy? Then I was convinced I was being filmed by a hidden camera. This has to be for a TV show, right? I looked away and tried to play it casual. The woman was standing on the corner of a busy intersection, DANCING, and wasn’t in much of a hurry to do anything. There had to be an explanation!

But there wasn’t an explanation.

It occurred to me that it wasn’t my intrigue that had me captivated by the dancing lady, it was actually my jealousy. This woman was in her own little world and dancing to the beat of her own everything. She was movin’ and groovin’ and wasn’t going to cross the street until she darn-well pleased.

I wish I had the gumption to stand at an intersection and dance to my heart’s content. But alas, my dance moves typically require a fog machine, liquid courage, and most importantly, darkness.

Dance on! nobody's watching.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Blissful Ignorance - the Art of Not Knowing

The day I learned midi-chlorians were the driving force behind The Force, was the day my faith in the Star Wars legacy crumbled.

Suddenly The Force was not an unseen, not-fully-understood, entity that bound the galaxy together and penetrated all living things (and nonliving, i.e. rocks - see minute 3:05 just to drive the point home). It was no longer mythical or magical - instead The Force was responsible by little microscopic life forms floating around in the bloodstream called midi-chlorians. If you had a high level of midi-chlorians you were primed to be a Jedi, if your levels were low, you were a non-lightsaber wielding schmuck like the rest of us.

Ancient bacteria are why Luke Skywalker is Luke Skywalker?!

The ideal that one day, perhaps even I, could learn the ways of The Force vanished. The hope of getting my lightsaber, saving the princess, killing a giant slug, and blowing up Death Stars was demolished. Thanks to the CGI bastardization of the Star Wars prequels I was now forced to live knowing I could never be a Jedi.

Ignorance really is bliss, people.

The beauty of something like The Force is in the not-knowing. I was perfectly happy thinking The Force was something we couldn’t see, or quantify, or capture. I was even happier that George Lucas did not make The Force into an All-Knowing-Man-Sitting-In-The-Clouds, but rather one single presence in which all creatures could experience. The Force didn’t discriminate. It didn’t choose sides. It didn’t tell us to build an arc, gay marriage is wrong, or we can’t eat shellfish. It was equal, for all of us. We all had it in us, and you had to decide whether to use The Force for good or evil, and your own will would prevail. Not-knowing what made The Force, The Force, is what made it so great.

The concept of “not knowing” typically generates one of two responses: Fear or Acceptance.

If we don’t understand something, a typical response is to be afraid of it. Whether it is stem cell research or how they get a Tootsie Roll in the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop, we generate fear out of not knowing the details. Imagine you’re a Neanderthal and the sun (your sole source of light and life) goes BLACK. Imagine the fear. Imagine the need to paint this experience inside your neighborhood cave. Imagine feeling like the end-of-the-world was coming. Why would you be afraid? Because you don’t know what a solar eclipse is, or why it happens.

The alternative to fear is acceptance. You accept you don’t know everything, and that’s OK. For example, I do not understand the Love-15-30-40-Advantage-A Williams Sister Wins-Whatever scoring in tennis, but I do not fear it. I have accepted that every year my mother will be glued to Wimbledon and I must bathe in my own ignorance. Some people accept the bigger things, whether its the inevitability of death, or Tootsie Roll Pop amazingness. They are happy to be happy with their own convictions, and you should let them be happy.

There was something so perfect about The Force because no one could question the details. There were no details. Until those damn prequels. I did not fear The Force, I accepted what I did not know. I loved living in the dark...until Mr. Lucas turned on the lights and the roaches scattered and I had to take off my Jedi cloak. Knowing. Not-Knowing. Fear. Acceptance. I can honestly say, as you can guess, I am not happy knowing the truth about The Force. But am I better for knowing? Who’s to say.

Either accept the fear, or fear acceptance.

For those of you baffled by the Star Wars analogy, I beg you to consider hot dogs. Do you really want to know what’s in a hot dog?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Making the Choice and the Tomato Complex

We live in a world full of choices. Spend one minute in the toothpaste aisle and you will be overwhelmed by just how many choices we have: eliminate bad breath, whiten, the kind with baking soda, the kind with sparkles, the kind with flavor bursts, red, blue, green, white... I just need toothpaste!

I can only speak in regards to life as a United Statesian (as this is the only country in which I have ever lived), when I say we are pretty much presented with choices at birth. Ok, maybe not birth, but well before speaking age we are given chances to pick between this and that. I witnessed this when my older sister presented my niece with two jars of baby food and asked, “Which one do you want?” My niece was unable to speak, but I watched as my sister held out both jars and waited for some indication - whether it be a coo, a pointed index finger, a laugh, anything. My niece, without the ability to walk, talk, or wipe herself, was already making her own choices.

From there it continues. Do you want to wear the jacket or the sweater? Steak or fish? New car, used car, or no car? College or no college? Have that eighth beer or make logical decisions? (Although sometimes the eighth beer is logical - and that’s called a paradox). Get to work on-time or hit snooze again, and again, and again? Do I “go to the restroom” or see this bad date ALL the way through?

So we make our choices. Sometimes they’re right, sometimes they’re wrong - but you have to make one. This, finally, brings me to the point of this post: If you don’t like it one way, try it another. Make a different choice, see another perspective, see past the obvious, and question the possibilities. This all sounds complicated and too-philosophical-for-my-own-good. It’s not. Let me break it down to what I call...

The Tomato Complex.

Tomatoes are one of the most versatile fruits on the planet. Yet still, so many people are quick to say, “I hate tomatoes.” Do you really hate tomatoes, or are you making the wrong tomato choice?

Consider salsa. Mostly tomatoes. Chips and salsa are undoubtedly in the hierarchy of most-amazing-foods-ever. Then there’s spaghetti. I absolutely despise tomato based pasta sauces. One of my favorite sandwiches - the BLT - and you guessed it, that “T” doesn’t stand for tangerine. The main ingredient in ketchup isn’t “red stuff” - it is indeed tomatoes.

Can I honestly say I LOVE or HATE tomatoes? That is quite the blanketed statement. I can only make the best tomato choice that’s in my power, and if I don’t like it one way... I will try it another.

Therefore my happy reader(s), I compel you to do the same. Make your choices, be merry, or make another freaking choice. There is always an alternative. A different point of view. Twists and turns. Life is full of them. However, I can tell you right now, contentment IS the WRONG choice. So please avoid at all costs.

Friday, January 7, 2011

When Grandmothers Join Facebook

Facebook. It’s an anomaly with the best intentions and even more annoying applications. You can be poked, harvest crops, garnish weapons for the mafia, be bitten by vampires, and...oh, right, reconnect with friends and family members.

Truly, though, thank goodness for facebook. It reminds me of how many of my high school and college companions are married (and which ones were pregnant before the ceremony and which were not). Facebook keeps me up-to-date with my friend’s illnesses from the common cold to chronic diarrhea, who has the hot job, who lives in a constant state of self pity, and I saw no less than nine facebook statuses regarding the season premiere of Jersey Shore.

When I created my account five years ago the biggest achievement of facebook was the bumper sticker application and membership was limited to college students. Those were the glory days. No parents allowed. No old teachers. No young children. Every status was riddled with profanity and every picture uploaded had those glaring red Solo cups in hand. Comments like “Thank God my mom can’t see this” were quite common.

But it was inevitable. First facebook opened up to high school students, and then the flood gates fell. I could hear Oprah, “You get a facebook! You get a facebook! You get a facebook!” There was panic in the streets. I remember vividly writing on my friend’s profile about a classy beer pong event in which she promptly deleted. I was halted with confusion! Until she told me:

“You can’t write that on my mom is on facebook.”

There was a collective gasp on college campuses across the nation. Mothers? On facebook? And dads? And Mrs. Shawver, my first grade teacher? And Mrs. Johnston who used to baby-sit me?

The day my mother created a facebook profile was the day I untagged, and removed, 95% of my red Solo cup pictures. I cleaned up my profile out of the sheer concept of principle. Looking back now I would say that it happened for the best, however I still look back fondly on those early unleashed facebook years.

I thought the worst was behind me. I had accepted friend requests from all over my family, teachers, neighbors, and the like. It was the week of Christmas, intended to be a happy and merry time, when I received this text:

“I am going to be joining facebook. Is that the correct verbiage?” From - my grandmother.

There are two things happening here. First of which is that she TEXT me. The woman was born without indoor plumbing, but now she is TEXTING me. Second of which, my grandmother is actually going to join facebook - and wants to make sure she's saying that right. My concerns are severe. The woman once asked how to “save something to the internet.” I have no doubt that over time she WILL get the hang of facebook. She will understand the difference between the “news feed” and “wall posts” and know what “tagging” means. In the meantime, I will prepare myself for her facebook status asking ME how I’m doing, with complete disregard that everyone in her facebook world can see what she has written. I will prepare myself for “Is this working? Can you see this?” posts. But the day she asks how to get pictures off her new phone and onto her facebook...will be the day I give her call to my sister.

Alas, with my grandmother in the facebook realm there are no more places to hide. Every drunken picture will be met with a stern look. Every "smart" comment will be questioned. Grandmothers are for a lot of things: home-cooked meals, spoiling kids rotten, giving you candy when your parents said not to, and driving really really slow. They are NOT for facebook.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2011: It's time to make time.

My god I started this blog over ten months ago and I have only three posts to show for it. Well, actually, there were FOUR whole posts, but I deleted the fourth because it was quite pitiful and read very much like “Dear Diary, Life is hard.” No one needs to see that.

For those who are close to me they already know that I was once on track to go to medical school - and I earned the chemistry degree to prove it - but after some intense soul searching I abandoned the path of what I “should” do and embraced my own dreams and needs for fulfillment. I reverted back to my childhood dream (or nightmare?) to be a writer.

I started this blog with the intent to get myself writing regularly “just for me.” I do lots of creative writing from screenplays, to short fiction, and blah blah stories blah. But here I am, ten months later, and only three damn posts.

Bring on 2011.

It’s a new year, right? Every 365 days we all get this unofficial chance to start fresh. The slate is clean. Let old acquaintance be...forgot? Sure, whatever that means. But let’s face it. Most people typically have the best intentions with new year resolutions, but how many of us can honestly say that on December 31st, we reflect back with true pride and a sense of accomplishment? I would imagine very few... But here we all go, a New Year, and we still insist on banging our heads against the wall of half-realized resolutions and wading in the inevitable guilt for our lack of achievement.

Myself included.

My resolution for 2011 is about time. We all get the same 24-hour days, 7 days a week, yet some of us seem to make much more of that time than others. I want to be one of those people this year. I am tired of getting so caught up in what I should be writing I forget little things like...sunshine and personal hygiene. The last time I read a novel (that was not penned by J.K Rowling) was The Sound and the Fury...two years ago. That’s pathetic. I am not up-to-date with Glee OR Grey’s Anatomy. I want to be able to more than pick at the guitar and peck at the piano. When do I decide to find the time for all of life’s little bonuses I could be doing for myself?

Bottom line, I am making time for time, and you should too.

...and to bring it back to Flapjacks and French Ladies... I am making time for more posts SO BE READY... or at least ONE more post on January 1st, 2012 that severely makes fun of myself.