Monthly Archives: August 2008

An update from outside the box

I realize that starting a business is technically NOT considered operating outside the box.  Probably more like creating another box, really.  My box is going to have to fit somewhere inside of or at least next to other boxes already in existence.

But I’ve never had a box before.  I feel like a toddler who, upon opening an awesome new present, only wants to play with the box.  Mostly because there isn’t much inside my box right now, there’s pretty much only the cardboard walls and a couple of flaps to twiddle with at this point.

What happened was, I went to the local rec center to propose a Spanish conversation class, and the director loved the idea.  He gave me an instructor application which I brought home and proceeded to fill out.

Turns out I need a license from the city.  

So okay, I look up “business privilege license” on the web (“privilege:” presumably they don’t want you to forget that earning a living is not a right) and get to the appropriate form which I download and print.  I dutifully begin to fill in the blanks on that form.

Turns out I need something called a “Federal Tax ID,” which I again look up online and am directed to the IRS site on which one may get an “Employer Identification Number,” which is essentially starting a new business and getting the little number that you will put on your tax return.

The really cool part about all this is that it was fun.  I’m learning that I know when I’m on the right track when my enthusiasm mounts rather than dwindles as I encounter twists in the road.  Instead of sobbing hysterically and wailing “Why meeeeee?” in my most pathetic voice, which is my M.O. when ambushed by red tape, I was getting jazzed.  My own business, huh?  Pick out a name, pick out some goals, allow your inspiration to coalesce around a box, inside which you can put your brilliant ideas, then your efforts, and maybe someday your accomplishments?

Yeah, alright.  Let’s do it.

It’s still only in the embryonic stage.  If I showed you the ultrasound it wouldn’t even look like a box, it would just be a lump in the form of a tax identification number stuck to a dream.

But someday maybe it will be a lovely strong box, oak, perhaps stained a warm brown in homage to the cups of coffee that inspired it, with forest green trim, and it will have little ribbons connecting outward to tutoring clients and language classes, to translation jobs and writing projects, and it will be bubbling happily with words.

That’s the plan, anyhow.

I’ll keep you posted.

5 Comments

Filed under work

Pursuing happiness

Like with a harpoon.  Or a high-powered rifle.

It is a basic American right but we misread it with alarming regularity.  We translate “pursuit” as “sit on the couch and wait for it to be advertised.”

I was raised by great parents, don’t get me wrong, but ambition and go-getting were never part of my lesson plan.  My parents were amazing when it came to including me in projects that they themselves were working on.  My Mom let me stick pins into her tomato pin cushion as she took them out of the pant leg she was hemming.  My Dad always made sure I was on hand to fetch a tool for him, and I prided myself on knowing what a vice grips was.

But if I wanted to take on something by myself… forget it.  Key phrases I distinctly remember as responses to my project ideas: Mom: “Maybe someday…”or “Well, I don’t think so.”  My Dad was a veritable font of encouragement, greeting my attempts at pretty much anything, from laundry to baking, with: “Does your mother know you’re doing this?” and, my favorite, “You’re just going to screw that up.”

So I used this upbringing as my excuse for being a passive slouch in my 20’s.  That’s what the 20’s are for, really, blaming your screwed up life on your parents and popping open another cold one to replace the baby bottle you wish you were still sucking on.

Then, with any luck, you turn 30.  Or maybe you have kids.  Either way, you realize it’s time to grow up.  You realize that, considering the messed up state of government, traffic and the universe, your parents didn’t do half bad.  It finally dawns on you that, hey, what you do every minute of every day has as great an impact on the world as what they did.  You realize that someday, someone is liable to blame everything, from the president’s idiocy to the drought to their own bruised self-esteem, on yours truly.

Time to make it count.

Lately, being a stay at home mom and thusly contributing precisely jack to our family’s economy, I have been wishing that I could work outside the 9 to 5 box, get a few off-the-beaten-path gigs going, like say a couple of tutoring clients or a translation assignment, maybe a freelance essay published, just a few things that will allow me to continue the priceless work I do taking care of my family and home while covering a couple of bills.

I’ve been hiding in the shadows with my list of ideas, feeling shy and unconfident.  And suddenly ridiculous.  These jobs ain’t gonna drag themselves out of the woodwork.  

What else is this life for but shooting for the moon?  What else does being a grown-up mean but taking the full blame and credit for how I spend my life energy, which is the only currency we truly have with which to purchase satisfaction?

Who am I if I am not pushing my boundaries, trying to grow out of those unhelpful characteristics which I developed, for whatever reason that now no longer matters, when I was just a pup?  I will never know who I am and what I can do if I don’t move forward, fueled by the visions, however improbable, that infuse me with enthusiasm when I chance to glance their way.

A secret: happiness IS the pursuit.  

Getting there, if we ever do, would just be icing.

5 Comments

Filed under work

Vaccine hysteria

I’ve been following the controversy over immunizations for many years, and the only thing I have become 100% convinced of is, if you want to find people who are passionately, violently, even rabidly on one side of a fence or the other, start talking about vaccines.

Of all the issues which it seems we should be calm and rational about, but aren’t, this takes the gold medal.  And news sites like CNN like to feed the frenzy with regular articles such as the one they posted a few days ago: measles outbreak may be linked to vaccine fears.

Perhaps because it deals with children’s safety, people tend to get their panties not only in a bunch but hooked up over their ears when they start to talk about this.  You’ve got the people who’ve only ever listened to the fearmongering of the medical establishment that says: if you don’t inject this poisonous material directly into your child’s bloodstream, starting with a newborn hepatitis shot that will protect the kid should he or she ever choose to become a slutty drug user, and followed by however many shots we will eventually develop for things ranging from polio to illnesses as mild as the chicken pox, then the poor creature will surely contract a plague that will eat them alive.  That’ll be $100, please.

Then you’ve got the other side who, by necessity, must match the passionate rhetoric with their own intensity just to be heard.  And you know, they are driven by fear too.  Fear of brain damage, autism, even death.  

Both sides point fingers and accuse the other of their irresponsibility in not accepting the other’s position.  It reminds me of some religious arguments I’ve heard: the one side says, my religion insists that you must accept my religion or you are doomed, and the other side says, I don’t accept your religion so leave me alone!

But this is science, you might correctly point out, not religion.  Except that there are actual scientific studies which appear to support both sides of the argument.  So it seems to come down to, which studies do you “believe” are valid enough to base a possibly life-changing decision on.

And once you’ve decided which studies are valid, roll them up and beat the opposition with them ’til they’re a bloody pulp.

I wonder if we will ever come to a point where we can figure this thing out like grown-ups and not like tiny kids running from ghosts.

Our kids deserve better.

5 Comments

Filed under science

This is where I’m from

The land of the treesitters.

Good ol’ Cali-forn-eye-ay.

The land where we stand up for, or sit down for, what we believe in, even if it means living among the ticks and going showerless for a month.

Of course, normal folks can’t afford to live there, but damn it, there will be trees, and old ones too!  Miles of virgin forests for the rich people and the starving hippies to enjoy!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a tree-hugger.  When I lived in Santa Cruz, I cried right along with everyone else when I found out that the magnificent old Walnut across the street from my work had been cut down because the Mercedes owner who regularly parked under it was tired of scraping the bird crap off his windshield.  

I’ve become attached to all manner of trees because they were on the property where I lived and I’d spent many hours gazing lovingly at their leaves waving in the wind.  

If I am ever fortunate enough to own a piece of land, I’d like to have all kinds of trees, depending on the climate: if it was warm enough, I’d love to have orange trees, avocados, peaches, maybe a kiwi.  If it was a colder climate, I’d love to have apple trees, a pine grove, hopefully a redwood.

And should someone decide, for a really dumb cosmetic reason, to cut down an awesome tree that lives on public property in my community, I might even show up to protest.  I’d of course have to go home to my own bed and toilet at night, thank you very much, but I could lend my voice to the cause.  I’m very supportive of trees.  

I can’t help it. It’s in my Californian blood.

And it’s a fun place to be from, you know, people think you’re a nutjob so you get to be little on the funky side of normal.  You get to say “Dude” as much as you like.  You get to make a big stink about things that most people don’t even think twice about, like trimming hedges.  Cuz the hedges have integrity, you know, and it is not within our earthly mandate to limit their personal growth.  

And if I forget to take a shower on any given day, Hey!  I was up a tree, saving it’s life!  Give a gal a break, man!

And could you remove the ticks from the back of my neck, when you get a chance?

We may not be the original environmentalists, but we’ve taken the discipline about as far as it’ll go, baby!

3 Comments

Filed under society

Self-awareness

It never ceases to amaze me that at such a young age, we are aware that people are looking at us and that they think we are awesome.

Eventually it starts to mess with us, because when we go out into the world, we can’t be sure that people think we’re all that great.  Maybe we start to feel painfully self-conscious, maybe we are just making an extra effort to blend into the wallpaper, or maybe we get off on the attention.

But that pure joy of a little kid who knows he is surrounded by people who love him, who gets that smug little grin because he knows everyone thinks he is too cute… that feels so good.  Makes me feel like all is right with the world.

3 Comments

Filed under kids

Lowering the drinking age

This topic from CNN news is one I’ve long debated over: should we lower the drinking age?  

On one side of the debate, the testimony from countries who allow kids to have a glass of wine with dinner, and they tend not to go nuts and die from binge drinking when they are suddenly let loose in college.

On the other hand, does it encourage kids to drink earlier?

On the other hand, I take great issue with the term “kids.”  Until a person is in their 30’s, they are girls and boys and kids.  Forget about the fact that, at 18, they can vote and fight for their country, they are tried as adults and can sign legal documents.  We insist that they are children who know nothing and should be treated with no respect.

Well, yeah, they know nothing.  I think most of us know nothing until we are probably 50.  And maybe not even then.  But to treat someone as a baby lets them off the hook (“Boys will be boys!” = there is no point in trying to civilize the young males.  This is crap.)

I have long been in favor of making the 18 year old cutoff age as the true threshold of adulthood.  At that point you are a grown-up, with all the rights and responsibilities that go along with this label, and if you mess up we aren’t going to smile and waggle our finger and say, “Kids will be kids.”  You will be busted.

And there will still be drunk drivers, there will still be people dying of alcohol poisoning, unfortunately.  But we will have consistent expectations of our young people.  They will know when they need to wise up and start behaving themselves, even if in reality it ends up taking them awhile to get there.

3 Comments

Filed under society

Dixie

We found Dixie.  Here she is with some of the people she will be ferrying.  

In a way it feels like I am moving in the opposite direction as the rest of the world.  I was a carless cyclist back before anyone gave a serious thought to global warming.  Then the public concern began, and I was part of a one car family.  Now the hysteria is mounting, and we’ve acquired a second vehicle.  Livin’ outside the box, baby!

Not that one can really live outside the environment.  We are all responsible for our Mother Earth, we are all responsible for the tools/toys we choose to use and how we may abuse them.

But I can’t help but feel that I can take better care of my family this way, given our situation.  Maybe in taking care of them I am taking care of the world in the most direct way possible.  This is the hope.

2 Comments

Filed under Life

Tragic End to a New Life

I read a story online at CNN this morning about a baby who died from being shaken.  Normally I try to avoid these tragic tales because I empathize so deeply that it colors my whole day a dark depressing shade of gloomy.

But in this case I feel the need to give testimony from my own life that I wish would prevent this from happening to anyone else.

I remember among my life lessons with my first baby, stuck at home all day with this little being that depended completely upon my good will, the first time I got violently angry when she wouldn’t stop crying.  I remember there came a point when an clear image popped into my head of me throwing her against a wall.  I was just at the edge of losing control.

I wish I could tell new parents, this is okay.  This moment does not make you a bad human.  You are probably going to feel this angry, these feelings are normal, they happen, don’t freak out.

Somehow I knew to do the right thing.  As soon as I saw that image, I put her down where she was safe and I went in the other room.  She was still crying, but I knew she was safe, so I just sat by myself for a minute and tried not to be scared at how mad I was.  When I felt a little calmer a couple of minutes later, I went back in to her and I tried again to soothe her.  

I don’t feel proud of myself that I’ve never shaken or otherwise injured a baby, I just feel lucky.  I  know how strong the feelings of anger and frustration are, and I know how hard it is to be alone for extended periods with a baby.  To the people who have succumbed to the violent feelings, I feel the deepest sympathy.  I feel like it could have been me.

But no one ever talks about this.  No one ever admits to young parents how there might arise violent feelings, and how to just let them pass, which is not easy.  No one ever talks about how unnatural it is for a parent to be isolated with a young one; we are supposed to live in a tribe, are we not, with people all around to help us when life threatens to be too much to handle?  But too often we are separated in our own little box, expected to be independent and deal with things on our own.  

I am so sorry that this ever happens.  I cannot express that strongly enough.  I don’t feel like an ad campaign by the Department of Social Services is going to do the trick (I’ve seen the posters), though it might get the ball rolling.  I feel like we all have to talk about it, give genuine support to new parents and tell them the truth.  Not laugh and say, “Well, you’ll never get any sleep now!  ha ha” but tell them about the real frustrations, and let them know that we can offer advice and support if they’d like.  

I can’t stand to see this sort of tragedy happen and know in my heart that, if we behaved as if we were all in this together, we might prevent it.

6 Comments

Filed under family, society

Police brutality?

There is an article in the paper about a recent Taser incident that ended with the suspect in intensive care.  Some claim it is the result of racism, and while I acknowledge that there are unfortunately still problems such as profiling, I cannot help but feel for the law enforcement officers.  When they are faced with situations of non-compliance day after day, and when these situations are often dangerous to the officers as well as the general public, I have a hard time feeling terribly sympathetic for the non-compliant suspects, though I do hope that the young man in this case recovers from his injuries.

The only weak part of the story as regards the police officer was the fact that one of the Taser leads was in the back of the suspect’s head, and when he didn’t comply with the cop’s direct order not to stand up, perhaps the man was disoriented due to the jolt of electricity he had just received so close to his brain.  I can understand those who speculate that the cop might have done better to jump on the guy during the first Taser shock (a person cannot receive a shock by touching someone being Tasered) and put cuffs on him at that point.  

It is also true that his original charges were somewhat trivial, two misdemeanors for open container and possession of marijuana, but why not just show up for court?  Once you miss your court appearance, you must know that there will be a warrant out for your arrest.  So if the police find you and attempt to fulfill their duties by arresting you on that warrant, why run?  You must know that the police will chase you, that is the job we have assigned them, and that your situation will just become worse.  

At the same time, I know that we have to keep those with power in check.  We have to make sure that the police do not abuse their authority, that they are behaving in a fair manner toward the public.  It is possible to have a camera mounted on the end of the Taser so that the whole scenario can be replayed and investigated carefully, but the police budget won’t allow for it.  

It seems to come down to the fact that we the public expect the police to keep us perfectly safe using perfectly safe and fair methods, whether we comply or not, and to do it all with a minimum of funding.

Since Tasers are being more widely used, we hear more often about the dangers associated with them, but the truth is that any chase and any method of subduing a suspect is going to be dangerous.  Shouldn’t a lot of the responsibility for the consequences of these situations be with the runner?

1 Comment

Filed under society

Translation: The Ultimate Word Puzzle

I’ve started a new project that I’m liable never to finish, similar to most of the brilliant ideas I get.  I recently finished reading a book called “L’Oiseau de France” by Jean Jaussein, and I’ve now set about to translate it.  It is set in WWII and tells the story of a French soldier held prisoner by the Nazis.  

Surprisingly, it has a comic edge to it, not in subject matter but just in the way he tries to lighten up his description of the characters and the sometimes humorous things they do as they try to deal with their situation.

The writing style reminds me of Hemingway in its simultaneous depth and simplicity, which I always admire.

I am intrigued by the idea of trying to translate the slang of the period.  I wonder, should I use British or American soldier lingo from this era?  There is something distinctly false about substituting another culture’s slang for the original, since slang is such a personal form of communication that is quite rooted in a specific time and place.  But it would give the anglophone reader an atmosphere of WWII.

My main dilemma, as I work my way through page 3 of the original text, is that I still am not sure if there is already a translation published.  Not that anyone would publish mine, (not that I will even finish it!), but it would make it more fun to think that publication is a possibility.  I’ve looked online and come up with nothing.  About a week ago I emailed the publisher to inquire about the existence of an English version.  So far no response.

So until I find an answer, I will pretend that I am the only one, and I will gleefully struggle over every word, concentrating my mind not only on the true meaning of the work but also on the nuance of each phrase, the intention in each line of dialogue, never neglecting the suggestive importance of even a single definite article.

I am always aware that I hold in my hands someone else’s art, something they too must have struggled over and wanted to get just right.  And then when they’ve got it as close to perfect as it can get, someone wrecks it all by putting it through a mental wringer and squeezing it into a new-sounding shape that supposedly represents what they meant to say if only they’d been speaking that other language.  

How rude!

But I love it.  I love to teach people to understand another language so they can read it for themselves, but failing that, I love to bring a really great text a little bit closer to a lot more people.  And I love that this involves a brute force wrestling match with meaning itself.

Unless you too are a language aficionado (translation: nerd), you have not an inkling of the giddy, delicious fun of which I speak!

Trust me, dude, it’s awesome.

3 Comments

Filed under writing

A New Spin on Cannibalism

My whole life I have had a fairly common neurosis: chewing my fingernails.  Except that mine goes beyond the nail to include the skin at the side of the nail and a fair way down the finger, especially on my thumbs.

Euw.

Periodically I go into remission.  Up until just recently I had managed to keep nice nails for a couple of years, so nice that they actually got filed and painted (with clear polish… that’s as froo-froo as I get!)

Then a few months ago I slammed the middle finger of my left hand in the car door.  Aside from feeling incredibly stupid and having to push my fingernail back down onto my finger (and my lunch back down into my stomach), it wasn’t a big deal.

Except then I had this awesome mangled finger to pick at.  And once I had the one, I might as well tug at another until it rips, and then I might as well straighten it out by removing more of the nail with my teeth, and then… 

I currently have four chew toys on my hands.  I don’t know how I manage to leave the other six fingers alone (when I was a kid I chewed all of them all the time.)  During the day I leave them all alone because I’m always doing something else with my hands… typing, cooking, changing dirty diapers, etc.  But when I sit down to watch tv or a movie in the evening, I won’t even realize I’m gnawing until I’ve already started in on the healed bits.

Once I bought myself a really cheap silver ring with a cool spiral on it and I made myself promise that if I wore it, I would have to stop decimating the finger it was on.  That made me quit for a while.  So I just need to buy myself jewelry?  What am I, courting my hands?  

Do I need to wear gloves?  It’s so hot, though!  Tabasco won’t work because I LOVE spicy food.  Do I need to include more protein in my diet so I don’t consume my own self?  Do I need extensive psychotherapy?  (Like THAT isn’t obvious!)

Could be worse, I suppose.  At least I have the opportunity to ponder the mysterious workings of the human mind.

I just can’t hold anything up for someone to look at closely or else they’re bound to remark, “Ooooh!  What’d you do to your finger?”

Sigh.  I ate it.

3 Comments

Filed under psychology, Uncategorized

Yummy!

Here is how the bread turned out.  We haven’t quality controlled it yet, I figure we will wait and eat it with the roast and veggies tonight.

See, I really am nutty enough to celebrate my lucky number!

When I told the kids I was making “8 bread” they all thought I said “ape bread” and proceeded to jump around making ape noises for the next hour.  (Actually, I think I still hear them at it!)

I didn’t want to disappoint them, so I took half the dough and made this:

Yes, I know, it looks more like a cow, but what can you do…

2 Comments

Filed under food

The day of 8’s

Happy 8 Day to everyone!

In case you hadn’t read my previous post on the subject, today is the day of 8’s, which is special to me because when I was little I found 8 four-leaf clovers in my yard, and from that day on my lucky number has been 8.

I think I will make some kind of figure 8 shaped bread to celebrate.  

Not too many things have happened in my life to reinforce this attachment I have to the number 8.  The only one I can think of right now is that I waited tables at a Chinese restaurant for several years, and my waitress number was 8.  I wasn’t given the choice, either, that was just what the boss assigned me when I first started.  The cool thing was that all the numbers on the light-up board (used to tell you when you had food up) were sideways, so I liked to joke that my number was actually infinity.

My husband said he is going to buy 8 lottery tickets today.  I think lottery tickets are a waste of money, but it makes me feel good that he is playing along, and that he is always trying to be positive about the future.  I love that we are able to be silly together and keep life light when it is always trying to be overwhelming.

I wish I could say that the number 8 had always been so lucky for me that I could infuse this post with good fortune and everyone who read it would have a wonderful thing happen to them, or at least that I could somehow share the celebratory bread with you (I do make good bread…)  

But in a way, it seems lucky enough that we are able to make this brief cyber-connection, that even though the subject matter is goofy, we are able to play along together and enjoy each other’s company.

And know that I always wish the best for all of us, no matter how many 8’s are in the date.

(Okay, see I really am a goofball, I just remembered another big 8 in my life… I graduated high school in ’88!)

4 Comments

Filed under Life

Think Big

Occasionally my fantasies include teaching a high school English course.  (Is there any greater admission of nerdhood?)

I imagine how I would present the all-important lessons designed to develop a rich vocabulary, vital not only because an enhancement of one’s lexicon is generally recognized as a key to increasing intelligence, but also because I totally dig words.

Having a wider range of vocabulary seems to be especially vital in our modern world where language as dictated by pop culture becomes formulaic.  “I’m lovin’ it!”  LOL   BTW,  “Don’t just buy stuff- do stuff.”  

However, despite its power, vocab seems to be almost universally hated and resisted by students.

Perhaps a handout would convince them:

Reasons to apply yourself to the study of vocabulary:

  1. To impress your girl-/boyfriend’s parents
  2. To impress a potential employer
  3. To be able to understand people who are smarter than you, or think they are, who are trying to manipulate you in person, in writing, or in a speech
  4. To think deeper thoughts

Though I know the students would categorically refuse to be persuaded by any amount of reasoning, I myself find the last reason to be the most compelling.

Peter Gabriel expressed the idea on his album, “So.”

“The place where I come from is a small town/they think so small/they use small words/-but not me/I’m smarter than that/I worked it out/I’ve been stretching my mouth/to let those big words come right out”

No offense to small towns. I’ve spent some good years in a few small towns.  But you have to admit the perspective tends to be on the narrow side.  Though I believe the song has a sarcastic, almost satirical edge, still there is a grain of truth — when you use exclusively small words, you tend to think small, that is, shallow thoughts.  There is no nuance to the representation of your ideas, if indeed they are ideas and not just thoughtlessly repeated cliché.  IDK  “Live well.”  WTF

In his novel “1984” George Orwell told of Big Brother who sought to abolish “Oldspeak,” which is English as we speak it.  “It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought… should be literally unthinkable… Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum.”

Students who refuse to learn “big words” are unwittingly participating in this narrowing of thought; with fewer shapes to use, when we fit the pieces of life’s puzzle together, we can only create the same old tired designs.

Thus we must encourage the enthusiastic scholarship that seeks to master the utilization of a cornucopia of expressive terminology, that our most intimate mental machinations may emerge fully illuminated.

Or else, we all may as well speak in trademarked slogans with our brains turned off.

OMG.  Just do it.

3 Comments

Filed under education

Success

Instead of believing that publication is the prerequisite of success, I now consider the act of submitting my work for publication as the indicator of accomplishment.  And I find that I have succeeded yet again!  🙂

Thanks to the inspiration of Kweenmama, Joy and Kimmelin, I have finally composed and sent out the manuscript for a children’s book that has sat unwritten in the back of my mind for twelve years now.

It occurs to me that, to get a piece of work in the mail, one has to believe that it is good enough to see the light of day.  But at the same time, believing in the merit of the work leads to difficulty in accepting its rejection by those who hold the keys to the presses.  I personally find this push and pull to be quite painful.  But if I play a trick on my mind, and tell it that the point is not to see the work in print, but simply to be bold enough to send it on a tour of the world, then maybe I can feel successful with the mere act of submission.

I would say I am keeping my fingers crossed, but that is energy best used on other things.  I have already done all there is to do: I have crafted the story to the best of my ability, I have researched the market, and I have mustered the gumption to seal the envelope and put it in the mailbox.

Now I can relax, take a breath, and decide on the next project.

To publish or not, that’s their problem now!

7 Comments

Filed under writing

Insuring against reality

Ads for insurance assail us ceaselessly.  We discuss and debate the best companies, rates, deductibles.  We maneuver the labyrinth of policies and hope to emerge in a perfectly safe place where our lives are protected from any conceivable disaster.

But it’s the nature of insurance that gets me.  Doesn’t an insurance policy essentially reflect that the individual carrier has no community on which to depend in an emergency?  Doesn’t it mean that all I have is my house, and if it burns down then there is nothing else in this world for me?  No one will take me in or help me rebuild or otherwise shelter me from the elements.

Supposedly having insurance demonstrates individual responsibility.  I send all this money to people I don’t even know so as not to be a burden to those I love if I ever have needs.  But what if you were to give all those various insurance premiums to someone whose house had burnt down?  By that altruistic act, wouldn’t you be insuring that there would be folks who would help you out in turn, should you ever need it?

Do we not trust each other?

We like the idea that we are protected by our policies so that we aren’t at the mercy of family, friends and community, so we send our protection money to… strangers?  We hope that these unknown persons in the guise of insurance agents will deign to show up at the scene of our emergency, ask us a bunch of personal and accusatory questions, and then decide whether or not they will give us the help for which we have been faithfully sending them all that money.  This makes us sleep better at night?

When did we decide to progress to a stage in civilization where a contract is a closer, more dependable bond than blood and camaraderie (I invoke here the 19th century definition of camaraderie as “a feeling of close friendship and trust among a group of people”)? 

We feel better that strangers decide who gets what help?  That they get the interest on the money sitting in wait of a disaster to relieve?  

I don’t claim to have the answer to this dilemma, nor do I necessarily believe it is possible for us in our modern world to take care of each other’s crises in the manner to which we have grown accustomed.  

I am just bothered by the whole idea, and saddened that there does not appear to be a less corporate, more community-oriented way to feel safer in our reality.

2 Comments

Filed under society

Will the REAL me please stand up?

I think we have all experienced a change of personality depending on where we are and who we are with.  I’m not the same potty-mouthed moron in front of my kids as I might be with friends after we’ve had a few.

But are all these situational personalities me?  Is there just one that’s “real?”  Are the rest me being a poser of sorts?

I remember feeling  uncomfortable when someone I knew would come into the restaurant where I was waitressing because I had developed an almost airhead personality (Hey, I’m from California, it just comes natural…) It was a way to tap into a part of myself that had boundless energy to play along with people’s demanding idiocy.  

There were times it came in downright handy: once, I had a guy ordering a drink from me who I could tell had already had too much before he even got to our establishment.  Since I was too much of a wuss to refuse his drink order outright, I was able to avoid serving his drunk ass by responding to his repeated angry gestures with a spacy twitter that went something like, “Tee hee!  Oh yeah, I forgot!”  And then I flounced off again, avoiding his table as long as possible.

I didn’t want any real people to see me being such a bubblehead.  And I sure didn’t want to have to be my usual thoughtful self, because I would have taken a look around me at what I had to deal with and run screaming.

When I was an college instructor I went for more of a guilt-tripping mother role.  I would assign the class to pair up and discuss what they did last weekend to practice their French, but inevitably, words in English would glide through the air and I would have to confront the Anglocentric offenders.  I’d stare them down and say, “En français, s’il vous plaît!” in the same tone of voice I use on my son when he leaves a dirty  heap of clothes in the middle of the floor.  When the student looked down sheepishly and began emitting guttural syllables that vaguely resembled the vocabulary we had learned that week, I knew I’d been effective.

My other dominant personality in the classroom is the comedian.  This has to be my favorite persona.  It is similar to the airhead in that one must surrender all dignity to the almighty inspiration of goofiness.  The difference is, as a comedian you can retain a good measure of intelligence.  Whenever the opportunity presented itself, I would grab onto a mistake I’d made (NEVER one of the student’s mistakes!) or some lame part in the textbook (of which there was a veritable gold mine) and I would ham it up for all it was worth.  If I could even get a couple of chuckles it would make my whole day.

But which is the real me?  The snuggly mama?  The amorous wife?  The polite granddaughter?  The fearful doubter that turns some worry over and over in my head, destroying all hope of sleep?  

They could all be me, but there is such a wide variation that it almost makes the whole idea of “me” become phony.  A person is “supposed” to be able to be described by a few well-chosen adjectives, but you would get a different response depending on who you asked.

Perhaps the core of our authentic selves is adaptability.  Maybe we are diamonds who hold in each facet a reflection of the truth we see outside of us in that moment.  Perhaps the “real” me only exists as I interact with the present situation, and in the hermetic vaccuum of space, it doesn’t matter who I’d be anyway.

With this line of reasoning, the boundary between Self and Other becomes palpably porous.  The “real” me couldn’t possibly stand up without bringing along, through a chain of causality, the rest of the world.

As John Muir said, “When we try to pick anything out by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

(But if you still insist on finding adjectives to describe me, definitely ask my Grandma…)

4 Comments

Filed under psychology