Monday, October 24, 2011

Why no! You won't be surprised to hear my costume isn't ready.

I just read a study that reports the following:

Top 5 US Holidays according to a survey of American men and women:

1. Christmas
2. Thanksgiving
3. Well, let's hold on this one for a moment...
4. Independence Day
5. Easter

Number Three is the tricky one here; that's where the survey takes a bit of a turn. In fact, depending on who is answering, the list changes from group to group.

For a few groups (Echo Boomers, age 18 - 34; Generation X, age 35 - 46 and women), HALLOWEEN ranks third.

For Baby Boomers (47 - 65), Matures (66 +) and men, INDEPENDENCE DAY comes in third.

Let's translate, shall we?

Women are fans of gifts (giving and receiving), food (preparing and eating) and candy + costumes.

Men appear to be fans of gifts (giving and receiving), food (preparing and eating) and food + fire.

I guess many women feel this way: if I get to buy and eat candy and dress like a slutty nurse or a witch while I do, well, that works for me. Personally, I can't quite relate because while I am an enormous fan of candy of almost any kind, dressing up for Halloween never did much for me. In fact, regular readers of my now departed newspaper column will remember that every single year, I was always the mother who was stunned year after year when the end of October arrived and it was Halloween again. Not only was I the one who bought the boys' costumes from catalogs, I paid FedEx for overnight delivery.

Thankfully, they had their dad. He could somehow coordinate three reasonably good costumes for them out of nothing in a matter of hours; I'm not kidding. Give him an old coat, a tennis racquet and a hardhat and he'd turn random accessories into costumes that were somehow pretty good. God knows how he did it.

Back to the survey: It's not that women don't like celebrating Fourth of July; we do. It's just fifth in a list of five. You'll note it comes in after another religious-with-heavy-candy-overtones-holiday: Easter.

Number 5 for men? New Year's Eve.

Personal sidebar: Yet another holiday that never did much for me. Over-rated; too many expectations. When I was younger and single, I either worried about the date I had or the date I didn't have. When I was younger and in love, I appreciated the sure-thing-of-it all. When I married and realized I'd never have to think about New Year's Eve in a certain way again, I was relieved. These days, the holiday arrives and it's become the perfect opportunity for me to brood about the year that has passed and the year to come.

Many men - not all certainly - may like Thanksgiving and New Year's because of the football games that take place on those holidays. That means food, drink and sports. Some might call it the trifecta of a perfect day. (I wouldn't, but some might.)

Maybe men also think this on December 31: festive party + drinks = maybe I'll get lucky. With my wife. Maybe.

You know what women are thinking? Only about six weeks until another national holiday built around candy.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

G'night everybody! Tip your waiters and waitresses!!!

Sometimes it takes one comment from one reader to remind me that it’s not all a drag. That not everything is as bleak as I might imagine it is, and that’s on my good days. Thank you, c.c.!

Coincidentally, I just finished a book called Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates, by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein. Now, before everyone gets worked up, I fully admit I’m not nearly smart enough to understand at least two-thirds of this book but in terms of philosophy, debating philosophers and trying to figure out why we’re on this planet, it’s about as close as I’ll ever get.

And in that spirit, I share the following with you. Made me smile and once again, reminded me that a little perspective and a good dose of humor can really help smooth out a path that feels a little rocky these days. Enjoy.

So Heidegger and a hippo stroll up to the Pearly Gates and St. Peter says, “Listen, we’ve only got room for one more today. So whoever of the two of you gives me the best answer to the question, ‘what is the meaning of life,’ gets to come in.”
And Heidegger says, “To think Being itself explicitly requires disregarding Being to the extent that it is only grounded and interpreted in terms of beings and for beings as their ground, as in all metaphyics.”

But before the hippo can grunt one word, Saint Peter says to him, “Today’s your lucky day, Hippy!”

Monday, October 03, 2011

Grimsby Ontario feels anything but grim.

I made it I made it I made it I made it. On screen anyway.

I've "arrived" in Canada and am now near a town called Grimsby, Ontario. As of September 30, I'm in pretty good shape to complete my virtual run from Pennsylvania to Canada, which may put me significantly ahead of my goal of running 450 miles this year. If I keep up my pace, I'll complete about 500 miles for the year. In fact, September was my best month ever. I ran about fifty miles, and on several days ran longer distances than I had run previously.

For those who need the numbers (AKA Capricorns):
375 down
75 more to go
3 months to do it...
which means...
25 miles a month
or about 6.25 miles a week
or about 1.5 miles / run, 4 times a week

Since my monthly goal at the outset was 37.5 miles, you can see where I may, in fact, overshoot Toronto.

No, I have no explanation for that.

No, I would have never anticipated that come the beginning of October, I would still find myself on track to reach my goal. The fact is I can’t quite believe I’ve been running every week for about a year and half now.

As I think about this, it occurs to me that I can’t remember the last long term commitment I made to anything. That’s kind of troubling. I’ve made plenty of false starts and plenty of resolutions about doing something differently, trying something new, or even believing in something more fervently than I ever had before. All resolutions that meant something to me and flickered brightly for a short time and then burned out.

So what's that about? When I find myself in this kind of mood I think about the speech Andy Millman (the character Ricky Gervais brilliantly embodied in his show, Extras) gave when he described his lack of initiative or dedication on camera: “I would have loved to have been a doctor. Too hard. Didn’t want to put the work in. I’d have loved to have been a war hero. I’m too scared. So I go [referring to his career as an entertainer]: ‘Oh, it’s what I do.’ ”

I’m not saying I wanted a medical or military career and that I am sorely disappointed in myself. It’s more about the frustration I often feel about trying to be ...hmmmm...more than I really am? Or maybe a better version of myself? In my head, I’m always open to new ideas and new experiences; open to the ways I can explore what's possible and where that might take me. But in reality: not so much.

I'm going to stick with my "professional" life for now and list a couple of the plans I make in my head regularly to give you a sense of my immobility.

Today is always the day I’m going to register that amazing domain name for the website I thought about starting something like nine years ago. Which means that by now it should probably be an app, not a website. Which would mean so much more to me if I ever used any apps.

It’s the day I’m going to begin writing the business plan for the Shoe-of-the-Month Club (and idea I had circa 1995) that it's now too late to do: Kim or Khloe or some other Kardashian attached her name to the idea already and it's up and running.

It’s the week I’m going to start submitting weekly columns to the websites who have published my work. (Immediately following this resolution, while staring at a blank screen, I begin to wonder how in the world I wrote and submitted weekly newspaper columns for something like eight or nine years.)

It’s the week I’m going to find a new agent and figure out how to refresh the well-received but unpublished book that sits on top of the trunk in my bedroom. (Summary of every rejection letter my now retired agent shared with me: "Love this!! Love the writing, love the voice. Who is she?? Does she have a show on NPR, CNN, MSNBC, a national column, a reality show appearance or a syndicated deal??") Note to self: find a place for that manuscript and put it away.

Oh wait, no, it’s the day I’m going to figure out that “i-universe” thing and self-publish the book.

And one more, semi-professionally related:
It’s the day I’m absolutely going to call my old therapist and beg him to see me. (Luckily, this would be an easy appointment for him. As you’ve already no doubt concluded, not much has changed since the last time we spoke.)

I’m ignoring the list of the day-to-day projects large and small I seem to think I’ll begin any minute now, but don’t. In reality, describing myself as someone who is ‘risk averse’ is like calling Tiger Woods someone who flirts a lot. The positive spin is to imagine that I’m basically “content.” Another word that springs to mind: lazy. And yet another: fearful. God knows.

I envy – okay, I admit it – I envy the energy and activity I see so many people exhibiting in so many parts of their lives. Friends who are discovering their Act 2, or even Act 3 in some cases; trying something kind of scary but rewarding. They believe in something I would quietly see as “impossible” and then they make it possible, and positive.

How does everyone else do this? How do you ignore the small but relentless voice inside that says with enormous conviction, "You can't do this," without succumbing to the b-s voice that cheers and screams, "You're awesome! You can do anything you want!!!" Is there a middle ground, where realism meets creativity?

Maybe all of this reinvention and resolve to drive ourselves to the next level of success is a technology-driven phenomenon. As I've said before, we're way beyond Thoreau at this point: we're living lives of strident desperation. We seem to want to be seen, heard, and adored by everyone. Our parents seemed to live satisfying lives. They were mostly content to be the co-stars of their own stories; to be part of an ensemble cast in the local theater company. These days, many of us want to be the star on a worldwide tour.

As Andy Millman put it, "The Victorian freak show never went away. But now it's called Big Brother or American Idol...." This may be one of those "careful what you wish for" moments.

All this to say, my partial paralysis in so many parts of my life is probably the only reason I’ve refused to give up on my annual resolution. I've stated my intentions and am determined to see it through. Given my history, it’s a minor miracle that I actually started the run and it's even more astounding that I’m still on it. I’m proud of my tenacity. I’m almost to the point where even I believe I’m going to make it and feel proud of taking on the challenge and meeting it.

Now I just need to figure out how to translate that into the rest of my life, without entering the freak show.