Red eyes/dark skies

I stand in the front galley facing the back of the plane as I peer out over the slack jawed faces and slow, heavy breathers. A sprinkling of heads are wrapped in company-made eye masks, distributed at the beginning of the flight and which feature assorted drawn on eyes, giving the effect of cartoon characters easily dozed among their real life counterparts.

The quiet redeye flight brings with it a wave of boredom, prompting my mind to entertain itself with random scenarios. I off handedly wonder how many animal crackers I could toss between the snoozing lips of the mouth breather three rows back, and if he would wake up or simply chomp down on the surprise treat like a bear balancing on a circus ball.

I make my way through the dark forest of slumberers to the back of the plane, careful not to trip on the tree trunks extending into the aisle. Having partially avoided working overnight flights over the last 6 years, I’ve recently softened on the idea of taking a single flight from the west coast east. The time change creates a sort of wormhole, popping me out on the other side 3 hours in the future.
These numerous visits through the wormhole have accelerated my life so many times that all of a sudden I’m a 30 year old who has worked the same job for six years.
“Those Doritos are staring right into my soul.” The flight attendant sprawled out on the jumpseat grabs the red bag sitting on the counter in front of her. She hesitates.
“If I’m shoving anything in my mouth it should be this over-achieving banana.” She slips an enormous banana out of her apron pocket and mimics shoving it into her mouth.
“Did you ever notice the air vents on these new planes look like nipples?”
She’s cemented the grotesque thought in my head, and now I will never again be able to enjoy a little air flow without the feeling that I am sexually assualting an airplane. 201010-w-websites-red-eye

Soon, the sun rises through the small airplane windows, and with it rise the drugged and dragging bodies out of hibernation. The beasts are hungry and require sustenance in the form of potato chips and caffeine.

Later, our plane lands and I rush to the next gate to catch a ride home. My role is reversed and I now join the blurry-eyed grumblers filing in to a new air bus. Time comes to a screeching halt and I become an animated, sleeping version of myself. Hours pass before I can return home, where the comfort of familiarity waits to greet me.

Auto-Correct 2013

Ah, 30.  It hit me suddenly and without warning, along with the need for a sensible pair of slacks at a discounted department store.  My back gave out, my knees gave in, and my liver cried mercy.

No longer do I want to rage into the wee hours of every night, ready to wake the next day and do it all over again.  Now, I get a visit from the ghost of hangovers past just at the thought.  Give me a flat screen TV and a box of wine and I’ll be face down in the couch by 9:30pm.

If the ghost from my past brings hangovers, then the ghost of Christmas present is a bitter old hag named Verna, angry that you should even suggest she change out of her moo moo today.  Gone is my tolerance, and I’m not referring to tolerance in the alcoholic sense, because thanks to my friends’ affinity for Fireball, my mother’s martinis (and fantastic genes), that will never fade.  I speak of tolerance for anything that doesn’t come in a glass with a stem on it:  people, places and– basically nouns.  Any and all nouns.

I no longer have the ability to tolerate unkindness or unwarranted bitchiness from anyone, which is a shame because it’s my job.  2013 is running on fumes, and I’m ready for a refill.

That’s why New Year’s Eve is my favorite booze-soaked holiday.  Christmas gifts can be exchanged with family and friends any day, Halloween is now a weekend-long binge fest with a plethora of bad taste, offensive costumes and just the right amount of sluttery.  The celebrations for St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo are just Halloween’s bastard children from abroad, Americanized for your convenience.

New-Years-Eve

But New Year’s Eve brings with it an unspoken hope.  It’s an opportunity for betterment.  All that stuff you screwed up in 2013?  That’s last year.  No longer do you have to live life like typing on a phone:  You know it is a big mess but you keep going anyway with the false hope that AutoCorrect will just fix it all.

The new year creates an instant distance that provides an outlook on the past year and enables you a learning opportunity.  Of course, new resolutions will be made and broken within the first few months, but by the time that year ends, we can take those pieces and apply the newly gained knowledge by glancing back.  We’ll find new ways that the pieces fit, and continue chasing the always setting sun.

In perspective, 30 feels right.  The ghost of Christmas future is knocking at my door, and I can’t wait to see what fortune he’s bringing me.

This ticking clock isn’t for me.

I had an art teacher in elementary school who, when a student would get dismayed about their clay sculpture looking more like a deformed body part than a bust, would say, “if you mess it up, dress it up.”  That’s dumb, I used to think.  So because I messed up this quickly drying heap of clay, if I roll it in some glitter or paint, all of a sudden it’ll belong in the Museum of Modern Art?  No, it’ll just look like a deformed body part that is meant to be hung in a Christmas tree.  Today we refer to that as the Ke$ha treatment.

While I may not have understood the sentiment back then, I’d like to think my teacher was taking a page from the book of a television artist who was popular at the time.  He would say, “we don’t make mistakes– we just have happy accidents.”  I take this vague stroke of genius and like to apply it to life.  And there have been many applications.

"Ever make mistakes in life?  Let's make them birds.  Yeah, they're birds now."

“Ever make mistakes in life? Let’s make them birds. Yeah, they’re birds now.”

I want to grow up.  I want to do things.  And be things.  As Ariel, from a little indie film called The Little Mermaid, once said:  I want moooooore.  Thirty years of age is tapping me on the shoulder, and I like to think he is holding one of those oversized hammers that Gallagher smashed watermelons with, except in this case the bits of watermelon flying into the crowd are all of my mistakes.  Pow!  Obliterated.

Now, I have a pretty fun job, with pretty amazing perks, and I can (most of the time) pay my bills.

So why can’t you just be happy with what you have?  You ask.

I am happy.  For now.  But I have a fear:

I wake up one day and it’s too late.  I open my eyes, laying in my reasonably numbered thread count sheets, and find out the happy has gone missing.  Turns out, him and my youth eloped in the middle of the night, but not before abandoning their bastard child– Regret.

Regret?  But that’s the thing I am supposed to have none of.  I am supposed to go through life and be free of it.

Easily amused.

Easily amused.

I think to myself, Why, oh why didn’t I do that one thing that I always thought about doing with my life?  And I can’t shake it.

That is the fear.  The thing that fuels the fire.  I have plenty of  good things now.  It’s the later that I am prepping for.  It’s when the highs become the lows, and the fear no longer fuels the fire, just makes me cold.  I may sound unappeasable, like I should just be content with my dinglehopper.  I am very grateful for everything and everyone in my life.  But I am not content, and I don’t want to be.

I am putting it in writing, with the hope that it’ll hold me accountable when I lose my steam.  I don’t really have a plan (nothing goes according to those, anyway), just a vague direction.  Bring on the happy accidents.

Edited for Content

It’s a sunny Tuesday morning and like clockwork, my weekly anxiety attack strikes.   It can happen anywhere, whether at home or in my hotel room in Hartford, where I happen to be in this instance.  But it always happens, and always around the middle of the week.  And  has to do with school.  Or, to be more precise:  My thesis editing class.

And OK, it’s not so much an attack, as it is a knock on the door of anxiety.  The word attack signifies drama, where, in this instance all the drama is confined to the tiny space inside my tiny head.  It’s like comparing a civil war to a squabble.  So, let me restart.

It’s a sunny Tuesday– well, the sun is lingering behind a cloud at the moment, so that is an untruth.

It’s a Tuesday morning that precariously sits on the border of blindingly sunny and offensively cloudy, and like clockwork, my– well, what is clockwork, anyway?  I’m not sure everyone has heard of that expression before, so let me digress.  Everyone has an alarm clock, yes?  Ok.

It’s a Tuesday morning that precariously sits on the border of blindingly sunny and offensively cloudy, and like an alarm clock set to this exact day every week (which is Wednesday, if you’re following) my weekly knock, knock, knock on anxiety’s door…uh, knocks.  Better?  I thought so.

As I mentioned, the theme of this week’s freak out is brought to you by my editing class, featuring a teacher so nitpicky, he makes even the most laid back of men question their every thought, mangling it word by word until it rolls down the crap-covered hill, eventually reaching the bottom as a gigantic mound of poo.

I look at the assignments due at the end of the week (which is only 4 days away, you guys!) and realize I haven’t done nearly enough work yet.  Immediately, questions of my validity as a human being arise.

Tastes like success.

Tastes like success.

Am I sure I deserve to live among these teenage millionaires who are able to pay their bills on time and not mortally embarass themselves after 4 drinks?  Or shall I just burn the few belongings I own and bury my head in the trough with the rest of the pigs in the  pen?

My only source of reprieve comes in the form of peer reviews, in which I get to mangle someone else’s prized work.  Alas, this is only a temporary solution, as they get to review my work too.

But Nate, how does one go about mangling one’s work that is already mangled word by word into a gigantic mound of alleged poo?  

Very soullessly.  Now, back to molding the mound.

Bang the Doldrums

I am jelloed firmly in my bed, feeling lethargic as the mattress seems to swallow me up.  The skies rattle and crackle and eventually open up to show their true intentions.  It soon becomes a rain-soaked day, one drenched in water so acidic it begins to wash away the facades that had become so familiar.  I notice how strange it all looks, distorted through the melting window.  Remembering nothing is complete without a soundtrack, I drag myself away from the spectacle outside to reset the mood.

I put iTunes to shuffle and let the music do the talking.  Keane’s “Spiralling,” begins to play, and I couldn’t have picked a better song myself.

♪ I’m waiting for my moment to come…

One of the great things about music is that it can instantly transport you to a different memory, a different time in some other place.  A particular song brings up a moment that was buried long ago, suffocating under the countless new moments that have occurred since then.  The song brings it out to breathe for a few minutes, perhaps in a new light, with a new understanding of whatever thought was hiding from you.  Its 3 minutes of time travel, taking you back to a forgotten friend, a secret place, a great night or a great love.

The song leaves you with a little smile somewhere inside, like a new secret, trusted just to you.  Somewhere only we know.

And then that other song comes on.  The one that opens that old closet door that has been blocked by the dresser.  It is seemingly busting at the seams, and you reflexively throw all your weight against the door as the junk threatens to burst out.  This is the song that shines the light on that dark corner of the room in your mind.  You hadn’t seen it lately and therefore just foolishly assumed it was gone forever.  You try to find the light to turn off before you see too much, but it is too late.  Your mind has already been illuminated and that’s all it takes, because you are already thinking about that horrible person, the tragic ending, or the place you went where your hand was forced.

I can click to the next song, hope for a happy one.  But the memory has already been summoned.  It’s this weird power that music can have over your mind.  And that’s why I love it; it makes you feel.  Nothing is worse than a mind of lethargy.  That’s that foggy, grey area of nothingness.  Neither here nor there.  Which can be a good thing, sometimes.  But only for a little bit.  Then it is time to pull yourself out of your jello mold, crank up the music and feel again.

The sun isn’t out yet, but the clouds are thinning and the rain is lessening.  I don’t know when the sun may shine, but I do know that nothing is complete without a soundtrack.  Until then, I’ll be waiting for my moment to come.

Reality bites back

per·ceive
[per-seev]

verb (used with object), per·ceived, per·ceiv·ing.
1. to become aware of, know, or identify by means of the senses.

I recently had a discussion with a friend about something I have given a lot of thought to lately:  perceptions.  My friend had pieced together a few facts and decided to fill in the blanks on the rest to form a conclusion about me.  This seems like coming up with a solution before all the parts of the equation are revealed.  When I pointed out that just because she perceives something to be true does not mean it is, in actuality, fact.

“Well, perception is reality,” she said.

Perception is reality.

I have always had a problem with this phrase, regardless of how personal the context is.  Many people perceive many things, and many times those perceptions are wrong.  Someone may perceive you to be moronic, for example, so does that make it reality?  Are you moronic?  People perceive gay marriage to be immoral and wrong, but that’s not reality.

Translation: "OMG, Equality."

Translation: “OMG, Equality.”

When my friend countered with “perception is reality,” all I heard was “I believe it, so it is the truth.  There’s even this nice little phrase to prove my point.  Case closed.”  It made me feel hopeless and that it was out of my control, like someone had just rewritten facts about me and there was nothing I could do about it.  My blood was boiling like a tea kettle resting on a blazing stove.  I could practically hear the whistle.

But I didn’t fully understand all the connotations that come with this phrase.  Thinking about what perception and what reality means  to me helped me to understand my friend a bit.  What I discovered is this:  There are two types of reality.  The first one is the reality that can be determined from the senses, as the definition above tells me.  This reality is of the physical world, one that tells me when I touch the aforementioned boiling tea kettle that it is hot.  I perceive it to be hot by touch, so it is.  I perceive that my niece needs a major diaper change by scent, so she does.  That’s reality.

The second type of reality is one that cannot be determined by the senses. This reality is subjective and is determined by experiences, knowledge, attitude, upbringing, etc.  It is these things that affect someone’s perception on the intangible things, like, say, gay marriage.  Keeping this in mind while thinking back on the conversation with my friend, I am able to gain another perspective on the phrase I once gave a stank eye to.

Mad Black Teapot

Mad Black Teapot

Perception is reality.

Just because one person believes something to be true to them, does not mean that that same thing is true to you.  That is not my reality.  And that’s OK, because conversations about reality and perceptions will be forever debated and can be looked at as a sign of growth.  For example, I can get upset that a large percentage of people perceive gay marriage to be wrong, or I can be hopeful in the fact that the discussion has reached a national level.  Is that enough?  No, but it is growth.

Your perception is your reality.  My perception is my reality.  Case closed.

Reality bites

The days were drenched with a mix of red wine and rain, and it worked its way through the cobblestone streets of Florence in perfect patterns, like dough through a pasta press.  We ate, we drank, we searched endlessly for “Free WiFi” signs, and our haggard, broken Italian undoubtedly made people uncomfortable.  The last day of my Tour of Italy, which confusingly is not the same thing I saw on that Olive Garden menu, had come out of nowhere, like a fresh basket of bread sticks.  Reality, a place I regularly avoid, was just a 10 hour flight away.

airplane_border_pic3Hoping to rid the perpetual garlicky taste on my tongue, I thoughtfully bought a small tube filled with German mints in between connecting flights in Frankfurt.  After all, I know first hand that no flight attendant appreciates a coffee request met with a wave of odoriferous mouth funk.  I waited patiently as the 200-plus passengers, filled with glee over seeing the final destination’s mousy mascot, boarded the massive plane.  My name was called, my seat was assigned, and Lady Destiny once again was strolling next to me as we made our way down the winding jet bridge.

Mid flight, while growing tired of the pint-sized pretzel bags and anticipation of meal service, I nonchalantly chomped down on a handful of the mints von Frankfurt with a shock.  A quick bolt of lightning rushed through the left side of my mouth, the pain fleeing my tooth as quickly as it struck.

italian-wineNot surprisingly, I didn’t happen to be anywhere near a dentist 3,000 miles over the Atlantic, so I decidedly returned to my in-flight programming, circa 1998, and didn’t give the occurrence another thought.  Eventually, the shuddering 747 pulled into its gate in Orlando and I cautiously returned to the real world.

The next day, whilst innocently gorging myself with American pretzel chips, I noticed an absence in my mouth.  I immediately ran to my sister (because, who else?) and demanded a close tooth inspection.  Turns out, about a quarter of my tooth indeed had vanished, most likely into the mysterious fathoms below of my belly.  It now resided with whole jars of peanut butter floating in an ocean of coffee, and that fake marshmallow I ate at a few years back at an Anthropologie that, let’s face it, isn’t going anywhere.

Reality had bitten hard, like a jet-lagged American chomping down on a sturdy mint.  Apparently, superior German engineering does not only apply to BMWs and Volkswagens.  After spending the day in the dentist’s chair, I groggily stumbled out to my car as the harsh light of day illuminated the amount of time and money I had just donated to the dental industry.  Where was my gelato-soaked, Italian sun?

It was then, standing in the empty parking lot under the beating Florida sun, that I realized that my reality is what I make of it.  I could be angry about the grand I threw down in the name of a tooth that, honestly I am still not sure that I need, or I could be thankful for having a shiny, new tooth.  A stronger, better, soldier in my arsenal for my never-ending battle against food.  It was then I once again grabbed Lady Destiny by the hand and rushed back to my own version of reality.

Spring cleaning

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

- Aristotle

I am in my head.

It’s dark and it’s dreary.  I would like to say that it is neatly organized like a card catalog, where all my thoughts are filed neatly away and easily accessible via alphabetical order, but this is not the case.

moneybooth

*cash not included

It’s more like one of those money booths, with my thoughts, fears and desires all being blown around as I frantically try to grasp and hold on to one that’s worth something.  I wager I’d get more worth out of the process with actual dollar bills.  There used to be many things to do in order to distract myself from my self.

For one, I could drink.  I would flood my mind with alcohol, blurring the anxious edges of my relentless thoughts.  That did the trick when I was younger, but my mind has developed a tolerance and now functions at an accelerated level when booze is added.  It turns into the funhouse mirror room, everything distorted and freakish.  The stuff clown nightmares are made of.  This one’s not the answer.

Next, we have the option of “eating your feelings.”  This is a popular method of making oneself feel better by eating until a food coma is induced.  WARNING:  May also result in a food baby.  I used to be able to eat a whole Totino’s Pizza, to which I would add a myriad of my own toppings, such as

*party happens in toilet

*party happens in toilet

assorted meats, cheeses, and/or beans.  Since then, I have reformed my former big girl ways, and doing this today would just result in me lost in a cloud of self pity and indigestion.

I always have exercise.  A nice, brisk run set to a mood-appropriate soundtrack always does the trick.  Or a quick-moving circuit workout will incinerate those pesky, unhealthy thoughts floating in my head.  And guess what?  This option will not give me a hangover from hell or leave me pregnant with food baby twins.

Alas, while I may be provided a temporary high lifting me above the chaos of my brain, I am bound to be dropped back into the fray.

The only remaining thing for me to do is to let everything out.  Whether through talking or writing, showing or acting upon; the medium doesn’t matter.  Once I get the crazy goings-on out of my head, I can clear the path for newer and healthier thoughts, whatever they may be; about the insecurities, the silly, the future, the inconsequential, the all-encompassing.

So, I am in my head.

I am opening the drapes, cracking the windows and throwing out all the junk.  And all of a sudden, the money booth halts, the floods recede, and the high returns.  And I will enjoy it while it lasts.

This post is deeper than a well full of metaphors

May your past be the sound

Of your feet upon the ground

-fun.

Turns out, there are just 3 horsemen:  the past, present and future.  They are all necessary anxieties of evil.  The past is your anchor; used correctly it can keep you firmly grounded or treacherously stuck in the mud.  The future is your high-speed train, not stopping where the track has yet to be laid.  And the present is a game of tug of war between times preceded and time impending.   The slightest tug can make the thin rope SNAP.

Zodiac-Libra-The-Scales

Who knew the scale holder was modeled after me? Ahem.

Being a Libra, the zodiac has given my hesitant sign the mascot of the scale.  Although I am not a dedicated follower of astrology, I do believe this is where I acquire my need for balance in life.  As with all of us, it can be a constant struggle to keep the scale stable.  Some days, my anxiety for the future outweighs my focus on the present.  And sometimes I inadvertently load that scale up with a heaping helping of past regret.  How do we give all three of these influences a positive force that will drive us boldly into the unknown?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and how our past, present and future play such a strong role in relationships, jobs and even simple day-to-day activities.  I like to think of them in terms that a functioning alcoholic (which I am) would understand.

The past is a shot of Jägermeister.  You don’t have fond memories of it, and you definitely don’t try to entertain the thought of it anymore.  Sometimes, you forget about the strength of Jäger and partake in just a tiny (hopefully free) shot.  But all it takes is a Sunday morning belch, a little taste of the past, to set your mind straight again.  I consider that a slight life hiccup.

What+the+Jägermeister+logo+really+means.+The+tags+tell+the_f89b03_4033612The present is my current drink, a vodka and soda with lime.  I don’t drink it for the taste, I drink it because it’s here, it’s cheap and it’s easy.  For the time being, it will do until I get where I am going.  It’s nothing fancy, but it enables me to keep a relatively clean palette and clear mind.

The future is a beverage that I have yet to find.  I know it isn’t anything having to do with Jäger, because I have been there and now realize it is not for me.  Its not the vodka and soda with lime, because I have recognized I want better for myself someday.

Is it a fun-shaped glass filled with something fruity and frilly, perhaps with a tiny umbrella and lots of garnishes?  Maybe.  Is it a refined, simple yet classy tumbler of one of those god-awful variations of whiskey?  That could be also.

I don’t exactly know where I will end up, but I do know where I have been.  All I can do at this point is enjoy my drink and wait to see what the bartender serves me next.

For your entertainment

I can’t think of a single job that doesn’t come with its fair share of monotony.  With professional baseball players its bench time, with doctors it’s the physicals administered to unattractive people, and with accountants it’s every hour that is not lunch.  Except for maybe Kathie Lee & Hoda on the Today show, who are usually drunk by 11am, every occupation has a certain level of tedium.

"Grab your ankles and hold onto your f*$#ing hat."

“Grab your ankles and hold onto your f*$#ing hat.”

With flight attendants, it is the safety demonstration before takeoff.  As frequent flyers can attest to, recurrence of this 4 minute routine can have you donning your life vest (before assisting others!) in your sleep.  But every once in a while I am shook from my seatbelt instructing coma.  The other day, as I was dutifully placing my oxygen mask over my nose and mouth, a young, pig-tailed little girl two rows in front of me was unaware of the masculinity of the flight attendant towering in front of her.  In a perfect stage whisper, she asked a question very cautiously.

“Mommy, is that a boy or a girl?”

Surely, she could not have referred to the extremely male specimen hovering in front of her.  I was already convinced she was referring to the homely woman in the front of the plane, until her mother gave her the discreet answer: “It’s a boy.  Shhhh.”

The evacuation of air from my lungs had me reaching for the fake oxygen mask.  Suddenly, I was no longer in the routine of the safety demo, but a whole new routine.  Now, I was a sideshow freak of an undetermined gender.

The difference between optimism and realism.

The difference between optimism and realism.

Step right up and see the astonishing bearded woman! 

Guess the stewardess’ sex and receive a waived baggage fee!

I obviously needed a rebuttal for this hurtful fire spewed from this little so-and-so’s hate spout.  Unfortunately, everything that came to mind was neither age nor job appropriate and I forced myself to swallow her words like a warm glass of airplane milk past expiration.  Once again, I was bested by someone less than a third my age.  At the end of the demo, I received a half-hearted applause and even a meager “whoop Nate!” from a few random passengers, solidifying the fact that I was no longer here for your safety, rather for your entertainment.

Another quick vacation from Blandville happened again in the middle of the cabin, when while crouching down to retrieve my trusty safety information card out of the demo kit, I split my pants.  The resulting sound got a chuckle out of the gentleman seated to my left, who I was convinced thought I had passed gas.  Needless to say, I felt compelled to explain myself by showing him the rip, which travelled from tip to crack.  Now that I think of it, I really should’ve received a compliment letter for that one.

The point is, it’s easy to get lost in the monotony of day-to-day tasks in my job, and sometimes the only way to survive is to relish the interruptions (or humiliations, in my case) and accept them as a welcome break.  A bump-free road is the real banality, and while a cloudless sky makes for a smooth flight, sometimes a little turbulence is needed to jolt you awake.