Who Me? Territorial? Nah.

Never let it be said that humans aren’t territorial. Otherwise, why would we have legal property lines and build fences? Why would we hang signs that label “our areas” as such? Why would we get irritated if our neighbor decides to park a GINORMOUS camper next to our driveway, obstructing our view of the street and making us feel like we live on a Hollywood set, or we’re in prison or we’ve been relocated to Big Arbs campground!?! Huh?

The following is a little internal narrative I wrote down about 2 years ago when a grumpy old fart just up and started randomly TAKING my parking spot… EVERY. DAMN. DAY. I’ve since left that place of employment for a different place … with better parking.

_______________________________________________________

My eyes narrowed when I saw him pulling into the spot.

THE parking spot. MY parking spot. I’ve never seen him park there before. Why did he decide to start now? Everyone should know by now that THAT is MY parking spot. I’ve been parking there for months ever since the layoffs started and a “prime” spot became available just outside my office window. My window. My spot.

And I heaved a heavy, aggravated sigh.

Alright. I guess I’ll just have to take the spot next to it today… and hope that this doesn’t become like a regular thing. I mean, I’d hate to have to start cutting my lunch hours short just to safeguard the spot. If I don’t… and HE starts parking there… before you know it, he’ll think it’s HIS spot. And then what will I do? I’ll have to find another spot. This really does annoy me.

So I glared at him the entire time while he squared up his car and shut off the engine and gathered his things and walked into the building.

That will show him. My iron stare. WHO does this guy think he is? I don’t even know this guy. Does he even WORK here full-time? I think maybe he’s an engineer. Oh! Look at me! I’m an engineer! I’m better than you! I make more money than you do! My job requires a lot more brains and skill and responsibility than Marketing does… I can park wherever I want to!

And I slide into the second-rate spot right beside him. Meanwhile… one of the retired guys enters the parking lot, returning from lunch, and he glares at ME!

What is YOUR problem?!? What the #@%* are YOU looking at? Why are you even here? You are retired and supposed to be coming here on a part-time, consultation-only basis. But instead, I think I see more of you NOW than I did BEFORE you retired! What is up with THAT?!? Do you have a problem with me? You don’t even KNOW me. We’ve never even spoken. Stop looking at me. Jerk.

And then it dawns on me… I just parked in HIS spot.

_______________________________________________________

Listen… when it comes to territory… the only difference between us and the animal kingdom is the fact that we don’t “mark” our territories with bodily fluids. Then again… maybe there are a few of us who do.

If there are… I really wouldn’t want to know.

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Chinese Take-Out for One

I used to eat lunch in my car. Just about everyday. Most days I’d either take something from home or order fast food from a drive-thru window. Occasionally I would sit in a restaurant and eat by myself, but there is a bit of that good old “feeling like a loser” element at play when dining alone and in public. I’m NOT a total loser… I DO have a few friends, and naturally there were days I would have lunch with one or more of them. But the vast majority of the time I found myself flying solo and therefore it seemed much more comfortable to dine in my ride. I don’t eat in the car much anymore. And perhaps the story I am about to tell you is the reason why. I would like to share with you—a cautionary tale perhaps—about why it is not a good idea to eat Chinese take-out alone in your car on a rainy day.

It was a damp and dreary day. And I felt like having something a little different. I was in the mood for something warm and substantial and maybe even a little spicy… and yes, I am still talking about food.

The previous Monday I had stopped at Subway for lunch and I noticed a Chinese restaurant next door and so on this day I thought: Hmmm… that might just do for it for me today… it’s warm and substantial and if I place my order right… it could be spicy too! To borrow a line from Elaine on Seinfeld… eating the Chinese food in my car would be quote: “better than eatin’ it alone in the restaurant like some LOSER!” So I took it to go and planned on enjoying it in the park. I could not, however, predict the avalanche of problems this would pose on a cold, rainy day.

#1. I forgot how much “stuff” there is too carry with Chinese food. The bag (that must remain level at all times), my bottle of water, the napkins, the utensils, the soy sauce, the fortune cookie… So I had to figure out a way to juggle all those things PLUS my purse, my keys and my umbrella. Luckily I carry a big purse, so I managed to dump the water bottle, napkins, utensils, soy sauce packets and cookie into my purse. But I still had in my hands, the purse, the bag of food (that must remain level at all times), the car keys and the umbrella… which I was hoping to somehow manage to OPEN before venturing outside into the torrential downpour. When I finally got everything situated (or so I thought), I had such a terrible grip on the umbrella that when I pushed the button to pop it up… it flew open, poking me directly in the eye!

<insert expletive here>

#2 So with my one good eye, in the torrential downpour, I found my way to the car and folded myself inside, purse, food, keys and demonic umbrella included and drove to my favorite park. Once settled I began assembling my meal. As everyone knows, soy sauce packets are hard to open… Even harder with a plastic shell of hot food teetering on your lap in the cramped driver’s seat of a car. So, naturally, upon opening the first packet of sauce… it squirted all over my favorite light blue sweater.

<insert another expletive here>

By the way… does anyone have any tips about how to remove soy-sauce stains from finely-knit sweater material? If so… please let me know.

#3 With one good eye and a soy-sauce-stained sweater, I began to eat my food. After a bit, I received a text message from my friend Jodi wanting to know if I’d like to have lunch with her sometime next week. Of course I would! Anything would be better than eating in the car… all one-eyed and soy-stained… ALONE! But as I attempted to reply to her message… my phone slipped from my grasp and landed… right smack-dab in the middle of my General Tso’s spicy chicken.

<insert yet another stronger expletive here>

#4 With one good eye, a soy-sauce-stained sweater and a General-Tso’s-and-rice-covered cell phone I began damage control. Since the chinsey napkins didn’t seem to be doing the trick, I desperately and ashamedly resorted to licking my phone in order to clean it off before the food was able to congeal and gunk up the phone for good. Oh… and I prayed to God that no one was parked beside me to see me licking my phone!

#5 So there I was, making out with my mobile phone, with one good eye and a soy-sauce-stained sweater when I realized that ALL of the windows in the car were fogging up from the hot food. For the second time in as many minutes I found myself praying to God that NO ONE had pulled into the lot beside me and happened to notice the windows all fogged up… just me and my LG. I wondered if there were any new city ordinances against such behavior like Public Indecency with a Cellular Device.

So this my friends, is why it isn’t necessarily a good idea to eat Chinese food—ALONE IN YOUR CAR—on a rainy day. You really are better off eating it alone in the restaurant like some loser… because trust me… you cannot possibly look like MORE of a loser than a one-eyed, soy-sauce-stained-sweater-sporting, window-fogging, cell-phone-licker.

Loving the Questions

For as long as I can remember, I have been an impatient person… and a worrier. Such endearing qualities, I know. Oh… And I am also a ruminator… with a capital “R,” I can chew on a thought like nobody’s business. Seriously. You can ask anyone.

In fact, anyone reading this who knows me very well, is probably at this moment, smiling, laughing or at the very least nodding their heads in enthusiastic agreement. I’m not sure why I am like this. I wish I could blame it on someone or something… like my parents or older sister, a sadistic teacher, a traumatic childhood event, an evil playground bully. But none of that would be accurate. See, I’m fairly certain that I came straight out of the womb, hard-wired to be like this.

I ask a million questions it seems… all the time. What am I doing? Where am I going? How is THIS going to turn out? What is (insert name of just about anyone here) thinking right now? When will that happen? What if this happens? What if that other thing happens? How am I going to pull THIS off? How’s THAT going to work? What if? How come? What for? Why me?

I also rush ahead (in my mind) wondering about the future, rather than living fully in the present. I mean, do I ACTUALLY think that by dwelling on or worrying about the future I am going to miraculously get to any of the answers any sooner? The thing is… I know that this kind of thinking is not only an exercise in futility… but it is harmful. It’s harmful because it robs me of any joy that I am capable of feeling right now… in the present.

So, for all my fellow worriers, ruminators and commiserative comrades out there… I want to share one of my favorite quotes with you. The reason it is one of my all-time favorites, is because it does such an amazing job of bringing into focus exactly how we ought to see our current realities as well as our futures.

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms or books that are written in a foreign language. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then, gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answers.
Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

It’s so important to remember that Time will… in time… pull back the curtain and reveal the answers to us one day, but until then we need to enjoy whatever TODAY has to offer because the Present is the Future of the Past.

The Trim Tab

“Call me Trim Tab”

This simple phrase is etched on the gravestone of Buckminster Fuller, one of the great geniuses of the 20th century. He loved the metaphor of “trim tabs” for understanding and communicating the powerful influence of the individual.

Famous for inventing the geodesic dome and coining the word “synergy,” Fuller once said:“Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Mary — the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab. It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all.”

He goes on to say that individuals should never underestimate the ability they possess to leverage change. And while Fuller was speaking more about “change” as it pertains to a larger establishment, I couldn’t help but think about this concept on a more personal level. My thought being… the power we possess to change ourselves.

Years ago, when I first read about this tiny, little thing being responsible for the change in direction of an entire ship—I relished the idea that such a small, seemingly insignificant part of a massive vessel was actually key to deciding where it would ultimately go. This led me to realize that minor, personal changes, made over time, could yield MASSIVE results!

We all have things we want to change about ourselves… from being a better spouse, parent, friend or employee to shedding those ever-looming unwanted pounds. I think a person would be hard-pressed to find another who is 100% satisfied with their own status quo. Often, when we set out to change these things that we don’t like about ourselves, we set our sights too high, our goals too lofty… and we fail. And we stop trying.

There are a lot of things that I would like to change about myself. I can’t stand my lack of discipline in seeing that I get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. Consequently, I hate my morning rush-around and the resulting guilt that I feel if I walk in the door to my office 10 minutes late. I want to eliminate my debt. I wish I had more patience. I’d like to be a better daughter, aunt, girlfriend and friend. I’d love to learn contentment and how to live fully “in the moment” — every moment.

Just compiling “the list” is overwhelming to me. Were I to try and achieve or even “work on” all of these things at once, I would surely fail. It’s too much to attain immediately. Feeling defeated, I would probably just give up. So consider for a moment, that if a tiny piece of material can ultimately turn a giant ship simply by making little adjustments, then maybe we’re capable of changing our own direction in much the same manner. Perhaps we need to take smaller steps toward our larger goals.

In the course of one year, I lost nearly 50 pounds and people are always asking me how I did it and what my secret was. They are surprised when I say that I did it without exercising or putting myself on some ridiculously rigid diet. I tell them that I made a handful of minor changes and in the span of one year (52 weeks) it came off a pound at a time. Ultimately these minor changes yielded some major results. Not overnight… but eventually.

The other day when someone asked about the goal I had achieved, I suddenly remembered reading about the concept of the trim-tab. At the time, I didn’t realize that “trim-tabbing” was what I had been doing all along with the weight loss, but now that I know, I am going to start applying this principle to the other areas of my life that I wish to change… one small adjustment at a time.

What am I doing right now? Well, tonight I think I’ll start by going to bed early.

The Back of the Closet

Have you ever, in desperation, looked in the very back of your closet to search for something to wear because nothing you own seems good enough and you HATE all of your clothes? You push aside the tees you wore this past weekend, the blouse you wore yesterday and the top you’re saving for “Casual Friday,” all in the vain attempt to reach the bowels of your wardrobe hoping against hope that therein hangs some incredible unforeseen garment that you’ve forgotten you own and can therefore resurrect!

Aha! You find something! How in the world have you missed it in all this time?!?! This is wonderful! This is going to open you up to endless, interchangeable fashion possibilities! This is going to double, no TRIPLE your number of available ensemble choices! This textile, could perhaps… transform your entire world.

Now, of course, as you stand there… hanger in hand… arm outstretched… admiring the aforementioned “Savior Garment”… there is one thing you know you must check first. And it is absolutely imperative. It is the biggest hurdle you will have to overcome, but you MUST find out before you get too excited and mentally begin pairing things up and creating outfits that will undoubtedly turn heads. I am referring to the all important question: Does it still fit?

<gulp>

Quickly, you consider everything you ate THAT day as a peremptory justification for any minor snugness, should it exist. You try to recall the last time you’ve broken a sweat (not including this one), pushed play on that dusty Denise Austin DVD or even laid eyes on the inside of the gym. Then you begin thinking about all the morning lattes, the mayo on your sandwiches, the bleu cheese dressing on your salads, the 3 p.m. sugar binges, the weekend baseball beers, the weekly-Lifetime-movie-cookie-dough binges… and the fear begins to build.

<double gulp>

Somehow you gather the courage to slide the first appropriate appendage into said clothing item… then the second. So far, so good. Now comes the true confirmation of your intestinal fortitude: Will it button, latch, zip or close without the surgical removal of any vital organs? With your eyes squeezed shut, muttering prayers, you try it. Praise God!! It STILL fits!!! The clouds part, rays of sunshine pour into your room and in the distance you can hear the faintest sound of angels singing The Hallelujah Chorus!

Ah… now the real fun begins. What to pair with this “new” former frock for it’s reintroduction into the rotation. After trying various color and texture combinations, taking into consideration this particular item’s unique strengths and weaknesses… you finally select just the right piece with which to pair it.

You’ll wear it the very next day.

Tomorrow arrives and you’re amazingly able to jump out of bed and kick start your day just by thinking about how nice you will look in the day’s oh-so-stylish ensemble. You will get so many compliments and your envious co-workers will assume you’ve been shopping, when in actuality, you haven’t spent a single dime. In anticipation for your great day, you get dressed, leave for work early and even stop for a latte… because apparently they haven’t damaged your figure too much seeing as this item still fits.

No sooner do you get to work, pull into your parking spot and get out of the car do you realize WHY it is that this piece of clothing was SHOVED to the back of the closet… It may fit you the same as it ever did… but it is so uncomfortable you cannot STAND IT!! You spend your ENTIRE day tugging and pulling and adjusting and hiding in your office, praying for the day to be over so that you can take this freaking piece of crap and CRAM it in THE BACK OF THE CLOSET… right where it belongs.

Life by the Numbers

It begins and ends with a number. A dreadful sound shatters the stillness of my slumber and I open my eyes to see 3 green and glowing numbers looming ominously over my rapidly-dissolving dreams. 6:00 a.m.

In the midst of a heat wave, I turn on the news to channel 3 see how hot it is actually going to get today so I’ll know exactly how much or how little to wear. 95. With a heat index of 110.

Stumbling down the stairs to my non-air-conditioned main floor, I glance at the thermostat. It says 84. I say a curse word.

With great fear and trepidation I climb onto the scale before climbing into the shower to estimate the damages from my nephew’s 11th birthday celebration the night before. XXX lbs., XX.X BMI … these numbers are for my eyes only. But I do utter another curse word.

Sitting down with a 200-calorie breakfast comprised of 8 oz. of OJ and 8 oz. of cereal with 4 oz. of milk, I obsessively check the stats on my blog page. At 7:20 a.m., there have been 23 views, 2 comments and 9 referrals. 0 new subscriptions. On Facebook, I have 1 notification, 2 messages, 1 invitation to play FarmVille and 1 friend request. I accept the friend request. I have 664 friends. Nope… make that 663. Someone just dumped me. Somewhere in the distance I hear a muffled scream as my profile goes swoosh into the virtual trash can belonging to the loser who unfriended me.

Out the door with 20 minutes to spare, I have the misfortune of getting behind 2 of the slowest-moving utility vehicles you’ve ever seen. They are doing 35 in a 55. At this rate, I will be 10 minutes late. Eventually I pass them doing 85 (I imagine my speeding ticket will cost well over $100) and wind up behind 1 even-slower moving 18-wheeler carrying 3 steel coils on a 2-lane highway. I follow him for 4 miles at 45 MPH. Make that 15-minutes late.

The word count so far is 335. In case you’re curious. Though now that I’ve used more words to tell you that… it is higher.

Miraculously only 10 minutes late to work, I have 5 unread messages and 7 projects to complete before 5 p.m. As a graphic designer, my work day is infinitely full of numbers… dates, times, account numbers, quantities and measurements. Therefore, I will spare you the details of the bulk of my day.

At 12:00 noon I call Verizon Wireless to give them $112.68. There is $XXX.XX remaining in my bank account. I utter yet another curse word.

By 5:00 p.m., there are exactly 6 hours left in the day before bedtime. Another obsessive check of blog stats and Facebook: 71 views, 8 comments and 11 referrals. 1 new subscription. Facebook offers 3 notifications, 1 message, 0 friend requests. Dinner at 7, a 2-hour phone call starting at 8 and 1 hour of reading, watching TV, writing or painting my nails before the clock strikes 11. I must get at least 7 hours of sleep a night or I’ll be a hot, cranky mess the next day. Just ask my loved-ones.

Turn off the TV, check the thermostat… 86. Curse word. Lights out. 11:03 p.m.

I wrote this account (get it… account?) as an exercise when it occurred to me how much of my daily joy and pain is tied directly to NUMBERS. Why must we quantify our value based on hard numbers… from how much we weigh to how much we earn? From how many virtual “friends” we have to how many people visited or commented on our blog today? For 1 day I’d like to ignore these “values” … and derive my worth from that which cannot be counted. Who’s with me?

Who Are “They”?

They say drinking a glass of red wine everyday is good for your heart. They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. They say owning a pet lowers your blood pressure. They say driving a red car increases your chances of getting a speeding ticket. They say more and more children are being diagnosed with food allergies. They say playing video games contributes to Attention Deficit Disorder. They say purple is the new black.

So I have just one question: Who exactly are “They”? Because it seems that “they” sure have a hell of a lot to say. I mean, is it just me, or has anyone else ever wondered about this?

Recently I was having lunch with a friend, making regular small talk and naturally “They” came up in the conversation. I don’t remember in what capacity exactly, though it doesn’t really matter. It might have been something like: You know, they say that the polar ice caps are melting at a much faster rate than initially projected. Or maybe: I just heard that they say carrying a few extra pounds is actually healthier, so lets ask the server for another basket of bread! Or perhaps: They say it’s better to wash your hair every OTHER day, rather than every day.

Whatever the topic of discussion, I stopped for a moment and asked her: Have you ever wondered who THEY are? I mean we are always quoting what THEY say and we seem to base a lot of our decisions on what THEY recommend. If THEY are so frickin’ important, how come we don’t seem to know who THEY are?

She didn’t know either, but confessed to both reciting and following the advice that THEY offer with some regularity.

Who are these people that we would constantly listen to whatever “they” say? They seem to know everything, from what we should eat to what we should wear. What medicines we should take for what ails us and when. What we should read, drive and listen to. What we should do for fun, for improved concentration, for effective time-management, for better-behaved children, for healthier relationships, for better sleep, for better sex, for slimmer thighs, for thicker hair, for cleaner floors, for softer skin, for whiter teeth, for gingivitis, for wrinkles, for snoring, for dragon breath, for athlete’s foot, for dandruff, for excessive flatulence, for bad credit, for NO credit, for better bowel movements, for increased productivity, for more laughter, for more friends, for more love, for more fulfillment, for better quality of life.

I mean, if THEY know sooo much… I for one, would like to meet these people!! THEY have been telling us what to do for centuries now, and THEY seem to enter our conversations on a daily basis, if not an hourly one. I don’t know who THEY are, but if anyone out there does… PLEASE let me know!

In the meantime, while we continue searching for the ever-elusive, all-powerful, all-knowing, collective “THEY”… be aware the next time you hear yourself or your companion utter the phrase: “You know, they say…”