Seinfeld-ology: “Nods to Nothing”

SeinfeldWhile having lunch with a coworker the other day, our conversation wondered to the topic of a man we work with. For the sake of the story (and to protect the guilty) we’ll call him Bradley. She and I commiserated about the fact that while very friendly and outgoing initially, Bradley’s interactions with each of us had indeed diminished over the course of time.

“Don’t you think that’s strange!?” I said to her in an extremely annoyed and curious tone. “I mean, why in the world would a person just STOP communicating for no apparent reason?”

My dining companion appeared to be equally vexed at the mere consideration of my question. “You know,” I continued “You’re probably too young to have watched or remembered the show, but this whole situation reminds me of an episode of Seinfeld.”

Of course, as many of you know… almost EVERYTHING reminds me of an episode of Seinfeld. Though I’d like to think that rather than this being due to my having some sort of sick, twisted obsession with the “Show About Nothing” — it can be contributed to the fact that the show was pure genius in that it dealt with the mundane, everyday things that happen to all of us.

Tell me friends, has anything like this ever happened to you? Here is Elaine’s scene from the aforementioned episode…

ELAINE: Tell me if you think this is strange: There’s this guy who lives in my building, who I was introduced to a couple of years ago by a friend. He’s a teacher, or something. Anyway, after we met, whenever we’d run into each other on the street, or in the lobby, or whatever, we would stop and we would chat a little. Nothing much. Little pleasantries. He was a nice guy, he’s got a family… then after a while, I noticed there was no more stopping… Just saying hello and continuing on our way.

And then the verbal hellos stopped, and we just went into these little sort of nods of recognition. So, fine. I figure, that’s where this relationship is finally gonna settle: Polite Nodding. Then one day, he doesn’t nod. Like I don’t exist?! He went from nods to nothing.

And now, there’s this intense animosity whenever we pass. I mean, it’s like we really hate each other. And it’s based on nothing.

You see, this was a perfect description of what was happening to my coworker and I! We went from nods to nothing with this guy. And although it remains annoying… there is a bit of comfort to be found in the fact that this MUST be a somewhat common occurrance in social settings.

I only wish that I had the guts to confront “Bradley” the way Elaine eventually does with her problematic rude dude…

ELAINE: So, I had what you might call a little encounter this morning. I spotted the guy getting his mail. And at first, I was just going to walk on by, but then I thought “no, no, no, no. Do not be afraid of this man.

So, I walked up behind him and I tapped him on the shoulder. And I said, “Hi, remember me?” And he furrows his brow as if he’s really trying to figure it out. So I said to him, “You little phony. You know exactly who I am.”

And he goes, “Oh, yeah. You’re Jeanette’s friend. We did meet once.” And I said, “Well, how do you go from that to totally ignoring a person when they walk by?”

And he says, “Look, I just didn’t want to say hello anymore, alright?” And I said, “Fine. Fine! I didn’t want to say hello anymore either, but I just wanted YOU to know that I’M aware of it!”

But alas, I would never actually have the intestinal fortitude to say such a thing. Most of the time art imitates life. But oh how I wish (in this case) it could be the other way around.

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Deep Freeze

ice-crystals
Like armies taking to the fields in battle, the ice marched steadily onward. Starting at the edges and meeting in the middle, its frozen grip grew briskly downward crystallizing all movement and solidifying that which was fluid mere hours ago.

Once again I stand in awe of nature and the uncanny way it has of taking over. It gains control of everything without ever having checked with us.

So too, life goes on without regard for our plans, our ideas, our dreams, our schemes. Time advances on us, like a freeze to unsuspecting open water, and we have no choice but to withdraw… to surrender… to survive… and to wait.

We wait—with overwhelming anticipation—for the sweet, sweet mercy of the thaw.

Belonging

three swansThree white swans inhabit the waters of the quarry stretching beneath and beyond my new office window. The other morning, the aqua expanse awash in the warm, bright sunlight of a new day, I watched the trio glide across the water just as they did the very first time I saw them.

They swim in a unique formation and always the same. Two of them remain close together while one trails slightly behind. They are graceful and lovely and a welcome distraction from the busy computer screens blinking and beeping at me with email and meeting alerts for the majority of the day.

Normally, I would think very little of the fact that there are only three. But a co-worker pointed out to me that a year ago there were four. Two pairs, consistently swimming together and doing whatever it is swans do. Over the course of time, however, the group had lost a member.

For an animal lover like me, it’s sad enough as it is without the regard for one important detail… Apparently swans mate for life. And this was a tiny bit of avian intel that I did not know. It wasn’t just that the “group” had lost a member, but one of these creatures—the one who trails roughly a swan’s length behind—had lost its partner for life.

For some reason that I can’t quite put my finger on, I’ve found myself obsessed with them. I look for them every day, hoping they will grace me with their silent presence. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that one of them has lost its partner, often causing me to wonder if perhaps he or she is sorrowful or lonely? Or whether or not it’s the fascinating fact that the other pair allows the lone swan to remain a part of the group? But something about this unconventional bird bunch intrigues and inspires me.

Such has been my preoccupation with them that I have tried to figure out the source of my quite-possibly-borderline-unusual curiosity. And I think (after some excessive reflection) I’ve nailed it down. I think it’s because the behavior is so human. Their bond reminds me so much of us with our innate desire to connect with others and to forge relationships that will stand the test of time.

The mating for life thing is cool… Don’t get me wrong. I know there are a lot of critters in nature who do this. But I think what has captivated me most is how consistently they stick together. The three of them… The odd number of them.

I don’t know about you, but I take great comfort in knowing that the need to belong stretches far beyond me… far beyond my peers, family, friends and fellow human beings… and farther still beyond the edges of the quarry outside my window… and infinitely beyond any of the natural world that I can touch, feel and see.

Someone Else’s Life

“Isn’t it strange you always wake up as yourself? Not even one day somebody else.”

Someone ElseThat is the opening line in one of my favorite episodes of HBO’s show Enlightened. The show stars Laura Dern as Amy — an enthusiastic but broken woman turned whistleblower trapped in a less-than-satisfying-sometimes-tragic-and-chaotic life in corporate America. I’ve actually written about it before and for anyone interested, you can find that post here.

The show is about to enter into it’s second season this weekend, therefore the previews and reruns have been rampant. Not that I mind. I loved it the first time and have been anxiously awaiting this moment for over a year. While waiting I’ve been refreshing my memory by watching the reruns and last night was reminded of the line I quoted at the beginning.

I was struck the first time I heard her character utter those words: Isn’t it strange you always wake up as yourself? Because I remember, vividly, as a child often pondering the very same thing. It must have been some sort of phase having to do with self-realization, self-awareness or some other sort of psycho-babble. But I’ve never shared those thoughts aloud until now. Apparently, I thought it would be fun to tell about 200+ readers instead of say, a close friend, parent or sibling.

I distinctly remember a time, early in elementary school when I would sit around my room, looking in the mirror or down at my hands, legs or feet and reflect on the notion that I was always, only ever going to look at the world through THESE eyes. As me. And NEVER anyone else. And honestly, I was a little bit disappointed. Mostly I was in awe of the fact that of all the people I’d witnessed coming and going at school, on the television, at church, at the bank or the grocery store… I would never be anyone else.

I couldn’t help but feel a teensy bit cheated by that reality. I mean, it wasn’t like life had dealt me a bad hand or anything. I had a good life. I was and am healthy. I had and continue to have wonderful parents, a sister who seemed to tolerate me THEN and is NOW a friend, a nice home, friends, pets, toys and lots and lots of love and laughter.

But I believe there was something in me that wanted desperately to know what life might be like through a different set of eyes. Call me adventurous or perhaps insane… I think back then, I just didn’t want to get bored. An entire lifetime, to me, seemed a very long time to spend inside the same body. Notice I said back then. Because as adults I think it is quite common to wonder what life looks like on the other side of the proverbial fence. We wonder what if

What if I had studied something else in school? What if I made twice what I’m making now? What if I had two children or six? (depending on what you may or may not already have) What if I stuck that out? (insert whatever your “that” is here) What if I lived in Fiji and sold t-shirts on the beach or was a SCUBA instructor with a killer tan and chiseled body? (OK, maybe that’s just mine.) But I think you get the idea…

This is it. This IS life. And this is all we get. ONE of them, experienced through ONE pair of eyes for as many days as we’ve been uniquely given. And I guess I can pout all I want to when I look in the mirror… wishing I were taller with a willowy frame, or that I’d been an attorney or a SCUBA instructor. But I think the point is to live THIS out the best that I can. Making the most of the highs, gaining perspective from the lows.

I just love the way Amy says—with childlike honesty—something we’ve probably all considered at one time or another during this thing that we only get to do ONCE. This thing called Life… Isn’t it strange you always wake up as yourself? Not even one day somebody else.

Silence Isn’t Golden… It’s Diamond

diamond ringsI’m not a very quiet person. I realize this may come as a shock to some, but I like to talk. Oh, who am I kidding? I LOVE to talk. I REALLY LOVE to talk. I can talk all day, everyday about anything, everything and nothing. I am basically a good person, but my one downfall (if I had to admit to one)… the ONE thing that has consistently gotten me into trouble is my talking. I opened my mouth in pre-school to talk about who knows what—probably Play-Doh or Barbies or Captain Kangaroo—and I haven’t closed it since.

Which is why it was not surprising when yesterday evening during dinner I got the sneeking suspicion that Lee (being as polite as one could be after a long, hard day at work) wanted me to shut the hell up. He was eating peacefully and there I was yammering on about something I’d read on Facebook, various job leads, the bank account, bridal gown shopping and a web design class I thought I should register for.

He didn’t SAY anything, mind you. But I could tell. I’d seen the body language before in my father, my mother, my sister, my co-workers, the teller at the bank, the clerk at the grocery store, the optician fitting me for new glasses and the poor, helplessly-captive phlebotomist drawing my blood at the Red Cross. Once that needle’s in… she’s committed baby! I’ve got an audience for at LEAST a pint — which CAN be awhile if you fail to squeeze the squishy ball hard enough.

I don’t know how else to describe it. But it’s something that can be read in the resigned slump of the shoulders, the “please shut up” roll of the eyes and naturally the “oh $#@! here we go again” nodding-while-avoiding-direct-eye-contact thingy. I guess it’s just something one must experience in order to recognize. But… I digress.

Anyhoo, immediately upon detection of this behavior from Lee that he did, indeed, want me to shut the hell up… I sighed a heavy sigh, pet the cat and said to Lee: “Well, I should probably just be quiet now and let you enjoy your meal.” An observation that he, of course, did NOT deny. But he DID un-slump his shoulders, make eye contact with me and smile. He finished chewing what was in his mouth, used and re-folded his napkin, then turned toward me to speak.

“I just find it interesting that you’ve been talking to me this whole time while we are eating and yet…” He paused for a drink of his Diet Dr. Pepper. “… you sat silently on the couch for over an hour when I got home this afternoon, glued to those ring catalogs that I gave you to look at.”

For a rare moment I was speechless. My gaze immediately darted from him toward the living room, landing on the carefully-stacked diamond catalogs sitting innocently on the edge of the coffee table. He had brought them home only hours earlier for me to “take my time” perusing in search of a potential wedding band and light blue sticky notes were already jutting out from the edges of several pages. I looked back at him sheepishly and silently… my face turning fifty shades of pink… my diamond lust having been found out and now grossly on display beneath the revealing yellow light of the dining room.

“I guess I know how to shut you up then.” He said, half-teasing and partially serious. Apparently… for me… silence never was golden. But it just might be diamond.

What’s In a Year?

holding handsKisses were exchanged as the clock struck midnight and one by one the couples announced their plans for 2013.

“We’re gonna pop out a kid, honey!” Said the couple excitedly expecting their first child in the spring.

“We did a pretty cool thing in 2012 and it looks like we’ve got an exciting year ahead of us.” Proclaimed the pair of newly-minted parents whose baby girl arrived the previous fall.

“Here’s to the first year in our new home.” One of the two newlyweds seated on the couch replied to the other.

Looking out across the snowy landscape in the wee hours of a brand new year, we couldn’t help but consider what 2013 might hold for us. “2013.” Lee said as he navigated the snow-covered roads back to our house at the conclusion of the party. “Twenty years ago…” We began to say at the exact same time. Twenty years ago we graduated high school together before heading off in two very different directions. “It’s just so hard to believe.” One of us exclaimed… preaching to the proverbial choir.

We will get married this summer. That much we know. The planning has begun and as a picture of our wedding day emerges, our excitement grows for the anticipated date. But beyond that, it is unclear where we will go and what life will look like. We have a home and friends and belong to a community. He has a real job and I am hoping that the new year brings permanent employment (beyond contract work) my way. But for the most part, we are settled. Much of our picture is already colored in.

“So I suppose they’ll have their own little club once they all have babies.” I announced over lunch today while referring to the growing enclave of which we are not a part. “There’s no one else like us, you know.” I muttered with a mouthful of food while considering what the words “like us” meant exactly. I decided I was referring to couples in their late 30’s who don’t have children and aren’t sure they want any. I suppose it is as simple as that.

“I like us.” Lee stated very matter-of-factly as he shrugged his shoulders in a perfunctory but decided sort of way.

And I was reminded—all over again—why I love him as much as I do.

“I like us, too.” I said and reached for another slice of pizza.