I Fell

Let me set the scene for you:

I’m walking to work in a major city…on a hot day with heels on. There are people right, left, and center. I’m not used to walking in heels, so I’m a little off balance to begin with. But then I am trying to get out of someone’s way so I speed up. My foot slips in my shoe, slicked with sweat, knocking me completely off balance until I fall onto my hands and knees. 

I’m frustrated and annoyed. Not because I apparently don’t know how to walk, or because I suddenly feel 5 years old again when I would fall and skin my knee. No. Because not one person asked me if I was okay. Not one. They all let me fall and pick myself back up with no assistance offered. 

Let me remind you, society, that you’re allowed to break the rat race script. If you see someone fall on your way to work, you can ask them if they’re okay. You don’t have to be afraid that I’ll murder your family if you talk to me. Just help me. Help someone in need. 

If we do that, we can make life a little more human. 

Winning the Lottery is a Great Way to Die

Yes, if you haven’t heard, the Powerball Jackpot is up to a whopping $500 million dollars.

And if you really haven’t heard this news, then it’s probably because you haven’t been watching the news, or it’s because you’ve been fantasizing about what you’ll do with all of the money.

So, what will it be? Pay off your debt? Buy a new house? Move to another country? Own a yacht? Donate to charity? Get a sporty sports car? Quit your job in the most dramatic way possible?

Of course, this is not to mention all of the things that you’ll have to do when you hit it big: hide from relatives, remain anonymous, donate to your alma mater, squirrel it all away or blow it one shot, enroll in therapy to cope with your losses.

See, the problem with winning the lottery is that it is completely life-changing (says the girl who has only won prizes out of a claw machine and knows nothing about actually winning the lottery). But, sans experience, if you really think about it, if you think about coming into a lot of money, you’ll find that there are a lot of parallels to dying. No, seriously:

  1. There is a formal announcement. (People who aren’t your relatives may cry. Your relatives may cheer.)
  2. Everyone pretends that they know you. (And show up at the most inconvenient times).
  3. You have to disappear for awhile. (Whether you come back is really up to how much you win and how much debt your relatives are in).
  4. You have to give up your current lifestyle, sometimes unwillingly. (Which is exactly like death because, well, you know, you’re dead.)
  5. Relatives have to sort through your belongings. (And decide what to move into your new castle).
  6. You realize that it was your health that mattered all along. (Again, death sort of puts a stopper on anything “health-related”).

And so what do I mean by all of this? More money is the way to solve my problems, you say. And it is in some ways. I’m not about to sit here and tell you that my student loans have gone away because I have been wishing on every 11:11 I see.

But there is a price to receiving gobs and gobs of money. What everyone doesn’t realize is that when you receive it, you have to give up a lot, too. You inevitably experience a sort of death in society, as it were. And it really isn’t a happy demise. (If you need specific examples, google every single celebrity ever.)

Let’s face it: you have to give up your sense of anonymity because everyone knows the person who won 500 mil at the office, drug store, mall, etc. You have to give up your current life because everyone is going to call you a cheapskate if you don’t buy a mansion, and everyone is going to whisper when you pour every cent into a new Ferrari. But most of all, you have to give up your sense of humanity. Sure, you can donate to charity, and it will most likely make you feel good. But you’ll never be able to really empathize with the struggles of the common man or woman ever again. You’ll be a ghost, looking in.

The point is, if you say that you need more money in your life, you are simply looking to deaden yourself to the world. You are simply saying that you would prefer to disappear. What you really need to be saying is that I need more love in my life. And when you have that, you begin to realize that all of the best things in life are truly free.

Look Mom, No Pants

It all started with one very stubborn girl that refused to put her clothes on as a child.

That girl was me. From all of the home movies that I see of myself as a kid, I can testify (and my mother can verify) that I did not like to wear clothes. Apparently, I would simply remove all of my clothes as someone might put up their feet or turn on the television to get comfortable at home.

But even though I may watch my bare bottom fly up a staircase over and over again on tape, I can recognize that all kids went through this phase, where clothes were cumbersome and nudity was freedom. Then, after there were plenty of complaints abut “decency,” all children would grow up to understand that clothes were a necessary part of life, a burden unspoken. (Yes, even I, the perpetually naked toddler now wear clothes regularly. In fact, I like to layer several times over because it is one more barrier between me and the rest of the world.)

But that’s just it. We don’t grow out of that phase when we get older. Really, we just develop a voice inside of us that tells us why it is unacceptable to be nude in public. The instinct, however, still lives inside us. So, like most things, we’re resigned to keep our activities in the sanctity of our houses.

But trust me when I say that everyone knows the joys of sitting around in their underwear. Every person who has to wear a bra knows the absolute ecstasy of slingshotting it across the room. Even, in a less extreme way, a person who is forced to wear a uniform to school or work can revel in wearing a pair of denim jeans or a t-shirt after a long week at the office or the classroom.

And this is how I perceive humanity.

No, not the old public speaking trick of picturing everyone in their underwear.

It’s the idea that deep down, underneath our clothes, we’re all naked. And not only that, when we slip under the sheets of our beds, with someone lying beside us or simply by ourselves, we have no pretense, only our pajamas (or lack thereof). We share our nothingness, and somehow, it is something.

In short, I think if we could focus on the simple pleasures in life that we all know, the desire to get out of uncomfortable clothes or situations, the goal of being comfortably intimate with someone you love, or the way that we all seem to be able to shed the same second skin at the end of a long day, humans would realize that we are no different from one another. And even though we wear clothes, we’re no better than any other organism on this Earth. Pants are not a symbol of intellect, but of oppression, if you ask 4-year-old me (and sometimes, even 24-year-old me.)

Now, I’m not suggesting that everyone should join a nudist colony to connect with their inner and outer selves. Just the opposite: if we are forced to confine our humanity and experiences to the private spaces of our lives that we must work harder to recognize them in public. We must open more dialogue about the topics that we would like to keep hidden. We must all learn to celebrate each other, since they don’t call it a “birthday suit” for nothing.

Why I Don’t Hate Humanity

Believe me, it would be easy to do so.

In the past 24 hours, I have heard on the news that a man killed his ex-wife and all of her family. I heard that a man held a number of people hostage in an Australian cafe. And finally, worst of all, I heard that 130 children were killed in Pakistan due to a terrorist attack.

Of course, I heard about all of this because our media holds closely to the adage: “If it bleeds, it leads.” I know all of these details because the bad dominates the good in the nightly news. And, if you were listening to the nightly news well, nightly, you may hold to the impression that humans, on the whole, are going to hell in a hand basket of their own making.

And if you believed that, well, I couldn’t very well tell you that you were wrong. Because that is what it looks like right now, doesn’t it? If I was an alien, swooping in from outer space, I would probably hightail it out of the Earth’s atmosphere. In fact, I would let the humans duke it out instead of using my own alien firepower to dominate the race. As an alien, I would grab a snack and watch the show.

But of course, this is all because we’ve been stretched as tight as drums and instead of admitting that we have a problem or that we need help, we’d rather grab a gun. It is fascinating that in a time of extreme connectivity, in a time where all of your friends and family are a text away, that so many of us should feel so alone, so ostracized. But we all do.

So, why don’t I hate humanity for all this? Why don’t I hate them for not recognizing all of this before it is too late? Is it because I am human too? Is it because I recognize that everyone has a good side and a bad side? Is it because I know that everyone is fighting a hard battle inside? No. Although I wish I could be a better person myself, believing all of that.

I don’t hate humanity because we are incredibly predictable. For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction for us. If there is love in the world, then there is hate. If there is violence, then there is peace. If there is pain, then there is joy. No matter what, there is an equal amount of everything.

It’s a beautiful system. Because whenever there is ignorance and darkness, there is someone trying to provide knowledge and light. Now, there is such a thing as a false sense of justice. Sometimes the tidal wave of humanity is too great to squelch a single evil thing in the world. We crush it and smother it, and that means that a great thing cannot rise in its place because it has been doused too quickly. We can’t learn from it. So, we must be careful of leveraging too great of a remedy for too small of a poison and vice versa.

And mind you, I said I don’t hate humanity. That’s a far cry from loving them. But I’m working on it. One day at a time. Because as I’ve said, when there is room for hate, there is also room for love.

Adult Middle Finger with a Child’s Bandage

Actions always speak louder than words. Especially when a certain action is representative of a certain choice phrase that is incredibly offensive (at least in American culture).

I mean, flipping someone the bird can really be a slap in the face. Literally. It is basically the equivalent of taking off your glove and slapping someone to start a duel. Really, can you think of a quicker way to start a fight with someone than giving them the finger?

Which is why we need to be really careful about who we flip off. Not just because you have no idea who has a gun (or a crossbow for that matter) these days but because we need to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves. 

And here’s how to put this into some perspective.

Every day I have a commute to work. Inevitably, every day I encounter idiots, imbeciles, and people on cell phones. I would like to believe that my tolerance is much higher, but occasionally (usually), after the third time I get cut off, I feel like speeding past the parade of a**holes and giving them a piece of my mind. That is, without rolling down the window. 

But when I thought about doing that today, when I thought about giving the car next to me a righteous glare and a certain digit (not a number), I looked down and saw the How to Train Your Dragon bandage over my precious finger, that I had to have from the grocery store a few months ago. And I absolutely needed it over the weekend when I cut myself with a potato peeler. 

Suddenly, I realized I had no grounds, (I mean no grounds whatsoever) to be giving the middle finger to anyone. To the driver next to me, I was just a girl who didn’t know how to keep her obsessions out of her first aid choices. I was just an overgrown child sloshing through rush hour. But most of all, I realized that I knew what it was like to (accidentally and intentionally) drive like an idiot, and I certainly have known what it is like to be late.

And somehow, my tolerance of people grew three sizes today.

So, I don’t really care how you do it. If you need to wear a really childish bandage on your middle finger to remind you that we are all just one step away from barbarism and that we are all one step away from our childhood at any given time. But the overall message I want to convey is that we need to be kinder to each other. We need to put the middle fingers down and put the thumbs up! (Too cheesy, even for me?)

Okay, maybe that’s not going to happen. But at least we can be more patient with each other as we walk (and drive) this earth together.

Everyone is a Camel

I think that everyone needs to be reminded that everyone is a camel.

Are you still there? Or did you leave to find a blogger who is unaffected by brain-eating amoebas and extended metaphors? If you are still here, then take my hand. Figurative language isn’t so scary when you have someone to talk and walk you through it. 

So. Where were we?

Oh, yes. People are camels. But camels aren’t people, mind you.

Like I said, I’ll explain. Imagine your best friend, your parents, your boss, your co-workers, your favorite Starbucks barista, all as camels. Just hold that picture in your mind for a minute. Now, close your eyes. Uhm, well, close your eyes and get someone else to read this blog post to you. Imagine that all of your camel relatives have straws on their back (I know it’s supposed to be the other kind of “straw,” but I like drinking straws better. When you write your own extended metaphor, you can use whatever you like).

I think you know where this is going by now, but for those who are coming down for a long day and this is floating somewhere above their head, I’ll continue. Now believe that those straws are not ordinary drinking straws but filled with lead. Each straw weighs at least a pound. And each camel friend has about 100 of these straws. On their back. If I’m doing the math correctly (I’ll get out my calculator, just so I don’t drag this blog’s “good” name for hard-hitting journalism through the mud) that’s 100 pounds.

And let’s not forget that you are also a camel. With the same amount of weight on your back. And the same amount of straws.

So, let’s recap. Everyone’s a camel. And everyone’s got heavy straws on their back. And those straws will inevitably represent different things to different camels. What may seem rather inconsequential to you, like a drinking straw in fact, is earth-shattering to another camel. No two straws are the same because no two camels are the same.

And we’re all pretty thirsty because when you think of camels, you think of the desert and dehydration, which is why drinking straws are also a great part of this metaphor. And for some reason, you’re also imagining a bunch of camels walking to some distant destination (and now you’re thinking: how does she know?!)

But we’re not traveling to some distant destination because we are arriving at my point. There are two ways to help your fellow camels. 1) By taking care of some of their straws. Even if you can only take one of their straws, I promise you, it will feel like you are taking 20.  2) By not adding any more straws. This can be hard, but try to recognize when your camel friends have too much on their plate, or rather, their back. If you both have an equal amount of straws, then at least talking about them may help you to stop noticing how painful their weight is. It’s what we’re here to do in life: remind each other that we are more than just our straws. ( I can see the movie title now: The Fault in Our Straws). Just remember: no one has zero straws, and no one person has them all.

The fact is I think we all need a little help stepping into each other’s shoes sometimes. I mean, before I get into another metaphor, we all need to recognize each other’s struggles. And if my camel metaphor helps you to (ironically) see the humanity in people, then I can retire. What I think it has done is provided you with a hankering to watch Lawrence of Arabia. And that’s cool, too. Just don’t forget what I said about the being nice to people thing. Okay?