Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy Old Year!

I never do New Years Resolutions; I don't believe in them. I believe in making smaller goals -- a goal for the day, the week, the month...

I didn't write 100 blog posts this past year as in previous years -- though I still have 6 weeks to get to 100 on the blogoversary. (I only need about 70...excuse me while I laugh at the thought of writing even 70 WORDS in this thing after law school starts...)

I don't like to reflect on the previous year; it gets depressing to think of missed opportunities, because even if things overall were positive, there is always something to nitpick at. (Though if I look back at 2009, it's safe to call it a success, though honestly, it seems like it was more of a place-holder year than real advancement...)

I do, however, like to think ahead. And I'm thinking good things. Not even so much about the next year, but about the next month, week, and day.

And on that note, I'm going to wish all of you out there the same thing I've wished you in the past:
May you find a 2010 calendar in your price range.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Teddy Bear

I admit it, I have a teddy bear. That's right, I'm a 24-year-old male with a teddy bear. In fact, I have a number of stuffed animals, but just one teddy bear without whom I do not know what I'd do.

Let me put this out there: it's been years since I've slept with said teddy bear, but he lives on my nightstand next to my bed. I always know where he is. And yes, if I've had a bad day, I will grasp him in hopes of gaining comfort, though it works less and less as I grow older. (Which makes me only grow sadder.)

This teddy bear was a gift to me at birth. He's in great condition for a 24-plus year old stuffed animal. He had a rattle inside him that broke upwards of 13 years ago (thankfully), his eyes are rough from many trips through the dryer, he is no longer incredibly furry, and the felt on his nose would come off if rubbed the wrong way, but I guess that's to be expected.

Tonight, I watched my eldest niece, age 5, carry around a bear of her own (whom she called "dolly," though I've always assumed dolls to be human analogs) and I watched her care for it. She made sure her clothing was on properly and her Croc slippers (yes, her bear has Croc slippers) were on properly. Such work for love, my niece puts in. Dolly even has a sweater that my mother knit for her to match my niece's sweater.

Then my middle niece, 3-and-a-half, had a birthday party for her favorite stuffed animal, a bunny (called "Nani") whom I'm not sure I've ever seen her leave the house without. When she goes to the beach, my sister has to put Nani in a ziploc and bring it. Nani cannot leave the bag, but Nani does not leave my niece's side.

I have no friends who admit to having such a tangible connection to his or her childhood still living with them. I guess I can't handle the thought of fully growing up.

My sister used to have a Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal that lived on her nightstand, even after marriage and even while she lived in London for a couple years. I should ask her where Pooh is. I'll honestly be sad if the answer isn't "my nightstand."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

It Never Gets This Dark in Brooklyn

I never used to be afraid of the dark. I admit that I liked having my closet light on when I went to bed as a kid, but it had nothing to do with fear; it was because I loved staying up late and playing in my room without my parents knowing. If the closet light was left on, I could get out of bed and pull out a toy car or legos and sit in its – what’s the opposite of shadow? Since my mother or father would leave me tucked in with light creeping from under the door, there was no way to truly know I was awake and out of bed since there was no change in what they saw from outside.

I never had a strict bedtime. I had a time when I had to go to bed, but it wasn’t that I had to go to sleep. My mother always said: “I don’t care what you do, just go in your room, and I don’t want to see you for the rest of the night.” In the years since then, when I come home for holidays and stay up late and my mother emerges from her room suffering from the apparently-genetic insomnia wanting to play a game of cards or Scrabble, I regurgitate that same line to her. (She probably wishes she had never used it on me…or that I were not smart enough to see the cyclical nature of our dilemmas.)

So I used to stay up. I’d bask in the light of my closet. I would tire myself out, since the rest of the day clearly did not tire me.

I am now an adult – by age and lifestyle, at least – and live alone without anyone to tell me to turn out the light or to go in my room. So I keep the light on until I get tired enough to sleep. Just like when I was seven.

But now, I’ve developed a fear of the dark. Not really all the time – just at night. That’s the hazard of living in New York City; there is never true darkness to deal with. The lights that reflect in from the street, from neighboring apartments, from the hallway of the building, those lights are a built-in excuse to distract from sleep, to distract from thoughts, to be able to watch shadowy figures dance and let imagination run wild. It doesn’t take a night light to play with a toy car – literally or proverbially. It doesn’t take action to distract oneself; the world does a good enough job for you.

So now, I’m afraid of the dark. I’m afraid of having no excuse. I’m afraid of having no distraction. I’m afraid of having my eyes wide open and still only seeing the back of my eyelids, the inside of my brain, my thoughts and memories and fears and anxieties.

I’m afraid of the implication that comes with total blackness at 2 in the morning, that of solitude and loneliness, and frankly, of being lost.

I love vacation, but after this one, I only fear my next. Bring on the onslaught. And the next time I have free time, I’ll spend it where the light still shines and being alone doesn’t mean ever being alone. At least then, I’ll have an excuse for insomnia.

Halfway Down the Stairs

In a recent entry, I posted the video of “Halfway Down the Stairs,” which is one of my favorite Muppet Show segments. As great as the segment is, there is something to the simplicity of both the music and the lyrics that speak to me. There is an inherent duality in its meaning, and I am never quite sure if it is a hopeful piece or a depressed piece.

On The Muppet Show, it’s sung by Robin Frog, Kermit’s nephew. (Though we do not actually find him to be Kermit’s nephew until the season following this sketch.) Robin Frog is always a slightly depressed character. He’s the underdog the Muppets. He’s the one that nobody really notices, but he’s genuinely liked and would be missed if he weren’t there. I guess I relate a lot with Robin. Perhaps it’s more in my head than a real one-to-one correlation, but this song is part of what makes me love Robin.

It’s a song really about a special place – a place of solitude and reflection, a place that “really isn’t anywhere, it’s somewhere else instead.” In my own life, I have had many places like this, and I am yet to figure out if these are happy places or sad places.

When I was little – say 5 years old and under – I loved nothing more than being in places that only I could fit. When I was VERY little, I used to love to stand under the kitchen table, the place where I could be surrounded by the action and be completely free of everyone else, as I was the only one who could fit. I reigned over the kingdom of under-the-table. I would play with toy cars. I would stand there when I didn’t want to go somewhere that my mother was making me go. I would just go to get away from it all. (More often than not, I’d take my teddy bear with me, as even the powerful ruler of table-opolis needs a companion and confidant.)

When I grew too large for the kitchen table, I used my abilities to curl up in a little ball – something I can still do quite impressively today for a so-called grown-up – to my advantage and would curl into laundry baskets, again with my teddy bear, and sit contently.

As I grew older, my me-places became more normal solitude places: My car on a long drive; Long walks on the beach; Long showers; My piano bench. (Incidentally, I hated being interrupted while practicing piano not because of the rigors of practice, but because it was the only place I really felt like I could be alone without leaving the house, as my entire being would get into practicing and I did not like being torn away from that world.)

In all of these me-places, one constant remains: duality. Sometimes it’s where I escape to cry; sometimes it’s where I escape to revel in glory; sometimes it’s where I go to reflect on the future, itself an action of ambiguity and duality.

Having such strong attachments to music, many songs – or specific recordings – have an emotion tied to them when I hear them, be it one I’ve implanted onto it, one tied to a specific memory, or one deliberately written into it.

“Halfway down the stairs,” however, is one whose emotion changes as fluidly as my own.

But I always love it and it’s always me. I guess it’s a place where I always stop, too.

Rather than post the video again, I’ll link to it, but I will also type out the lyrics here:

(video here)

Halfway down the stairs is a stair where I sit.
There isn’t any other stair quite like it.
I’m not at the bottom,
I’m not at the top.
So this is the stair where I always stop.

Halfway up the stairs it isn’t up and isn’t down.
It isn’t in the nursery, it isn’t in the town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts,
Run round my head.
It isn’t really anywhere, it’s somewhere else instead.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Thinking too much

Rowlf's voice in this hand puppet really says it best: you can't get away from it.

Two versions:
The first from 1959 from "Sam and Friends"
The second from 1966 from "The Ed Sullivan Show"


I've been having a bout of insomnia lately. Yes, I have been known to have odd hours, from the year I was an RA and went to bed around 4 every night, or the year where I was studying with a yogi and at one point went 3 days without sleep and merely 20-minute meditation sessions every 6 hours, but the difference is I wasn't TRYING to sleep then.

Now, here I am -- and have been for the last 2-3 weeks -- sitting awake in bed, watching my clock roll over another hour. I've owned a sofa for a mere two weeks and change, and yet, I've spent more nights falling asleep lying curled in a little ball on it with the TV sleep timer on than in the previous 20 years of my life combined.

Though I do not need sleep, I miss it.

In my new-found time to watch DVDs, I've started watching all of The Muppet Show seasons 1-3 DVDs. (Rumor is that season 4 will come out in 2010; they're just working on getting rights to some of the music.) I'd say I've rediscovered that my favorite Muppet Show music is the A. A. Milne stuff, but that implies that I'd forgotten it at one point.

So without further ado, two of my favorites:

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Everything happens...

We all know the old cliche "Everything happens for a reason." (And if you don't, where do you live, and can I come with?)

If you want to be technical, this cliche is true. I mean, every action has a(n equal and opposite) reaction, and every effect has a cause, and vice versa. So strictly by definition, nothing just plain happens without something having led up to it, so yes, everything does, in fact, happen for a reason. But that's not what the cliche is supposed to be saying.

It's understood that the cliche is supposed to mean that all the crap that happens to us is supposed to fit into some greater plan. I may not identify my spiritual beliefs as that of any religion, though I do consider myself spiritual (though I think spiritual is the wrong word. I think "zen" is more like it...), and while I've had my "there's reason in this" stage, I've come to realize that that's a bunch of, well, hogwash.

"Everything happens for a reason" is the passive approach to life. That action is usually followed by the reaction of, "let's see what this universe has in store for me." That's all fine and good and a good way to get through some tough times, I guess, but I've taken on a different approach.

No longer is it, "Everything happens for a reason," it's just "everything happens." And no longer is that followed by "let's see what happens next," but rather, "let's see what I do next."

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, I'm telling you to stop focusing on the universe and start focusing on you. Luck favors those who work, the only way to get ahead is to take a step forward, and most importantly, the universe doesn't give a crap about you.

But if it makes you feel any better, I do!