Thursday, March 15, 2012

Born to be Silly

Queen Teen has a hard time signing the letter Y. Her pinky won't stick up as it should.

Yesterday, she told a friend that she can't make a Y. Instead, she held up her fist with just the thumb sticking out. "This is how I do it." Then she grinned and said, "I guess I was born to be silly. See." She moved her fist in front of her face with the thumb pointed at her nose, the sign for "silly." 

She laughed so hard she collapsed on her bed.

Later, she told me that she was born to be silly "...just like Rick." 

"What about me?" I asked.

"You're silly sometimes, but not all the time like me and Rick."

Dang! I gotta up my silliness to compete with those two. Guess I need to play "What's sillier?" more often.

Queen Teen- What's sillier, a banana or a watermelon? 

Mom - A banana of course.

QT - Yes. That was an easy one. What's sillier, a shoe or a hat? 

Mom - Ummm.... a hat?

QT - No, a shoe. 

This is a game Rick and Queen Teen have been playing since she was 3 years old. They are now the masters of silliness. I tend to over-think the questions, which is also why I tend to fail the DMV written test on the first try. 

QT - What's sillier, an egg or cheese? 

Mom - An egg.

QT - No. Cheese is sillier. Gee Mama, you just don't get this game. 

There are subtleties to this game that baffle me. I'll watch Rick and Queen Teen play and have no idea why they're laughing. 

Rick - What's sillier, a gold fish or a frying pan?

QT - A frying pan.

Rick - Yes! (insert hysterical laughter from both)

Mom - Why is a frying pan sillier than a goldfish?

QT - It just is.

Rick - How many people have been hit by a gold fish?

Mom - So the game is based on whether or not people get hit by something?

Rick - No.

QT - It would be funny if a person got hit by a goldfish. 

Rick - Yeah. Maybe a goldfish is funnier?

QT - Yeah! (insert more hysterical laughter)

Mom - Okay, what's funnier? A pie or a cake?

QT - Pie.

Mom - Not cake?

QT - No.

Mom - Why?

Rick - Because there are lots of pies.

Mom - But getting hit with a cake is messier, so wouldn't it be sillier?

Rick - No. The thing itself has to be sillier.

QT - Pies are silly.Cake is not.

Mom - That doesn't make sense.

QT - (sighing sadly) Mama just doesn't get it.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Captain and Terena

Rick and I were asked to perform at a friend's wedding. The theme: 1920's circus. And what a circus it was! Beautiful costumes, talented dancers and singers, and the grand-finale: the wedding vows performed as if the bride and groom were in a 1920's silent film.

Also performing was... The Captain and Terena (pun intended)!

My hubby was an acrobat in a San Francisco circus when he was in his 20's, and is still a talented juggler and performer. So when our friends asked us to perform, he dusted off a classic knife throwing act he'd done back then and asked me to assist. Of course I said yes. Who wouldn't want their husband to throw knives at them?

We were asked in the fall, so we had plenty of time to practice for a March wedding. We should have had enough time, but Rick picked up two big work projects that lasted through January. And there were the holidays, a couple of illnesses ran through the house and my shoulder started acting up again, making physical activity painful. Suddenly it was the end of February and we'd just finished the script.

It's never a good idea to do a knife throwing act without practicing a lot, so I called a good friend to help. Isn't it great we have the kind of friends who will agree to assist with a knife throwing act? We ran the act with him and discovered the hand cuffs were too small, the rubber glove wouldn't pop unless blown up fully, and some of our jokes fell flat. But we also discovered new jokes and problem solved the technical issues. With the wedding only two days away, we were ready.

On the day of the wedding, we got a call from the bride. The theater they had rented for the event wouldn't allow us to throw knives. How the hell do you do a knife throwing act without throwing knives? I met with the theater manager and explained how the routine worked, but they were still insistent that we couldn't throw the knives. OK, no problem.

Seriously, it wasn't that big of deal because our knife throwing act is a gag; no actual knives are thrown at a person. I don't want to give it all away, but lets just say we give the victim... I mean volunteer from the audience... a major fear-factor. There's a little risk because we were using real knives, so practice is imperative. No one could be killed,  just nicked if we missed the balloon. Luckily for our volunteer, we didn't miss.

Our performance was a smash! We picked a random name from a list of people the bride thought would be good for the act, and he was perfect. He was nervous as hell, but funny and willing to do what we asked, even being handcuffed to a wooden target, blindfolded, and then asked to hold onto balloons Rick would pop with his knives. The audience was in on the gag and laughed loudly. At the end of the act, Rick and I traded places, so I got to "throw" the last knife at the rubber glove the volunteer held between his legs. Rick handed me his hat and jacket and then stripped off the rest of his suit, revealing a red sparkly dress and hose. He was adorable.

I loved performing with him, but I admit it was a little stressful too. Any time you perform with someone, you have to navigate each other's fears and insecurities: try doing that with your spouse. But standing on stage next to my husband while the audience laughed and cheered our performance was exhilarating.

Plus, it felt mighty fine wearing a slinky red dress and jacket and still be able to turn a few heads at age 45.  It helped that my mini-cleavage was smashed together by the dress. Hiding the wireless mic was a challenge, though.

Alas, I don't have any photos from the act yet, but when I get some from the bride, I'll share them here. You've got to see my hubby in his dress. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The most astounding fact.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson is one of my muses; his intelligence and ideas are inspiring. This explains better than anything my intuitive feeling about the meaning of life and our connection to everything. Beautiful.

Monday, March 5, 2012

My definition of faith

All right, that's enough feeling sorry for myself.

I have to put a time limit on having the blues, because I can really let myself sink way down deep into the darkness. It's too comfortable in there, all safe and alone inside my depression. Eventually, I've got to drag myself back out into the brightness of the world, whether I want to or not. Besides, I've got a lot to take care of right now.

For starters, I obviously need to go back to my doctor and discuss upping my meds again. I may no longer be suicidal, but being bitter and nihilistic doesn't mean my depression is cured.

There are bills needing to be mailed, groceries to be bought, a play to write, and my book publishing company to be focused on. There is more ASL to learn and a girl named Queen Teen needing my attention. No more hiding in my room listening to Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden. It's Spring in Mendo. The birds wake me up at 6:00 am when the first glimpse of sunlight brightens the eastern horizon. The yard is shaking off the winter frost and stretching back to life. Weeds are popping up thicker than the perennials. The worm bin is overflowing and my lettuce starts need room to grow. It's time to get my hands dirty outside.

I had an epiphany yesterday while washing the dishes in my cluttered kitchen. All of the sudden, the concept of faith popped into my head. From my earlier posts you've probably gathered that I'm not religious. I used to be "spiritual" but even that has vanished, leaving me feeling uninspired by much of anything (depression again?). So it seemed odd that I'd be pondering the meaning of faith like that. But in that time, I created my own definition of the word.

Faith: the belief that life is fine just as it is. 

I may not feel it right now, but I have faith that the people and things in my life are good. Life is fine.

This is different from blind faith, which is pretending that everything is fine even though you haven't changed the things that need changing.

Real faith in your life comes from the understanding that you've done everything you can to solve what needed solving and what remains is life. I can not change Queen Teen, but I have done everything possible to help her. Therefore, I must have faith that she is okay just the way she is.

My definition isn't all that original; it's a cross between Buddhist mindfulness and The 12 Steps of AA. But it helps me. Taking a deep breath and focusing on faith is a very hard thing for this Type A, depressed control nut with deep abandonment issues. It's going to take me a while to really absorb my newly discovered faith in life.

And probably a little more help from my shrink too. But it's a start.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Dancing my way through a mid-life crisis

The words "mid-life crisis" sound like such a joke, until you're in it. The joke isn't the crisis, the joke is what we do with it.

My mid-life crisis started when I turned 40 and realized I had no health insurance, no retirement, and no savings; I didn't even own a car. So I went to grad-school to fix those problems and when I graduated I got a job with the county of education as an Orientation and Mobility Teacher in the special education department. I now have health insurance, retirement, and the beginnings of a savings account. My family is more financially secure, so I should be happier, right?

Nope. Not happy at all.

Sure, I can pay the mortgage and go to the doctor now, but the deeper questions still remain, questions like, who am I other than Queen Teen's mom? Why can't I save her? Is there a god, and if so, why is she doing this to my daughter? Or is Queen Teen's disability caused by her karma? Is she atoning for past lives, or learning something important? Are the atheists right? Could it really be a random luck of the draw that caused her disability? What happens when things get worse? Will she die? If she does, will her soul live on or is there no soul? Will she just disappear? Do we all disappear?

I call myself a Buddhist, but I'm questioning my faith in that philosophy. Even my favorite teacher, Pima Chodron, the one Buddhist teacher who has been able to help me when faced with spiritual crisis, can't answer my questions. Which I suppose is part of the Buddhist philosophy on suffering: there is no answer.

But damn it sometimes I want a straight answer!

Questioning ones faith and place in the larger meaning of life is the heart of a mid-life crisis. Facing mortality and meaninglessness is what causes so many people to dump their spouses, buy a sports car and quit their jobs. Existential angst is painful, so who wouldn't jump at the chance to run from it? Much better to celebrate life, rather than worry about the other cliche: the meaning of life.

If we don't stop and face those questions and understand there aren't any answers, those questions will come up over and over and drive us to make one stupid mistake after another. In the middle of the night they'll haunt you, until you need sleeping pills or alcohol (or both) to get some peace. Am I being melodramatic? Probably, but a mid-life crisis is melodramatic. Life and death come crashing together on stage in flaming technicolor, and only the brave or slightly crazy can stand the noise.

Luckily I am both brave and a little crazy, so I'll be alright. The most important thing you can do when coping with these deep, psychological questions is treat yourself with the utmost compassion and patience. You will have horrible days when the pointlessness of everything will make you want to start drinking at 10 am. And you will have wonderful days when that pointlessness will actually look beautiful, because you'll feel free and open to all the possibilities of life.

Keep breathing, and don't jump the cute guy who gave you his phone number because you think he'll save you from getting old. No one can save you. The only one who has a chance of saving you is you, but that probably doesn't give you much comfort when you're hurting and confused.

Here's a song that brilliantly portrays the feelings of a mid-life crisis; I've danced to it several times, which helped a lot. Get out of your chair and start dancing. I think dancing might be the only way to survive a mid-life crisis.