Tuesday, October 4, 2016

All or Nothing

If you read my poetry from when I was a young teenager, then you know. You know that I was an angsty, brooding, emo-music-listening-to kind of teenage cliche. I dripped black Sephora tears, bled in ardent poetry, and listened to way too much Linkin Park. 

If you read my articles on Chabad.org from my late teens, then you know as well. You saw my writing attitude shift into a more optimistic, spiritual, if not somewhat self-helpy, vibe. 

Ask me which version of me was more real, more honest, and the answer is, well...neither. 

I wasn't trying to be dishonest or inauthentic at either point. In fact, I was merely trying on these personas for size, and I took comfort in giving myself a label, so I could pretend I was all figured out. Really, I was just searching for an identity, in a world that I have always seen as either black or white. 

What I needed was balance, in a world that I has always nudged me one way or another. What I needed to do was something instead of doing everything or nothing. 
The thing is, balance has always been a challenge for me. My room has always been either chaos, or meticulously organized and labeled. I got either A's or F's on exams. I worked tirelessly on a project or didn't do it at all. My day was either categorized as "amazing" or "awful", rarely anything in between. 

The truth is my day is a cocktail of monotony, joy, sadness, anger, anxiety, excitement... not in that order nor limited to those emotions (how fun for my lucky husband!). It's taken me years to understand that life is not meant to be lived in an "all or nothing" frame of mind. It's not all great or all terrible... people are not all good or all evil... and most of us fall somewhere in the middle of the broad spectrum between perfection and failure. It's the very place I am learning to be comfortable in, and although I've always favored "insta" results, I am learning to appreciate the lifelong journey that is balance. 

When I am tempted to revert to my usual "all or nothing" state and veer far left or right, I pull over and stop to think how fortunate I am to live in world that is not just black or white, but painted in various shades of vibrant color. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

90's Kid

I am almost grateful to have grown up in Buffalo in the 90’s. It challenged me in ways children who grew up in coolers cities or more recent decades were not, and it forced me to become creative. I had to be a little more imaginative, than say a Brooklyn kid with Xbox, if I wanted to have fun. When I complained to my father that I was bored back then, he would say “You’re boring”. Which was true. So I quickly became un-boring.

One hobby I took up was duck catching. We had a pond in our backyard that was home to a family of ducks. Their signature duck waddle gave me the impression that they would be slow enough to catch. This was not the case because, as it turned out, those things also have wings.

If I wanted to watch a movie (and I REALLY did, because we weren’t really allowed to), I had to be completely committed to the cause. There were hangers involved, VCR rental companies, and lots of scheming. I discovered if I stick a pin in the back of the TV monitor, I could watch Arthur. There was a lot of static, but the way I saw it, fuzzy Arthur was better than no Arthur at all. Sometimes I could catch a rerun of Full House or if I was crazy lucky, a new episode of 7th Heaven. One night I found myself watching TV through a crack in my sister’s closet.

I created an Ebay account in my mother’s name and bid on used TV/VCR combos. To my delight I usually won the auctions, but I never actually paid for them because I didn’t have any money. Ebay frowned upon this behavior and eventually shut me down.

I lied a lot, just to see if I could make people believe ridiculous stuff. Most times people were so bored themselves, they would believe me simply because they wanted it to be true.

I told some people Mary-Kate and Ashley lived down the block. I informed my little sister, Ita, and her friend that the music sensation Uncle Moishy took up residence in our basement. And to make things more exciting, his roommate was Uncle Pinchy. Technically Uncle Pinchy was a puppet, but once they were on board with Uncle Moishy, I figured it was believable that two uncles might live together. Plus these girls were like six, and what do six year olds really know about life anyway? I also tried to convince Ita (the target of most of my lies) that there was a family living in the manhole in our backyard. We’d knock and knock on the waterhole and when no one answered, I’d shrug and say “Oh I guess they’re out of town.”

Ita loved when I made her shows, but I didn’t have any Barbies or little Fisher Price people to use as characters, so I used my big sisters’ old makeup. I assigned them names, occupations, and personalities. There’s still a tube of coral lipgloss hanging around somewhere in my parents house named Aunt Martha...

I think it's safe to assume a child named Kale, growing up on the urban streets of Park Slope has not, nor will ever, experience any of that stuff. But it's the stuff that made me who I am today, and gave me the ability to think more inventively, and for that I am grateful.