Sunday, June 27, 2010


I had a strange dream about my mother last night. It was set somewhere straight out of a Gothic horror tale: isolated, dreary, and desolate; full moons and stormy nights. Amongst all the scenery, I was searching and searching for my mother. And in the end, when I finally found her, it turned out that she didn't want to be found, and that I was very angry about her abandoning me.

I woke up with tears in my eyes. I also woke up with the fear that, maybe, underneath my facade, I am still angry with her for leaving -- for dying. That can't be it, can it? Is the solution to everything that simple?

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

As seen on TV

People always think it's funny when I tell them that I don't watch television shows about lawyers. But I don't -- I can't. I used to, and then I would get angry about how the profession is so distorted.

On television, the case always goes right to trial. But in real life, the trial is only one event in a long chain of events, and in large part, it's kabuki theater -- a show for the judge and/or jury, and by that point, the lawyers and the witnesses have studied their parts, rehearsed their lines, and put on their costumes.

The television viewer doesn't see all of the investigative work that goes into preparing the case -- some of it before it's even filed. The viewer doesn't see all of the motions that are researched, written, filed, and argued before the trial takes place. The viewer doesn't see all the settlement conferences and mediations. The viewer doesn't see all of the scrambling around before the trial starts to get exhibit lists and witness lists prepared and exchanged. The viewer doesn't see all of the long hours in front of the computer screen.

The television viewer sees my job and thinks it's much easier and more glamorous than it is.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Gift Horse's Mouth

For the record, I have little or no expectation of receiving gifts, pretty much from anyone.  When I was a kid, my dad used to go on business trips and bring me back hotel soap. I genuinely appreciated the token of affection, however meager.  Today it's not much different:  I am genuinely touched when someone thinks of me, even when I don't necessarily understand the thought.

All of this brings me to last week, when I was in New York, and saw my aunt -- who gave me my "birthday present." For those who don't know, my birthday was in the fall, approximately six months ago.  And the present?  Let's just say that it consisted in part of my grandmother's underwear.

Okay, not exactly underwear.  Three half-slips.  Probably vintage.

I am certain that this chain of events was the result of my telling her that I needed something of the sort to wear under a sweaterdress.  In the winter.  And despite the weirdness of it all, it was genuinely quite lovely that my aunt remembered the conversation and then spent the time searching through my grandmother's drawers -- and drawers, ha ha -- to find them for me.

Which then, brings me back to my dad.  The other night, I told him about how, thanks to his sister, I was now in possession of his mother's delicates.  He didn't think it was quite so funny, and he was perplexed by my reaction.

"It's a good thing you think the whole thing is funny.  Personally, I'd be insulted if someone gave me used underwear for my birthday."

"Dad, at least it wasn't real underwear.  And besides, I'm just glad she thinks I'm as skinny as Grandma."

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

What Holds Us Down

I don't think that we, as human beings, are equipped to recognize happiness:  instead, we're hard-wired to strive for more, for better.  Generally, it's not a bad trait, but sometimes, there are unintended consequences.  Take antibiotics for example:  100 or so years ago, scientists were determined to figure out a way to fight infection, and now, because of their work, the world is a much safer place as a whole, and people live longer, healthier lives.  Well, except for the whole antibiotic resistant bacteria thing.

I've spent the last two-plus years since my mom died trying and failing at figuring out how to be happy.  Some days I feel as if I'm just not built for happiness.  Other times I feel as if I'm a victim of circumstance.  As with most things, the truth likely lies somewhere in-between.

By way of contrast, two years ago, my father made a point of saying that he was going to try to not be unhappy -- and, by all objective indications, it seems as if he's been quite successful. I think the end result of my quest for happiness is that I find myself even less happy than I was to begin with.  And the end result of my father's quest to not be unhappy has yielded some sort of happiness.

It's not until RIGHT NOW that I've realized that the two things are distinct.  Not unhappy is not precisely the same as happy:  the Venn diagrams overlap somewhat, but the circles are not the same.

I have many things to be thankful for.  I have a home, a car, a job, an education.  I have more than enough in the way of material possessions.  I have friends and family.  But I still find myself looking at what I don't have and it tears me up.  I don't have enough leisure time, or the money to do what I want whenever I want to do it.  I don't have children.  I somehow manage to surround myself with people who have an expert way of making me feel second-rate or second-choice or just not good enough.  And, when push comes to shove, I'm not even sure that I have a person that I could really rely on to take care of me in case of emergency.

Am I wrong for wanting more than what I currently have?

Don't get me wrong:  I am extremely grateful for my current situation.  I like my clothes and shoes and CDs and DVDs and books; I like my condo and my car.  But this is not happiness: things are not happiness. If push came to shove, I don't think there's much that I would fight to hang on to. It would be very easy for me to let go of things, people, and places and move on:  there are so few things in my life that I am particularly tied to, and even less that is irreplaceable.

On a very basic level, I am a traveler.  And not just for work -- which I do, a lot.  Somewhere, in my personality, I have some kind of nomadic streak. At this point in my life, I've been a lot of places.  Still, there is so much more out there for me to see, and I desperately want to get there, before it's too late. If I could, I would start tomorrow -- just get on the plane and go.  The where doesn't even matter anymore.

It's the logistics that get in the way.  I have a job, responsibilities.  I have a mortgage.  I have family, more or less.  Still, other than my material possessions, what is anchoring me to any one place?

Maybe that's the solution to all of it:  I should let go of things, get rid of the clutter that weighs me down and holds me in one place.  Be ready to go on a moment's notice, whenever the whim strikes.