Monday, November 15, 2010

Proverbial Lemonade Stand

My old apartment in the West Village had a lot of issues. When the heat was working, I wore three layers of clothing. I found a few mice. There were late night weekday poker matches with thick smoke and thicker accents. But I realized I needed to move when we didn't have hot water for days, then it was suddenly shut off - we were alerted by the posting of this makeshift "sign" out of cardboard and writing with the dirt from under fingernails.

I was raging, needless to say, upon reading this. I couldn't believe they treated us so poorly, and just fumed for probably a day. So pissed I took the above photo. I wanted to show everyone that cared about me, so they could see just how rough I had it (poor, poor me.)

However, when I got home from work, I was greeted with a slightly tweaked sign:

At first I scoffed at this new sign and became enraged simply by seeing the color red. But then, I quickly realized two things: 1. Being pissed off wasn't going to do a thing in this scenario, and more importantly 2. It was actually kinda funny that I was so pissed off, and everyone around me was dealing with the situation too. At that moment I decided to get off my high, pissy horse, realize it could be worse, and started relishing the fact that I had an excuse not to shower.

Lesson #37 in moving to a big city: This is as cliche as they come, but life is so much easier and more pleasurable if you manage to find the funny, ironic, silly parts to a situation and choose to laugh at it instead of curse it. I had a lot more trouble being able to do this when I first moved, since there's just so much stress that it's hard to let go of it. But as much as you can, find what brings you joy and remember that being happy is a choice. (Also, in cases like the above living situation, another lesson is to move.)

Hell, I curse and I feel the force of anger threatening to impale me at times, but as I get older (wiser?) I'm gravitating towards the Lemons into a Lemonade Stand model of life. When I feel rage coming on, I try to take a step back as much as possible and deal with it instead of allowing it to simmer. Humor is how I deal with it most effectively. I'm amazed by how much a short clip of Maru or a funny stand up act can influence my thoughts; I'm working on getting that inner joy/laughter from within, but when it doesn't work, you can't blame a girl for getting it however she can. I usually need to get past the initial pissed off angst, then it gets surprisingly easier to calm down and enjoy whatever it is I'm supposed to be pissed about. Or I just force a smile and to oft surprising results.

{EDIT: I have an even better example of choosing to laugh at something. The other day, I was wearing my absolute favorite pair of corduroy pants, which have been worn so much they basically don't have the raised threads that make them corduroy. I took a deep bend and they split right open all down the leg. I was deeply surprised, and could've gotten embarrassed and decided to embark on a diet then and there, but instead, I laughed. A lot. Then I ripped the pants further as a way of eulogizing them, since they can no longer be worn. I loved the hell out of those pants, and I chose to enjoy a laugh at my own expense rather than getting upset. I haven't been able to throw the remains away, just yet...not until I find another pair to take their place. Now that I think of it, that's not the first time my pants have ripped, but it is the best reaction I've had. :D }

So that's my gem of wisdom-y lemonade for today: you're in control, and feeling angry = bad, feeling joy = good. Why not increase the joy to anger ratio if you can? Again, this is a constant work in progress for me, but then again, so am I. Forever the same, always refining.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pick your Poison

While I'm not an under-employed musician living in Chinatown, I can appreciate the basic tenet of this song: living in the city is stressful.

I've realized that one fail-proof way to gauge my stress/anxiety level is to simply check my fingernails. Some people's weight fluctuates. Others break out, or get dark circles under their eyes. While I'm not immune to any of these either, my fingernails are the constantly victimized ones.

My thrashing, stress laden teeth come down on my nails with no abandon. The pearly white beasts don't stop until there's (literally, sometimes) blood. I'm not kidding, though it has gotten better over the years.

I've struggled with nail biting my whole life, trying various remedies. Most notable: my dad bought me the terrible tasting nail polish to deter me from biting. Turns out I liked the feeling of ravishing my nails more than I disliked the taste of said polish.

Lesson #36: Learn to accept that some of your bad habits/vices are simply here to stay. There are enough pressures and outside stressors that you should pick your battles, and pick your cuticles if it helps deal with stress. My nail biting has only been exacerbated by living in this city. I go through phases where I'm able to grown them out a dainty millimeter or two. When I get to this point, my nails become a precious, exotic novelty, and I protect them the way a mother shields her fragile babies.

But then, lo and behold, I get stressed and the next thing I know, they're gone. I generally have no recollection of the nail biting happening, but I have learned to keep them a bit longer than in the past. I suppose I'm learning the subtle art of restraint?

At the very least, you'd think I'd appreciate the decadent iniquity of nail biting. But the stress saps that small joy from me, and essentially bites my nails for me since it happens so quickly, and without memory.

Somewhat ironically, the only things I've found consistently cheaper in the city are manicures. However, the last time I went, the nail technician seriously considered whether or not it was worth painting my nails. They're beyond hope (her words). But now that I've started to just accept this vice, I can focus my time figuring out how to handle inevitable stress more effectively. Who knows - maybe that'll help with the nail biting, and lead to a new career as a hand model.

(if you ever see me with these, please introduce me to stress immediately.)