I write about my life and life itself seen through my eyes for who can write through the experiences of others if not their own?

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Laughter, Best Medicine?

Self effacing has been my preferred form of humor since my early years. I found out how effective it was when it helped me avoid the bullying of my classmates.
I quickly realized the bullies enjoyed it when the victim was visibly upset. In fact, they would increase their tormenting jokes, but they would let up if there was no reaction or if the targeted person enjoyed the pranks as I did. I became good at laughing at myself before they could. I became my own best bully. Eventually they stopped the teasing and accepted me and even made me their friend.
The insecurity of my early years carried into adulthood and so did my self effacing. Making fun of myself gave me the chance to laugh at me before anyone else could. It protected me. More importantly, by laughing at myself, I was able to laugh with others.
Laugh with others, that’s the key word.
I do not laugh at others.
Simply put I know what it feels like to be embarrassed in public.
Here is the difference; I laugh when my friends joke about their weight, but I never make a fat joke. They are the masters of their own humor when it comes to their body. They own the right to make fun of it. I do not.
Social media has provided an arena for those of us who enjoy self effacing, but simultaneously, it has also become a forum for hurtful, humiliating, and embarrassing comments that can be funny on a one on one setting, but not in a public site.
While I am good at my “own people’s” comments, my accent is the target of many unwanted and unsolicited jokes.
Recently while talking to a friend, the lady sitting with him repeated most of my sentences and followed it with a hard laugh. Twice I expanded on what I had said thinking perhaps it needed explaining. Finally, I asked “do you feel the same?” She replied with a laugh, “no, it’s just the way you say it”. If the woman thinks that kind of mockery is funny, she is sadly mistaken.
Humor serves many functions. It can serve as a pleasant exchange. It can ease the tension in a conversation, but there is a fine line that should not be crossed in humor or we’ll end up embarrassing or offending someone.
The world is a better place when we laugh with someone. But if you must laugh at someone, let that person be yourself.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Be Like A Mirror

In between warm hellos, hugs, and light conversation at a local race, an acquaintance approached me. “I just want to tell you how mad I was when I read the Facebook post (blank) wrote about you. It was so wrong” she added. I blinked twice, shook my head and asked “I’m sorry, what?” Oh, I thought you knew. There was this post…and then…” I wasn’t following anymore. “Such angry person” she said as she ended her monologue.
“They are free to post anything.” I said. Another person approached me and I excused myself from that conversation.
The brief encounter resembled a yahoo chat group years ago where people engaged in angry confrontations and accusations about the senior management of the company we worked for. At times I would run into a person who had been the latest target of one of the insults and I would offer my sympathy. Little did I know then that any words of consolation meant nothing as long as I kept paying attention to the group chat. As long as I was a captive audience, the offenders were getting their way. It would be a while before we all caught on, stopped reading, and the chat died.
When I was little I used to watch the Kung Fu TV Series. How could I not? It was the only show in one of the three channels we had. In one episode David Carradine had visited a cursed town. A witch or medicine man (I can’t remember that far back!) had seized a town under their spell. They terrorized the residents of that area and had erected a cross on the ground convincing everyone around that whoever was touched by the shadow of the cross as the sun set, would be cursed and perish.
Carradine listened to the fear of the habitants. Asking to be taken to the forbidden place, he sat in front of it and waited for the shadow to cover him. His message was simple as he remembered the teachings of his master. “Be like the mirror that does not get burnt by the candle, instead reflects back its light”. By not believing in the power of the shadow, he was not touched by its curse. It can only hurt you when it’s given power by thoughts and beliefs.
So, I don’t pay attention. I don’t think of people whose existence I’ve forgotten, but I must ask as I laugh when someone brings up a similar incident:
“Oh, come on! Still? What the hell is wrong? Get a life and move on!!!”
No one cares. I certainly don’t.  

Monday, April 24, 2017

In the Eye Of A Stalker

It is not uncommon to hear of celebrities that are stalked by some mentally unstable person. Their fame puts them on the spot line making them an easy target to the weak of spirit.
Nonetheless, the nuisance of a stalker is not reserved solely to the rich and famous. Occasionally, a regular person might spark the unrelenting dark interest in another person, usually one they no longer have ties with and one they do not care to have in their lives. It is precisely that indifference that fuels the fire of a stalker and drives their obsession deeper causing retaliation and revenge.
The victim is often unaware of the stalker and will carry on with their life until an indiscreet message or a careless trace left behind reminds them of the dark presence that lurks in the shadows. A stalker will use cyberstalking as their preferred way to spy the whereabouts of their chosen obsession who they will harass unrelentingly. They will review their twitter account daily, become their most obsessed reader of their blog, and will employ tactics to discredit their victim whenever possible.  They will become masters at triangulation.
There is no reasoning with a stalker. If the stalker were able to reason there would be no stalking! It’s a battle not worth fighting other than the obligatory preventive measurements to ensure your safety. Stalkers are obsessive and their instability renders them capable of anything.
This obscure relationship is one way. The person being harassed doesn’t want them and often forgets the stalker exists and the only emotion their sightings evoke is pity. Pity for a person who chose to remain stuck in a web of negativity woven by their own insecurities and their unstable mind.
Most stalkers need attention and approval of other people. They will spy on their victim and do everything within their power to turn the attention given to that person towards themselves. They are usually unsuccessful as their negativity often turns others away thus accentuating their spite.
There is no known way to stop a stalker. Only the pass of time and their own awareness that the world they are creating around them will eventually crash them will stop their unrelenting desire to hurt someone they couldn’t have or couldn’t be like.

How do I know? Well, I have a stalker.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Starting Again

One of the reasons I love running is because it’s the only sport I have not sucked at. I was never athletic. Shy and uncoordinated was not a good combination growing up. I didn’t even play sidewalk games. Mostly, I think, I was afraid of failing and embarrassing myself, but then in my 30s I discovered running and it welcomed clumsy me with open arms. I felt accepted. For once, it did not matter if I was good at it or not. All I needed was my willingness and a pair of sneakers. The road and I became inseparable. I swore I would never let go.
Until now.
Ever been on a diet? I have. I had an intense romance, however briefly, with just about every diet ever published. I would be so committed to losing the several pounds that had attached themselves to my body. Oh, I would make progress, a lot of progress, until that slice of birthday cake in the office and the leftovers the next day and then…well, you know the drill. It would be a long time before I would find my way back to another diet. The longer I went, the more difficult it was to get back.
It’s kind of the same with running. For years, nothing would stand between me and my run. I would walk through knee-high snow -in my driveway, with sneakers in hand to reach the road and change into them, then run my miles. Rain, heat, nothing would stop me. There was always time -- I made the time to run. But then I started taking more rest days, and I mean days. Some were needed as injuries became more frequent. Others were, well…let’s just say an extension of that needed rest. I became good at justifying “my recovery days” with reasons like the climate-- “Today is too cold,” or “the wind is too strong so I’ll go tomorrow.” The more days that went by, the easier it was to find a reason not to lace up.
But during this apathy that at times festers, a little voice reminds me of my days on a diet (honestly, the taste of a celery stick still lingers) and how difficult it was each time to get back on track after falling off. Frankly, the thought of distancing myself from running scares me.
True, there have been many runs that have not been easy-- some have been very difficult-- but every one of them has given me an enormous sense of well-being and solidified my existence.
Unlike a diet that left me hungry and deprived, running fulfills me in so many ways. It is that time in my busy day when it’s just me and my thoughts, me and the road. So, I get past that sluggishness that settles in and go. Difficult at first, but after a few steps I’m there again, like welcoming good old friends.  Accepted, free, so alive.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

As If Fighing a War, Because You Are

The manager of the company where I worked came back after his treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I passed him in the hallway. He was pale and bald. I looked away not knowing what to say. In my peripheral vision I noticed he was staring at me. I mumbled hello and walked to my desk wondering what would it be like to come back after such a diagnosis. What would it be like to live the rest of my life with that threat in the back of my mind?
I didn’t have to wonder very long. Three months later I, too, was diagnosed with non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Then I knew, first hand, the uncertainty and fear, and also what it felt like to have people look away.
I was fairly young, and athletic and “healthy,” and the diagnosis felt like a slap in the face. The doctor who gave me the news advised me to get ready to fight a war. “Gather your allies, get your best ammunition, and learn about your enemy.”
I followed his advice. A firm believer in the power of prayer, I surrounded myself with people who would pray for me--my allies. My best ammunition came from one of the top hospitals for cancer treatment, Memorial Sloan Kettering, but learning about the enemy remained unchecked on my to-do list. When I visited the lymphoma website, my eyes focused on the life span given after diagnosis:  11 years.
I never looked at that site again.
What helped me was the people who came out of nowhere to tell me they knew someone who had successfully gone through the journey. Fathers, brothers, best friends, these personal stories filled me with hope and made me think that maybe, just maybe, I could be one of the survivors.
I like to believe that Celebrate Life Half Marathon does for others what those friends did for me. That when we give someone a check out of the proceeds of the race, it is with the hope, the smile, the hug that conveys the message that they, too, can make it. That one day they will celebrate life again.
CLHM has become more than a race. It is solidarity of spirit. When the gun goes off and everyone runs up the hill on Lake Louise Marie Road and passes the Motivational Mile-- a stretch of names of people who have faced cancer-- they are running not a race, they are running in unity and mutual support for those who are fighting and they are remembering those who left.
Another piece of advice the doctor gave me: “Don’t ever stop having that glass of wine, and never stop running. This enemy must be fought with passion. Without it, it will take over.” On March 12, volunteers, sponsors, and participants will bring that passion to Rock Hill, New York, for the 14th annual Celebrate Life Half Marathon.
Run on--and don’t forget the wine! Cheers!

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Don't Judge Me. Judge What I do

“Be careful what you put out there in social media” my friend urged. “Many people won’t attend your event based on your political views.” I could see the concern in her face.
I tried to remember what posts could have offended anyone. I don’t have strong political views. Aside from throwing a “Snopes” link to point out incorrect information, the only time I get involved in any debate is when it pertains to who I am, the daughter of a once-illegal immigrant. But I’ve never insulted anyone, used offensive language, nor called anyone names. Furthermore, the couple of people I have battled remain my friends and we laugh and joke when we get together. Their political views have not changed my view of them.
Her comment reminded me of another person who, years ago, warned me of the danger of posting pictures of wine for fear of giving the wrong impression. The wrong impression? Why would anyone pass judgement based on my humorous posts?
I let up on the wine posts and adopted a more solemn attitude albeit briefly.
It didn’t last long. I went back to my joyful way and silly posts realizing that I was changing the way I am in pursuit of the approval of people who don’t know me. If my jokes and photos of a glass of wine (which most of the time I purposely grab for picture sake) make someone judge me, then they don’t know me nor care to know me.
I felt the same way after my friend confided her concerns. If people choose to disassociate themselves from a charity event based on our different choices at the voting booth, and that difference outweighs the hours of work put into it, and the hundreds of people who are assisted as a result of it, they are missing the point and they are not attending for the right reasons.
The right reason is that there are people fighting for their lives at the same time that life has them down financially. My stand on defending the status my mother once held should not make anyone forget those people who are overwhelmed by debt, and who in some cases don’t know if they will see another Christmas.
You can dislike me, but don’t dismiss, based on the way you feel about me, the good this event does. Don’t dismiss and don’t forget those who benefit from it.
Don’t judge me, judge what I do.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Basic Etiquette. It's not that difficult

In the past few months I have sent presents to people by mail. In almost all occasions I’ve had to make the embarrassing call to find out if the gift was received.
Maybe I’ve noticed it because it appears to have happened with increased frequency, or, quite possibly, I’ve grown less tolerant as I’ve aged.
There are a few basic rules of etiquette I like to follow and, I admit, I expect.
When you receive a gift, thank the sender NOW. In an era of communication there is no excuse to delay an acknowledgment. My phone has automated “Thank you”, “Happy Birthday”, “Congratulations!” use one of them if you can’t think of a personal message.
When someone asks a question by text or email, perhaps inviting you or asking you if you can do something, please, for the love of God, reply! Let the sender know that you are unable to. Whether you don’t want to doesn’t have to be stated. Suffice to say you won’t be able to attend or do what is being asked of you.
When making plans try to, honestly, keep them or don’t make them at all, and if you must cancel do it upfront, preferably giving the other party ample notice. Do not just not show up or not call/answer the phone. Your time is a precious as theirs and busy people must put time aside to see you.
Acknowledging a person after they went out of their way to get you a gift is not only courtesy, it’s appreciation and, respect, and you and I have the right to expect that from others. Respect is the basic component of any relationship or transaction.
These basic etiquette rules are not difficult to observe and will make everyone involved feel better, and respected.
Maybe I’ve grown less tolerant. Maybe I’m less inclined to be disrespected. Maybe I've just aged.