Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Random Acts of Kindness

Before I begin this blog about the things in life that I appreciate, I would like to begin by word-vomiting as usual. Engage.

Tonight I became increasingly irritated in class as people spoke about nothing (no surprise), everyone wasted my time by adding their two cents worth about irrelevant issues/topics, and my heart was pounding so loudly that I could hear it in my ears. I couldn't figure out if this was because I was having a blood sugar drop or because I was really mad. My stomach was growling so loudly that I was scared all of my classmates thought that I stashed a baby lion into my purse. I have decided that I do not connect with most "educators." This is because they are pompous and stupid and find their identity in ideas which only work in theory and not practice. This irritates me. It's like people who are single who complain about it and do nothing to find a spouse, or fat people who talk about losing weight but do nothing to be skinny, or people complaining about not having this or that but not doing anything to get there. I often get irritated with people who do not deal in reality. Anyway, in addition to being unrealistic, people in education throw around the word "educator" a lot. Drives me freaking nuts. Sometimes I really miss my program in Memphis, because I was learning to be a mental health professional instead of an educator. I have no idea what I am doing in my program right now. I feel like I'm learning how to implement school policy instead of diagnose bipolar disorder. I just have to be mindful that this is only a bridge to the long-term goal; this is not permanente, no sirree.

Anyway, with all of my stress-management deficits have come a lot of weird behaviors. Most of my friends will tell you that I am a bit anal retentive. I always lock doors, I always wear a seat belt, I'm always 5 minutes early, I have never done drugs, I check my door knobs over and over, I use a lot of Purelle, bla bla. In essence, I am obsessive compulsive. So I have left my door to my apartment unlocked twice, which is completely unlike me; I left my flat iron on today for 13 hours, which I have never done, and I keep losing my thoughts mid-sentence. I am losing my ever loving mind.

Ok, so now I will progress.

I recognize that I spend a lot of time being negative in my blogs, and I do this because it is my way of venting. It's sort of like letting all of that nasty crap from your cereal bowls and casserole dishes clog up your sink, and then your apartment starts smelling like feet, and you think to yourself, "Why the crap does my apartment smell like mank and a boys' locker room?" and then you see all of the murky water in your sink and you think, "Silly me, I have forgotten to engage in the routine maintenance of turning my garbage disposal on." And then you flip the switch. And then your apartment no longer smells like mank.

I use this illustration as the reason that most of my blogs sound angry. I blog to vent; because if I didn't, my life would smell like mank. So, in general, I wouldn't consider myself a brooding person, but I do like to blog in order to keep up my routine emotional maintenance checks.

Moving onward. I went out to Venice with my college friends the other night, John and Casey. John is now a New York broker and Casey is livin' the dream out here with me in L.A. So John made a comment about how I seem angrier now than I did in college. He also commented on how I used to have pink hair and how I used to never go out and I'd stay in my room studying all the time, which was an absolutely accurate assessment of me while I was at LSU. Then I started thinking about this anger thing. I used to carry all of my own burdens around in the pit of my stomach; which led me to substantial anxiety and physiological problems, so now I feel better about expressing exactly what I'm going through. The problem with this is that this makes a lot of people uncomfortable. The second problem with this is that I don't really care if they become uncomfortable or not. Clearly a J, not a P. Also, over the past several days, people have told me that:

a) I have no feelings.
b) I am a bad girlfriend (a bystander told me this).
c) _____________(insert offensive comment here that leaves me feeling a bit sad with a twist of apathy)

This still has left me with a head full of thoughts swirling around; therefore, I have decided to take a different shift in this entry.

I would like to focus on my life over the past two weeks. My entry will capitalize on random acts of kindness. This gives you, my dear audience/readers, some insight into my more observant and calm side, not the one raging with estrogen, swinging a sword, ready to chop someone's head off.

And here we go.

I was feeling really screwy after Easter. I don't want to emphasize the details here, because it would negate the point of my "random acts of kindness" speech, but I feel like my first demonstration will not be as effective if I don't give some background. After Easter, I felt sad, and empty, and tired, and I couldn't really pinpoint why. I have a tendency to blame things on lack of sleep, or hormones, or some other variable, and it's hard for me to sit down, be introspective, and really understand the whys, because I am sometimes scared that if I do this, I will get sucked back into the terribly low self-esteem black hole that used to dominate me so much. But at some point, I sent my dear friend Rinzee (in Memphis) an email that expressed how I was feeling, and I woke up to a beautiful email from her on Sunday morning. I drank my coffee and cried. It felt good to know that someone knew my heart and my pain and conflict and loved me through it anyway. I am convinced that there are only two or three people like this in a lifetime.

A lot of times, I feel like people will hang in there with me as long as I'm fun or entertaining or being funny, but as soon as I start falling apart, they're outta there like the prodigal son's posse. Rinzee is one of those thick-and-thin friends; and she never offers unsolicited advice. She only offers unconditional love. Not many people are like that. Her email started my week off with me feeling valued and validated.

On Sunday night, Kris drove me South for forever, and I felt like he was taking me into the woods to slit my throat (I say this in jest, right?), but we drove for a long while until we got to this incredible place in Palos Verdes. There was this lookout over the ocean where we stood and watched the sun set. There was a lighthouse in the distance on the left and Malibu was clear and vague on the right. The sky was lit up with oranges and purples and vibrant warmth and we watched it creep down below the ocean. It was incredible. I don't think I've taken the time to really focus on the calm and captivating essence of a sunset in several years; maybe not since the last time I was in Hawaii, which was when I was about 18. It's been so long since I've calmed down and really been in that moment. I'm always pushing so far ahead that I constantly miss the present. At that point in time, I felt peaceful and whole and complete, and for a few minutes, I fully encompassed myself in the "here and now." Fritz Perls, much?

On Tuesday, my boss and I drove up to Santa Barbara for work. She bought my lunch and we sat outside and enjoyed the warmth. She asked me to drive her BMW back to LA, which honestly terrified the crap out of me, but I did it anyway. Then I thought about how trusting it was of her to let me drive her wicked expensive car. Then I thought back on the past few bosses I had, and how they let me drive their cars. I remember leaving during lunch at my teaching job a few years ago and how my principal let me drive her bright red 1970's corvette stingray. I kept thinking about those guys in "Feris Beuller's Day Off," but I didn't take the same liberties. Anyway, even though I was scared to drive her car, I did it, and I thought that it was incredibly kind and trusting of her to let me do so. That same day, after work, I ran a few errands with her, and she bought some coffee. Apparently you get a free cup of Joe at Peet's just like you do at Starbucks, so she gave me the free cup. I thought that was really kind. Then we drove around Rodeo Drive just for kicks. In that same day, my boss gave $20 to a woman who was clearly of low-socioeconomic status, to put it politically correctly (please, like i care about political correctness.). The point is, I saw a lot of things that my boss did which were really kind and thoughtful, and it made me appreciate her.

On Wednesday, a bouquet of fresh cut roses were in my office. My coworker brought the office roses from her back yard and put them on everyone's desks in vases. They brightened up our entire workspace. My first really significant boyfriend used to send me flowers every time we fought. This made me equate flowers with a crappy way to make amends. I guess this is sort of like Pavlov's dogs slobbering when they heard the bell. Someone would give me flowers, and I'd associate them with fighting. Same thing. Unless I got flowers from my dad or if I had surgery or something- that'd be different. So anyway, the flowers thing sort of irritated me until I got these out of the blue, for no reason at all, other than someone was being kind. She grows them in her yard. She didn't go out and spend money or do anything fancy; she was simply thoughtful, and those flowers made my day.

On Thursday, I was still feeling a little lost. Sometimes I feel like I'm having some sort of alien abduction experience, like I'm lost and confused and have no idea what I am doing in this life. I think a lot of people feel like this. Well, on Thursday night, I got a little package in the mail from Rinzee. She made me a CD. These were some of the best songs I've heard in a long time. I cried again. I just had this epiphany as I was typing. I started thinking about that scene in "Fried Green Tomatoes" at the very end.





I don't totally agree with this statement, but there's something about feeling valued and loved and unique that drives us to be better people. Getting a CD full of songs that say "You matter to me," makes me want to be a better person. Man, I have the best friends anyone could ever ask for.

In fact, that leads me to Friday. I was walking into work when my dear friend Ryan from Memphis called me out of the blue. I haven't talked to him since my grandfather died. It meant a lot to me that he called for no reason.

Today I got a letter in the mail from my dad. He wrote me a thank you note for Easter. It made me get a little misty-eyed. He is the most faithful person ever when it comes to sending me mail. He also writes ridiculous notes in Haley-code that only he and I would get- or maybe my sisters would pick up on a phrase here and there. Isn't there something hilarious and terrific about inside jokes? I don't care if they are exclusive. I love them.

This concludes my recognition of people being kind. I'd so much rather someone be thoughtful for no reason than for someone to try to woo me to impress me with a bunch of nonsense. I am really blessed (insert cheesy "aaaawwwww" here).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Donde Esta Persia?

I became increasingly annoyed tonight as I sat in my class and listened to the people around me talk. I also became annoyed at my instructor's atrocious accent. I have an accent; this I know, but as saccrine and obnoxious it might be to hear me add additional syllables to words, I find it far more annoying to hear yankees pronounce words like "In-vAAAAAlv," for involve, or to hear someone say something even more stupid like emphasising the "S" at the end of Illinois. Really. Did we make it to graduate school? Further, I am really irritated with people who just yab on and on about NOTHING to project their self-righteousness in order to mask their own insecurities. It drives me effing bonkers. The more I progress in life, the more I recognize that I am indeed a J, and not a P, and most P's drive me up the WALL because they can't stay on task and get their crap done. We'd finish class in about 15 minutes if all of the dewey-eyed, nodding, smiling, superficial grad students would just shut the crap up, stop kissing ass by laughing at my instructor's lame, uninteresting, 20% IQ jokes, and just jot down the main points. I can't handle it. One of these days I am going to just get up and exit stage left. I digress.

I need to touch on my Monday night class pertaining to resiliency and grief and I need to do a brief overview of Easter, but those stories are for another day.

Tonight, I shall focus on Persians.

First of all, I don't know where the crap Persia is, or what it is, just like I have no idea what the crap/where the crap Armenia is (it's a region, right?), but I know for a fact that Persians can party.

I am my friend Fisty's perpeptual wedding date throughout 2009. In fact, I am booked nearly every weekend in May as the wedding date, attending weddings for people whom I do not know.

I can already tell that 2009 is going to be a great year, despite the dramatic pitfalls that it has provided thus far.

And now, I shall cover... THE PERSIAN WEDDING.

First of all, Fisty's friend is a white girl who married a Persian guy, and they did a small private family ceremony on Friday, which left Saturday night as the night for partying it up Persian-style. The reason I add the critical point that the white girl was a white girl is because this left Fisty and myself to be the token whiteys at the Persian party. This turned out to be an ultimate success.

It should be noted that my hair is pretty much a flourescent shade of toxic chemicals and that when I enter the room, my trailer-park 'do glows in the dark, regardless as to whether or not there are any lights on. This gives me great pride. Dolly Parton once said that she saw a beautiful blonde lady walking through her town and asked her mom,

Dolly: Momma, who is that lady?

Mom: She's white trash.

Dolly: Then I wanna be white trash when I grow up.

My story is similar. I have always been the Cinderella of the family from the standpoint that my two sisters have always had gorgeous hair. My older sister has beautiful strawberry blonde locks and hair so thick that Rapunzel would need intense self-esteem workshops if she were to encounter my sis. My little sis has this amazing, cherry-coke colored hair that makes her look soft and ethnic and all American at the same time. Enters Rachel. I've heard it all. Dishwater blonde, mousy, ashy, you name a derogatory hair adjective, I've heard it. I've always had crap hair. In about the 6th grade, I started out with lemon juice, wich progressed to peroxide, which progressed to sun-in, which progressed to partial weaves, which progressed to full weaves, which progressed to my ex boyfriend highlighting my hair for me in college, which progressed to me doing full color myself via Target's sale rack.

So.. the point of this long hair tyrade is that I feel like I draw attention with my cotton-ball head, and I like it, because I like to work a party, much like an over-the-top motivational speaker.

So Fisty and I enter this event, which is in the valley or up in the mountains or wherever the crap it is after you go over the hill on the 405. Already I'm thinking it's weird that we are going to a "reception" at a house, but come to find out, this was no reception at all. Mind you that I grew up in the South, which means that every retirement reception/graduation/wedding even that I've gone to, with the exception of a few white trash folks, have included linen tablecloths and napkins, silver tea sets, fine china, professional catering, coffee stations, and proper floral arrangements(NO carnations unless you're at a funeral, FYI). I was not prepared for this event.

We enter the crazy party, complete with plastic cups and picknick wear and paper plates with little pastel flowers on them. There were nuts and piles of pasta dishes drenched in olive oil and all kinds of weird Persian meats (do they eat cats?). There was a disco-esque lighting situation in the family room of the house and a DJ playing weird Ethnic music. I felt like I was an extra filming a special on the travel channel. There was a little guy who looked like Aladdin playing the bongo drums, and at some point Fisty and I were beating on those things so hard that the next day I had a bruise on my palm. We walked to the backyard where we saw a pool which kept turning different colors. Purple. Green. Blue. Red. Awesome.

We were approached by two older men who had to have been in my dad's age bracket. At some point in the evening Fisty and I were wearing their $200 Burberry ties. I mention this because Fred, the owner of the house and my 55+ man-friend of the evening, kept saying to me in his thick accent,

"Do not spill anything on my tie! It's a $200 Burberry tie!"

Um, okay. I know an expensive tie when I see one. I can also sniff out a fake Louis Vouitton bag about 20 miles away. I know this because I own the fakes. In addition, I was a big fashion guru in college, until I found out that most people in the fashion industry are stupid, and I left fashion for a career that was backed by substance and meaning. So anyway, it irritated me every time this dirty old codger was in my face about his stupid tie, because I'm not an idiot. I was not going to wipe my greasy olive oil fingers on his Burberry tie. Sigh. Here we go.

Throughout the night, we mixed and mingled with all kinds of interesting Persian people. Persian men smell like expensive cologne and cigarettes and they have an excessive amount of chest hair that seeps through their $400 dress shirts. This is what I know. Persian women are exotic and have gorgeous hair. This is what I learned.

At some point I told Fred that I knew that his tie was expensive and I was not an idiot and that if he didn't shut the crap up, I was going to throw it into the pool (in so many words). This is when he introduced me to the VP of American Apparel and said that if Fisty and I wanted to buy underwear, he would get us an 80% discount. It was somewhere around this point that she and I escaped from these sleezes and went to the back of the house, which was an added-on apartment called "Room 112."

We enter this lime-green painted mother-in-law suite and I felt like I was stuck in "Animal House." There was a big hookah thing on the floor, dirty dishes everywhere, piles of dirty clothes all over the place...I couldn't help but be thrilled that I am a girl. I take my trash out at least bi-weekly, buy vanilla scented air freshener, and do laundry once per week. I am anal about cleanliness.

This is when we met the next generation of Persian men, who greeted us with,

"Dude, are those our dad's ties?"

Fisty and I tried to just blend in with the crowd, but it was impossible, because, as previously mentioned, we were the token white folk. This reminded me of last summer when I went to Club Atlas downtown with my African-American girlfriends, and I was definitely the only white girl there. I stood out like a sore thumb. Somehow this wasn't so bad to me, because it takes a lot to make me feel uncomfortable, but at the same time, I was hoping I wasn't irritating people for being the odd ball. I like these kinds of situations because they make me more cognizant of how it feels to not be like everyone else, which helps me develop a stronger sense of empathy and understanding. Look at me, I'm such a processor. Back to the Persian Party of OH NINE.

Fred came flying in like a bat out of hell, holding a big chunk of meet, and said to me,

"Theez eez for you. Rack of lamb."

I put it in a pita and took a bite. It tasted like a brain. Lamb = game. Sick.

Fisty's sleezey man-fan's response when she asked if he was married:

"If my wife is not here, I am single."

GROSS GROSS GROSS. THEN- at some point, Fred invites us to his house this summer, and says,

"We shall bar-b-que. Only bikinis allowed at my pool."

At this point, we went inside, danced for a long time, jumped around like the Persian folk, which was a BLAST, and eventually, we got scared and escaped to the garage. We sat in the garage, which looked like the storage unit from "Silence of the Lambs," because there was a couch in there, all kinds of boxes, furniture, and creepy storage crap, and it wasn't used for an actual garage. We sat in that dark garage and tried to weigh our options. We could stay and continue to be moderately harassed or we could leave and not have the option of dancing. Tough choice when you love to party.

Sometime during the evening, I was offered "very, very good deal" on a Plasma TV from Best Buy, "very, very good deal" on a boob job via a plastic surgeon from Beverly Hills, and everyone kept trying to get me to drink vodka and eat their weird meat. Ug. Vodka. No thanks. I kept thinking of Aladdin.


I make this sound like the worst night of my life, but despite the sleezes, we had a blast. We danced like crazy and met lots of interesting people. Toward the end of the night, though, we were just straight-up scared, so we stole some wedding cake and ran out to the car. We ate the cake in the car and then threw the plates out in the grass.

This concludes my Persian party. I can't wait for the next wedding.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A toll is a toll, and a roll is a roll; and if you don't pay the toll, we don't eat no rolls!

I have been in a slight funk as of late. It hasn't been anything so substantial that it's interfered with my day-to-day process of living, but I have noticed that I haven't been quite on my A-game. I don't know if that has to do with the summer solstice or werewolves or barometric pressure or what, but I had this revelation two days ago that suddenly, I had started becoming a little bit tainted. Let me explore this idea. I will begin with telling you about my very weird weekend.

First of all, I went to this place in Venice called "The Air Conditioned," which brought me back to going to the Chi when I was a teenager. I couldn't even drive yet. I don't even know how I got there. I think my friend Travis and I used to go together. Anyway, the Chi was this crap hole way out in Lakeland, and it looked like a huge garage. I think it had a tin roof. It was a total dive. Weird bands that nobody had ever heard of used to play there. This was back in the day of the mosh pit. Sigh. Anyway, so I was thinking about the Chi, but this place in Venice would be a dive with a little bit of money put into it. I liked it. I'd get into the specifics but I don't feel like it. The bottom line is that I felt like the most "normal" person in this place as I looked around and saw grown men wearing sky blue faux-fur coats and elton john sunglasses inside- boys wearing girl jeans and girls wearing vintage hippie dresses. It was weird. I liked it.

So next is Saturday. I babysat pretty much all day for this family I sit for in Culver City. Those kids are so funny. I caught myself processing with one of them. I get so dang bombarded with this processing crap in school that I wind up bringing it to all areas of my life. That's probably not such a good thing- but anyway, it worked, and it helped me rationalize with a kid in that pre-operations stage. Go Piaget.

So on Saturday night, I was out with a few folks in Hermosa. Ever wind up being an accomplice to entertaining people that you'd probably never hang out with in real life, but because someone else you know is hanging out with them, you're sort of in the mix? That was my role. I get along with most people, but I actually truly connect with very few. I can get along with people who spray tan and bleach their teeth and wear too much hair gel and work out all day, but when it all comes down to it, I probably have nothing in common with them, and this was the case. So at some point, I decide to stand up on this clock stand thing and announce to the peasants of Hermosa that they shall be charged a toll for entering my pier. I do this with my wing man. We didn't receive any cash money. We also didn't even receive as much as a weird look. This disappointed me. A good but bad thing about L.A. is that people are so weird, nobody notices if you do something unusual.

Sunday was a great day. My friends and I went to church and we ate pizza at this place in Westwood. Then we got some cookies and walked around Westwood and enjoyed being out in the sun. We drove through UCLA. We got lost in Bel Air and drove around. It was relaxing. After that, I went back to Hermosa and saw Jay Leno. He performs every Sunday night and tests his jokes on the audience to see how they fly. If they're good, he uses them on his show. It was interesting for me to see him pull out his rickety old tape recorder (like the one I used to use at Memphis for my counseling sessions--- Oh tape recorder, how I miss utilizing you) and flip through his index cards and hear him mumble, "that one was nothing..." as he got poor responses. It was brilliant. He's a good businessman. I freaking love that guy. Most people don't make me really laugh. I mean that laugh where your gut hurts and you cry because you're laughing so hard. There are only a few people in my life who can elicit that kind of response. He's one of them. I am interested in studying the form of intelligence that works with humor. I've noticed that there are all these kids that were pegged as "bad" - including myself - who were the freaking most hilarious people I've ever met. I'm wondering if these people, who also sometimes got pegged with AD/HD or Dyslexia or Oppositional Defiant Disorder or what have you, might just be a lot smarter than people give them credit for. Sorry for ending a sentence with a preposition.


I forgot why I started this blog. I was talking about being L.A. tainted. Let me get back to my point.

So I was talking to my sister on the phone, and she was telling me that she saw the cast of the "West Wing" in the senate while she was working. So I went on to discuss with her the details of my weekend as well as the following situation:

On Monday night, I get a call from a person whose name I will not disclose, and he asks me to go to a birthday party with him in the Hollywood hills. So, he picks me up and we go to this party. It's way up in these winding Mullholland looking hills, and we finally make our way up this driveway after we get through a gate that you have to be buzzed in to enter. So, we go inside, and the house is all "The Graduate" esque, with real animal rugs and polyurethane furniture and white leather minimalistic couches. And then I see the shrink-wrapped boxes of Reese's Puffs cereal. With the guy's face on them. Then I meet the guy. Then I notice the enormous, 8X10 foot framed portraits of this guy performing in front of billions of screaming girls. And the guy is as tan as Pocahontas and he's got frosted hair. Apparently, home boy used to be an original Backstreet Boy. I AM NOT KIDDING YOU.

So, I attempt to make small talk with all of these pop-star musicians, and I am failing miserably, because I don't have any cool clothes, I talk like a hick, I hate the music that they "lllluuuurv," I can't afford to get wasted because it's a school/work night, and I've been out of the boy band loop since I was 14. Then... The real boy band shows up. These two CHILDREN, who are probably 17 but they think they are 28, walk in wearing the following: bandannas on their heads in addition to ball caps without folded bills (It's an L.A. thing. Stupid.), skinny girl jeans which are fasted UNDER their butts with studded belts, they are wearing eyeliner, scarves, and about 39089380 layers of clothing and accessories. Stupid, stupid, stupid. And they had highlights. The thing is, they were totally nice, and they had good manners. I'm just not that cool. All of a sudden, I felt like I was 55 years old. I was looking around for the "adults" in the room. I wanted to engage in a conversation about white-collar crime or the price of gas or ANYTHING remotely un-boy bandish. These boys are on the Disney Channel and are BFF with Hannah Montana. They also brought in their hoes, who were probably 15 but looked 30. I could see their boobs and their XXS thongs through their sheer dresses. What's the point in even wearing clothes? I mean, really. Somehow, though, at the end of the night, one of the underage hoochies gave me a hug, though the only conversation we had all night was when I said, "The bathroom is through that door and on the left." She also attempted to sing a Sheryl Crowe song with me. This was an incredibly odd evening.

So, I am recanting all of this to my sister, and I say, "I'm so freaking tired. I just can't catch up."

And she says,

"Rachel, do you realize that I am walking around with the cast of the 'West Wing,' and you are tired because you were out with boy bands and watching Jay Leno, and it hasn't even crossed our minds that THIS IS NOT NORMAL?! Who talks like this?!"

And it hit me. I got a little bit tainted by L.A. I didn't even think that this was unusual. Someone please stab me in the throat if I lose my accent. I want to be progressive but I never want to be jaded.