Tuesday, March 17, 2009
"God is good, but never dance in a small boat."
There seemed to be fewer people wearing green this year.
Perhaps I'm just being nostalgic, but it seemed that when I was growing up, everybody wore something green on St. Patrick's Day, no matter what their ethnicity was. Looks like another tradition is fading.
I had a nun in fifth grade who was Bostonian Irish and on St. Patrick's Day she greeted us with "top of the morning to ye" and ordered us to respond, "may the rest of the day be yours."
We did as we were told, of course, but I think we would rather have said something like, "may you rot in hell for the rest of eternity, you hideous old witch." But we were good Catholic children.
I made sure to wear a green shirt today, but I'm staying at home. It's mid-week and I don't feel like showing up at work tomorrow hung over.
My late father always refered to St. Pat's and New Year's Eve as "amateur's night." And he was Irish.
The two days also share this aura of false celebration. We're supposed to make drunken fools of ourselves because, well, that's what we're supposed to do.
I'm listening to Irish music now, a hold over from the days when my father used to blast his Clancy Brothers album over and over. You hear those songs long enough, you either hate them or love them. It took a while, but I do enjoy the Irish tunes now.
I saw my dad in a dream last night. My family was planning another group vacation--this time to Portland, Oregon and I realized I was woefully unprepared.
I was barely packed, I hadn't made arrangements to have someone feed the cats, and I dreaded the notion of getting on an airplane, knowing full well that I would be crushing my sister's hand in terror for the duration of the flight.
I looked up and saw my father walking toward us. He looked confused and disheveled, as he did in the last years of life. He was lugging a big laundry bag full of clothes.
I remember my heart sinking at the thought of having to get him on a plane and fly across the country with him. That's not a nice thing to say, but if you've ever had to take care of someone with Alzheimer's, you know what I'm talking about. Fortunately I woke up before we reached JFK.
I guess I dreamed about my dad because it was St. Pat's. I don't get the Portland angle, but the confusion probably comes from my antics Monday morning, when I couldn't get out of the damn house.
I hadn't slept the night before and I was just mess that morning. Every time I walked by a table or shelf, I managed to knock over papers, boxes--it was like I had a force field around me.
Early to Bed
So I'm going to bed at a decent hour tonight. I stayed home on St. Patrick's Day last year, too, only then I was out of work and George Bush was still president, so I'm ahead of the game already.
I'm trying to change to my attitude toward life--really. I went to a self-help class last week and the man running the show warned about falling into destructive patterns and accepting them as just the way things are. If you project negative energy, he told us, you're going to get it back.
None of what he said was particularly original, but I had a good time. And it reminded me of how I slip into a negative--and often hostile--mindset.
"You have to love yourself as you are right now," the teacher said. Again--not original, but still worth repeating. I've had a hard time respecting myself and other people have picked up on this and treated me like some clown.
I thought about the concept of inner peace and how it's never been anything more than a concept for me. I've said that I want to find inner peace, but did little to make that happen. I sought out discomfort because I think that--oddly enough--it makes me comfortable; if that makes any sense.
When the class ended, I went to the men's room and as I did my business, I looked out the window at a red light blinking on a distant tower.
New York looked like some fantasy land. I felt so calm; the only sound was the water gushing out a leaky faucet. It sounds strange finding inner peace in a public bathroom, but you have to take it when it comes.
The instructor said he likes to walk through a crowded supermarket once a week without passing any judgements on the people around him.
Screaming kids, rude customers pushing their carts to the head of the line--it doesn't matter. This man just takes it all in.
I tried after the class as I walked to the subway station and I have to say it felt pretty good.
I was in mid-town, near Madison Square Garden, and I breezed by the middle-aged men horsing around on the street corner, the group of loud teenagers, the drivers blasting radios--everything just rolled over me.
I knew this feeling wouldn't last and I was right, but I'm glad I took this class. It was only 20 bucks and it pointed me in the right direction.
I don't think I'll do anything more with this teacher. His material isn't terribly original and he has to work on his salesmanship.
Just before the class ended he launched into a spiel about his upcoming day-long class, CD's, books, bumper stickers, stained glass windows, the whole schmear. He shifted from guru to Crazy Eddie faster than you could chant "om."
I know the dude has to make a living, but this was a real mood killer. A little more subtley, please.
St. Patrick's Day is almost over. It's time for me to put away these negative thoughts, the "poor me" schtick that I've clung to for far too long. I find that being miserable all the time is rather tiring.
I don't suggest that we should all turn into happy idiots, ignoring pain and pretending eveything is just peachy. Christ, we had eight years of that and look where it's gotten us.
I just want to put an end to this knee-jerk misery I carry around with me like a soldier's backpack.
I have a steady paycheck, a loving family, and good friends. Whatever I'm not happy with, I am determined to improve, fix, or get over. Talk about the luck of the Irish.
May the rest of the day be yours.