The art of thinking…on one’s feet!

I’m often surprised at the vastness of human interaction:  in other words, it’s amazing what boundaries people will cross when relating with one another.  Specifically, my boundaries, which some may say are a little more narrow than others.  And in the face of having my boundaries crossed, what’s even more surprising is how often I find myself completely stunned, immobile and utterly incapable of thinking on my feet…

I remember when I’d go clubbing with my girlfriends in my late teens.  Back then it was pretty easy to get your hands on a fake ID…in fact, with a little creativity one could easily create their own.  In any case, there were three of us and we were inseparable.  All week long we would talk about which clubs we’d go to and with whom, plan outfits and so on and so forth.  We were a lot more daring then…  And while the first was the pretty one and the second was the sweetheart, I always liked playing the part of, for lack of a better term, smart ass.

Random beefcake:  “Hey.  Howzit goin’?  Can I get you a drink?”

Me:  “No thanks.”  Ugh.  I’m onto this guy…he’s just after one thing!

Random beefcake:  Puffing chest like a peacock.  “So, uh, you and your friends come here often?”

Me:  “Ya.”  Lame.  Please go away.

Random beefcake:  “You know honey, we didn’t wait in line.  I know some guys.”  Getting very full of himself.  “I could get you in whenever you like.”

Me:  “Hmmm…thanks.  That’s ok.”  Oh. My. God.  Gross.  Feeling like I’ve been drenched in slime.  Turning to leave…

Random beefcake:  Crosses boundary!  Grabs my arm and getting a little feisty.  “So it looks like my friends are hooking up with your friends so how about…”

Me:   Looks that would shoot daggers and kill in an instant.  Grab beefcake’s hand, remove from my person.  “How about what?  Look, I’m sure you’re a really nice guy.  But here’s the thing.  I’m studying international relations and politics.  I’m planning on being a diplomat or a lawyer, ok?  I don’t think there’s a match here.  So how about you just move on?”  Oooooh…harsh…walk away.

Now that’s thinking on your feet.  But somewhere along the way, that very self-assured girl took a bit of a back seat.  Call it having babies, call it changed priorities, call it growing up and being immersed in environments where the rules perhaps aren’t as clear…

In my thirty-X years, situations seem more complicated, the stakes are higher and thinking on your feet means keeping your head in the game… a game that knows no boundaries…

Like that certain person (we all know one) who, no matter what, will point out just how tired I look every single time I see them.  EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  Monday morning?  Tired.  Friday afternoon?  Tired.  Dressed to kill?  Tired.  Always tired, tired, TIRED!  Appalling.  And though this is a regular occurrence, it’s still surprising.

Is there no nicer way to greet someone?  Now, I’m not saying that one shouldn’t show care or empathy, or even concern at my once-in-a-while or more-times-than-usual haggard state.  But since when did that kind of small talk replace the inconsequential talk about the weather?!  I wish I could just reply, “Ya, what of it?!  I have this chronic condition, perhaps you’ve heard of it, it’s called: LACK OF WORK LIFE BALANCE-ITIS.  You know, like PULLED IN A MILLION DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS-EMIA…”  But relationships in your thirty-X years are complicated…  So instead, I do what I always do – I half whimper and smile.

Why be surprised?  Why assume that everyone respects boundaries?  Sadly, I’m often most caught off guard when I’m at work.  And I think this has more to do with the fact that thinking fast and being on my toes just doesn’t seem akin to looking at financial models and writing presentations or reports…not terribly life or death situations, right?  Wrong.

For example, the other day I was told by someone that if I made a mistake, just one mistake, at something that I was responsible for, that they would “kill” someone… nay (and here it comes) – with slit eyes, dark face and bony finger pointing towards me – that they would “kill” me!

Nuclear-Explosion-001Now THAT’S harsh.  Despite the (hopefully probable) fact that it was an obvious turn of phrase and common colloquialism, my boundaries had not only been crossed, but pulverized, like after a nuclear attack.  The situation was also just a little bit ridiculous.  As soon as the words were out, I think I just stood there, mouth agape, and the only thing that I did or said again (DAMMIT!!) was half whimper and smile.  Seriously.  Like why couldn’t I have responded with any of the following:

    1. Wow, that seems kind of violent.
    2. Whoah.  You know that’s against the law, right?
    3. I think the last time I threatened to kill someone (obviously as a turn of phrase) I was highly hormonal, 16 and in high school.
    4. Now that’s not being much of a team player.  Hey man, if I go down…you go down.
    5. Aha.  I get that you would like for me to be like a robot or some kind of droid that is incapable of human error.  I shall endeavor to rise to this impossible challenge.
    6. @#$% YOU.

Is it that I need more of a backbone?  Is it that I just shouldn’t care?  Or is it the fact that perhaps I need to remember that boundaries, for some, are meant for crossing.  So what if I just crossed my own first?   What if, I put aside sweetness, politesse, empathy and consideration?  Sounds like too big of a price to pay for not being me.  Though I am all for some witty repartee…time to get back in the game and master the art of thinking on one’s feet!

Chess piece

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Humanity…never ceases to amaze

Champagne?  Don’t mind if I do…ooh, it’s Cristal!!!  Of course!  Only the best for my uncle’s 65th birthday! I can’t believe it!  This party is totally high class:  great band, great food, fabulous looking people and just look at my dress!  I’m wearing the most gorgeous black and white ballgown – it’s enormous!  Fantastic!  Magical!  Ooh, and now I have a mask on.  It’s a masquerade ball, oh how elegant!  And my hair is so long and gorgeous and shiny.  My lips are ruby red.  I never want this to end…

Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump.  “Mommy, I cold.  I wanna eat something.  I wanna change.”  These were the words of my 3 year old this morning…at 5:25 am!!  A whole hour before my alarm was supposed to go off!  And poof…there went the dream.  I jumped out of bed and started walking with my eyes closed.  Sensing my clumsiness, he held my fingers with his little hand and guided me to his room…at which point I was really debating a detour to the bathroom given my sense of urgency!  But he’s one of the loves of my life, trusts me implicitly, loves me unconditionally, and I would never let him down.  So on I went.

This was a morning like every other – preceded by a typical Wednesday night (Survivor night!)  Tired mom, comes home from work, rushes to get kids fed and ready for swimming classes.  Then back home, bathe them, feed them again (I swear they are machines), read one a bedtime story and then the other, then run downstairs for some QT with my cutie!  Forget that I haven’t had dinner – a handful of almonds, the rest of that half-eaten Aero bar and some fruit gummies will suffice.

In any case, after my “rude awakening” this morning, I was treated with the gift of walking to the subway by myself and the luxury of buying a latte before hopping on the train – no kids to take to school, no bags to pack and no lunches to make!  Had I won the lottery???  Yes sir!

And there I was, latte in hand, watching Twilight: Breaking Dawn on my iPhone (for the fourth or fifth time) when suddenly I started to feel like I lost my breath.  My head started to get very, very warm – my body actually felt like it was on fire.  I put my hand on my chest and it felt very cold and clammy.  My legs felt like they couldn’t support me – I felt dizzy – I couldn’t think – what was I going to do?  With what strength I could muster, I squeezed my way off the extremely overcrowded train and as I was walking, I started to feel tingles and like my surroundings were just fading away…

Luckily I made it to a bench and put my head between my knees.  And the next thing I remember was being so grateful for the humanity of the two women on either side of me.  There I was, a complete stranger (albeit well dressed in my cute little summer dress, faux snake skin ballet flats, and gold hoop earrings) looking ready to be sick or pass out; perhaps a great inconvenience or a complete lunatic.  And in my most vulnerable state, these two women didn’t appear at all worried about who I was or what I might do to them.  They didn’t think about whether or not they knew me, trusted me or whether they could get something from me.  They just wanted to help.  They just wanted to make sure I was ok.

All I could think of while I tried to regroup and pull myself together to get back on the train was how I could repay their kindness…and how I regret not asking for their names.

It’s times like these that really make me feel grateful.  That help me to forget about all the craziness in our world today:  from pressure cooker bombs, to injustices, and perpetual inequality.  It also helps me to forget about the little things – if only I was 7 pounds lighter, if only my butt/arms/legs/stomach were more toned, if only I didn’t have soooo many greys (I do a good job of hiding this fact…most days).  And it makes me feel connected outside of my immediate circle.  It makes me feel like we’re all part of one big whole – which although has some ugly bits, is full of greatness too.

Whoever you were, the girl in the cute summer dress with the faux snakeskin ballet flats and gold hoops that almost fainted at the Bloor Street subway stop thanks you.  Thank you for the reminder.  I know that because of your kindness, your humanity, I was able to have a moment of weakness in a safe environment.  And thanks to you, tonight, when I put my head down after a long day at work and after chasing my two boys around, I can continue my dream at the masquerade ball, unscathed.