Saturday, April 12, 2008

Charmed Life

Part of my head is in a bit of a dark place tonight. I've been under a lot of stress lately - work, personal, you name it. Nothing worth noting, because none of it is particularly extraordinary, but it's kind of piled up a bit and I'm feeling a tad bit of strain as a result. I'll handle it fine, but I can tell I'm out of sorts. My emotions are running at high tilt: I find I'm quick to anger, kind of snarky, but also quick to tears, easily moved by small things. A sad song. Kodak commercials. Idol Gives Back. Forget it -- I'm wiping my eyes within 30 seconds.

So, whatever. It's kind of silly, really. I'm having a very good week, in real terms. Work is fine, if busy. My boss took me and the rest of team out on his boat for the day yesterday as a reward for all the work we've been doing on the trade shows and whatnot. It was terrific: a lovely day, breezy and warm, cocktails and naps in the sun. Everyone in my immediate family is fine. No health problems of note. My son turned 8 today, and we had a house full of kids and relatives as a result. A strain, surely, but it's hard to complain when your kid is healthy and happy and has a great birthday as well. Sure, there was bitching, but whatever.

So, I feel kind of stupid for being so edgy. Let me tell you about some other, more tangential, events.

Last weekend we had about the single most brutal gup testing I've participated in since I began training. I proctored three tests, and with the exception of the white belt tests they were all basically awful. Arduous. Long, painful experiences. 7 kids cried. 2 almost passed out. One kid froze up so badly that the green belts didn't get promoted at the end of their test. Many hearts were more-or-less broken, although they've since mended nicely. Seriously, though, this was a tough day for a lot of kids. The first real tough day they've had in martial arts training. Months of practice and training, a difficult test, and no advancement. Granted, they advanced later in the week, but after they've sweated for 4 hours it's not realistic to expect 7 and 8 year olds to understand that not getting promoted at the end of their test is not the same as failing.

I thought this was going to be the worst part of my week. Oh, woe is me -- I had to suffer through someone else's bad day. It's amazing how self-involved I can be.

Since then, I've found out that one of the kids who tested, one of the ones who almost passed out, lost his brother in Iraq the same day as his test. A 23 year old kid who was over there for 4 short months, he was blown up, along with a fellow soldier, by a roadside IED. So, while I stood there, frustrated and bored, trying to not roll my eyes while I stealthily checked the clock, one of the guys I was a watching sweat it out on the mat while his parents watched was, unbeknownst to then all, losing his brother, their son.

How's that for a reality check? Boredom can be a true luxury.

Then, on a clearly less serious and devastating level, there's the friends I have who are considering quitting Tang Soo Do because their instructor (FYI to my fellow classmates: not one of ours here in Texas) is fast tracking another student. Came in from some other art 6 months back, hadn't practiced in years but was allowed to cross rank to green belt, and is now petitioning to test for red belt about 6-9 months early. They're demotivated and frustrated, perhaps even disillusioned. I don't blame them.

For folks that don't train this may seem petty, but you can't really understand how insulting it is to be leap-frogged by some pushy jerk when you train and work your ass off, but try to be humble and patient, only testing when your instructor tells you your ready. Our art requires a significant amount of self-sacrifice, of patience and humility. This flies in the face of those values, and truly undermines commitment to the art. I know their instructor, and he's a great guy, but I wonder if he realizes the pain and damage he's causing by allowing this. And again, this may not see like a big deal to non-martial artists, but it's hard to explain what a place of importance the art takes in our lives, and how upsetting it is to see if your expectations and beliefs made unsteady.

Another friend has recently had a cyst grow on his chest: his biopsy is next week.. Another has a sister who is battling cancer. I have friends who desperately want children, and are unable to have them. Other friends whose parents are suffering from advanced Parkinson's Disease. Others whose parents have MS. Others who have suffered sudden tragic losses of friends, through both death and divorce, who give them stability and hope.

Conversely, I spent significant time and energy this week bitching about my weight.

It's weird. Aside form the death of my father at 6 years of age -- a big aside, granted -- my life has been fairly free of tragedy. Maybe because that's a tough act to follow. Don't know. But when problems occur for others, I often wonder...

When's it my turn? Aside from a bad first chapter, my life is pretty good. I'm so freakin' lucky.

Is there a shoe ready to fall? When does my luck run out? This is the crap that keeps me awake at night.

Mood: Edgy
Now Playing: Alvin and the Chipmunks, a tragedy in its own right

1 comment:

Susan LaGrande said...

Dear Gregg,
Yes, you've been experiencing a lot of vicarious stress in addition to that which is rightfully yours. I understand your feeling that another shoe is about to drop - on your head. When you see tragedy all around you it's hard not to begin anticipating it in your own life. Just keep in mind that blessings, like calamities, are beyond our control. All we can do is be humbly grateful and trust that whatever happens in our lives comes through the hands of someone who loves us. As our student creed says, let's develop ourselves "in a positive manner."