Fool me twice

Today, I was carrying two paper cups filled with Starbucks coffee as I approached an obstacle standing between me and my destination: the heavy glass doors of the campus center, the Little Building (which is oddly enormous). Hmmmm, what to do. I did a quick assessment of the situation in my head. I could either 1) stack the two cups on top of one another and use my free hand to open the door, 2) put the cups down on the sidewalk, open the door, and pick them back up again, 3) wait for someone to come through the door and quickly duck in, or 4) keep both cups in their respective hands and open the door with my pinky. Practicality not being my strong suit, I chose the option involving the most useless finger on my hand.

Here's what happened: my pinky didn't have the strength to open the door on its own, so as it strained, the other fingers clenched in commiseration. The pressure the other fingers exerted on the paper cup caused it to cave in the middle, and the caving caused a rising force from within, which in turn popped the lid off the coffee. Which spilled all over me. Don't you feel sorry for me?

This might influence your sympathy: I've made this same exact mistake about five times over.

So here's my thought. If, after several hot, sticky messes, I can't learn that option #4 will have the least desirable outcome, how long does it take for us to learn from the other mistakes in our lives which don't have an immediately correlative consequence? How often do we repeat self-destructive patterns despite our conscious or subconscious understanding that no good can come? Experience is a powerful tool - its purpose is to prevent us from continually making the wrong decision in the critical moment. But how often is our ability to learn from experience temporarily on the fritz?

I used to imagine that experience is the secret recipe for an untroubled life. If you've been through something before, you're bound to handle it better the second time around. Maybe even flawlessly. And certainly there is some supporting evidence to back that theory.

But it would follow that if we haven't learned from a mistake, which we then repeat, we obviously didn't recognize it as a correctable mistake in the first place. We can't trace the events leading up to that particular personal calamity back to its critical moment. We can't define the instant when things started to go wrong. And so we self-inflict pain, frustration, failure, or sadness, again and again. We can't locate the point at which we discarded options #1 through #3, and chose to go with the pinky plan. And so, we can't sidestep the result.

I've spent the past half hour pre-treating, rinsing, scrubbing, and cursing, trying to get the coffee out of my favorite khaki pants. But it won't come out. It's just another stain - an unerasable reminder of lessons, as of yet, still not learned.


My genes, your jeans

Yesterday I had the perfect night - I left work around seven, drove to my gym, worked out in the near desolation that being at Healthworks late on a Friday will guarantee you, showered, went home and put on my pjs, crawling into bed with some kettle corn and a good book. Before I started reading, I decided to call my dad for a chit chat. I knew Mookie would probably be home. How did I know? Because of my genes.

I remember my stepmom Betsy sighing as she'd leave the house on a Saturday evening. My dad and I, stretched out on our separate ends of the L-shaped sofa, would look up from our books to say goodbye. "You two," she'd say "are never going to be happy if you don't get out more." We'd look at each other, shrug, and return our noses from whence they came. After Betsy would leave, we'd call the dogs to the couch to join us.

I'm never home. Weeknights I manage to clammor through the door at around ten o'clock. On the weekend I'm out catching up with friends, running erands, with Boyfriend, with my roommate - just around. So I live for those moments of downtime. I always have. I'm the center of attention more than I'd like. I'd like to never be the center of attention. I'd like to be wallpaper. I prefer to go unnoticed. But that rarely happens.

My dad and I share many qualities - we look surprisingly alike: same teeth, same nose, same hands, similar lean lanky build. We both read feverishly and exercise religiously. We're both compulsive, in our own ways. We work hard. We're fascinated by cars, gender and sex roles, careless liberalism, and canines. We would prefer to live life in jeans and a t-shirt, but don't. And we've been known to pull a hermit every once a while, and usually couldn't be happier than when we're tucked up in our shells.

So the fact that we were both in on a Friday evening is not surprising. The fact that talking to each other didn't seem like an intrusion in our solitude makes sense - we don't harp on one another for being curled up with some good fiction on date night. We support the occasional reappearance of the inner geek. It fits in our universe, because it's in the genes. Congruent with who we are. Which, when you sum it up, is two people who occasionally pull a shut-in, and share an affinity for worn out, broken-in denim.