Sunday, 16 November 2014

Sunny Side Up

Scrambled. Poached. Fried. Florentine. Boiled.
No question, no matter how it comes, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.  I see “Breakfast served 24hrs” in the corner of a menu and my heart fairly cartwheels in contentment.

(Ok, ok, before any of you start getting all up in my face trying to call me out on this, I never actually said that I enjoy eating eggs at some ungodly hour of the morning when no civilized person should be out of bed.  To be exact, I probably prefer “Brunch” to Breakfast and were I Bilbo Baggins, I suppose “2nd Breakfast” would be my preferred fare…)
My point is, I’ll take a couple of eggs, home fries and a mountain of fresh fruit over a fancy dinner any time.  I don’t even care how well the food is prepared.  Runny eggs, charred toast, day old potatoes, dirt-like coffee, no matter how it comes, that perfect combination of carbs, cholesterol and caffeine somehow picks me up and puts me in a good mood all day.

Some would say I am overly optimistic.
“You’re so positive!” a colleague said to me recently.

It was not meant as a compliment.  His tone fairly oozed with exasperated frustration at my refusal to adopt his glass-half-empty cynicism no matter how dim the potential future of our mutual project.
We had been discussing a particularly challenging situation at work.  I had been reassuring him that it would all work out.  That we needed to persist because that was the right thing to do.  That we had to have faith because frankly, what else did we have?  He looked at me as though I had committed the most heinous of office crimes.  Right up there with taking your colleague’s yogurt from the fridge without asking or showing up to a retirement potluck empty-handed.

It was not the first time I have been the recipient of such disdain.  I have been called na├»ve, gullible, overly trusting, foolishly optimistic.  Bosses have shaken their heads as they write “will learn to accept the reality of inevitable negative outcomes” and “needs to accept some have limited capacity to change” as my recurring annual personal objectives.  But I still have a hard time wrapping my brain around this “constructive criticism”.
I have known Jack for years. I was drawn to him by his intense sensitivity and indignation at the injustices of the world.  But the charm of his apparent concern soon faded to another colour.  At first I couldn’t grasp why he started to lose his appeal.  Why I still cared for him but found myself looking at my watch when we were together.  Why sometimes I would just keep walking when I saw him sitting in the lunchroom.  And then it hit me one day as I sat across the table listening to him recount his weekly grocery list of troubles; his boss was incompetent, he was sure his dentist was trying to scam him, his colleagues were dishonest and weren’t pulling their weight, the parking ticket he just received was an unfair money grab from a corrupt government …He was upset about how he was treated.   He was upset at how others were treated. Mostly he was just upset.  I mean intensely… terminally… upset.

And that’s when it hit me.
Jack was a real drag.      

Somehow, he was unhappy and suspicious of everyone and everything...All. The. Time. I mean it’s not like I never feel crappy. Lord knows I am often down, discouraged, or disappointed. And I am the first to admit I have about as much in common with Mother Theresa as I do with the Klingon mothership.  Every day my sarcastic conscience (imagine the love child of Lewis Black and Sarah Silverman, a hot ranting cynic with stilettos and a receding hairline…) sits on my shoulder just dying to editorialize.  Gum-chewing, whiskey-swilling Lara Silverblack itches to yell out, “Yeah, root canals suck, I dunno, maybe put down your soda, get off the couch and floss once in a while! If you’re so upset about your parking ticket, maybe trade in your gas-guzzling sports car for a flashy pair of roller-skates! ”
Like everyone,   I have regular moments where other people’s choices and actions spark such a “WTF” reaction in me that the temptation to spew biting tidbits of mockery is almost overwhelming. But the truth is, as much as I might get a little commiseration or laughter in return, it doesn’t generally change anything and I still feel, well… crappy.

Fact is, Jack’s right.  Every day we’re faced with mountains of frustrations we can’t control- other people’s actions, unexpected hurdles, the backside of human nature… For a control freak like me, this is an awesome revelation.  And I don’t mean “Awesome” in that 13 year old “Groovy dude!” kind of awesome.  More like that 43 year old, holy-shit-how- the-hell-am-I-ever-going-to-cope-in-a-world-of-completely-unpredictable-chaos kind of “awesome.”
Thankfully, I can still try to control my reactions.

This morning I am out for breakfast with my children, and am feeling indecisive.  Scrambled, poached, fried…
My daughter looks up from where she is coloring on her place mat.

“Mommy, Nicky was crying yesterday.”
I brace myself. Nicky is 10 years old and in my daughter’s class. She is a troubled kid whose disruptive anti-social behaviour and unsuccessful pharmacological treatment isolate her from her classmates. For years I have tried to calm my protective mother lioness as I listen to daily stories of how Vicky was “bugging me at lunch” or “calling me names in the schoolyard”.

 “She was crying, Mommy.  She has to change schools and she’s scared no one will like her or they’ll call her a bully.”
Lara Silverblack wakes up on my shoulder, cracks her gum and starts to mutter.  Oh the karmic balance of the universe.    

“So what did you do?” I tentatively ask, taking a drawn out gulp of my coffee.
“Well, I hugged her and told her it was all going to be ok because everyone would love her.”

And with one phrase, Lara Silverblack is knocked off her Jimmy Choos and my wavering needle is straightened out by my daughter, whose own moral compass always points true North, showing me life can be harsher than our reactions need be.
 “How would you like your eggs today, ma’am?” the waitress cuts off my reverie of shame.

And taking a breath, I close my menu and answer without hesitation.

“Sunny side up.”

*Names and some details have been altered to protect the privacy of those involved but remain true to the essence of the events.