Pain of the Human Condition

Blue lights flash violently behind me. The police car has an unusually bright white bulb attached to the left of his windshield. It is dangerously distracting…seems ironic for a cop car. My auto-pilot hands pull my Honda to a side street, and park, and take my seat belt off. Released from restraints, I begin breathing deeply as if in meditation.

I have no idea how fast I was driving, and quite frankly, I don’t give a shit. I roll down my window and wait.

An officer approaches. He says his name and states how fast I was driving. Apparently I was in a zone that adds a $200 fine to any speeding ticket. Good to know, I think. I already forget his name and want to fast-forward to bedtime.

“Did you just take your seat belt off?”
“Yes I did.”
“License and registration, please.”
“Mind if I open my glove compartment?”
“Of course.”
As I reach over, a snap resounds and I see my silver heart pendant fall between the seat and emergency break. A chain falls into my lap.
Handing over my registration, I say, “Guess it’s one of those days.” I pick up the broken chain of the necklace from my lap and place it in the passenger seat next to my cell phone, a Droid devoid of use. I dropped it into the toilet the day before. Shouldn’t have left it in my back pocket.
“Where are you driving from?”
My voice cracks, “My mother’s.” I think he hears the pain in my voice.
“Have you been drinking?”
I attempt to close my glove compartment, and somehow, the entire drawer breaks and falls to the ground.

You know, part of me wonders how much the ticket will be. Part of me knows my car insurance company will take away that snazzy no-moving-violation discount for the next 3 years. I could really use the extra $1200. And yet, I am okay with the ticket. I am okay about the phone, the necklace, the glove compartment, the insurance money.

Epiphany strikes, and usually when that happens, you had better hold onto it and listen. Guess that is what I am trying to do now. I am learning about pain of the human condition. I am learning what it means to find importance in what matters and to let go of what you cannot control. I am learning to appreciate the good and to embrace emotions when it comes to the bad. I am learning that it is okay to be sad.

Just moments ago, when I was sitting in the parking lot at my mom’s apartment complex, I was thinking of friends who I could ask for help. I needed to recruit extra packing hands so that my brother, sister-in-law, and I wouldn’t be in over our heads for my mom’s big move tomorrow. Here’s the thing: my mother suffers from severe mental illness. There we go. I said it. It’s public. Whatever. We need to get over this stigma of mental health, and I will join the crusade.

Here’s the other thing: I realized I had few friends who would spare time for an exhausting favor, and far fewer friends who would not judge my mom for her illness. That amounted in my head as no friends at all who would be willing to help, except for one who is actively involved in a mental health awareness group on his college campus. Within seconds of texting him, I received a positive response back, complemented with conscientious questions. Such kindness with an utter lack of judgment.

As I sit in my car, I think about this friend. I think about my brother, my sister-in-law, and my boyfriend. I think about the few people in this world I trust to understand my sadness and my overwhelming desire to address the pain of the human condition. This world is cruel somehow, with so few people in this world who care about what truly matters, sometimes myself included. We get so wrapped up in details and routines, that we forget about what it feels like to be overwhelmed by real pain, the type that attacks the gut and your heart at the same time. It’s nice to not care about the little things, though. It makes me feel like my life is headed in the right direction. Maybe by healing someone else’s pain, I can also heal my own.

Staying Objective


I cannot stay objective. I have experienced love and pain, and I learned that life is not easy. That’s what happens when you truly experience life – you get emotional. And that’s okay.
– Ron Suskind during a speech for Autism Awareness Day at the NIH

(from memory…did not quote verbatim)

Travel Advice: Phrases/Words to Know

Advice for those who travel: if you do not know the language, learn the following phrases. I decided to group the words I learned in Czech Republic and Austria.

– – ahoj (ahoy)
– – dobrý den (doh-bree dehn, same as good day! This was easier for me considering it’s quite similar to Russian)
– – hallo
– – guten tag (goo-ten tahg)

– – ahoj
– – čau (ciao)
– – auf wiedersehen (owf vee-dur-zane…thank you, Project Runway)

– – ano (hearing no in Czech really means yes)
– – ja (yah)

– – ne (neh)
– – nein (nine)

– – prosím (proceem, my favorite Czech word)
– – bitte (bee-tuh)

Thank you
– – děkuji (dyekooyih, or as I like to pronounce it: dyekwee)
– – danke (dan-keh)

Excuse me
– – promiňte (proh-mih-nyteh)
– – entschuldigung (ent-shool-dee-goong, this word is gold)

(I found “thank you” and “excuse me” most useful – it makes people more kind and considerate to you as a foreigner)

The End of Missing Someone


“I like to see people reunited, I like to see people run to each other, I like the kissing and the crying, I like the impatience, the stories that the mouth can’t tell fast enough, the ears that aren’t big enough, the eyes that can’t take in all of the change, I like the hugging, the bringing together, the end of missing someone.”
– Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close