THE CRANKATSURIS METHOD:
A GROWNUP GUIDE TO
By Steven Joseph
Author of The Last Surviving Dinosaur:
How To Use Your Own CrankaTsuris
I wrote The Last Surviving Dinosaur: The TyrantoCrankaTsuris last year as a kids book, but this book was not written just for kids. As the narrator says "Even Mommy and Daddy can be a CrankaTsuris and KvetchaTsuris sometimes!" So, it is important for us to acknowledge our own "CrankaTsuris."
Imagine if a family member is standing on a very expensive rug, This close family member informs you that he or she is feeling really ill, and is about to throw up! The normal response is "Not on the rug!!....Go to the bathroom!!!" And the poor sickly member of the family rushes to the bathroom.
But, our family members are much more important than the very expensive rug. Yet, we typically do not hesitate to pour out our CrankaTsuris all over our spouses, our kids, our parents, and our brothers and sisters. Then, there can be a CrankaTsuris retaliation. When it is all over, just like the rug, it can be very difficult to clean up a CrankaTsuris.
So, we try to feel it coming. We feel it inside. It starts in the pit of our stomach, and it moves up to our throat. Instead of just letting it all out, stop for a couple of seconds and breath. Warn the person you love so much that you have a "CrankaTsuris" inside and it may be coming. Say why you are feeling this"CrankaTsuris" inside you, and say what you may need to make it not so messy.
And if you could not help yourself, and you did pour out a "CrankaTsuris" all over your loved one, when you calm down, apologize and say you had a little "CrankaTsuris."
So, invite the TyrantoCrankaTsuris and the TyrantoKvetchaTsuris into your home, and have fun with what is really our true nature!!
The Story of The Last Surviving Dinosaur: The TyrantoCrankaTsuris
“Tsuris” is the Yiddish word for problems.
Now, when I say "problems", I am not talking about a minor daily inconvenience. I am talking about a major life changing traumatic event that has brought on such suffering that has never been experienced by anyone since the beginning of time, and something you would never wish on your worst enemy.
Consider the difference in the two statements made:
"I have this problem."
"Oy!!!!! I have such tsuris!!!! Oy!!!!"
While a problem is something you may choose to keep to yourself, "tsuris" is something you have to share with the entire world. Think of some "tsuris" you may have and try to keep it to yourself.
See!!! You can't do it.
I grew up in a very Jewish home in the Bronx. My parents as well as the rest of my family came over from Europe after World War II.
And my home may have been like many other Jewish homes. At least in my neighborhood, all the relatives would get together and start kvetching (Yiddish for talking only about Tsuris in a very competitive manner) about their “tsuris.” “You think you have tsuris? If I had your tsuris, I would be doing cartwheels! Nobody can outdo my tsuris!”
We all talked about our tsuris with a huge sense of pride. For us, there was a feeling of real accomplishment. It was as if we were all training for the Olympics, and Tsuris was an Olympic event. One of us was going to get the gold!
“How are you doing, Aunt Saydie?”
“I am ok, but I have these warts on my toes, and I can’t get rid of them!”
My second cousin Dottie chimed in; “I would take the warts! I got my warts removed, and my toe nails fell off! And, the fungus between the toes! There is serious vegetation growing there!”
Aunt Sandy leaned herself over and proudly said, “Oy!! But you both did not go through what I went through! I went to Florida, and then got bit by an alligator!! Look at me now! I am turning into a reptile!!”
On the other side of the room, the men were talking.
“How are you doing, Uncle Mottie?”
“I could be better. For years, I thought I had this terrible problem with dandruff. Used every brand of dandruff shampoo. Nothing helped. I finally found out it was lice. I am a walking plague!”
My cousin Whiny interrupted. “Don’t tell me about lice. I never leave the City. Stay on concrete. Don’t even go into a park. Know what happened to me? I got ticks! Deer ticks!! Only I can get deer ticks in Brooklyn!”
Uncle Shmukie, with his booming voice, grabbed the gold; “I would take lice and ticks in a heartbeat! I just got back from the doctor, and I have an inoperable brain tumor. The doctor says it is not life threatening, but it is a brain tumor!!! The doctors put a metal plate around the brain tumor to keep it from growing. Now, I can't fly on airplanes. They think I am carrying a bomb inside my head!”
So, this prepared me very well when I became a father and my daughter would have a temper tantrum. I put her in time out, and told her that when she comes out, I will tell her the real story about how most, but not all, of the dinosaurs became extinct.
My daughter then thought to herself; “This will be a good story!” So, she quietly composed herself while in her bedroom.
When her time out was over, she said, “I am ready for the story, daddy!!....But you said that not all dinosaurs are extinct. That is not what I learned in school!”
“It is not true. One small little dinosaur survived. And even though she was the smallest dinosaur, she was the most dangerous dinosaur of all the dinosaurs.
And believe it or not, us humans are ancestors, and we all are descendants from this one little tiny dinosaur.
“What was the name of this dinosaur?”, my daughter asked as her interest perked up.
“I never heard of that dinosaur”, my daughter replied.
So, I told her the story. "The TyrantoCrankaTsuris was the smallest dinosaur on the planet, and all of the other dinosaurs made fun of her because of her size. All the other dinosaurs liked to brag how tough they were! “I can eat an entire forest with one bite!!”
A second dinosaur exclaimed, “My teeth are so big, they are the size of an entire forest!”
A third dinosaur boasted, “I floss my teeth with an entire forest!”
And they laughed and laughed at the little TyrantoCrankaTsuris, until one day, the little TyrantoCrankaTsuris got really really mad at the other dinosaurs and let out the biggest and loudest CrankaTsuris:
“I have bad warts on my toes that do not come off, but they came off and my toenails came off with them, and then, I grew fungus the size of an entire forest so I went to Florida to soak my forest feet in the ocean and an alligator bit off by forest feet, but bit my feet too, and it hurt soooo much!!
And with that CrankaTsuris, the whole planet shook, and went dark.
The TyrantoCrankaTsuris did not stop.
And then, I couldn’t stop scratching my scales, and I thought I had dandruff, but it was really lice, and then I found out I had deer ticks even though deer do not exist in prehistoric times, and I can’t get the deer ticks removed because, I have an inoperable brain tumor, and if they tried to remove the deer ticks, my brains would splatter all over, and my head would really hurt even worse!!”
She went on and on and on and on and all of the bigger badder dinosaurs on the planet had vanished.
Except one. The TyrantoCrankaTsuris met another tiny little dinosaur, the TyrantoKvetchaTsuris. When he arrived from Florida with the alligator, they fell in love and cranked and kvetched happily ever after.
Millions of years later, these last two dinosaurs evolved into humans.
Before, you were getting a bit cranky and kvetchy. That is the part of us humans inherited from the TyrantoCrankaTsuris and the TyrantoKvetchaTsuris. Even mommy and daddy can be a CrankaTsuris and a KvetchaTsuris!
“You need to be careful with this power”, I told my daughter. “Remember, all of the other dinosaurs did become extinct when the TyrantoCrankaTsuris just would not stop!”
So we learned to be careful not to express our inner TyrantoCrankaTsuris or TyrantoKvetchaTsuris too often. Just
the right amount to keep the planet happy and not too cranky.
The CrankaTsuris Method
The premise behind the idea of "CrankaTsuris" is that "Crankiness" is part of our true nature. Think about it!! We are the only species that enter this world crying. You would not see a litter of puppies or kittens being born, and the second they enter this world, they are wailing away.
Now, animals do cry, of course. However, it is really from some real suffering. When my daughter was growing up, we had a fabulous dog, Albus Dumbledog, and if there was a thunderstorm or if he had some serious bathroom issues and wanted to go out to relieve himself, his cries would let us know. He would not start crying because we turned off his favorite TV show on Animal Planet.
So, we get cranky just because we do not get our own way, especially when we are young. Even when we get old, we may get cranky for the same reason, but we may show it in some passive aggressive way. In some way, we act out in a way that could be harmful to our loved ones, but harmful to ourselves.
The answer has always been to not act out, but rather, we should just say what we are feeling, as if by saying it, we can make the feeling go away. While saying what we feel obviously is a better choice than acting out, think about this for a moment. Let's say we get to become really good in saying what we feel. "I feel angry." "I feel mad." "I feel annoyed." "I feel irritated." There is also a physical aspect to this. My blood pressure goes up. I feel a rush of adrenaline. Or, I take a physical action. Eating. I will drown my sorrows with a bowel of ice cream. No. not a bowl. A quart of ice cream. With toppings.
The physical part is still there. Also, if I keep on saying "i feel angry," for example, I may, at some point, start to believe I am angry. Not only that. You are the one I am always telling how angry I am, you start to believe I am a very angry person.
Here comes in the CrankaTsuris to save the day. You have a loved one who is feeling the edge, and may want to verbalize hurtful things. A little kid wants to hit his brother because he is playing with the toy that is all his. No sharing!!
Now, we want to preserve all of goodness, sweetness, kindness and loving inside that person. We do not want to label that person as a bad person. We do that by rolling up those feelings into a CrankaTsuris. There is a CrankaTsuris stuck in our throats. We can say not we are are feeling, but that we have a CrankaTsuris. The CrankaTsuris will pass. Think about what works. It can be different for everybody. Some may want a quiet space. Others can ask for permission to let out a big CrankaTsuris. We can make it as a reward for kids for good behavior. Others may want to have fun, and be a TyrantoCrankaTsuris.
Now, what does a CrankaTsuris sound like? It can be a roaring dinosaur. It can be a very long string of all the little things that did not go your way that day.
"My coffee was cold. And, I missed the train. It was too crowded. Oh, the guy next to me on the train was smelly. Did I tell you my boss gave me extra work. I can't believe it! Do you know that there are some people who do not believe in flushing a toilet? Uch. And I spent three hours on hold with the insurance company! Of course, they were useless!! And, with this humidity, my hair is an absolute nightmare. The pimple is just getting bigger and bigger! Probably from all this humidity. And, now I have to cook dinner. I am sooooooo tired!!"
Keep going with the tsuris, and don't stop until you start laughing and can't stop. Or, keep going with family members there, and don't stop until they all vanish. Not permanently of course!!
One important rule with the CrankaTsuris. Do not attack any family member. It is not about putting any loved one down. it is about the little things in life that get rolled all up in a big big ball.
When you start to crack yourself up, which does mean that the CrankaTsuris is wrapped up in a nice big ball inside your throat, go to the sink and spit it out. Gargle a bit just to make sure you are cleansed. Then, everybody can come back since it is nice and safe again.
The CrankaTsuris are all variables. This is today, and maybe not tomorrow. When you are all done, saying something good that is a constant. I get home and I have my beautiful family. It smells so good.
It is all about making it light, making it fun, and making it about who we really are all descendants from: the TyrantoCrankaTsuris!!!
"And she (the TyrantoCrankaTsuris) went on and on, cranking out the tsuris until all the bigger, badder dinosaurs had vanished."
So, it is great to be so small, have everyone be bigger and badder than you, and you have all the power. You are the most dangerous dinosaur on the planet. So much fun!!
This part of the story came from the simple game of tag with my daughter and her friends in the playground when she was young. It wouldn't be much fun if we just played it straight and I was just one of the kids. Because I was obviously bigger than all the young ones, the game of tag always started out as me playing the monster, and I was going to capture them. I would always play it where I get really really close, and just miss. Once in a while, if I got bored (and very hungry to eat small children), I would make a capture.
But, because I never really caught any of the kids, and I never really ate any of them, the game would always change. I became the scared monster, and all the kids would chase me. I became terrified, yelping, crying for my momma, arms waving an "oh me, oh my".
I must have done this so often, I became a professional scaredy cat monster. Little kids could smell me a mile away. Years later, I would go to Israel to visit cousins, and they had little children who didn't speak English, and I did not speak Hebrew. I can sit innocently with the other grown-ups, having a grown-up conversation, and these little kids all of 4 years old would come up to me and say in their Israeli kid accent "ROAR!!!!!" The chase was on.
Last year, I was at Tanglewood for the July 4th concert with James Taylor performing. During intermission, the same thing would happen. A little kid with the family on the blanket next to us, looked at me, and gave me that instinctive roar. I must have run 5 miles during intermission. And I got offers to babysit not only from the kid's parent, but from three other families!! Too bad, the pay was not that good.
So, do this. If your kid gets really a bit too cranky, stick him or her in a time out, and after they are calm and well behaved for a while, REWARD THEM! Let them be the TyrantoCrankaTsuris, and they can chase you around while they crank out all their tsuris!!!
But, of course, you never disappear.
And even better, Mom and Dad had a bad day? Feeling a bit cranky? You get to take turns and switch places!!!
How much fun is that!!!!
"She went on and on and on, cranking out the tsuris until all the bigger, badder dinosaurs had vanished."
Now, in truth, the TyrantoCrankaTsuris was always the quiet one. But, as they always say "It's the quiet ones that you have to watch out for."
It is a fact that some people just don't like to complain. Don't trust them!! I'll tell you a story. At work, I had a former colleague. I'll call him Vic. Every morning, I would see him in the coffee room, and I would ask "Vic, how are you doing?"
"I can't complain." he would always reply. What kind of answer is that? First of all, I was asking how he was doing. I did not ask whether or not he had the ability to complain. Imagine if I asked Vic how he was doing and he said "I can't swim." There is no difference in the two non-answers.
And, this is the same guy on Friday mornings, when he would see me in the same coffee room, he would say to me, "Steve, if I don't see you, you should have a good weekend!"
Now, we worked in the same department, and I was not going anywhere. I was going to be there for another seven hours. Of course, Vic would see me. Does that mean I should have a really lousy weekend?
Ok. I digressed a bit. Some people just do not like to complain. But, think about why they do not like to complain. "I don't want to seem like a complainer!" Or they say..."What's the point! I can complain, but it will not change anything!"
One reason you will never ever hear is "I do not complain because there is absolutely nothing to complain about. Everything is just perfect. I am completely satisfied with absolutely everything. Ok. There is one thing. I am underworked and over appreciated, but that's it. No other complaints!!!!"
So, we all have our complaints. Now, imagine if we chose not to voice our complaints. Let us presume that the reason is that it will not change anything. You know what will then happen? Nothing will ever change because there was never anyone to complain about the way it was. If there is nobody to complain, we must all be living in a perfect world.
But, we need change. Things are not perfect. Complaining is showing bravery. It creates change. I will tell you a short story that brings it full circle. When I was young, and I was really hoping for something to happen, like get admitted to my first choice in applying to college, my father would tell me, "Don't get your hopes up. That way, you will not be disappointed."
My father said many wise things that fathers always says, but I did not put that line into the category of "wise fatherly sayings". So what, if I am disappointed? I worked hard. I think I deserve what I am hoping for. If I do not get it, I will be disappointed. That is ok. I will not be crushed by it, but I will feed off of it to work harder.
Complaining is not only okay. It is both important and vital to our existence and even our survival as human beings. People complain, and they experience disappointment when things do not change. However, the best of us do not give up. We keep on fighting. At some point, the complaints get heard.
But, remember, we do not keep it in and keep it and keep it in, and then let it out and never stop. Nobody ever hears the TyrantoCrankaTsuriswho never stops cranking out the tsuris.
And the story ends:
"So we learned to be careful not to express our inner TyrantoCrankaTsuris or TyrentoKvetchaTsuris too often. Just the right amount to keep the planet happy and not too cranky."
CrankaTsuris Comfort Food: My Mom's Latke Recipe
When kids have a CrankaTsuris in them, sometimes, it is not about having a bad day, but it could be that the Cranksters in your home are getting just a bit hungry.
There are some recipes from my mom, I wish I knew, or had asked how to make. She made the best gefilte fish (ground up carp, boiled, with eggs, salt (and no sugar), onion and carrots added).
That can be for a particular taste, and let's face it, it is a big process to make. You have to buy the fish. You have to have a special grinder. You have to refrigerate it for hours after you make it. It has fish jelly. Looks like phlegm. You add spicy red horseradish to it. And let's face it. If you were brave enough to make gefilte fish, and lucky enough that your kids would eat, you would be the CrankaTsuris after you are finished with this entire adventure of making it.
So, I will give you something easier. My mom's potatoes latkas (or pancakes). You can do it in 15-20 minutes depending on how many potatoes you use. You will need a food processor or mini-chopper that has a grater setting. And once your kids will have a few of these, they will wash dishes, scrub the floors and clean their rooms. These are the world's best latkas.
I see I have gotten your interest. Now, let me first explain why all the other latkas are terrible and do not make the cut. I do not even understand them. You go to a Jewish deli or restaurant, and you get these giant potato disks that are oily, taste old, and are too chewy. They have flour in them so maybe it is a bit cakey, or corn starch. I do not know what it is. They put something in them that ruins the experience.
My mom's recipe is very simple. One medium size potato. One egg per potato. A slice of onion. Salt to taste. A touch of garlic powder, optional. That is it.
A few things to know. I was always a purist, and for years hand grated the potato and onion, and would joke that you need knuckle skin for taste. I had a lot of bloody knuckles for many years I made latkas. People would always tried to get me to use an appliance and I refused. I can be stubborn sometimes.
Then, there was one day hen no one was around, (and it had to be when no one was around just for pride), I tried the mini-chopper. Let me tell you. It was a life changer. It costs maybe $30 and I don't have to go to the hospital to get blood infusions anymore!!
Within seconds, you get a perfectly grated potato. But, it is important to put in the egg and onion to have grated and mixed before you add the potato. The onion is for taste, but it is also for appearance. If you do not have the onion in there, and the potato gets grated and sits in a bowel with egg, the mixture turns gray, and you will not have an attractive latke.
Once you have the mix all prepared, get the oil in the non-stick frying pan nice and hot, and just spoon the batter on to the frying pan in nice disks. The latkes will attach to each other so make sure each one is separated. When you see a hint of brown crunch at the edges, start flipping them over to the other side. Cook for a little more, and take them off on to a tray. Use a paper towel to take off the excess oil. You are done!
Taste them. The outside has this amazing light and subtle crunch. The inside is creamy and just melts in your mouth. It is humanly impossible to be suffering from CrankaTsuris while eating them. Unless of course, you eat about twenty, and you get a bit of a tummy ache.
Another trick, especially for Valentine's Day. Add a slice or two of peeled beet to the potato mixture. The batter will be nice and pink, and you will have these awesome reddish latkas that takes nothing away from the taste, and will be another way to tell your cranksters at home how much you love them!!
I was doing a seminar on negotiation a number of years ago with a bunch of defense lawyers, and I want to share with you the "hypothetical" assignment I gave to them that was going to be part of our discussion.
Rather than using a legal factual scenario, the "hypothetical" was one that everyone had experience in, and thus, I suggested that, because of this, it should be no problem for any one of them to work out the issue raised.
"So, imagine you are in a relationship, or don't imagine, but think about the relationship with another person that you are in, preferably a spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend.
This person who we will refer to as "your partner" is mad at you for whatever you did or did not do. We do not need to get into any specifics as to what this person is mad about. Just that this person is mad at you.
You happen to be a top notch defense lawyer. Because your partner has raised a complaint against you, you are given the assignment of negotiating a resolution to the madness. However, because you are all defense lawyers, you can only raise defenses on behalf of yourself as part of your negotiation.
Also, you should also know one more thing about the legal system imposed on you in this relationship. There is a presumption of guilt. In other words, you are guilty until proven innocent."
So, here are the responses received:
YOU SHOULD NOT BE MAD AT ME BECAUSE:
"You are mad at me? I am the one who should be mad at you!!"
"I have good reasons why I did what I did!!"
(Tip: Note that in this legal system imposed here, there is a presumption that "good reasons" are always "bad excuses.")
"Sure, I messed up. But, I have done lots of other good things!!"
(Offset to Any Damages Caused)
"I messed up, but you knew I was going to mess up!!"
(Assumption of the Risk)
"I messed up, but I didn't understand what I was supposed to do in the first place!!"
(No Contract Because No Meeting of the Minds)
"I messed up, but you mess up too!!"
"I messed up, but I will fix it!!"
(Mitigation of Damages)
So, I asked everyone that if there was anybody in the room that felt that this was a successful way of ending whatever the madness was about. They were all honest in their reply that they did not think so.
This particular brand of CrankaTsuris does not dissipate because of whatever defenses get raised. The person who happens to be mad is not because they had this previous unrelenting belief that you, in fact, were a perfect human being, and they were only looking for an answer to reassure them that your perfection had remained perfectly intact. Whew. Thank goodness for that!
A CrankaTsuris is as much emotional as it may have a factual basis. The emotional side wants to be heard. So, if the response is argumentative, judgmental, or denies your partner's feelings, the response can be described as "ear shutting behavior".
Let's go over these:
Judgmental Statements: "That's just stupid."
Dismissive Statements: "How can you even get upset by that?"
Smirks. Grimaces. Waves: The "Phil" Mannerisms.
Any conduct that is perceived as arrogant: "Well, everyone knows!"
As with any CrankaTsuris, give that person the feeling that they have been heard. Tell your partner what you heard. Ask your partner if you heard correctly. Tell that person what you understand. Also, if you had a misstep, indicate how much appreciate the feedback.
Once everyone is calm, you can then ask for permission to say something. It should be always forward looking for when this situation happens again, what exactly would be helpful for you the next time this happens. You can then ask your partner if this suggestion works for him or her as well.
Then, both take a deep breath. You and your partner both deserve a hug.
The madness has now come to an end.
A CrankaTsuris Meditation
In The Last Surviving Dinosaur, the word "Tsuris" is described not to mean those "minor daily inconveniences", but rather "major life changing traumatic events that have brought on suffering that has never been experienced by anyone since the beginning of time."
But the truth is for most people, when they talk about their "Tsuris," it really is about those minor daily inconveniences. I know how I am when it comes to this. Sometimes, the world is burning and I can be just fine. Other times, I just have a very low threshold. "Do you really have to make that cud chewing sound when you are chewing gum?" "And if you blow one more bubble, it will be a bubble over your head!!" "And can you believe our neighbor? Who in the world mows the lawn......in the daytime?"
It is not the big stuff, but the little things that start to add up like getting bitten by mosquitos at a hot and humid summer night picnic. And we are always thinking that we have it worse than anyone else. "I would be doing cartwheels if I had your Tsuris!!"
Imagine having that life long dream. You do not want to win the lottery. Get that promotion, or admitted to a fine university, make the basketball team, have a family. Your dream is to have another person's Tsuris. You have that. You do cartwheels, and you tell the world you finally made it!
My favorite cartoon growing up, like everybody else, was the Flintstones, and this very concept was the storyline in one memorable episode. Fred and Barney come home tired from work. Wilma and Betty are exhausted at home. They all complain how life would be a piece of cake if they just switched places.
So, they switch. Fred and Barney takes care of Pebbles and Bam Bam, and Wilma and Betty go off to the quarry. It turns out that Fred and Barney get a bit too much Bam Bam....Bam Bam Bam to handle. Wilma and Betty did just fine at the quarry, but let's face it. We all knew that the Flintstones was way ahead of its time.
So, getting back to real Tsuris, and we begin to feel overwhelmed by our many minor daily inconveniences, sit on a chair in a quiet place or a cushion and have a CrankaTsuris meditation.
Now, meditation can be tricky. I began meditating when I lived in New York, and would go to the Village Zendo. We would have summer and end of the year retreats where we would spend a week in silence, and would sit on a cushion from 5:30 AM to 9:00 PM at night, with some breaks in between. Every meditation was different. Some loud. Many quiet. Some terrified like the floor was swallowing me up from beneath me. Others was completely blissful. So, just allow the experience to be what it is.
With a CrankaTsuris meditation, with eyes wide open, sit and breath in the CrankaTsuris you had that day. Do not judge it. Treat it with compassion. You had an angry feeling, a helpless feeling, a cranky feeling, frustration, whatever it is, embrace it as true. Do not fight it. Treat it as part of you because that is what it is. Enjoy the feeling of compassion for all this "schmutz" inside of you, and enjoy the feeling that in your quiet place, it is all safe. No one will judge you. No one will fight back. No one will misunderstand you. It is all safe. Just you. The feelings. The compassion. The quiet. Breath in, and exhale. Let it all out. Get back to the present and the quiet. Notice the quiet and the present for a few minutes. Exhale.
Then, start thinking about a CrankaTsuris that was created over a month, a year, or a lifetime. Feel the compassion for al of this as well. Feel safe sitting with this in the quiet space. Again, breath in and exhale. Quiet. Breath in and exhale.
Next, what does a CrankaTsuris of a friend, a partner, a parent, a colleague - look like. Breath that in. Feel the compassion for this too. Think about how safe it is for this person to have this CrankaTsuris.
Think about the CrankaTsuris of the world. Notice how it shifts to things that may not be a minor daily inconvenience, but now we are getting more to major traumatic events. Again, with compassion, breath in and exhale as well.
Now, get back to your first CrankaTsuris. Those minor daily inconveniences. Check in and see if they feel a bit softer. Be generous and feel as much compassion as you did before. Breath in gratitude. Exhale gratitude. Close your eyes. Sit for five more minutes in quiet.
Ring the bell. Breath, Stretch, and feel the CrankaTsuris cleanse.
GET OFF MY BACK CRANKATSURIS
"Get off My Back" CrankaTsuris is one of the most painful types of CrankaTsuris. Your parents are on your back. Your siblings are on your back. Your teachers are on your back. Your boss is on your back. Even your pets can be on your back!
You get one person off of your back, and another three glom right on. They are like bugs and they are always multiplying.
The person handing out the CrankaTsuris is not having much fun either. These people know they sound like a broken record, but they keep trying as after one thousand tries, the ears on the receiving end miraculously open up.
Both people involved are trying to exert their power over the other and both ends up feeling powerless. There may be guilt on both sides for being unable to satisfy the other. There is a lot of frustration, and hurt feelings. Nerves are shredded, and relationships are frayed.
So, this Chapter will discuss how you can minimize or eliminate "Get off My Back" CrankaTsuris. But, before I do, I have to tell a story of me growing up that ultimately provides the key to unlocking this problem.
Like many other families, when the Olympics came around every four years, we were glued to the television set. And whenever there was a performance that was really special, my parents would give me their special commentary.
In 1976, at the Summer Olympics in Montreal, Nadia Comaneci, a Romanian National, was the first gymnast to be awarded a perfect score of 10.0 at the Olympic Games. She was a crowd favorite and the commentators were in awe. My father, who is Romanian, saw every competition she was in, and his comment to me?
"Why can't you do gymnastics like that?"
In the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, there was Torvill & Dean; brilliant British ice dancers. They were electric. The crowd loved them. The commentators described their performance as one for the ages, and something they never saw before.
My parents' comment?
"Why can't you skate like that?"
Of course, it did not matter that, growing up in the Bronx, I was not exactly taken from skating lessons to a gymnastic class. In fact, I skated only once very badly, and never did any gymnastics. And I was a bit pudgy in the middle.
By the way, we also watched "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." I will only say one word about that. Liberace.
But, in their mind, that did not matter. I should have been winning gold medals in ice skating in the winter, and gymnastics in the summer, just like all the other kids in the neighborhood, playing the piano we did not own, while studying to be a world class surgeon who one day will find the cure for cancer.
I do not fault my parents for having these expectations. It was expected. This was because we were too poor to take a beach vacation. Instead, my parents, like everyone else in the neighborhood, went to the back of the apartment building to sit on the bench. They took a bench vacation.
And, on the bench, all the parents would announce their child's accomplishments, and one by one, they all had to outdo the other. After the bench meetings, all the parents went up to tell what fabulous schools their kids got accepted to and the wonderful jobs they all got, and why didn't we get into the same fabulous schools and land the same wonderful jobs. Of course, with the other parents, they got to complain how we were the ones who won the lottery of life.
It made me wish we all just lived in Nepal at the foot of Mount Everest, and the parents in the nearby village would just have this conversation, of course, sitting on the bench in Nepal.
"So, Sophie! How is your son doing?"
"He is a sherpa." Esther replied. "And your son? "
"He is a sherpa, too." Sophie explained.
Esther then turned to Ruthie. "And what is your son up to?"
Ruthie exclaimed proudly, "He is a sherpa too, but he also wrote a major concerto that will be performed in Carnegie Hall by the New York Philharmonic. I tell you. I can't stop kvelling!!"
There is always one in the crowd.
The point of telling this story is that there are a lot of unrealistic expectations out there. So, the focus should be for people with parental or spousal relationships to focus on the realistic expectations.
What are they? It should be figured out by both parties writing down what are the realistic expectations they have for the other, and also, the realistic expectations they believe that the other person should have for them.
Parents will love this. My child should have a realistic expectation that I provide, food, clothing and shelter. The child will write that "I have a realistic expectation that my parents provide food, clothing and shelter." So, there is a match.
Now, it is important that the child should write the realistic expectations that his or her parents should have for them.
Now, they can write that "there should be no expectations of me because my existence on this planet is enough, and by the way, there only realistic expectations for me is that I will play computer games on my iPhone."
Now, that could happen. But, the rule should be we provide for each other. We help each other. We are a team. Also, the stated purpose is to stop the destructive cycle of "Get off My Back" CrankaTsuris. Both sides have to give a bit.
Here is another great example.
"I have a realistic expectation to be treated like an adult."
"I have a realistic expectation that you act like an adult.'
"And then, I have the realistic expectation that I will treat you like an adult."
Now, while that is a perfect example, it may be a bit being too smart, and not taken the right way. So, turn this around.
"I want you to have a realistic expectation to be treated like an adult. I am happy that this is an expectation of yours. I have to be clear on my realistic expectations so this expectation can be met."
The objectives here are both honesty and understanding. We are showing what we are each saying to the other.
Also, it is important to acknowledge appreciation when realistic expectations are met. I have a realistic expectation that you - fill in the blank - and you have been great and I appreciate that you have met that expectation. That should also be shared, going both ways.
What you will also find is that one person may try to bargain. "I do not have a realistic expectation that I will be given a trip, a car, a fancy dress. But...if I do something or work towards something that may be beyond something that you have a realistic expectation of me doing, can I then be able to change my reasonable expectation of what I can expect?"
The answer could be "yes." Let's try to go beyond our reasonable expectations on both sides.
The point of this exercise is that each side is being honest as to what they see as their role, and how they see your role. You may agree or you may not. Do not fight over it. If the person you are working through this cannot meet the expectations that you see as reasonable, ask what can be done to make it easier. Ask if they can try, and say it is okay to fail just because there was a try. Say how much you would really respect them more if they tried and failed because it is scary to try knowing you may not succeed.
Plan on a way going forward. Now, that the "reasonable expectations" have been laid out, agree to gently check in every so often to see how they are doing, and whether any adjustments should be made.
Once this has been practiced a few times, you have succeeded in getting rid of "Get off My Back" CrankaTsuris, and everyone is coming in through the front.
"So we learned to be careful not to express our inner TyrantoCrankaTsuris or TyrantoKvetchaTsuris too often. Just the right amount to keep the planet happy and not too cranky."
There are different kinds of CrankaTsuris we all carry. Sometimes, it is a bad day. Sometimes, we are in a grumpy mood for no good reason. But sometimes, we want something really really badly and we can't have it. Or, if we happen to be four years old, we can't have it so we take it anyway. The TyrantoCrankaTsuris has arrived!
So, you have a little TyrantoCrankaTsuris roaming around your house, and must somehow be apprehended and subdued. If you fail in your mission, you, yourself, may become a TyrantoCrankaTsuris. Think of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Very scary, but I hear it happens!
So, I am a lawyer. I negotiate for a living, and train others on how to negotiate.
Here, I am the CrankaTsuris Lawyer, and I will leave three lessons I give to lawyers to think about when they negotiate to think about when you think you are pulled in to a negotiation with a TyrantoCrankaTsuris.
Believe it or not, the first rule to negotiation is not to argue. This is counterintuitive for lawyers because they love to argue a lot! The problem with this is that if you have your argument, the person you are arguing with has their own argument, and you both end up entrenched in your positions.
When you argue, you give away power. So, instead of arguing, you present a firm position. When I have x, I respond with y. I do not do a, b, or c. It is y. It is a macro approach. The micro approach is too exhausting.
Think about this analogy. You are a vegetarian. You are eating a meal with your friend who is a carnivore. He is eating the most amazing burger and he wants you to take a bite. He tries to argue with you that you should love meat as much as he does because you will get to experience this heavenly burger. But, there is nothing to argue about. You just do not do meat. It would be quite strange even to have that argument.
The reason that this vegetarian does not need to argue is because he or she has certain rules to abide by. "I just do y" "That's it."
Rules. The best way to learn not to argue is to have a good legal system. There is a certain way of doing things. Certain laws. The law says x, and we do y.
Perfect example. I go a few times a year to Israel with my partner. We are not religious by any means, but her daughter is ultra-religious Haredi. They have lots and lots of rules and ways they do things. The daughter has four kids and they are are amazingly well behaved.
For the most part. Even these well-behaved kids have a CrankaTsuris in them. They are no different than any kid here in America. But, when they misbehave and become a little TyrantoCrankaTsuris, my partner's daughter will take the misbehaving kid aside and say "We do not do these things," or "This is not what we do."
Notice the "we" word. She would never say "You are being bad," or make any reference to "you" (which is another lesson in negotiation - not to demonize the other side. "You are being bad" is labeling, but in a way, is also sort of an argument. If I say that you are bad, you can argue that you are not. There may be a reason you did what you did. "He started first!!" But, if this is just not what we do, does it really make a difference who started?
And one thing we try to avoid is turning into a TyrantoCrankaTsuris.
So, kids get older, and they want more, and more and more. They want to go out with their friends, get that outfit, the newest computer game, that expensive summer camp. You have rules and the family legal system in place, but they still test it. "Now that I am 16, does this law even make sense? I heard from the Supreme Court which, by the way, all my friends have been appointed to, think the law should be overturned, and is unconstitutional!!"
So, being rigid may not be the best thing. But, this is what I say. Negotiation Rule Number Two. I never expect to make a deal because I present this deal as being the best for me. Nobody cares about my best deal. I have to state the position as being the best for the other side. However, they are obligated to do the same thing. We hear this all the time.
"Dad, can I go to the concert if I finish my homework and clean my room?"
"You can go to the concert, but only if you finish your homework, and clean your room!!"
This conversation suggests there already was a family legal system in place, and the negotiation focuses on each other's interest.
There is flexibility in a mutual interest negotiation. However, sometimes you have to be rigid. Here comes Negotiation Rule Number Three. It comes with a story. I was at a settlement conference in Federal Court with neither side liking each other much, and the Judge made a statement, "Principals are a nice thing to have until it get's in the way of reason!"
I loved that line and told that to my partner, and looking at me as if I came from another planet, she said "Without principles, there is no reason!!"
The point here is that we should go through life with some flexibility. If it is always "my way, or the highway", we will find ourselves getting into trouble, and making lots of enemies. However, we do remember, there is that line where "principles" live, and yes, that is where, without principles, there will never be reason.
Back to the family legal system.
The life of the CrankaTsuris Lawyer.
There are times when you may need to be a "CrankaTsuris Lawyer." but when it comes to partners and family well-being, it is more important to learn how to be a CrankaTsuris Doctor."
Think of the Common CrankaTsuris being more common than the Common Cold. Most people get a common cold maybe once or twice a year, but the Common CrankaTsuris may be something you get three or four times a day.
And, there are always those beloved family members and friends who will volunteer the information that they are very special because they never catch a cold. Imagine the person who tells you that they never have a CrankaTsuris. The response would be:
"Yes. That is because you had a very successful lobotomy operation and by the way, I need to get the name of your doctor because I am thinking of getting the procedure myself!"
Because the Common CrankaTsuris is the most common of all ailments that afflict Human Kind, we must be able to first self diagnose and treat the disease. When we come down with the common cold, we take cold medicine, drink some hot tea and maybe some chicken soup, crawl into bed, and make sure there is a full box of tissues nearby. Diagnosis and treatment. Nobody ever gets a cold and thinks "Hmmm. Maybe it is foot fungus."
So, it is important that you self diagnose and treat as much as you can your own CrankaTsuris. The most important thing to remember is that it is the most common ailment that afflicts everyone so take away any bad feelings you have about becoming afflicted.
But, it is not enough always to go it alone. Think of yourself getting into a relationship, and both you and your partner learn to become certified American Medical Association approved treating physicians specializing in the treatment of CrankaTsuris.
You also both specialize in the prevention of the more serious cases of this disease when the CrankaTsuris goes untreated, and the patient transforms into a TyrantoCrankaTsuris. Also, this is important piece of knowledge to have because, if left untreated, the CrankaTsuris disease is very contagious, and can spread quickly.
Here is an interaction of a couple before they received their medical training:
Partner A comes home to Partner B. Partner B begins to let out a particular CrankaTsuris of all the minor daily inconveniences that ruined the day. Partner A has a forming undiagnosed CrankaTsuris also, but because it is not fully formed, it is just mestaticizing in the system. So while Partner A wants to be sympathetic to the CrankaTsuris, Partner A takes it in as one long and smelly verbal fart, and says; "I can't believe that you let that thing upset you! You go on and on and on. You should hear yourself talk. It is a bit insane!"
This response, believe it or not, is not the best and appropriate treatment for a CrankaTsuris, and will only make the CrankaTsuris worse. The worse the CrankaTsuris gets, the more contagious it becomes. If this goes on much longer, the couple slowly both transforms into a TyrantoCrankaTsuris and a TyrantoKvetchaTsuris, long known to be the most dangerous creatures on the planet.
The good news is that you do not need three years of medical school to become certified at treating CrankaTsuris disease. The first step is to both recognize each other's particular kind of CrankaTsuris. Become familiar with it so that the CrankaTsuris can be both self diagnosed and diagnosed by your partner.
Once you are both familiar with each other's CrankaTsuris, find out what each other needs when they become afflicted. Write it down. Practice it. Because you never know when a CrankaTsuris will strike a person.
Most importantly, and aside what they need, when your partner has a CrankaTsuris, encourage your partner to let it all out. Think of it like you would think of a cold. You would not tell your partner with a cold and a stuffy runny nose: "Whatever you do, do not blow your nose!!!! You have to keep all that good phlegm inside!!" So, let them blow it all out. If they do, the CrankaTsuris immediately becomes less contagious. Once it becomes less contagious, you as the treating physician can give your partner a great big hug.
The hug gets out whatever remains of the CrankaTsuris.
So, as it says in the book, we learned to be careful how we express CrankaTsuris or KvetchaTsuris. "Just the right amount to keep the planet happy and not too cranky."
CrankaTsuris in Paradise
It is that time of the year when families start taking off for their long awaited summer vacation. However, before you even consider all the things that could go wrong on a vacation, let's take a look at all the characters that typically have been cast in the lead roles of this CrankaTsuris drama.
First, we have the kids. They are all excited that they get to embark on this great adventure. They can't wait to experience new things. For weeks, they have been day dreaming their best fantasies imaginable about the trip, and now, it is about to happen. They were so excited the night before that they could not go to sleep. On the day of the trip, they have to be pulled out of bed because of their exhaustion from staying up the night before.
Parent A is the one responsible for the packing list. Sunscreen, Tylenol, bug spray, bandage, bathing suits. The list is so long that it is essentially the entire inventory of the whole house. Yes. It is only a week vacation, but let's see if we can pack for an entire year. Parent A is so proud of the packing list, but feels resentful that they are solely responsible for the list, and the rest of the family unit are all taking turns criticizing this master work that took so much effort.
"Why are we packing so much food!!! Don't they have restaurants that we can eat at?"
The rest of the family have problems with the list so, instead of discussing the problems, they each make sure to innocently forget a few of the items that they were supposed to pack away.
"Hey! If I forget to pack my bathing suit, Mom and Dad will just have to buy me a new one!! Hooray!!"
Parent B is the planner. Parent B is responsible for making travel arrangements, finding the perfect hotels, checking on and reservations scheduling events, tours, rides, dinner reservations. Parent B is also the over planner, making sure there is absolutely no down time whatsoever. Parent B is proud of this elaborate plan, but also feels resentful that nobody participated in the planning or even shown the least bit of interest.
The rest of the family has been trained to know that Parent B is the planner, and they want no responsibility in the planning because that frees them up to blame the family planner in case anything goes wrong. Parent B knows this, and that adds to this parent's resentment.
One parent is the early person. This parent believes that we have to take into account possible traffic jams, the car breaking down, the airport lines being long, and kids not getting ready on time, and wants to leave three hours earlier than may be necessary.
The other parent is always the late person. This parent remembers very well the time the family got to the airport three hours early and had to just sit around, so this parent has taken on the mission of leaving at a time when there is not a moment to spare.
Even if things go reasonably well, like the bikes did not fall off the bike rack and crash into the cars behind you while you were speeding on the highway, this situation, if left unchecked, will result in CrankaTsuris in Paradise.
So, here is what you do. At least a few weeks before the vacation, schedule for the whole family a CrankaTsuris party. Order a pizza, get some of the kids' favorite foods, and make sure it is a fun setting. Once everyone gets in a real good mood, it will be time to take turns, and let out their Vacation CrankaTsuris. Let it all out. Go on and on and on and on till it starts getting silly. The secret to a good CrankaTsuris is that it starts out as being very serious, but the longer you go, the sillier it gets.
Each CrankaTsuris should end:
"And it makes me feel really really mad and sad, and I just want to cry!!!! WAH!!"
In this game, the rest of the family has to come up with ideas on how they can help the family member with their CrankaTsuris. Once that person finishes, the next family member gets to go. Again, the other members have to come up with ideas to help out.
When everyone is done, it is time to start writing the CrankaTsuris packing List.
Things can still go wrong on vacations, but this exercise is important to wash away any of the resentment before you go. You can pack a car full of clothing, food, and everything else, but nothing will take up more room in the car than resentment. With any vacation, in this resentment area, make sure you always travel light.
"So we learned to be careful not to express our inner TyrantoCrankaTsuris or TyrantoKvetchaTsuris too often. Just the right amount to keep the planet happy and not too cranky."
The CrankaTsuris Schlemiel
I have a friend that I would like to tell a story about. His name is Mr. Schlemiel.
Now what makes Mr. Schlemiel so special is that he is one of those people that has lots and lots of Tsuris, but amazingly enough, he had never experienced CrankaTsuris.
The reason for this is quite simple. He just spends his entire life letting people take advantage of him, and he always just thought that was the way it always was. He just did not know any better.
But, one day, believe it or not, he woke up, and thought to himself that today is a new day, and he said.
"I shouldn't let people take advantage of me. I am going to find a lawyer, the best lawyer, and I am going to sue those people who tried to take advantage of me. I'll show them, and nobody will dare take advantage of me again!!!"
So, Mr. Schlemiel found a lawyer, and the lawyer's name was Mr. Schmegeggi. Mr. Schmegeggi promised Mr. Schlemiel that when the case was over, nobody would ever mess with Mr. Schlemiel, and with the money he would get, Mr. Schlemiel would live a "Tsuris free" life.
The case proceeded to trial, and Mr. Schlemiel had a good case. We know this because Mr. Schlemiel was offered $5 million dollars to settle the case
Mr. Schlemiel was very excited with the news, so excited in fact, that he went to Mr. Schmegeggi to take the money.
"Mr. Schmegeggi, please let's take the money. It's a lot of money, and I do not see $5 million every day. Remember, you said "Tsuris free"? This is it. Let's settle and go home!!!"
Mr. Schmegeggi was not moved. He replied:
"Mr. Schlemiel. The $5 million offer is an insult to my reputation. I will get you many times more than that. We will take the case to trial!!"
Mr. Schlemiel responded sheepishly:
So, the case went to trial Apparently, it was not going too well. The jurors looked at Mr. Schlemiel with puzzled expressions, and appeared openly hostile whenever Mr. Schmegeggi opened his mouth.
Still, Mr. Schlemiel was offered $3 million dollars to settle. Mr. Schlemiel, hearing this, ran over to Mr. Schmegeggi and pleaded:
"Mr. Schmegeggi, please let's take the money. I do not think the jurors like you very much, and they just look at me like I am just some kind of Schlemiel. I do not see $3 million every day. Please settle."
Mr. Schmegeggi looked at Mr. Schlemiel sternly, and said:
Mr. Schlemiel. Trust me. No worries. I am the professional here. I plan to kill the jury with my closing argument!!
Mr. Schlemiel responded sheepishly:
The closing argument did not go very well. It was clear that by the time they got to the closing argument, all of the jurors lost interest because they were all fast asleep. Still, Mr. Schlemiel was offered $1 million to settle.
Amazingly, Mr. Schlemiel was able to stay awake during the closing argument and he saw what was going on. He ran over to Mr. Schmegeggi, and went down on his knees and begged:
"Mr. Schmegeggi. Please. Let's take the money. You said that your closing would be a killer, but I did not realize that would mean rendering them all unconscious. I do not see $1 million every day. Let's take the money!!!!"
Mr. Schmegeggi responded:
" I have a duty to protect the interests of my client, and the interests of my client is to take the case to verdict!!"
Mr. Schlemiel responded sheepishly:
The jury came back and awarded Mr. Schlemiel nothing. Zero. Verdict in favor of the defense.
The next day, Mr. Schlemiel picked up the phone, and asked for Mr. Schmegeggi. The receptionist picked up the phone and said:
"Oh. Mr. Schlemiel. Mr. Schmegeggi was very upset and very distraught over losing your case. He climbed to the top of the tallest building. He jumped off the top of the tallest building. Mr. Schmegeggi is dead."
Mr. Schlemiel responded:
The next day, Mr. Schlemiel again called, and asked for Mr. Schmegeggi. The receptionist again answered the phone and explained:
"Mr. Sclemiel. Like I told you yesterday, Mr. Schmeggegi was very upset and very distraught over losing your case. He climbed to the top of the tallest building. Come to think of it, he probably took the elevator. The man was 100 pounds overweight, and i do not think he can walk up a flight of stairs. But he went to the top of the tallest building. He jumped off the top of the tallest building. Mr. Schmegeggi is dead."
Mr. Schlemiel responded:
The next day, again, Mr. Schlemiel picked up the phone and asked to speak to Mr. Schmegeggi. Once again, the receptionist answered and politely explained:
"Mr. Schlemiel. Like I explained the last two days, Mr. Schmegeggi was very upset and very distraught over losing your case. He climbed to the top of the tallest building. He did not take the elevator. The elevator was out of service. But, he climbed to the top of the tallest building. He jumped off the top of the tallest building. Mr. Schmegeggi is dead.
Mr. Schlemiel responded
For the next week, Mr. Schlemiel continued to call, asking to speak to Mr. Schmegeggi. Finally, Mr. Schmegeggi's partner picked up the phone, exasperated, and said"
"Mr. Sclemiel. For the last ten days, you have called asking for Mr. Schmegeggi. And everyday, we tell you the same thing. Mr. Schmegeggi was very upset and very distraught over losing your case. He climbed to the top of the tallest building. He jumped off the top of the tallest building. Mr. Schmegeggi is dead!!!! Why do you keep calling?
Mr. Schlemiel responded:
"I like to hear the story."
"So we learned to be careful not to express our inner TyrantoCrankaTsuris or TyrantoKvetchaTsuris too often. Just the right amount to keep the planet happy, and not too cranky."
"Fact or Fiction" CrankaTsuris
People always like to say "You have a right to your opinion, and I have a right to my opinion." But, the problem is that we do not really believe that anymore.
What we now believe is this:
"You have a right to your opinion as long as you agree to my facts. But, of course, if you agreed to my facts, then, it is obvious that you would absolutely share my opinion. Therefore, you only have a right to my opinion. You have no right to your own opinion. However, do not worry about coming down with Opinion Deficiency Syndrome because I happen to have lots of strong opinions!"
Because this is now what we truly believe in, we shift closer to people who share our opinion, and society becomes more polarized. People start believing in alternate facts and fake news, and they can create their own reality, and reject other people's reality. The end result of this is that we end up with "Fact or Fiction" CrankaTsuris. It is not healthy, and just like other forms of CrankaTsuris, it needs to be treated.
I, at times, suffer from "Fact or Fiction" CrankaTsuris. My personal achilles heal, which many others may share, is my problem with math. I happen to be a believer in math. For some reason, I get baited into arguments with people who do not believe in math. They believe in "anti-math", and at times, I wish I was an anti-math believer, and then
I too will always be convinced that I, alone, possess the truth of all that is good in the world, and had all the answers.
While I do not possess all the answers, if you and a person, who is very important to you, get consistently stuck in "Fact or Fiction" CrankaTsuris, there is an approach that you can try that is particular to my background as an attorney.
So, think of what a trial is. There are two sides with contradictory opinions about the facts of a case, and they want the jury to believe their opinion of the case and reject the other side's opinion.
There is just two parts of a trial that we need to focus on: the Opening Statement and the Closing Argument.
The Opening Statement is the portion of a trial that you present to the jury what you believe what the evidence will show. An attorney is not even allowed to argue the case, but simply lay out they believe the evidence to be.
So, instead of just talking about what the evidence will be, let's talk about the promises we can make.
"Ladies and Gentleman of the jury. I will be making some promises to you now as to what the evidence will be. And, here is an important thing to know and keep in mind: I am not the finders of fact. You folks are. If I keep my promises, I think that you should find for my client.
But, you know what? If I do not keep my promises, I want you to find for the other side. Where can you find a fairer deal than that?"
Think about that for a second when you get into an argument. How many times do you tell the person you are arguing that they are the finders of fact? Probably doesn't happen.
I go on.
"The promises I make to you, I believe are air tight, iron clad, and rock solid. I am so confident that I will keep my promises that I am now inviting my opposing counsel to stand up and tell you folks that I will not be keeping my promises."
I can tell you, from experience, that I would only give that particular speech if I was 1000% sure that I would keep my promises because a jury can't stand nothing more than someone who cannot keep their promises.
Now, we can get back to the two people having a "Fact or Fiction" CrankaTsuris episode. We are so convinced in our beliefs, and the facts that they are based upon, and we desperately want the victory of convincing the person who we are arguing with of the exact opposite position that they are taking, and they are busy try to claim the exact same kind of victory you are seeking.
Can both of you say "you are the finder of fact"? Can you both say "if I do not keep my promises, I want you to come to the exact opposite conclusion that I have asked you to make"?
If you find that you have some difficulty doing this, you are not alone. Even if you have math on your side, you have to remember that, even here, somebody else will have "anti-math."
So, with this, we are still left with argument, and as an attorney, in my closing argument, I would try to tie everything together with one simple statement:
"Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury. I am so pleased to report to you that this was my favorite case to try. This is my favorite case! It is not because of fancy experts or sexy issues. No. Not at all. It is because that, with this case, I can rely solely on the common sense of the jury, and whenever I can rely on the common sense of the jury, juries always do the right thing."
The point here is that they are hearing two completely different stories. I want to have the story that resonates with the common sense of the jury.
So, you may read this, and feel more emboldened that in some argument you are having with someone, you can win your case. You can make promises, and you can tie it to principles of common sense.
That is fine. However, listen to the other person talking and try to pick up whether they believe as much as you do in their own promises, and their own common sense. They see red. You see blue.
Even better, think of all the times that you are caught up in an argument, and neither person can make those air tight, iron clad, and rock solid promises, but the argument is based solely on what you want to believe. "I want desperately to believe the world is flat because if it is round, I get so scared that I will just fall off. It can't be true and I will not believe otherwise."
This is why some brilliant person, probably some genius philosopher, many years ago, came up with the rule that "we all have the right to our own opinion."
"So we learned to be careful not to express our inner TyrantoCrankaTsuris too often. Just the right amount to keep the planet happy and not too cranky."
The Lawrence Welk Show. If you are under 30 years old, or maybe under 40 years old, you probably have never heard of the show. However, I am a bit older, and I can tell you a bit about the Lawrence Welk Show. It ran for four years locally in Los Angeles from 1951 to 1955, and then nationally, from 1955 to 1971, followed by first run syndication from 1971 to 1982. And, if you happen to walk in to an Assisted Living facility, it may be playing on a TV somewhere through a local cable network, most likely on the Assisted Living Channel. If not there, try the Memory Loss channel, and you will be sure to find it.
There are a total of 1,065 episodes overall.
Now, when I learned that particular statistic, it came as a shock to me. It was because, as a child, I was forced to watch the Lawrence Welk Show every single week. Just, at the time the show was going to go on, I hid in my room, hoping my parents would forget. But, it never worked. Five minutes before he show was going on, my father would come into my room and order me:
"Come sit with the family!! The Lawrence Welk Show is coming on!!"
So, I spent the first twelve years of my life watching the Lawrence Welk Show. Just until now when I learned about the 1,065 episodes, I was always under the impression that I was just watching the exact same episode every week. It did seem like it was the exact same show every week. Perfect looking grown-up white people with perfect happy smiles dressed in matching clothes, with bright colors that I can only imagine was designed by Baby Gap, singing and dancing in a way that slowly turned your brain to mush. It was as if some evil genius enemy designed the Lawrence Welk Show to be this secret weapon. They would get every American to watch the show, we would all go into a deep trance, and while we were in this pseudo-comatose state, they could simply walk in and take over.
I actually imagined that when I was watching the show. I would study my parents closely just in case they would fall asleep, and I would wake them up so we would be ready for an enemy attack.
It was so boring!!!
But, I look back at these boring times as a fond and nostalgic memory. It is because with iPhones, games, gadgets, and 500 channels on cable, we are no longer allowed to be bored. Our brains need to be stimulated every moment of every day. "Are we there yet? I am bored," is a line that is rehearsed by every preteen at the Annual National Preteen Convention.
When a child tells a parent that he or she is bored, it is a charge to which the parent immediately pleads guilty, and accepts the penalty to provide years of constant stimulation until the child turns 18, or at which point the child is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Order, whichever comes first. At that point, the parent will be required to medicate the child in order to increase their ability to focus on more and more stimulation.
But, stop and think a moment about the word "stimulation." There are marketing efforts to encourage ourselves to stimulate ourselves with food, and once, we are over stimulated, we are sold all kinds of diets. There are marketing efforts to gamble, or to use alcohol, and once we are overstimulated, we are sent to groups to deal with this problem And if our minds become overstimulated, we can no longer focus, and we are sold drugs to take care of that problem.
Quite simply, there is a lot of money to be made to create problems for people, and more money to be made to help people solve those problems. Unfortunately, there is very little money to be made to teach people on how not to get into that problem in the first place.
But, it starts with practicing boredom. If you are in a car driving six hours on a boring highway, you are supposed to be bored. If the kids spews out the CrankaTsuris, "I am bored," there is nothing to do, but say "I guess the boring drive works."
Boredom is crucial to our personal journey to creativity. When I watched the Lawrence Welk Show, it forced my mind to search all over for creative thoughts. If you are sitting in class, and the teacher is doing the best to put you to sleep, you may learn through your doodling that you have the talent to be an amazing artist. If you are learning to play an instrument, it is boring to play the same notes over and over again, but at some point, you may be creating beautiful music. If you are trying to learn a new language, it may feel like weight training. It may hurt a bit, but your muscles are getting stronger.
Think about that for a second. It is a bit counter-intuitive. Your brain is telling you to stop doing the thing that is exactly what is good for the brain. Just like the brain will tell you to do something that is bad like "have another drink" or eat another Bon-Bon."
Always think of the brain as being two separate brains. One is the smart brain, and the other brain, much less so. Think about the work you have to do to give the smart brain a louder voice.
So, if there are continuous CrankaTsuris battles over boredom in your house, the strategy is to turn boredom into a practice or a house rule. Create a new "normal." Have a "quiet time", a "reading time" or some time of the day where we can simply daydream. Start a writing journal. Think of what would inspire you. We are making the brain muscles stronger even if the not so smart brain says it wants something else.
Even more important, the other big CrankaTsuris point with the practice of boredom is that it is also the practice of patience. Patience leads to tolerance, and leads to kindness. It leads to be able to slow down things in our mind when it comes to self-diagnosing the CrankaTsuris within ourselves, and be better prepared with empathy when we are on the receiving end of a loved one's CrankaTsuris.
And, the more you practice boredom, the less CrankaTsuris episodes you will have over boredom. And the less CrankaTsuris you have over boredom, you will find that you have less and less of all kinds of CrankaTsuris.
"So we learned to be careful not to express out inner TyrantoCrankaTsuris or TyrantoKvetchTsuris too often. Just the right amount to keep the planet happy and not too cranky."
Customer Care CrankaTsuris
Customer Care CrankaTsuris. This is something we all experience when we have a problem, and we call up the Customer Care Representative to solve the problem. We also do this despite having the knowledge that we have tried this many times before, and it has never turned out too well. The definition of "Crazy" is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a completely different result. Well, I guess that means we are all crazy.
End of Story.
But, no. I do want to walk us through Customer Care CrankaTsuris. But, before I do, I want to put something out there as a "backdrop." You see, I am an attorney, and I can tell you that there are many laws out there trying to protect people from Robocalls.
Now, while I am all in favor of laws to protect consumers, I have to say that these particular “robocall” law is meant for those people who own a phone, and missed the part in the Owners Manual on how to hang up the phone. I guess that there are some people out there who just may never have figured that part out. So, our legislatures worked overtime to take care of this large part of our population.
So, after reading this chapter, I ask all of you to call up your representative, and tell them that you want the Customer Care CrankaTsuris Protection Act passed immediately. This is vital to our national interest. The Gross Domestic Product would skyrocket because we would all become much happier and efficient. We would be working instead of sitting there for hours being placed on hold, and walk away frustrated and depleted. Medical bills would drop significantly. We would all be nicer to each other because we know there was someone on the other side of a telephone who can actually be helpful.
I am ready to sit before Congress and testify about my own personal experience of going through this maze of torment.
Just the other day, I called up Customer Care because I had a question about a bill that I had in my hand in front of me. It had the phone number right on the bill, and how nice, I thought. It was a toll free number.
I call up my Customer Care Representative, and it starts out pretty good. They want to know if I speak English or Spanish. I find out later that this question has no relationship to the the language that the Customer Care Representative speaks, but at the time, I consider it a nice gesture. They then ask for the fourteen digit account number, and the seven digit invoice number, my zip code, the last four digits of my social security number and my secret six digit numeric phone password. Okay. It takes about ten minutes, but you do not want to play around with private financial stuff.
The next thing I hear on the phone is that this phone call may be recorded for "quality assurance." After many years of experience, I have come to the conclusion that the recording has nothing to do whatsoever with "quality assurance," but I was pleased to hear that the phone call was being recorded. You see. I am Jewish, and when Jewish people pass away, they have a seven day period of mourning called "sitting shiva."
So, when I pass away, I expect that I will be able to collect all the recordings I have been on that was recorded for the purpose of "quality assurance", and the length of those recordings should be about seven days, exactly as the time that people will need to mourn.
I have it all planned out. When people will sit shiva after my passing, they will truly feel the grief, and pain, and there will be lots of sobbing; exactly what is needed for this time of mourning. And they will be able to do this because I will have all those "Quality Assurance" phone recordings playing throughout the week. They will all know of my suffering. When the recordings end, so can the mourning.
After I put in all my information, and I am informed about the recording, I get another question. "Are you willing to take a three minute survey after this phone call?"
I always say no. It is not not about the time. Okay. It is a little bit about the time. However, I feel if they have recorded the phone call for quality assurance, they can just listen to the entire phone call (which we all know they do), and they can fill out the survey themselves. "You have the recording. How do you think it all turned out?"
Then, the recorded voice comes on again. "Please listen to the menu closely because the options have changed."
Okay. I was hoping to just speak to a human, but I will listen to the menu. But, I have a question about this. I have been doing this Customer Care phone call stuff for years and years and years, and the options have all changed. It is always changing. I never hear about the options being exactly the same. There must be a person at every company whose only job is to get on the phone and change the options every single day.
Why do they even have to tell me that the "options have changed" in the first place. Just give me the menu. This never happens in a restaurant:
"Excuse me! Waiter! We have been waiting fifteen minutes for a menu. Can we get a menu?"
"Sorry sir. We do not give you a menu because our options have not changed!"
By this point, I never have a lot of patience to hear all of the options. I always press 1. No matter what. The options usually are longer than the menu at the Cheesecake Factory. I do not have all day.
Option Number 1 is billing. Lucky me. I have a question about billing so Option 1 must be the correct choice. Unfortunately, after pressing Option Number 1, I get a new menu of various recorded information about the bill, everything that is already in the bill that I was holding in my hand and had a question about.
So, at the end of that menu, that tell me to press pound to go back to the previous menu. I press pound.
Now, I am forced to listen to the entire 20 minute rendition of the Cheesecake Factory menu, and it is only at the end, the recording says "If you want to speak to a representative, stay on the line."
I stay on the line. However, half the time when I stay on the line at this point, the call just disconnects. They hang up on me. However, today, I am lucky. They did not hang up. I can tell because they start blasting pleasant music in my ear.
After two minutes, I hear someone talking. It is a recorded voice.
"Do you know that you can get the same award winning high quality customer care service by simply going online at www.confusinganduselesscustomercare.com?"
I say to myself "yes" and that is why I am calling. I went online. It was both confusing and useless. However, I should have taken that to be a clue as to the service I was going to get.
More music. Then, a recorded voice comes on again.
"Your call is very important to us. It will be taken in the order received."
This is very confusing to me. "My call is very important to them? I was just calling about a question on my bill. I hope they do not expect me to give them advice on how to double their profits."
"And, if my call is very important, it only makes sense that I would be talking with a very important person. Maybe, my call will be taken by the President of the Company!!"
I think further.
"Wait a second. If my call is so very important, why is it being taken in the order it was received? I should be told that my phone call will be placed first in line!"
So, after waiting two hours because I was 83rd in line, the representative answers and it is obvious that this person not only can barely speak English, but understanding is a problem as well. The representative again asks me for my fourteen digit account number, my seven digit invoice number, my zip code, the last four digits of my social security number, and my six digit numeric phone password.
I once again supply this information, and then the Customer Care representative replies:
"Can I place you on a brief hold while I try to find your account?"
"Sure. Do I have a choice?"
"Also, can I get a call back number in case we get disconnected?"
I give this person my call back number. However, I have to say that these are the only people who ask for a call back number because, for some unknown reason, these are the only people who hangs up on me from time to time. But, they never call back. They just ask for the number to make me feel a bit more secure about the possibility of this person coming back on line to talk to me.
This time, amazingly enough, the Customer Care representative gets back on the phone. I ask the question. The answer is that he or she does not understand the question. I try again. After the fifth time rephrasing the question, the Customer Care representative tells me that they are unable to help me with my question. He or she then asks:
"Have you tried going on line to take care of this issue?
"Yes!!!", I scream. A TyrantoCrankaTsuris scream because I no longer have any patience.
In a final feeble attempt to try to console me, the Customer Care representative asks:
"Is there anything else, I can help you with?"
I reply. Another CrankaTsuris.
"Anything else? That would imply that you helped me on the first thing!!!! But, you didn't. Four hours on the phone and nothing accomplished! You really want me to try again? Yes, wait. There is something you can help me with."
The Customer Care representative asks curiously; "What is it?"
"The Quality Assurance recording. I need it for my Shiva. The Jewish period of mourning. I can pay for expedited shipping because after this phone call, there's going to be some mourning pretty soon. And also, if you can listen to the recording after we get off the phone first so you can complete the survey, that would be great too!!"
Let's pass the Customer Care CrankaTsuris Protection Act today!!
CrankaTsuris Kyrptonite. We all know what that is. Somebody, usually a family member, will say something, or do something that triggers a very big CrankaTsuris. There is even anxiety before you face this because you know it is Kryptonite, and you happen to come from the planet, Krypton. Unfortunately, it is not only that. When you arrived from Krypton, you did not come with all the super powers.
Superman, oddly enough, was never curious about Kryptonite. So what if, in the last episode, he almost got killed. He would go straight back to crime fighting in the next episode. I always wished there was a Superman episode that had Superman go to the doctor, and see if he can do anything about this allergic reaction.
"Doc. Is there anything you can give me? I tried Flonase, and Benedryl. It doesn't help a bit. Okay. Tylenol does help a little with the x-ray vision, but otherwise, I am a complete mess. I feel weak, tired, and I can't even move. You gotta help me, Doc. Can you maybe give me a steroid? This is killing me!!"
Even if Superman was not curious about the effects of Kryptonite, you would think that the United State government would intervene, and use some money from its very large defense budget to help. But, no. Not a single penny!!
So, unlike Superman, we need to get curious with our own Kryptonite. What is it that triggers us? We all have those buttons, and our arch villains, typically close family members, know exactly how to press those buttons.
But, we do know what these buttons are. There are the critical judgmental parents, or children. There are those people who do and say certain things that, because we happen to be sane and normal, do not say and do those things.
So, sometimes, we can have a low tolerance for this simply because we have a complete lack of comprehension as to why any normal person would say or do this thing, and on top of that, they will look at you as the crazy person because you are the person that has this complete lack of comprehension.
Frustration builds and out comes the CrankaTsuris after close exposure to this Kryptonite. The response from this beloved family member or this arch villain is to expose you to additional doses of CrankaTsuris Kryptonite.
You return home from this wonderful experience and you feel like your brain has been completely shredded. Many strong people with unique super powers of their own have had this experience, and have come to the conclusion that they simply will not expose themselves to this anymore. "We are never going to go to Aunt Ruthie's house again for Thanksgiving!!"
Now, while avoidance can be a solution, think about Superman for a second. He never said the following:
"I can't do this crime fighting thing anymore. It is just not worth it. Now, every two bit criminal has Kryptonite. And, they even have Synthetic Kryptonite!!! How can that be legal? The 2nd Amendment Right to Bear Arms under the US Constitution did not include the right to bear Kryptonite!! And, there is nothing wrong writing obituary columns for the Daily Planet!! A perfectly respectable profession!!"
Superman kept fighting, and many times, he came very close to being kaput. Remember the first Superman movie when Lex Lugar put the Kryptonite necklace around Superman's neck, and pushed into his indoor pool. I thought he was a goner!
So, for Superman's sake, let's keep fighting. Explore the CrankaTsuris, and even talk about the Kryptonite with your loved ones. Instead of the Super Strength Kryptonite we both expose each other to, maybe we can agree on using a more mild version that will be less harmful?
There is one other thing, you can do. Keep it simple. When you are exposed to Kryptonite, decide that you will be one way, and one way only. Think of this as being consistent and like having a protective lead jacket on which will help you with the effects of Kryptonite.
Also, check in and get as much sympathy from all the loved ones who did not come from the planet, Krypton, and are not affected by it. They may see things you do not see. They can help slow it down.
This is really important. Some of these people do not react well and do not understand that you have been exposed to CrankaTsuris Kryptonite. They do not understand. They get critical. Again, you have to remind them of Jimmy Olson and Lois Lane. When Superman was exposed to Kryptonite, they somehow came to his aid. They helped him out with the Kryptonite. . Imagine if Lois Lane just said; "You know what? I am so tired of your Kryptonite issue!!! Screw this, Jimmy. Let's call Batman and Robin!!"
Once you get consistent, slow it down, and get lots of compassion from loved ones, CrankaTsuris Kryptonite may not be curable, but it can be dealt with and controlled. And remember why this is so important. They are coming out with the synthetic, and more powerful versions of the original Kryptonite every single day!!
You need to be well prepared!!!
"So we learned to be careful not to express our inner TyrantoCrankaTsuris or TyrantoKvetchaTsuris too often. Just the right amount to keep the planet happy and not too cranky."
Tag Team CrankaTsuris
Yes. As a kid, I watched professional wrestling. It was a chance for me and my older brother to bond. We would watch the matches, and afterwards, my brother got to try out all of the wrestling moves on me. The sleeper hold does not really put you to sleep, but I did discover that it made it awfully hard to breathe.
My favorite matches were the tag team matches, and the best tag team matches to watch were the ones that involved wrestlers who pretty much wrestled as a tag team: The British Bulldogs or the Hart Foundation are two tag teams to come to mind.
The partners knew every move that they each made, and they beautifully choreographed their matches. These wrestlers were real athletes and acrobats. It was actually more than just beating someone into a pulp....in a steel cage.....with a steel chair....and the steel plate inside the arm sleeve.
But, it was actually watching these fabulous matches that I discovered that Professional Wrestling was fake. Every match was always the same. The bad guys, who were always way bigger than the good guys, would get one of the good guys into their corner, and start beating this poor trapped wrestler till the wrestler became almost semi-unconscious. The play by play announcer would start to criticize the referee for allowing this to go on.
Then, the beat up wrestler, in a valiant effort, somehow makes almost makes it to his corner to tag his partner, and just inches away, he gets pulled back into the other corner for another vicious beating.
After five minutes go by, and you wonder why this guy is even alive, he somehow gets the intestinal fortitude to make it to his corner and he tags his partner. Yay!!!
But....oops! The referee did not see the tag, and he now firmly takes control admonishing the tagged partner to go back to his corner. Meanwhile, his poor schlub of a partner is again pulled back to the opposing side's corner where he gets his third beating in the course of 20 minutes.
After this "two on one" mugging, any normal human would be placed on a stretcher, and the ambulance would take him straight to the hospital. But, our hero somehow manages to get a sliver of energy to finally slip out of the clutches of death, make it to his corner, and he finally tags his partner.
On a scale of 1-10, the partner has it turned up to 100. He flies over the ropes into the ring. He clothes lines one bad guy. Then, another. Then a flying drop kick, and another. Little birdies start flying over the bad guys' heads, and he grabs the two bad guys by their hair, and bashes their heads together, noggin to noggin. Everyone is going crazy, and cheering for their hero.
The "fresh" new guy then makes the tag again. His partner has completely recovered from the three beatings, and is totally rejuvenated after a three minute rest. He finishes the business, and pins one of the guys who is now down while his partner chases the other bad guy away. Match is over. The good guys win!
Why am I telling you this? Because this is actually what we wish for. There is so much CrankaTsuris for which we are on the receiving end, and then causes us to release our own CrankaTsuris, it would be our fantasy that, even after getting double teamed and triple teamed with CrankaTsuris from others, and even after this happens over and over and over again, if we can only just make the tag with our partner, who, by the way, just finished drinking a case of Red Bulls (with the sugar), and then, they can make everything right with just a few flying drop kicks.
It is more likely that your partner was also stuck in the wrong corner, and getting a bit beaten up. You are both completely depleted. There is nothing left. And, there may still be a TyrantoCrankaTsuris still there with lots of energy to let out even more CrankaTsuris because they got in to the refrigerator and drank the case of Red Bulls (with sugar).
Think about this. Neither person is feeling safe, and there is one truth about this situation. When someone does not feel that they are safe, they are more likely to cause harm. So, this is the important time to become tag team champions. Begin to choreograph the moves, anticipate the CrankaTsuris, and most important, name the CrankaTsuris. Name the CrankaTsuris you receive, and the CrankaTsuris you want to give. Have your partner do the same.
Once you know all of the CrankaTsuris out there, each person will know when to make the tag. Practice this with compassion. No tag team has ever become champions unless both partners had compassion for the other when they were in trouble. And that is even when it is all fake. Life, of course, happens to be very real.
If the TyrantoCrankaTsuris had a best friend, it would be the CrankaTsuris Caterpillar. And the CrankaTsuris Caterpillar is almost the perfect metaphor for our own CrankaTsuris.
The CrankaTsuris Caterpillar spends its life crawling through the weeds and the trees, moving slowly through the woods waiting to get eaten by birds and ladybugs. The typical CtrankaTsuris Caterpillar has 16 legs which means 16 feet! So, I imagine this conversation with my two CrankaTsuris Caterpillar friends, Zig and Zag.
Zig: Whoever thought it was a good idea to put 16 feet on a caterpillar was nuts! You know I missed school all week, just getting the dirt out from under my toes! My parents, who I love, can only afford 2 pairs of shoes for each of us. I put one pair on the front two, and the other pair on the back two. The rest of the feet. Ugg. By the end of the week, they are disgusting.
My family has one bucket for ten kids so I get only one day a week to soak my feet, and as you know, it is not easy to soak 16 feet in one bucket.
Zag: Have you tried slippers?
Zag: Yeah. I go to Target, and they have a 'buy one, get one free' deal on slippers. Way cheaper than shoes. I put the slippers on all the middle feet, and that way, I can just walk with the front, and slide with most of the others, and the back to give me support.
Zig: Ohhhh. I saw you with the slippers trying to climb up the tree the other day. You were ahead of me, and it was the slippers that kept falling off and hitting me on the head!!! I was wondering what that was!!
Zag: Ooops. Sorry.
Zag: No. No. I think its good. I heard about the slippers, and birds don't like to eat caterpillars wearing slippers. Thanks."
Enough with the feet. The feet is the least of CrankaTsuris Caterpillar's worries. As they get close to becoming a butterfly, all of their insides turn to liquid, forming this larvae. They do not know why. They just know that they do not feel good. "Maybe, I had some bad grass." Zig says. "Zag...do you hear me? Are you there?"
Zag already got trapped in his little cocoon. "I am in here!!! It is so dark! Where am I? I had the bad grass, became liquid mush, and now, look at me!
Before Zig can answer, he too metamorphoses into a cocoon, and they both slip into unconsciousness.
Now, I said that the CrankaTsuris Caterpillar was almost the perfect metaphor for our own CrankTsuris. The reason I said that this was an "almost perfect" metaphor is because a caterpillar has no clue that he or she will turn into a beautiful butterfly. And don't we love to tell Little Johnny and Little Susie that they are little caterpillars that will grow into beautiful butterflies!
So, let's give the CrankaTsuris Caterpillar the knowledge that one day, he may turn into a beautiful butterfly, and can throw away the shoes and the slippers, and just fly away. That is, if, of course, they do not get eaten, and become frozen in the winter.
In the meantime, poor CrankaTsuris Caterpillar sits at home, and watches all those TV shows about beautiful butterflies. He had a favorite Caterpillar show, and it got cancelled. The worst, however, was when some of his friends became butterflies. This is what he got from his parents:
"I hear your friend Marty got a good summer job at Butterfly World. Why can you get a job there? A teenage caterpillar should be working in the Summer!
....Oh, and I hear that Stewie got into the Butterfly Academy. You did not even apply. There was a deadline. You look, but you only look after the deadline. Oy. Our son the caterpillar."
And, it does not stop.
Oh. And what is that mark on your face? Did you get bitten by a ladybug again? Now, if you were a beautiful butterfly with wings, you would not have such problems!"
What makes this story funny and relatable is that the parents of the CrankaTsuris Caterpillar are themselves caterpillars. They never were and cannot become butterflies. It is precisely because they never became butterflies that they desperately want CrankaTsuris Caterpillar to become a butterfly.
So, much of our own CrankaTsuris comes from our Caterpillar mind. We get stuck in the weeds and we look at others flying around with their beautiful wings, our Caterpillar mind causes this form of CrankaTsuris suffering.
That is why, when I would go to the Village Zendo in NYC to meditate, our wonderful teacher, Roshi Enkio O'Hara, would refer to our bodies as a skin bag. You do not go to sit on a cushion and stare at a wall to work on your body. We work to develop our Butterfly Mind.
I was reminded of the Butterfly Mind when a friend of mine, Nupur Biswal, had me read her wonderful book, "Let's Celebrate 5 Days of Diwali." It is a Children's Book that describes this Indian holiday that is referred to the "Festival of Lights." Each day comes with a different kind of celebration with different colors, different tastes and different smells.
Before reading this simple but beautiful little book, I never even heard of this holiday. However, I finished the book and felt absolute joy. It was a holiday that young and old; children, parents and grandchildren, all got together, and I realized that this was a holiday meant for only one reason: to help all of us cultivate our Butterfly Mind.
And, if we all tried to spend a little time each day working on our Butterfly Mind, some magic happens. Our CrankaTsuris Cocoon slowly disappears, and it is then when we get to start growing our Butterfly Wings.
Father's Day CrankaTsuris
Happy Father's Day!!
Father's Day always brings to mind the Father's Day I had with my father two years ago when I was there visiting him in his Assisted Living Home in Delray Beach, Florida.
Like many people in their 90s, my father had to accept wearing dentures because his teeth were either not working for him, or were no longer residing inside his mouth.
I can tell you that there is nothing more adorable than old people with no teeth. I remember visiting both my parents, when my mom was alive, and we were about to say goodnight and head back to the hotel. They were both sitting on the couch in their pajamas, and their dentures were sitting in the cups in the bathroom.
Anybody who has old relatives with dentures knows what I am talking about. Whether they are smiling or not, their faces look like one giant smile. There is a certain gleefulness in the expressions when the words come out of their mouth. Sentences like "I have really bad diarrhea!" is taken over by a delicious sweetness.
Now, as adorable as that scene was, there can be nothing worse than when my father would decide to take his teeth out when we are at a restaurant. When I visit, lunch is always at Flekowitz, a Jewish style deli in Boynton Beach, and my father always has the same order: corned beef sandwich and a Sprite. So, you know how people would say "picture this!"?
I can tell you please try really hard at not picturing this, but it is not a very pretty picture when your father takes his teeth out half way a corned beef sandwich, and you find yourself staring at teeth on a table with mustard, chewed up corn beef and the seeds from the rye bread. (We said "no seeds"!!)
Apparently, Polident did not have the necessary grip!!
This would happen on a regular basis, and I would somehow get used to this display, except of course when the tables are really close together, and you start to notice the people sitting next to you having an unpleasant experience staring at the teeth wrapped in a paper napkin.
Getting back to Father's Day 2017, I took my father out for Italian food at a nearby restaurant. The teeth came out midway. It was placed in a napkin, and I thought I saw my father put the napkin in his pocket when we left the restaurant.
When we got back to the Assisted Living Home, I asked my father "Do you have your teeth?" My father reached into his pocket, and took out the napkin. No teeth. He desperately checked his other pockets. No teeth.
I ran back to the car, and drove straight to the restaurant while my father waited anxiously, sitting outside the Assisted Living Home.
I got to the restaurant, and explained to the hostess that I think my father left his teeth at the table where we were sitting.
The hostess said; "Your father is the third person this week that lost his teeth here." I was happy with this experience, but just said anxiously, "I just hope you can find my father's teeth."
She came back, and here head was shaking. "Sorry. No teeth."
I drove back to the Residence, and by now all the aids working there knew about my father's teeth dilemma. When I said that they did not have the teeth, one large and beautiful Haitian aide came out with black latex gloves. She handed them to me and said:
"You go straight back there and look for your father's teeth. Here are gloves. Check all their garbage."
Armed with a pair of black latex gloves, I headed straight back. I explained to the hostess that the Haitian aide sent me back with strict orders to check all of the restaurant's garbage. I was not taking "no" for an answer.
The hostess took me out back past the kitchen to the dumpster out in the back. Surrounded by flies, mosquitoes, and bees, I waded through the chewed up half eaten pizza, the mussel shells, lots of chewed up pasta, cheese, and veal parmesan. From the sauces, both my arms looked as if they were covered with blood.
After 15 minutes, wading through the half chewed mess, I felt as if something was biting me. "Please be the teeth, and not a rat burrowed in this mess, having a meal!", I prayed. Pulling my arm slowly up like a fisherman winding the string out of the water to see his catch, there it appeared. My father's teeth.
I ran through the kitchen screaming "I have the teeth!! I have the teeth!!" All the cooks and workers stopped what they were doing, and applauded. I was a hero. I am coming home with the teeth! This is my "rock star" moment!!
Driving home, a though occurred to me. What if this teeth was not my father's teeth, but maybe one of the two other people who lost there teeth. "Ehhh. He won't notice." I continued driving back.
"I got the teeth!!! I got the teeth!!!" Outside the Assisted Living Home, they were all dancing in the street. My father was beaming with such joy that I could not remember him being that happy.
He got up slowly, and gave me a big hug! Taking the teeth, he was about to put them back in his mouth.
"No!!!!!!!Dad!!!! We have to wash them first!!!!"
It is funny how some CrankaTsuris can turn out to be some of the best memories.
Happy Father's Day!!
Lost Luggage CrankaTsuris
In "The Last Surviving Dinosaur: The TyrantoCrankaTsuris," all the relatives compete for the gold medal at the Tsuris Olympics. "If I had your Tsuris, I would be doing cartwheels! Nobody can out do my Tsuris!"
But when we hear about other's tsuris, and primarily when they crank out their Tsuris until we become Tsuris tartare, we start to think "It could have been worse!"
We tend to diminish the Tsuris or problems of others. I am always reminded of my life in Pittsburgh after law school when I was in my 20s. My girlfriend dumped me just before Christmas. My brand new car got stolen on New Year's Eve. And, when I returned to work the following Monday, I was fired from my job. Then, just when I thought things could not get any worse, I allowed my roommate to treat me to a Three Stooges Midnight Movie Marathon. Believe me! Three hours of Moe, Larry and Curly does not mend the broke heart of a 27 year old!
My roommate, seeing that the Movie Marathon sent me further into my abyss, he said to me; "It could be worse. You could be diagnosed with a brain tumor, and get hit by a truck!"
"How is that worse? If I get hit by a truck, it would put me out of my misery, and take care of that brain tumor."
More recently, last summer to be exact, I was flying with my girlfriend from Amsterdam to Tel Aviv on Tarom Air. Tarom Air is the Romanian Airline so it stops in Bucharest, the capital. My father is from Bucharest so I was excited to at least to stop at the airport of my fatherland. I was excited. And I used miles so it was the only option using miles available.
We had checked four bags, and when we arrived at the baggage carousel at Ben Gurion Airport, only one of the four bags arrived. It could have been worse. At least we got one bag.
They told us at the lost luggage window that it could take a week to ten days to recover our luggage. We were in Israel for only a week so that forecast was not a good one. This would be a disaster.
And, that is what I heard after we waited 90 minutes to find out that three large duffel bags would not be joining us. "Why couldn't we take a direct flight? We had to stop in Bucharest? We did not see Bucharest, except for that smokey airport. I will never trust you planning anything for as long as I live!!!"
I deserved that. Luckily, I called up Delta which is the airline we booked the Tarom Air flight through. They were able to tell me that they tracked the luggage, and it was scheduled for the 8:00 AM flight to Tel Aviv the next morning, arriving at 11:00 AM. Well, I was going to be back at Ben Gurion at 11:00 AM.
I get to the Airport, and they did have a special window for lost luggage. And, there was a long line. I get to the front, and they has a young man at the desk and a phone. In English, there are instructions to dial a number on the phone to ask about your bags. I get there after a half an hour on line, and dial the number. No answer.
The young man tells me to come back a half an hour later, and "try again." I go to the back of the line since it happens to be a half an hour line, and I get to the front, and the same thing happens. Except this time, I see that it is happening to everyone one. So, this time I was ready. There was no answer on the phone. I said I am not going anywhere. Amazingly enough, he goes to the back of the room, and like the Wizard of Oz, the man behind the curtain who I was calling appears. He started to tell me that it was hopeless, and they would not be able to locate my luggage. I was ready. "Not true!! It just arrive on Tarom Air Flight 1160. Carousel 10. Go and check.
He went back to look, and for the first time, I go to notice all the other desperate people. There was a Rabbi with a long black coat and hat who was screaming. "I need my luggage for Shabbas! You have to help me!" Behind him, there was an old lady. She too was yelling. "I have my diabetes medication in my bag. I need my medication!!! You have to help me!!!"
But the worst was a young lady behind the two others. She was flying to Israel to get married in Jerusalem, and her wedding dress was in her lost suitcase. She would not stop screaming and finally, the police came and carried her away.
After this spectacle, the man who was sent to Carousel 10 came back, and told me; "You were right. Let me take you there."
The three bags were there, and I gave each one of them a big hug as if they were my lost children and we were being reunited. While I was in the middle of my wildly grateful hugfest, the man said to me; "You know you are very lucky. It could have been much worse!"
CHAPTER TWENTY ONE
Hansel and Gretel CrankaTsuris
In the end of The Last Surviving Dinosaur: The TyrantoCrankaTsuris, the father tells the daughter, "So we learned to be careful not to express our inner TyrantoCrankaTsuris or TyrantoKvetchaTsuris too often. Just the right amount to keep the planet happy and not too cranky."
So, I bring up Hansel and Gretel. Because with these two kids, there was tsuris to be sure, but CrankaTsuris or KvetchaTsuris was nowhere to be found. At least with them.
To recount the story, apparently Hansel and Gretel's parents were not doing quite so well financially, and rather than go to relatives or friends for help, they thought it would be best to take Hansel and Gretel out into the forest, and face a horrible and painful death by being mauled and then eaten by wild animals than possibly starve at home.
They tried this twice. The first time, Hansel was smart and overheard his parents, and rather than complain what terrible parents they were, or call Family Services, or the Police, Hansel stuffed his pockets with pebbles so when they were all the way out in the forest, Hansel and Gretel were able to find their way back home.
This failed attempt apparently did not deter the parents again to try to dump their kids into the forest. They probably even took a different route because when Hansel dropped bread crumbs this time to get back home, birds had eaten the bread crumbs, and there were no pebbles. Hansel and Gretel was now stuck in the forest.
Hansel and Gretel then finds the Wicked Witch's house, get captured by the Witch, and Hansel gets put in the oven because the Witch's favorite dish is Stuffed Hansel Pie. Hansel tricks the witch, and she gets pushed into the oven.
Hansel and Gretel then discover the fabulous wealth the witch possessed. Gold, jewels, and coins (and not to even the valuable property she owned since it was a one of kind house).
Apparently, the Wicked Witch did not have a will, and there was no executor of her estate because Hansel and Gretel took the gold, jewels, and coins back to their parents. Also, I am guessing that, with all the money they found, they were able to afford car service to take them back home. And, moreover, Hansel and Gretel were not bothered in the slightest, that on two separate occasions, their parents attempted to cause their kids to face a premature and grisly death at the mouths and claws of wild beasts.
They lived happily ever after.
Just imagine this family scene if the parents were successful. Hansel and Gretel were in fact eaten by wild animals, and shortly thereafter, the grandparents show up unexpectedly.
Grandma: Surprise! We thought we would drop in to say hello. We missed our delicious two grandkids, Hansel and Gretel, and we bought some outfits for them and some toys.
Grandpa: Let me tell you. We skipped a couple of meals so we were able to afford the presents. But you know how much we love them!! I can eat both of them up! They are so delicious! Where are they? Grandma and I want to give both of them great big hugs!!
Mother: Do you want to tell them or should I?
Father: Uh. Uh. Could you tell them?
Mother: I think you should tell them. It was your idea. And, they are your parents!!
Father: My idea!! We both agreed, and you said you were tired of cooking for them. Ok. I will tell them.
Grandpa and Grandma: Tell us what?
Father: Well, it is like this. You know how things have been tough since I lost my job at the factory. And our meals were getting smaller and smaller, and you know how kids are. Their appetites were getting bigger and bigger. They were literally eating us out of house and home!
Grandma: So, where are they?
Mother: So, we thought of the idea that it would be better for Hansel and Gretel to get eaten by wild animals than to starve here a slow death, or really, we were afraid they would not stop eating and we would be dying a slow death from starvation.
Grandpa: So, they were eaten by wild animals?
Father: Yup. Yes. Yes. That is right. Flesh. Bones. Everything. Not the clothing. Didn't eat that.
Grandma: Wait a second. You said you were starving. We walked in here, and I smell some delicious roasted meat. Something I have never smelled before.
Mother: Yes. That is the good news. After we dropped Hansel and Gretel in the forest and after they were eaten by wild animals, we were still hungry so we decided, or I decided to send your son out hunting.
Father: And I captured and killed the wild animals that ate Hansel and Gretel. So, in a sense, Hansel and Gretel are here. It is just that they are here in spirit. Is that right? Or just food.
Grandpa and Grandma: Well, they smell delicious and we are hungry. Let's eat!!
And they ate happily ever after!!
Even if we assume Hansel and Gretel escape the Wicked Witch and bring home to their parents this unexpected
wealth, how do we really know that they live happily ever after. Maybe the parents get greedy, and take Hansel and Gretel out to the forest close to the Wicked Witch's sister who also happens to be wealthy, and they think that Hansel will trick the sister as well, except that the sister knew what happened before, and she ordered a top of the line oven that is a convection oven and locks, and one that fits both Hansel and Gretel.
So, we read this story to our children over and over again, and the illustrations are always wonderful, no matter what version. But we never question the premise of the story. Parents behaved badly. Children never complained. Parents get mightily rewarded in the end. Kids are happy, and there is nothing to forgive the parents for.
I guess that is why parents love the story. Children never complaining no matter what!! That is awesome!!
Well, let's not get carried away with that. Let's read this story anew with our CrankaTsuris and KvetchaTsuris
mind. This is the mind that questions and challenges, and this is the mind that seek some justice. This should always be our thinking mind.
CHAPTER TWENTY TWO
On November 3, 2019, I ran the NYC Marathon. I was going into the marathon with 12 consecutive sub-4 hour marathons under my belt, but unfortunately, age (58 years!) and other factors caught up with me, and I finished the marathon in 4 hours, 22 minutes, and 12 seconds.
But, there is a story to tell.
The signs were there the night before. People always talk about doing a great big pasta dinner the night before to carbo-load, but I always go to the same Chinese restaurant, and order their Gung-Ho special. Unfortunately, they were out of Gung-Ho. Not to worry, I thought. I always look forward to their Mo-Jo ice cream for desert. I will get two orders of Mo-Jo.
But, they were out of Mo-Jo too.
So, I traveled to Staten Island,
But, not to worry, I thought. I was staring at the Verrazano Bridge, with all of its cylinders. I was determined to click on all of the cylinders.
The Starting Gun sounded. 52,000 runners started their way across the bridge. And, all of them started clicking on all of the cylinders. I was able to click on a few, but the noise of the clicking was so loud, I had to make my way to Brooklyn as fast as I could.
I had used all of my fingers and all of my toes to click on as many cylinders as I could while on the Bridge, and noticed that the clicking caused my fingers and toes to blister. Four more boroughs, and no more clicking on any cylinders.
And I was:
But, here is the serious and sad part. On October 28th, a week before, my former partner of 20 years, Elena, and mother of my daughter, Vita, was diagnosed with ALS, a terrible disease that just shuts down the body, and for which there is no known cure.
My heart was broken hearing the news. Elena grew up with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and dedicated her whole life with all the Gung, and Ho, and much Mo and Jo to take on her arthritis through movement in dance, yoga, Alexander Technique and Feldenchist Movement. She was always an inspiration to me.
So, with this heavy heart, I pushed on through the five boroughs. I had the wonderful surprise of seeing my daughter, Vita, by mile 9 by the Brooklyn Academy of Music and gave her a big hug. I cried like a baby running the next mile.
Feeling in me Elena's spirit of always fighting and pushing past and shattering any boundaries in front of her, I found that I did not need any Gung or Ho, or Mo, or Jo. I had the thought of this special person, and knowing what fight she had ahead, I was going to keep fighting out there.
I was going to cross the finish line with the hope that Elena gets to cross as well.
With all the Gung, and Ho, and Mo and Jo that makes up this special person who is forever in my heart.
I pray that next year, Elena will be able to click on all the cylinders.
In 2020, I will be running both the Chicago and NYC Marathon for Team Challenge ALS. This is what I write in every TyrantoCrankaTsuris book I sign, and it is never more true than now:
"Never be afraid to take on all those bigger and badder dinosaurs!!!!"
CHAPTER TWENTY THREE
I spend much of my day answering the same question, both in person, and on the phone: "How is it going?" or "How are you doing?" or "What's going on?" or "How was your weekend?". And, the answers are typically the "non-answer".
"Hanging in there!"
"My weekend was too short!!
I noticed that when I gave the typical "sitting in neutral" response to the question, when I ask the same question in return, I get the exact same response. "Hanging in there too."
And, then we part ways. "Well, you have a great day!!" to which the response is "You have a great day too!!"
Well anyway, I was getting bored with these interactions so I have been trying something different recently. It was sort of a scientific experiment.
"How are you doing?" I am asked.
My response was a bit different.
"I am doing fantastic. Absolutely amazing! I really believe that it is not humanly possible to be doing any better than I am doing at this very moment in time! I am walking through the fields of Shang-Ra-La, and I am positioned right in the epicenter of Nirvana, and yet I have completely relinquished all desires to obtain a feeling of enlightenment. I truly believe that if you studied my mind to discover the true secrets of happiness, and you figured out what was happening inside, you would win the Nobel Prize in Science!!"
So, I have been giving this slightly more positive response over the last few weeks, but the interesting thing that I noticed is that, not only did people genuinely believe I was doing as well as I was saying, but when I asked people how they were doing, they, in turn, were doing way better than a few weeks before when I simply said "hanging in there!".
It was catching on. People around the office were feeling better. People would go out of their way to ask me how I am doing just because my answer made them feel better in a way.
This all reminded me when I was a teenager growing up in the Bronx. It was a tough neighborhood. But, we did not drink. We did not smoke. We did not do drugs. But, what we did do was go to Amy P's house - boys and girls, and we would cram into her bedroom while she would put on the Carpenters' Greatest Hits album, and we would all sing the songs. We would all be screaming at the top of our lungs the lyrics to "On Top of the World."
Such a feelin's comin' over me
There is wonder in most every thing I see
Not a cloud in the sky, got the sun in my eyes
And I won't be surprised if it's a dream
I'm on the top of the world lookin' down on creation
And the only explanation I can find
Is the love that I've found ever since you've been around
Your love's put me at the top of the world
Somethin' in the wind has learned my name
And it's tellin' me that things are not the same
In the leaves on the trees and the touch of the breeze
There's a pleasin' sense of happiness for me
I'm on the top of the world lookin' down on creation
And the only explanation I can find
Is the love that I've found ever since you've been around
Your love's put me at the top of the world
As we all get together this Thanksgiving, we do not forget all the CrankaTsuris there is in the world. But, let us stop and be grateful for just a moment, and bring our "Top of the World" game to the table. You will be surprised at how quickly everyone will want to join you.
"So we learned to be careful not to express our inner TyrantoCrankaTsuris or TyrantroKvetchaTsuris too often. Just the right amount to keep the planet happy and not too cranky.
CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR
A CrankaTsuris Chanukah
Growing up in the Bronx, I had many Non-Jewish friends, and I looked forward to go over to their apartments in December to see their Christmas Tree all decorated and lit up. Being Jewish, we didn't have Christmas Trees, and I got even more confused when my Non-Jewish friends would ask to come over to my place to see my Chanukah Bush. I did not have a Chanukah Bush. None of my other Jewish friends had a Chanukah Bush.
I do understand that Moses spoke to G-d posing as a "burning bush" on our way to our exodus from Egypt. So, if we all decided to have a Passover Bush, I would be all for that! I can understand that. We can then all set it on fire, and have amazing conversations talking to our burning bush during the Passover Seder. Finally, the Four Questions will be answered.
But, this was Chanukah. There is no bush in the Story of Chanukah.
And besides, I found it to be rather insulting. What are they trying to tell me?
"Here is my big beautiful Christmas Tree! Now, can I come over to see your measly little bush?"
On top of that, my mother and all the other Jewish mothers (being Jewish mothers) would say:
"Don't go playing in the bushes!!!!"
And of course, being Jewish sons, we did not always listen to our mothers!!
My friend Marty's mom would say:
"Marty!!! Don't go playing in the bushes!!!"
Marty went into the bushes, and got punctured with many pointy thorns! He looked like he went through extreme acupuncture therapy. Poor Marty walked home, and Animal Control had to be called because everyone thought there was a giant porcupine stalking the neighborhood.
My friend Howie's mom would say:
"Howie!!! Don't go playing in the bushes!!!"
Howie's favorite food is pizza. If he had to be fed through an intravenous feeding tube, they would have to figure out how to get the slice of pizza into the tube. One day, he was eating a very oily slice, and it slipped from his hands and landed on the head of a giant rat. The rat scurried into the bushes, and Howie went after the rat. When Howie tried to retrieve his slice back, the rat bit his hand really hard. Poor Howie couldn't hold a slice of pizza for a week!!
My friend Stewie's mom would say:
"Stewie!!! Don't go playing in the bushes!!"
Stewie went to play in the bushes. A skunk was hiding in the bushes, and poor Stewie got sprayed by a skunk. He smelled so bad that he had to stay in the bath for an entire day with Clorox bleach. They had to bleach him to get the smell out! The good part about this is that after this episode, if I ever got a stain on my clothes, I would just have to rub it on Stewie's bleached skin, and the stain would come out.
My mom would always tell me:
"Stevie!!! Don't go playing in the bushes! Remember what happened to Marty, Howie, and Stewie?"
I did and I was not going to go anywhere near the bushes! We played Hide and Go Seek, and the bushes would not be a hiding spot.
But, one day, I was hiding behind a garbage can, and I got stung by a bee. I tried to get away from the bee, and ran into the bushes. It was a poison ivy bush, and I got really bad poison ivy on my arm. It wouldn't go away until a month later, out of desperation, I rubbed my arm on Stewie's bleached arm, and the poison ivy went away!!!
This is the point. Nobody has fond and warm memories about their times in the bushes. A second point. A Christmas Tree is usually an evergreen pine or fir tree. However, if you look around, there are lots of other kinds of trees!! We should not get a bush for Chanukah. We should get our own special tree!!
Then, one Chanukah, when I was older, I went to Florida to visit my parents, and it hit me! Like getting hit on the head with a coconut!!! A Palm Tree!! We all end up retiring in Florida to sit under a Palm Tree anyway!
So, the Jewish People should celebrate Chanukah with our own special Palm Tree. I got one!! And, when the blizzard hits and we get two feet of snow, do you think people go to someone's house to see a Christmas Tree? No!!! They all flock to my house, and sun themselves under my very special Chanukah Palm Tree!! It's the most popular tree on the block!!
CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR
The Pickled Herring Diet and Other Conversations on Getting to Normal
Nothing to do with dinosaurs, or even crankiness..., but here is the ending of the story, or at least the super short version. In December 1987, I hit 240 pounds. I go to dress as Santa Clause at my law firm Christmas Party. I decided that I could not take that kind of weight any more so I switched from pastrami chopped liver triple decker sandwiches to pickled herring. By June 1988, I dropped 85 pounds and 9 inches off my waist.
Now, I can start.
I grew up in a Jewish home, and my mother was a wonderful cook. The only problem was she cooked a lot, and wanted her two sons to eat a lot. When I brought my roommate home from college to stay over for a weekend, he asked me after dinner, “Do you always eat three meals a day even if they are five minutes apart?”
At some point at every meal, I would get so full that I did not think I can eat another bite. So, my mother would turn on the guilt. “Why did I make so much if you are not going to eat?” I would always respond. “That is such a good question. Why did you?”.
Or, my mother would say “I paid five dollars for that piece of meat!” Well, that was two dollars less than the week before so maybe I can get away with not eating the fifth piece of whatever was being served.
Of course, then my mother’s comeback was, in no doubt, what other mother’s would say in this situation. “There are millions of starving people in this world!” Apparently, my mother believed that she could feed all these starving people right through my stomach.
Despite all of these non-stop consumption of food, I was never fat. Maybe, a bit pudgy, but that was it. I maintained the slight pudginess through college despite the fact that I could get up and get thirds in the college cafeteria. Somebody always was going around for a $1 contribution towards a pizza at 10PM in the dorm room, and in Albany, New York, with the drinking age at 18 at the time, it was always easy to find $1.50 pitcher of beer nights somewhere. And the Sutter’s burger across from the SUNY Albany campus is still the best burger I have ever had.
I then went to law school in Pittsburgh, and survived the Original Hot Dog Shop with the countless toppings on their hot dogs, and their amazing French fries with cheese sauce, right across the street from the Law School. Not much time for exercise, but not much time for eating either.
I then started practicing law at a small law firm in Pittsburgh after graduating, and here is where it started all going downhill. I got addicted to the pastrami chopped liver triple decker sandwiches at Fast Ernie’s. There was a pizza place that that one slice and a half meat ball sub for $3. The restaurant behind the courthouse had amazing meatloaf and gravy. On Thursdays, the senior partner of the firm took us out to the North Side to a Greek Orthodox church for lunch and we all had the half roast chicken and baklava.
With all these meals, there was always the Diet Coke because we were watching our figures.
And I also now had time to eat and go out at night. I got into the habit of frying things like sausage and onions, and I learned from my mother how to make the best potato latkas in the world. Of course, by now, they were getting doused with sour cream.
Tuesday nights was always import nights at the Squirrel Hill Café. We always got the barbeque, and onion garlic potato chips to go with the beer. And forget about the weekends. Pittsburgh is a big football town, and I was finally able to spend Saturdays and Sundays watching football, eating chips, pizza and drinking lots of beer.
So now, it is December 1987. I slowly climbed up from 195 pounds to the 240 pound weight and I had enough. Yes. My girlfriend dumped me and that had a little to do with it. Yes. My brand new car got stolen right in front of my house on New Year’s Day. That really sucked.
And, yes, my roommate tried to cheer me up, and treated me to a Three Stooges Midnight Film Festival. I can only tell you to try to imagine the kind of people who go to a Three Stooges Midnight Film Festival. I will give you one hint. They all pretty much dress and act like the Three Stooges. Both men and women!!
It was then that I decided that I had enough. I decided that, no matter how tired I was, I was going to the gym at night. I signed up at the local health club, and the trainer put me on a Lifecycle for three minutes at level 1. I did not think I was going to make it.
I gave up pastrami chopped liver, and my sandwich of choice became a tuna fish sandwich I brought from home. I stopped eating fried foods. I gave up potato chips. By the Spring of 1988, with the temperatures rising, and my weight dropping, I found out that I was able to run. People were constantly asking me if I had AIDS. I replied that I never felt better, and just started a healthier life style.
By June 1988, I hit 155 pounds. Instead of dressing up as Santa Clause, I would come home from Pittsburgh, and my father would call me Ghandi.
That is another story.
I went from struggling to do three minutes on a Lifecycle in 1987 to running the Marine Core Marathon in Washington, D.C. in 1989. I have run over 40 marathons since then.
Fast forward to 2000. By then, I was married and my daughter turned five years old. I noticed that I was starting to gain a few pounds. I never gave much thought about how I lost all that weight back in 1988. It was not a goal. It just sort of happened.
So, I started thinking about what I did, and I started writing, and thinking about what I can do. I realized that back in 1988, I changed my “normals.” It was not a diet, and it made me realize why diets never work. I had a bunch of normals that got me in this predicament of feeling pretty crappy, and if I took a break from those normal to do a diet, it would only be a short reprieve.
We all go through our lives with many normals through many different times. I noticed that the first change, at least eating wise, was to abandon unhealthy normals, and go back to healthier but still familiar normals. I grew up with my mother making me tuna fish sandwiches for lunch. There was always jars of pickled herring in the refrigerator. Hence, I crated the “pickled herring diet”. If I had a craving for ice cream, I ate a piece of pickled herring. The craving was gone!
The first change was finding the old normals. Old normals are the best ones to start with because they are familiar. There were no goals except for changing my normals. Starting with my old normals, I was able to discover new ones. I started with walking before I was able to run.
So, with my five-year old daughter, I noticed that I became a garbage can. She didn’t finish her chicken nuggets or fish sticks? No problem. I ate them. I made one peanut butter and jelly sandwich too many. Not a problem. I can take care of that too.
Realizing what I had done 12 years earlier, it was clear what I had to do. I stopped being the garbage can, and let the garbage can be the garbage can. I picked a couple of other things that I could do, and I dropped 15 pounds in three months.
While it began as a concept for just losing weight, the concept of just stopping and examining my normals became something I found that I can apply to every aspect of my life. They are always life changers, and we need life changers because they will always be life chargers as well.
The saying goes “Crazy is doing the exact same thing over and over and over again, and expecting a different result.” It is so true. So, it is the beginning of Spring now. It is time to do some Spring cleaning. It is time to start planting the seeds for the Fall harvest. Take a look at your “normals” and decide what you want to start growing this year. What will be your life changer? What will be your life charger? And remember. You only have to walk before you run.
A Tribute to my mom.
I wrote the TyrantoCranaTsuris story six months after my mother, a Holocaust Survivor, passed away in September 2017, on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, one of the most holiest days of the year. I am a long distance runner, and while stories always somehow flew into my head, in the months after my mom's passing, I could only hear her voice. It was a syrupy voice. She never talked in conversational tones, but rather, in proclamations. There was always a slight pause between the phrasing for perfect comedic timing. She was the Yogi Berra of Jewish mothers.
"Where you put it,.....that's where you find it!"
"Why did I make so much...if you are not going to eat?"
"I talk to you.....like I talk to a wall"
"Don't be a hero!.....Wear a hat!"
"if you say so,.....it is so."
"Do you feel like taking me to the beauty parlor?"
And the best one was in Yiddish:
Don't be a Moyshe Groyce with Zserrissena Gatkas!
Which means "Don't be the great Moses with torn underwear!!"
So, in The Last Surviving Dinosaur, there are three mean bully dinosaurs, and the TyrantoCrankaTsuris with her cranking out all her tsuris makes these mean bully dinosaurs disappear. She is a heroic figure. She used her voice. So many people during the Holocaust did not have their voices heard. They all could have used a TyrantoCrankaTsuris.
The father in the story reminds his daughter that this is power. She has been given the power of words, the power of having a voice. But with a voice, I am also reminded of my zen practice, and my zen teacher who always would use the phrase "utilizing skillful means." That is having real power.
I heard my mother's voice, and I wrote a book so her sweet and very funny voice can be heard. It was written with the hope that people who feel they have no voice, seek it out. When I sign a book for a child, I make sure to sign it with the phrase "Never be afraid to take on all those bigger and badder dinosaurs!!
Never be afraid to use your voice.
Having a Voice