Tag Archives: frustration

Smirking in Silence

“Are you going to make it on just desserts?  Why’d you open a place here?  Why don’t you display the cupcakes over here?  Why don’t you have more flavors for the cookie?  Well…I hope you make it.”

Such is the litany of questions, unsolicited advice and well wishes (if you can call them that) I experience with more regularity than I can comfortably stand.  I’m ready to physically remove from my establishment the next person who asks me can I make it.  It’s never asked by the customer ordering multiple boxes for a birthday party or by one in his pajamas, standing in the doorway of his home, happily taking a box of sweets from me as my delivery hours expire.  It’s only asked by those smirking in the silence during a midday lull or a weekend freeze.  Those same folks never seem to be anywhere around when I’m bitching about how badly I need an employee who’s not related to me, so I can open earlier on the weekend.

The first dozen times or so, my jovial answer to the inquiry was: “Well, I’m going to find out.”  But in the last couple of weeks, I’ve simply treated it as rhetorical, while reminding myself that the person who probably thinks I’m stupid, naïve, irresponsible, deluded and so on is clearly the person with higher expectations than my own.

How is the asker defining “make it”?  I’ve never bothered to ask.  I don’t care.  I just know that the accurate answer to the insulting question rests on that definition.  Is it defined as merely getting to year two?  Turning a profit in the first year?  Making a million bucks?  I define “making it” as the store paying for itself and paying for my share of the family bills.  The former is already happening and the latter is currently fingertips away.  So will I meet my own definition of making it?  I’m confident I will.  Will I meet the ones of the people asking?  Who knows?

What I do know is this: I hate the suggested lack of forethought, planning, realism etc. wrapped up in a question being asked not only of people who don’t know me but of those who often don’t even bother to sample my product. They just pop into my store to suggest that they think it was a bad idea.  Who raised these people?

It’s worth noting that in one week, both a confectioner and a food distributor asked about buying my cookie wholesale.  The few reviews that have been written about the shop all mention becoming addicted to this cookie.  The prototype for packaging it for shipment and shelf life is sitting next to my cash register.  So am I going to make it?  Yeah, asshole, I am!  For now, at least, the odds are in my favor.  So stop asking already!

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So glad I have a kung fu class to teach tonight – and in the boxing room, at that.  I think I’ll do sparring work against the bag before my soon-to-be green sashes arrive.  Maybe that’ll bring the jovial response to the annoying question back to my lips.

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Tomorrow’s Target

From elated to deflated.  That’s the succinct description of my holiday week, raging against the machine of regulatory madness.  I should have known it was too good to be true when the health inspector squeezed me in for my final review just two days before Thanksgiving.  She made a beeline to the bathroom to inspect the all-important “open” toilet seat, ignoring the painstaking time I’d spent affixing the soap and paper towel dispensers to the awkward corner wall nearest the sink, to say nothing of the arthritis aggravating purgatory I inflicted on my knees to caulk every crevice along the baseboards.  But at least the work was done.  It was there, as it was ordered, irrespective of being acknowledged.  And with it, I passed the health inspection – with a particular note to how cozy I’d made the place since she was last on the premises a month earlier.  I was bouncing off the walls on the way to the Restaurant Store for added supplies.

First thing Wednesday morning, I phoned the building inspector’s office to set up that inspection – the third and final city-inflicted hurdle before opening.  He could come out first thing Friday morning, while the rest of the country recovered from turkey overload.  Seriously?  I could actually wrap everything up and open my doors any time after Friday?   After all the plumber and carpenter craziness, could the grand opening really be that drama free?

No.  Decidedly not.

“Did you have a fire inspection?” the building inspector asked when he called to tell me the time window for his arrival at the store.  “It’s not in the computer.”

You mean the three-minute inspection that cost me three figures that the nonchalant inspector told me would be in the system that afternoon?  The inspection that took place two weeks ago?  That one?! I thought.

The building inspector was exceedingly gracious when he arrived to tell me that everything looked in order for my use and occupancy permit.  He didn’t even have to go through with the inspection without proof that the fire department had already been there.  I lucked out on that, at least.  I did not, however, luck out on reaching the fire guy to have him correct his oversight.  I had the man’s cell phone number, but he wasn’t answering!

Monday morning and three phone messages later, the desk-bound fireman was still not in the office!  It was time to go over his head.  His supervisor said he would take care of my approval within thirty minutes.  Twenty-four hours later, I discovered he had not.

By 10a Tuesday morning, I was closer to tears than I had been at any time through this challenging experience.  I had already missed my intended opening week.  How much longer were these guys going to keep the next phase of my life on hold?

Not minutes after asking myself that self-pitying question, I received back to back phone calls.  The fire inspector had been on medical leave and apologized profusely for the two-week delay in my approval.  I thanked him and told him to get well soon.  Immediately following that surprising expression of good will, the building inspector called to tell me that with the fire inspection approval in the system, I could pick up my permit downtown. I will be there when the doors open about eight hours from now.

Who’s left to torture me before I ring the register for the first time?  The sign guy, that’s who.  That’s tomorrow’s target, before teaching two classes of kung fu.  My students are going to think I’m on something if I don’t get my signs before I get to the gym.  Good thing tomorrow’s classes are in the boxing room….

 


Comedy of Errors

The toilet seat arrived today.  It took two weeks, two different companies and a mis-delivery to a city halfway across the state, but it came.  Now, the fun of putting the damned thing on to satisfy the State of Maryland, which requires that toilet seats in a food establishments be “open.”  The closed circle currently on the commode in the shop won’t do.  Both the floor and the sink in the backroom were objectionable, as was the positioning of the soap and paper towel dispenser.  Nothing, it seems, is as obsessive compulsive as health department regulations – which, perhaps, is as it should be.

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Then, there’s the fire department. Three minutes in and out for three figures out of my bank account.  Now, if I were cooking on the premises, it would certainly have been more extensive; there would have been more to check.  Still, the brevity coupled with the expense left me with a touch of whiplash.

Then, there was the misunderstanding with the carpenter.  I know I said four feet for the shelf.  I have no idea what he heard, but I was handed something that I could sit on a desk, not on the floor.

Then, there was the lost credit card machine that sat in a Fed Ex warehouse fifteen miles away from my house without any notification that someone tried to deliver it.  The door tag must have blown away in the wind, one might think. But no; the recent college graduate who opened my merchant account sent it to the wrong address.  With the most major delivery of all still to come (the long refrigerator with the worktop), I’ll be holding my breath all day tomorrow waiting for the truck to actually pull up to the storefront door – on the actual day it’s scheduled to, for a change.

It’s been a comedy of errors already and the doors haven’t opened yet. The good news: very few of those errors have been mine… and I’ve been able to laugh through most of them.

God willing, the opening is less than two weeks away.  Stay tuned!


Swapping Strangeness

Waiting with fatigue and frustration to get back onto the plane I just got off of….

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I was supposed to have to change planes in Denver for the one going to Baltimore, but then the airline gods decided to do a plane swap.  My connecting flight is on the very 737 that delivered me here.

Why, then, am I waiting, you may be wondering?Because the swapped-out flight crew isn’t here yet. Just the plane, the pilot and the passengers. This would be funny if I didn’t want so badly for this trip that I dreaded for a month to finally be over.

With all this swapping strangeness, my great concern is that my staff is either going to be left in Denver or shipped off to Kansas City, the original destination of the aircraft. In any case, my butt will either be in the yoga room or on the squash court with my spare about fifteen hours from now.

Yes. I’m counting.


Skycaps, Toddlers & Wedgies

“You’re going to have to pay for this one,” the skycap said, looking at my staff in its carrying case like it might be an extra-long rifle in disguise.

“Why? I didn’t pay to check it when I flew with it in February,” I answered with an edge in my voice, realizing too late that the poor guy had no idea I didn’t want to be standing in front of him in the first place.

“All right. Take it easy.” He signaled for a superior while I replayed my response to him in my head. I didn’t think I’d been as indignant as he was acting, but whatever made him call for back-up was fine by me. After a bit more of him feigning offense and asking if I was that hard on my husband (I left that one alone!), I was off for almost five hours of three and four-year-old siblings taking turns keeping me awake with piercing screams and even more piercing kicks to the back of my seat. I was ready to sign them both up for my class by the time we landed.

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At the posh hotel with the unfortunately low ceiling (practicing spins would turn out to be tricky), I discovered that the Transportation Security Administration had been as threatened by my staff as the easily-offended skycap. When I unzipped the carrying case, there was a note wrapped ominously around my white wood baby notifying me that Big Brother had checked her out. I guess for safety’s sake I should’ve been happy, but I couldn’t help but feel a little creeped out.

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The travel day to the city where young women apparently don’t wear underwear (I would have snapped photos of several unattractive, unnecessary pants and shorts wedgies, but that seemed ill-advised for a number of reasons) ended with me pigging out in the kind of Mexican joint that I just can’t find at home.

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All things considered, it was an entertaining start to a trip that has hints of impending hair pulling.  My boss arrived without the part of his luggage that holds his interview prep materials and his beloved cuff links; so tomorrow is going to be challenging.  Good thing I can finish enjoying today!


The Language Dance

I struggle with communication problems.  Perpetually.  Not my own, mind you, but other people’s – and the effect their choices when speaking (or to stay silent) have on my life.

I would like to say it started with my fallout with Sifu over his response to my first tournament win or with the endless weeks it took to get a straight answer from the gym on whether I could run a kung fu class.  But it didn’t.  I would like to say I’m immune to such problems myself, but I’m not.  I’ve noticed, for decades it seems, going back to arguments with an ex-husband who excelled at passive aggression, that most people do not simply state what they want or need at the appropriate time in the appropriate way.  The burning question of my morning is: can anything be done about this?

If there’s a solution, the first order of business would be to determine why people don’t just speak when they should.  The obvious answer, of course, is fear – fear of not getting what’s wanted; fear of disappointing, hurting or angering the other person(s) in the conversation.  But the painful irony is that the language dance that must be done to avoid the disappointment, hurt or anger leaves the core of the message undelivered.  Sometimes what is said is so ambiguous interpretation is required to decipher the point – and misunderstanding is virtually guaranteed.

The flip side of the beating-around-the-bush-approach is the one I was raised with – an often-disturbing absence of nuance that unquestionably causes the hurt, anger, etc. that I would like to avoid as much as the beat-around-the-bush folks.  I just want to be clear and understood more.

I never had any problem understanding my parents or other family members.  I thought everyone was as direct as they were.  Then, I left home.

I’m not recommending my familial approach.  Regular readers know that I’ve made greater mindfulness an important part of my life in recent months.  That includes trying to be aware of how my words will be received before I speak them and adjusting accordingly.  Some days, though, I’d give an awful lot to just get through an entire twenty-four hour period without having to ask: “Why didn’t you tell me that before?” or “What does that mean?”

Surely there’s a middle ground or two, a way around both communication approaches without the entire human race having to take classes in behavioral psychology or clinical social work.  But maybe not… you know what I mean? 🙂


Low Space, No Time

Genuine practice of my long staff form has effectively been eliminated, and I’m having trouble taking that in stride.  Since being prohibited from self-training on open floor space during classes that I’m not attending, I’ve had just two choices: self-train in the basement or take weekday upper sash classes and practice staff during the form rotation.

The problem with basement practice (aside from the additional stress on the joints from pounding against a concrete floor) is that every other move of the long staff form is to vertically spin a stick that’s taller than I am.  Literally half the form can’t be executed at all downstairs, because the ceilings are too low!

The problem with limiting staff practice to the form rotation of upper sash class is insufficient time.  Of the four weekday classes, two are dedicated to sparring.  There’s no form rotation in them.  In the remaining two, twenty-five minutes are allocated for forms.  Even with only one other person in the rotation, I wouldn’t get more than a whopping twelve minutes per class for long staff.  Less than half an hour per week!

I have, therefore, opted for self-training in the basement, during which I skip some vertical staff spins and execute others by dropping both my body and my arms down, to avoid smacking pipes and breaking light bulbs.  The result is that in nine days of this new reality, the timing of steps to spins is off.  It’s not by much, but it doesn’t have to be.

Precision is crucial in this art of ours.  It’s the difference between correct or not.  That’s why I’m having trouble taking this all in stride.  It’s also why the search for my own affordable space continues in earnest.


I’m Still Here

When I walked in the door last night, I bowed to the room, took off my coat and shoes, slung my sword over my shoulder and headed for the basement… right behind the beginner class just back from break that I should have been teaching.  Sifu was covering for the missing green sash instructor, and I bowed to him as I passed.  He returned it with a smile.  It was a smile I’d seen before and precisely the kind I would have expected to get from him upon telling him of my tournament win.  It was a smile of genuine happiness mixed with a hint of pride.

I was there, head held high, despite the devastating dressing down on Tuesday.  I was there at a time that required I face the teacher who’d replaced me, knowing they’d been told of my removal.  And Sifu appeared to be happy about that, though I certainly didn’t do it for him.

Once downstairs, it did my heart good to see one of my favorite students not only light up when he saw me but lightly clap his hands and hop up and down a couple of times.  I winked and smiled at him without saying a word and took a spot in the corner to stretch and warm up.

I noticed Sifu come downstairs while I was practicing front and back sweeps as far out of the way of the class as I could manage.  His presence in the basement meant he’d left a bunch of sparring pre-teens to their own devices.  I’d never seen him do that before.  It made me wonder if he’d come down just to make sure I wasn’t lending my two cents to the class.  I know that’s paranoid, but at this point, looking over my shoulder seems appropriate.

I can’t wrap my brain around all this, try as I might.  The more hours that pass, the more I find myself feeling sorrier for him than myself.  If I hadn’t angered him with my comment about his reaction (or lack thereof) to my win,  I might never have known that he’s considered it disrespectful every time I’ve taken whatever empty space was available to practice staff while another class was going.  Never mind that the sanshou instructor has explicitly told me I’m welcome to practice in the empty space during his class; never mind that Sifu himself has told his tai chi students to move down and give me room when I’ve come looking for it.  Sifu’s explanation is that it was easier to just make room for me then to call me out in front of a class and embarrass me with an order to move.  It was easier to just avoid conflict.

What conflict? I didn’t even know we had one!  When I have a conflict, I say something so it can be resolved as quickly as possible – which is exactly what got me into this mess.  Call me crazy, but I don’t like to be uncomfortable if I think I can do something about it.  I don’t understand preferring to stew.  It seems like such a waste of potentially precious moments in a life that’s doesn’t last forever.  And I refuse to be robbed willingly.  After all, I’m a black sash in kung fu!


The Sum Total

Our contender is exhausted and wishing that his trials to make the national team were over already.  My son has strained or torn his glute and can’t jump or kick without pain.  (This is a teenager with a tornado kick that looks like he’s flying, and now he can’t jump without pain!)  Our guan is in serious disrepair.  Some would say there are spots that are a health hazard if not a safety one, but we don’t yet have somewhere else to go.  My second shot into the base of my spine was more painful than the first, but at least tonight, it was working pretty well.  After more than an hour of teaching and another hour or so of personal practice consisting mostly of sweeps, tornado kicks and kicking combinations, I’m able to walk up and down the stairs in my house like a normal person, instead of taking them one at a time.  That’s the sum total of my martial arts experience and concerns this evening, and I have no desire to go into further detail about any of the items above.  I just want to sit with it all, the good and the bad, and be grateful.

I have a high class of problems, if you can even call them that: commuter trains that are never on time and make me late for kung fu classes that I’m supposed to be teaching; authors who are boring, bland and vanilla that I’m ordered to feature on one of my television  shows because they have a big name or they fit a needed political perspective; not having the food in the house that I had no way of knowing I’d be craving after an evening in a leaky school with fantastic young men giving it their all through fatigue and pain. These are today’s problems.  They’re indicative of a full and satisfying life.

I can always worry tomorrow about how long the latest shot will last, if it will in fact eliminate my need for arthritis medication or anti-inflammatories, as I deeply hope it will.  Tomorrow I will continue my prayers for the means to send my currently-injured, kindred martial arts soul to the college of his choice.  I will get through the morning editorial meeting without showing my annoyance at matters above my pay grade that shouldn’t be. Etcetera.

Lastly, I will do all I can to remember and hang on to how it feels right now to be simultaneously happy, miffed, concerned, a touch sad – but somehow, above all, grateful.


Sharing with Sanshou

The sanshou class Monday night did at least thirty rotations of kick lines before they started fighting.  Just watching them made my knees hurt, and it also made me envious.  Not since I was at my best in tae kwon do have I had a kick that looked as powerful as those invading the edge of what I call my corner of the room, and I will never have one again.

But my little pity party lasted only about twenty seconds, though.  By the time the second row of kicks forced me to halt my long staff form in mid spin, frustration had evicted envy from my head.  See, when kick rows are going, there’s only about a four foot by eight foot rectangle of space free for one who’s not in the kick line to practice anything else.  On Monday nights, from about seven to eight o’clock, I will fight rather fiercely, when necessary, for rights of possession to that rectangle.

There are any number of short sections in freehand forms that can be practiced in a small square of space.  But imagine trying to spin, strike, swing and slam against the floor a solid shaft of wood that’s taller than your head – all within a space that’s about four by eight feet.  It can’t be done.  Not without coloring outside the lines.  This is why practicing the long staff form in such a small space requires stopping, moving back and turning around at least half a dozen times before the one-minute form is finished.  And that’s when there are no kick lines creeping into the rectangle.

Every time a sanshou student gets close to the edge of my practice space, I have to stop again, even if I otherwise would have had space to finish the section.  I say all this to say that trying to practice with a weapon in a small rectangle of space, when the kicks of 180-pound men are barreling toward you like a freight train can be just short of crazy making.

So why not just wait until the kick lines are over, one might ask?  Because the time it takes for half a dozen people of various ages and skill levels to do thirty rotations of kick lines is considerable.  It amounts to half the time I have to train on a Monday, after assisting with the beginner class.  If I sit for half an hour or more waiting for space, I might as well go home.  And there can be no just going home on a Monday.  On Mondays, I’ve already waited more than fifty-two hours since Saturday’s class to get back on the floor!

So when sanshou class starts with kick lines, there’s a cloud in my kung fu world.  It’s not that dark, doesn’t hang that low and only stays for about, oh, thirty-three-point-six minutes.  But, man, it can be crazy making….